Saturday, 18 March 2023

Rubbish. The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

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This is a walk taken during the height of late summer last year in the afternoon from Old Kilpatrick to Duntocher and back.  I did it with my friend Anne as it is one of our favourite local walks near Glasgow. I've always loved spring, summer, and autumn for the colours and lush vegetation (and hopefully the heat) and this particular outing occurred during a heatwave so late afternoon was a perfect time to go out being still pleasantly warm but 8 degrees cooler than peak mid-day temperatures.

The bugs were enjoying the heat as well. Soldier Beetles here. The grass, flowers, and surrounding vegetation appeared at its tallest and most verdant... waist to head high in places... July and August....the nearest Scotland gets to a tropical paradise.

Shimmering heat haze over the golden cornfields were giving off a distinct Wizard of Oz vibe in my imagination and did I not have my (sometimes faithful) Dorothy and Toto marching right beside me... no hint of a tornado yet. So....everything was perfect in Munchkinland.


Or was it? I say this as it struck me on several short winter walks recently around my local area that the Central Belt... hedgerows, canal foot paths, lay-bys, grass verges, small wooded strips.... must be one of the world's dirtiest locations. Fact. In summer all the rubbish of beer cans, energy drinks, glass bottles,coffee cartons, dog shit, etc is thankfully hidden and we can pretend we all live in a beautiful serene scenic country. In winter however it is laid completely bare and I could spend an hour in any living room sized section of hedgerow or layby near me picking up dozens of individual pieces of litter and handfuls of cans. No exaggeration. I will take photographs next time to prove it. Sadly you could pick it all clean and in one month it would be back again as bad as ever. Scotland, (and the UK in general) has fantastic scenery- one of the world's most varied landscapes, but it is very, very bad for litter. World class in fact. Rightly famous for it as an incredibly dirty nation. Normally I can ignore it in the main but post pandemic, this winter, it seems to be worse than ever before. Especially with the spring flowers bursting out surrounded by a cheerful garland of used nappies, half empty beer cans, vomit, and wine bottles. Might make an apt eye catching poster for the new SNP elections.



Anyway, back to the dream time heat of Oz and the euphoria of  mid summer where everything is hidden again. A pleasant path leading to the village of Duntocher.

 Back to beauty once more.

 Poppies in a garden.

 Summer at its finest.


An unusual flower. Nature always does its very best to cheer us up with beauty but a percentage of humanity seems to delight in desecrating it instead. How hard can it be to put litter in a bin or take it home with you?

Even the weeds do their part to hide the sea of rubbish left behind by thoughtless or evil individuals. Rose bay willow herb here.

 Pink thistles and soldier beetles getting jiggy.


The walk follows the route of the Antonine Wall in places. Even a percentage of Roman recruits stationed in the various forts presumably tossed litter around here. Five percent? Ten percent? Fifteen?

It's now a children's play park. Since childhood I don't leave litter around and always carry anything I bring with me on any walk back to my own house bin or find one along the route so who are these people that continually drop stuff out of cars or toss it away as they walk along. Do they want to live in a world with rubbish knee deep?  Aren't smart phones supposed to make us smarter... not turn us into idiots?

 Signpost to Rome. Only 413 leagues to walk? That actually sounds achievable! After all, they did it one thousand years ago.

In not very well padded sandals or boots.. maybe even bare feet for some.

Path up Golden hill.  


Golden hill summit view.


The local burn. A shady cool place under the trees in the heat.

 The local park in Duntocher.

 Same local park.

 The euphoria of high summer vegetation. It hides many sins. Unlike humans, animals have to live here. This is their home and we continually destroy it. No wonder insect, bird, reptile, and mammal populations are crashing when you see what they have to live in, at ground level, in winter.


Farms in the Kilpatrick Hills.



Even the walk back along the A82 is beautiful at this time of year with a variety of flowering weeds. I should point out this is not a walk with an overabundance of litter on it. We both like it because it is one of the better ones, being semi rural. But over the last few months of winter and weekly walks elsewhere, with an absence of vegetation to hide it all, the current levels of rubbish in every city verge, wooded margin or canal towpath I walk past is a national scandal and makes a complete mockery of all the 'green credentials' we are supposed to be meeting. In summer I can usually ignore it and pretend all is well but during the bleak winter months it is a disgrace. How can we expect to fix climate change when we crap in our own basket.... repeatedly. No one I know leaves litter lying around but it must be someone doing it as there is so much of it. Normally I focus on or highlight the beauty that surrounds me and try to ignore the rubbish at my feet but any overseas visitors must be appalled and disgusted. Fact. The UK has one of the most varied and beautiful patchwork quilt landscapes anywhere on the planet, the envy of other countries that can only dream of such varied complexity of terrain, with every few miles offering a totally different geological feature yet we routinely and increasingly trash it like this... week in week out. Hopefully in the future we can develop an army of tiny garbage robots picking all the litter up as the UK seems completely incapable of doing it itself. Not every country is like this though. I now carry a separate bag with me for used can collections on my travels . It's a small start against a tsunami of junk.

