Sunday 3 December 2023

A Walk around Neilston in Renfrewshire.

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With minus 4 temperatures and a recent dump of fresh snow at street level in Glasgow I though I'd escape back into summer instead. Neilston's former Cotton Mill, above. The walk started here by following this lane along the side of the old mill wall. Further on a step through hole in the wall leads into woods then a banana shaped path curves around a meadow to Holehouse in Neilston then another path takes you past Brimstone Bridge, following the Levern Water some of the way, then Neilstonside Farm via a minor road. Living in a northern country I always appreciate Spring, Summer, and Autumn for its greenery and hopeful heat. Summers not too warm as yet but not cold either. Perfect in fact.


Renfrewshire is dairy cattle country so this is a scene very familiar to me although the cattle here appear to have been gathered in for something but the general setting is much the same. Five minutes walk from my house between the ages of five and fifteen, black and white dairy cattle munched in fields very close to my front door and even better the fields were large with mature hedgerows separating them. Unlike here, photo above and below, you could usually avoid any cows in a large field and even if you couldn't... skipping into any adjoining field was easy via numerous gaps in the hedges. There was always space to walk along the edges even in a field of crops, which, of course, we knew not to touch. Simple for children or teenagers to squeeze through  between fields if the cows got too close but not for the cows to escape and follow us. (We/ us being various friends.)


So I always look at cows... and tenements... with fond affection. Possibly because I didn't have to muck out winter concrete farm buildings at any point although I've seen it done many times. All that area used to be like this when I was growing up but now it's been swallowed up by various housing estates. Darnley, Parkhouse and Southpark Village. We didn't harm the cows in any way but I'm ashamed to say we did collect birds eggs found in the hedgerows back then but I only needed one egg from each common bird. Egg collecting being my first real obsession. A reason to go into the countryside in the first place and something of an addiction, like any other hobby. With no adults or TV / media around to teach us it was wrong my personal lifelong interest in wildlife started right here. Back in the 1960s Africa was still something of an untraveled continent for anyone other than rich explorers... the world was unbelievably vast and apparently limitless, tourists still had stay at home holidays in the UK, mainly because most families were poor and had a limited two week's off work in summer plus foreign tourism was just starting to catch on for the better off..... And nature was thriving. Still plenty of fish in rivers and  oceans: No global warming or climate change to think about and hundreds of birds nests in the hedgerows to choose from. A childhood myth going around being birds could only feel three eggs, a middle body egg and one for both wings so we always left those three behind, even in a nest of four eggs. Probably a parent told someone that on hearing we were collecting although it wasn't frowned on then as much as it is now from what I remember. Climbing bushes and trees only added to the excitement of the hunt as a fall could be fatal.

Only a small percentage of children were egg collectors or even explored outside their own estate into the countryside so we were unusual. When I was about twelve to fourteen however I gradually stopped collecting and the enjoyment/addiction faded away because I realized it was cruel, I had enough eggs, one for each species, a box of 25 or so, and wildlife, however plentiful, had a right to exist as well. Life in the estate could be very cruel for humans so it took a while to gain a proper sense of compassion for other things, especially with other, harder or older children tagging along, offering advice. The usual peer pressure. Looking back, although we did some damage to bird numbers.... a few years later they ripped out the hedgerows and covered many of the best fields in tarmac, roads, and housing estates which would be an even bigger loss to any wildlife that remained I'd imagine. Also domestic cats kill over a million small birds every single day in some countries to put my own small contribution towards species decline into context.


So the countryside around Neilston reminds me of what my own area used to look like ( Dams to Darnley Country Park that is) back in the 1960s. With a network of quiet scenic roads The Barrhead Plateau Escarpment Uplands remains ideal for cycling. On this occasion though Alan and I were on foot heading for Neilston Pad via these minor roads and paths, The highest summit in the area at 260 metres, 856 feet, is a hog back grassy top instead of bog and tussocks.


Still lovely country here. A path near Neilston that we walked.



Near the flight path but no overhead engine noise. A few zoomed shots.

Red plane.


Scottish Loganair plane.


Easyjet plane.

 Arran Ridge visible on the ascent.



...and finally Neilston Pad itself. You can do this hill from the small car park immediately below it in 20 mins or so but the way we did it gives full value to its modest height and provides a longer more interesting ascent of a few hours which also explores the town and a small rock climbing quarry as well.



Neilston from Neilston Pad showing part of the route walked.


