Saturday 2 March 2024

Kilmacolm. Knapps Loch. Glen Moss. The Wonders of Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.

                                                    ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

Ben Lomond in winter from Kilmacolm. It's been years since either Alan or myself visited Kilmacolm and the nearby Knapps Loch and Glen Moss. This is good however as it stops any over-familiarity with this area creeping in. I always take loads of photographs in this part of Inverclyde and Renfrewshire. Regional boundaries have changed here over time but in my own head I've always  ignored these official lines. I separate them instead by landscapes and geology. Renfrewshire is my wonderland and although Kilmacolm and Knapps Loch reside just over the boundary line in Inverclyde my own visual boundary lines when cycling or walking here place them firmly in 'green-hill country.' Glen Moss however is in Renfrewshire, despite being a very short distance from Kilmacolm so official boundary lines, for me, are largely unimportant. Dozens of quiet minor roads crisscross green-hill country through rolling farmland. Inland Inverclyde tends to be high bleak moor, hill farms and only a few minor roads. You can easily tell the difference walking or cycling.


Castle Semple Loch. This is what green-hill country looks like to me. In the past when walking or cycling I'm not that aware of official boundary markers between different districts... or when I'm crossing them. That's only important if you live here... for letter delivery, postcodes, public services etc...I have always separated them by landscape features instead. Rolling green hills, inland lochs and dams, cattle, farms... rural life. Picture box perfect.



To me, visually, this is always green-hill country. A beautiful oasis. I'm not that bothered if it's in Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire or Inverclyde as it's clearly defined for me just by looking at it.

 So for me this is green-hill country with Inverclyde the much higher slopes behind. It's probably all Inverclyde officially but as a traveller and not a resident I don't care about that. I've known all my life visiting 'the kingdom' where my country begins and ends.


It can be quite spectacular, as here at Auchenbothie with the River Clyde deep water trench hidden and a backdrop of the Kilpatrick Escarpment.


But in general it's usually very obvious where my own boundary lines are without looking at a map. Green-hill Country sums it up.

So we, Alan and I, started off at Kilmacolm and Knapps Loch. It does feel like a magical kingdom but like the English Lake District wealth is often the key. Kilmacolm, like Helensburgh and Rhu, is one of Scotland's richest communities so the scenery has been enhanced by that revenue stream for over one hundred years.


In less well heeled lower middle class areas I've been really bored on walks, street after street of perfectly decent but very dull identikit housing that I never even bothered to post but never that here. I find I either like rough housing schemes/ or very wealthy areas just because they are much more interesting architecturally to walk around. Beautiful church above. In some ways 'green-hill country' feels very 'English home counties'  and you can't say that for much of urban Scotland.


So we did our usual tour of Knapps Loch, seen here...

... then up onto the obvious crag behind the loch...reached via grassy paths, although they are getting more used looking now with increased yearly rainfall in west Scotland and post pandemic healthy living daily advice to get outdoors, influencing suddenly exercise conscious adults... plus the usual internet obsession with beauty spots worldwide. Glen Moss incidentally is reached across the fields on faint paths via the houses in the middle top of photo and a signposted wooded strip/path through the golf course.


It's a popular dog walking area for locals which is no surprise as I've always found in other upmarket areas they build golf courses on any available land rather than public parks although Kilmacolm is better served with good walks locally than say Newton Mearns or Helensburgh.... with far less scenic minor roads available in the last two places mentioned. But you've got to know where to go in this area. Visitor parking is very limited ... which is a good thing throughout Green-hill Country/ Renfrewshire/Inverclyde/North Ayrshire as it keeps it fairly quiet.  

 A kestrel on a tree... snapped unaware as balancing on this thin twig was occupying it fully in a playful breeze. Does my bum look big in this?


Minutes later it spotted a potential meal, a mouse or a vole, and soared upwards to maintain its classic hovering position.



On other occasions it can seem like a magical place. A few geese in a field here.

Happy geese feeding near Kilmacolm.


And some amazing buildings. Mount Zion in Quarriers Village, above.


The village lands.

 Old signpost near Glen Moss.

Glen Moss. It used to be used for curling in winter but with warmer temperatures and a lack of marshlands UK wide it's now best suited as a wildlife reserve.

Kilbarchan Steeple.

Howwood and the surrounding green-hill country.


Kilmacolm church and local bus.

 And if you fancy something different the Clyde Coast is just a short drive/ cycle ride or local bus away.


I read recently about the Cathkin Braes being the best place to view the City of Glasgow from... as a perfect high vantage point in a quality newspaper. That's a matter of personal taste of course but to my mind, having visited both areas recently and in the past it's very obviously not. The next post should confirm that beyond doubt.... coming as it does from  Central Belt Scotland's best living landscape photographer :) ie. me.

