Thursday, 10 October 2019
South Nitshill to Barrhead Walk. Eden Reclaimed. 1960s to 2019.
A few weeks ago I was in Glasgow City Centre intending to go on a bus run down to the Clyde Coast but I'd just missed one and the next bus to that destination was in the afternoon so didn't leave enough time for a proper walk before it got dark. Not put off in the slightest as I'm very adaptable that way a 57 bus passed going to the Silverburn Centre in Pollok so I jumped on that one instead. About four or five years ago I wrote a few posts about Pollok and Nitshill, where I grew up in the 1960s, but these mainly featured the estate itself. (It was actually July 2013- how time flies in blog land.) This time I noticed the bus was going through Darnley and South Nitshill first before the Silverburn Shopping Centre so a different walk suggested itself. This is the bus passing Eastwood and Mansewood districts, above. Two tenement estates, built in the 1950s? by the looks of them and still in first class condition, unlike most other Glasgow tenement estates of a similar vintage. Both these estates have always been very quiet and respectable with presumably tight control as to who gets a house there and strict rules of behaviour once they are in. I'm guessing no large families allowed and older or professional types mostly with a steady reliable income. Main reason I'm speculating this is to explain why some estates, all built at roughly the same time, 1950s 1960s era, have been flattened while others look as good as the day they were constructed. Sometimes it's architecture and cheaper building methods used to blame-1970s deck access estates like Darnley, (chunks falling off blocks months after construction) vs cottage garden types like Carntyne, Mosspark, Carnwadric and Knightswood, all built 1920s- 1930s and still good today.....other times its tenants, low income bigger families, problem tenants parachuted in from elsewhere vs aspirational higher income earners, better surroundings and prime district tenant estates. Other times it could be due to different organizations and management/ maintenance/budget styles in different areas. Much stricter rules- tighter controls regarding tenants. (Someone I knew in the 1970s with two young children was offered a house in Mansewood and they picked Carnwadric instead as they didn't think the children would be able to roam around with the same freedom in Mansewood/ Eastwood districts and any time I've passed on a bus the streets there are conspicuously empty of children playing outside in groups. But that's why its lasted. In the case of flat roofed tenements built across Pollok, dampness and condensation was always a potential problem- a no- brainer in a climate as wet as Scotland but not to the planners who lifted that design straight from desert countries- where flat roofs do work well as they dry out fast after rainfall.
The back court was normally where children learned to interact, fight, make friends, make bitter enemies with, and generally establish a place in the pecking order of life. Up until the age of around five or six I mainly stayed within the back court or out in front of the house on a smaller well kept area of short grass, if unsupervised- where my parents could keep an eye on me. Weekends and after school we only went into our houses when it got dark or for food. We lived outside unless it was pouring with rain ... but that was normal for most of us then at that period in time.
After that age I'd made friends to explore with and natural curiosity led us towards the discovery of the 'Grassy Hill.' That was what we called it anyway. Out of the reach of our parents gaze. Before the council estate arrived it was all open countryside here and a working dairy farm on the flat summit. Wardhill. Then and always this small hillside enjoys extensive views over Glasgow. I don't know about today's children but for us this was heaven for many years. The exact place and time I discovered my own religion. The natural world surrounding me. Endlessly fascinating and complex. In summer we caught mice and grass snakes sleeping under wooden boards discarded on the grass... watched kestrels above, hovering for prey...played games, explored the collection of large pipes stacked on the open hillside near the Murray Pipeworks until they were removed behind a fence on the far side of Nitshill Road and slid down two small coal bings in the early 1960s until they were removed as well. Three black crosses are marked in the photo below. The highest one marks where the two small coal bings once stood near the top of the hill, around 15 foot high maybe.( Hard to judge height from a dim memory at six years old but they seemed fairly high then. And dirty when you climbed up them then slid down- black hands and knees in short trousers- a common sight then.
The missing fields on Parkhouse Road, now covered with houses, and The Dams to Darnley Country Park used to resemble these remaining fields as I was growing up. An absolute joy to walk across them.
Renfrewshire also has Greenhill country within it, (small wooded braes) a green water, and many other features I won't bother you with that chimed strongly with the books when I discovered them. It was just an extra layer of mysterious magic bestowed on what was already for me a dazzling district. Even now, having explored most parts of Scotland extensively there is nothing quite like this landscape diversity anywhere else in Scotland- bearing more of a resemblance to special bits of the English Home Counties in geological terms and feel. Being the Scottish central belt however we have to pollute the lay-bys with the usual discarded rubbish and fly-tipping that has occurred for decades here. Other than that it's still beautiful.