The start of the Scottish Highlands from the summit.


As usual nowadays we came across several outdoor shrines to loved ones, either Covid related or  post Covid deaths.



Lot of artistic people out there. Painted pebbles.


A small lochan near Neilston.

Decorated tree.

A wind turbine.

 The beauty of the Renfrewshire Ridgelands. This is more like the large fields, cattle numbers and hedgerows that used to exist where I grew up. Classic Renfrewshire landscape.


The City of Glasgow in the distance.....   And as I type this in my frozen hovel, with snow lying outside, trying to minimize any extortionate heating bills. ( I have the money to pay them but I 'd rather spend it on other things I need more so it's strictly rationed to one hour morning and night to stop the pipes freezing.) 


Large exotic poppy in Neilston garden.

So, I can honestly say I miss summer.      P.S. to make amends for past misdemeanors I always feed the birds in my garden daily, especially during the  winter months and give them fresh water to drink if it's frozen solid, like now. And I bet all the outdoor animals, birds included,  hate ****** winter as much as I do!

Monday 20 November 2023

Gleniffer Braes. Paisley. Last of the Autumn Colours 2023. Waterfall.

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 A walk from a few days ago in mid November. Although the higher tree canopy had been stripped of colourful leaf due to rain and strong winds that only highlighted the lower shrubs and bushes, which being more sheltered, had retained full leaf cover, as seen here.

 Our walk for today was a short drive to the Gleniffer Braes Country Park. parking at the large Robertson Car Park above Paisley. ( aka.... 'The car park in the sky' as it sits 400-500 foot directly above that town.) Four small hill ranges run into each other here in a horseshoe formation. The Lochliboside Hills, The Fereneze Hills, The Brownside Braes, and The Gleniffer Braes which together form part of the Clyde Valley Plateau Lavas. 

All the Central Belt hill ranges are apparently the result of massive lava flows and volcanic activity with many familiar and much loved local summits being either volcanic plugs ( Duncolm in the Kilpatricks, Dumgoyne in the Campsies, Dumbarton Rock etc and many others stretching across the country west to east in a wide band to Traprain Law and Berwick Law beyond Edinburgh. Being higher, 1000 foot plus, The Kilpatricks and the Campsies tend to be wilder and bleaker. Less sheltered, with more up and down ascents everywhere. The Barrhead/ Paisley Hills however are completely flat on top... a plateau... see photo above, 600 to 800  feet in height and that lower altitude makes all the difference... Scattered farms and short green grass meadows exist here instead of the usual bog, tussocks and empty ground on the higher peaks to the north of Glasgow.


I've always thought of this area as a Scottish mini Cotswolds as they have much more in common with many of the gentler small hill ranges in the south of England than the usual wild and windswept Scottish summits. ( I have explored most of the southern hill ranges as well in my hasty youth so it's not mere imagination speaking.)

 There are similarities... although this is a much poorer area economically and hundreds of miles further north. Paisley/Glasgow is slightly further north than Moscow incidentally, level with the middle of frozen Hudson Bay in Canada, or the chilly Baltic Sea yet on a warm windless spring day you would never know that. An almost tropical cornucopia/ mimosa of flowering shrubs, exotic scents, and lush green grass surrounds you in a friendly embrace every single summer. Something I first discovered here as a young child. For a budding nature hedonist ( i.e. I prefer it warm, sunny, and stuffed with colourful vegetation outdoors.) that was truly magical....


The summit of Duncolm in the Kilpatrick Hills here looking across the town of Paisley. The previous five days had been stormy and wet so this was a brief window of good dry weather before more rain was forecast to arrive. 

 As the autumn colours were still abundant, a last November flourish, we stayed on the lower edge of the  Gleniffer Braes, walking from Robertson car park on the escarpment edge path down through deciduous woodlands to Glen Park, the waterfall, and a necklace of small dams/ ponds once presumably used in the weaving/ textile/ thread industry that Paisley was once famous for worldwide.


After crossing the obvious deep narrow gorge via a wooden bridge we came across the Tannahill Walkway. a tarmac balcony trail leading gently down to Glen Park which offers great views over Paisley and Glasgow. Robert Tannahill was a local Paisley poet and songwriter who was a fan of Robert Burns. He loved his local hills above the town so this path is a fitting lasting tribute to him. Glasgow might not have an ancient volcano beside its city centre or a dramatic castle on a rock within its city limits but it does have Dumbarton Rock and Castle and the Gleniffer Braes/ Kilpatrick Hills as a nearby ( far less tourists, much cheaper) Edinburgh equivalent.