                                      A last look at green-hill country.

A very different land in this link. I've been a fan of this duo for over ten years.  Clicking unmute brings the sound on. 

Saturday 24 February 2024

Newark Castle. Kelburn. Parklea. Ships. Shoreline Birds.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN


A rainbow. For a change in the blueskyscotland universe it was a decidedly mixed day with heavy showers forecast. As neither Alan or myself fancied getting soaked up a hill we decided on a flat walk from Newark Castle (Fyfe Shore. A small car park just a half km up river from castle, yet still next to the water's edge) Although we've both been in Port Glasgow numerous times neither of us had walked from Port Glasgow up river towards Glasgow the full way. (heading for Langbank) It's a busy photograph.


This is taken from the car park with a view of Ferguson shipyard. What made this walk special was the unexpected river traffic heading up and down the River Clyde Estuary on that particular day and also the bird life. It was full high tide so all the birds that would normally be out feeding on the low tide exposed sandbanks were waiting it out in sheltered bays. It was also a very windy day which in mid winter also put us off a hill walk yet surprisingly sheltered and warm along this stretch of coastline. The sunshine coast of Inverclyde! Happily out the wind for most of it.


Chemical/ oil tanker Arsland passing us on the walk.


At the start of the walk it's a straight flat romp along this boardwalk but once this section is completed it opens out into a series of small sheltered bays.


Then a wider expanse of shoreline with playing fields and small woods.

Thought at first these ducks were Pochard due to the brown head...


But consulting my bird book they turned out to be Wigeon, a duck I've only seen once before, same as Pochard.... in 50 years of coastal, pond, and river walks. 


The small white wing bar and the jaffa orange crest on the head being the giveaway.


Further up we spotted what I thought was a large flock of sandpipers but it was hard to get a photo of them as tree branches in front were what the lens always focused on.


Turned out to be Redshanks, (I think,) a bird I've seen feeding on the sand and mud flats but always on its own, never in flocks. As I don't go to nature reserves normally and I'm not a dedicated bird watcher, only photographing them on walks, this was a good day's haul of bird life for me. You would think in 50 years of being highly attuned to capture any wildlife encountered though and the number of coastal walks I've done during that time I would have seen a wider/ better range of species.


For instance.....Teal... above.  Only spotted twice. Once near Ayr and once in the River Carron marshlands.

 Bullfinch. Spotted only once... that I can Fife.

Grey Partridge... only once... same Fife day.

Golden eye. Again only once. I know many UK birds have been in sharp decline for decades but at this rate of spotting that puts them in the same extremely rare bird category as Little Egrets. I'm excluding Green Parakeets here as I've seen and photographed them on four occasions now. Yet all the preceding species mentioned are supposed to be fairly common in the UK.


Two birds I do see a lot of near the coast are Oystercatchers and jackdaws... and again on this walk.


Timber ponds and Dumbarton Rock. In the days before steel hulled ships timber was stored here to season in salt water before it could be used in the various River Clyde shipyards, the skeletal remains of which can be seen to this day.

 The broad green sward at Parklea....

 ...and looking back at our shoreline walk.

 The Serco passing Westcliff in Dumbarton.


A rainbow up close. Although we observed various rain showers over the hills and mountains at times we stayed dry all day so a good result.


A tug escorting a large ship up river.

On the same route back we stopped off at Port Glasgow's Coronation Park where an impressive modern sculpture sits. A tribute to the shipyard workers of the past... and present.


Hammers away. If it doesn't fit always use a big heavy hammer on it. Or even better two hammers. That's my advice.



With the clouds scudding past at speed due to the wind strength you had the disconcerting illusion, standing directly under this giant, that it was the sculpture that was moving slightly and just about ready to swing it down on you. A very good sculpture for Port Glasgow and a highlight of a modest heritage trail in the town. 


On this walk you also get good views of Dumbarton Rock and Castle. And you can visit the nearby Newark Castle. A pleasant jaunt of a few hours duration.

Even though I'm not posting videos anymore... now and again a song I've not heard totally captivates me. This is one. A real classic yet I've never heard it before. This should be as well known as any Beatles song to my mind yet I've never heard it on the radio. I would have remembered it. Although it's easier to get songs on the internet many catchy but fringe modern tunes never get the same airplay on radio or TV, still dominated by previous decade classics, especially the 1960s to the 1990s, probably because they still had a proper music industry then with teams dedicated to promoting all the established acts. This is a real slow grower. Sweeping... epic... sad... but beautiful.   and I've already heard Eleanor Rigby dozens of times in every decade. I live for good new songs I haven't heard before. Miley Cyrus also does a great version of it as well but this is the far as I'm aware.