His very interesting and rather sad story here. Surprising what his songs/tunes/lyrics later evolved into. You might not have heard of him, unless you are a local, but you will know these melodies.

 Info sign on path.

This balcony trail on the edge of the escarpment led Alan and I down to Glen Park and offers outstanding views, even with slightly murky visibility on this occasion. Part of Stanely Reservoir here.


Overnight storms and rain clouds departing from Paisley and Glasgow.

A patch of blue sky and sunlight over Foxbar and Paisley.


Standing on the escarpment edge overlooking Hi Rise flats in Paisley.


Stanely Reservoir. On a nice sunny day this gives a blue Mediterranean sparkle to the town.

Paisley Town Centre and Glasgow Airport. ( This airport is right beside Paisley but only a short bus ride or drive to Glasgow City Centre from here.

 Glen Park and the Dams walkway.


One of several ponds/dams in this area.


The woodland floor in autumn.

 Crossing a gully.

 Scottish woods in November.


Due to the levels of rain falling in the last few days the famous waterfall plunging over a cliff was very impressive. In summer it can be just a trickle  but this was thrilling even though I first visited here when I was around six or seven with my Mum, aunt and cousins. 



It was so good we made it linger as we approached it from afar. Teasing the experience out a little.

 There is an easy path to it on the other side of the gully but we were enjoying the autumn colours.

 The Waterfall. Even after all these years this is still a magical place.



On the way back, in Paisley, we visited Robert Tannahill's cottage/ workshop. Amazingly still standing to this day.


 Info tablet.


 And a couple of  local Paisley murals I hadn't seen before.


Fittingly, a harvest theme. A great day out with good company.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

An Autumn Gallery. October 2023. The Golden Highway.

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An old fence post covered in thick moss. Maybe even one harbouring a lost world of minuscule creatures, happily breeding and hidden away for decades, on this completely isolated vertical sided but extremely lush mini mountain summit. After 40 years of taking autumn photographs I know all the best places to find good autumn colours so this is a gallery celebration of the dramatic third act of the seasons. The very essence of autumn. 'The Fall'. A good photo should make you want to step right through into the picture and experience it as if you were there in person. So hopefully this selection will achieve that.


I don't need to travel far to find the best areas either. Great Western Road between Drumchapel and Anniesland is as good as any park for autumn colours in trees although I have done recent walks around Knightswood Park, Clydebank Park, and  Rouken Glen Park to broaden the art gallery theme still further.


A golden harvest for wildlife with colourful wild berry and fruit trees lining both sides and the middle strip of this golden highway. Yet I have personally seen very few birds here eating them. They are enchanted.


This is Glasgow's version of the Yellow Brick Road and the Emerald Kingdom beyond.

 Strange things do occur here occasionally.

 A cold autumn morning on the golf course beside Rouken Glen Park. What I thought was a stray golf ball at first glance from a distance was not.


Bus Stop in autumn 2023.


I also pick good light to bring up the colours more. Late afternoon sunlight here.

And some views are just magical. Another realm entirely....... that you can step into.


If you are lucky with the weather autumn colours can last from early September to mid November which certainly helps to make the bleak winter months of cold darkness pass quicker before Spring eventually appears again.


A dipper enjoying a very clear stream flowing through Rouken Glen park.


Autumn park lands are plentiful in the western suburbs of the city.


All the colours, sights and smells of a productive October forest floor. Any goodness used up, stored away safety, then turned into a wide range of mirco materials that all growing things desire come spring... easily as efficient as any human food factory turning out products for sale to their customers. The invisible world wide web of tiny mycelium threads that you never normally see without digging them up but without which most things above ground would perish. The original food delivery service perfected over millions of years of evolution.


 Great Western Road. Still quiet and serene outside rush hour times.

 Coat of several colours.

Amanita Muscaria.

Autumn foliage. High Knightswood.

 Deer. Shy creatures of the forest edge near The Barrhead Dams.


Evening sunlight walking along Great Western Road.


The stream in the gorge at Rouken Glen Park.


The riches of autumn.


The sheer beauty of Glasgow's many parks.



Pastel Perfection. Misty morning with weak sunlight burning through November's dark mists.


Wind blown leaves swirling in a tight circle create an overnight random archipelago on the pavement outside. or ...hinting at a sinkhole effect.


...and the pleasures of the open road ahead.