Monday, 27 February 2023

Moments of Pleasure. Waste Ground.

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 A collection of photos mostly set around 'waste ground.' I noticed during the various recent Covid 19 lockdowns that several areas of waste ground in my own quarter of the City of Glasgow, after lying derelict for years, sometimes decades, had construction and building projects occurring... all at once in a rush. This was probably to keep the economy going when most indoor jobs had to stop or work from home.


 One stretch of so called 'waste ground' I've cherished since moving to this side of the River Clyde is this one, above, lying between The Renfrew Ferry at Yoker  and the Docks at Clydebank.

Cyclists crossing the River Clyde at Renfrew. The last remaining ferry on the upper Clyde where once a dozen or so operated when factories and shipyards lining both banks needed tens of thousands of workers to travel the shortest distance between tenement flats to construction sites. Some came by bus, train or underground but thousands more used the numerous ferries, winter and summer, to cross the river. Generations of tramping lines of foot soldiers travelling to work or returning home turned the streets and river black and wore down the hundred year old stone tenement stairs visibly thin in the middle with multi generational metal clad feet. I have dim memories of that time before the age of ten in the early 1960s and it wasn't swinging in any way. Working class Glasgow was a very black city then. The buildings were black with 100 years of constant Industrial Revolution soot and grime landing on them every day. The workers were mostly black as well but white underneath... caps, boots, trousers, jackets and faces not yet joined the musical London trend for  vibrant colour and individuality. Thousands of them looked identical in either dark well used overalls or hard wearing donkey jackets. Muted shades of coal, oil, and dirt the uniform appearance in work wear for factory and shipyard males. The 4:00 pm darkness of the winter months only heightening the effect of an army of shadows passing half unseen through an often misty, or smog ridden chimney dependent smokestack city. Flat capped vampires of the 7:00am to 5:00pm treadmill setting off in the cold dark then coming home by the moon and stars. Only large football crowds, pouring out after a game, mirror that human entry and exodus now in 2023 when each factory gate then employed similar numbers.


With the abandonment of most of the shipyards, manufacturing factories, and other works large areas of empty ground on both banks of the River Clyde had decades to change into something else. Waste ground. As seen here.


Yet it's not really wasted, especially in summer. This area is awash with red clover, gorse, dog rose, thistles and vetch. In short it's a nature reserve within the city and unlike most of the man made strips of sown wild flowers, trendy in recent times, this large patch comes up like this every year whereas the sown strips last one single summer before getting smothered out by competing  non flowering weeds.


It also has plenty of places for animals to hide.... rabbits, mice, stoats, weasels, shrews etc... and not many people come here.

In high summer it's alive with insects and bees going about their business... A cricket or grasshopper is in this photo, bottom middle. A green lung in an area that does not have a local park close by, within walking distance.


So in it's own small way it's a jungle paradise in the heart of a built up area. 

Meet the animals. I cheated here slightly as this mural is from another walk around nearby Drumchapel on another day of waste ground adventures. A different kind of jungle... obviously.


It's a soft play barn but in an area of no longer used, run down buildings  near Drumchapel Shopping Centre, an outlier of that complex being demolished so I captured it just in case it vanished as well in the general clear out of this area as it made me laugh. The eyes have it.


Back in the Yoker waste ground area with a variety of wonderful wild weeds.



I mention this because the new million plus swing bridge is to be built across the River Clyde here not far from this path so I hope they will keep some of this wild land exactly as it is now. Some of it has already been bulldozed and covered over where the bridge will run but it would be nice if they left this middle section as it is now. For wildlife.


At the moment, being abandoned and wild, few people walk in this area, mostly adult males and very few women or children come here unless they have a large dog for protection so a proper safe riverside path leading to the  new bridge would open it up to the many and not just the brave few but I hope they keep the wild interior section intact, seen above.

 I for one and I'm sure many locals would miss it if it disappeared. For me it's as good as any public park in the city and as a recent report found out the risk of mental illness or dementia type onset is lessened in built up areas if they have frequent access to green areas, parks and water a short walk from the house so maybe they could balance both. New bridge and footpath(s) but save the wild open space as well.


Derelict shed at Yoker gets a new look. Apprehensive face.



New bridge construction goes ahead. Late summer 2022.


Construction works and ground clearance advances further into 'waste ground' clover meadows. 

The cleared route of the new road carving through woodlands on the Renfrew side of the river.


Male Goosander.

 Wild Rasperries on waste ground.

A colour splurge.

Spring catkins in a very mild February. 2023.

Winter sunshine on crocus. Moments of Pleasure.

Sunday, 12 February 2023

A Reflections Walk. Anniesland To Stockingfield Junction and Back. Glasgow 2023.

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A recent walk a couple of weeks ago along the Forth and Clyde canal from Anniesland to Stockingfield Junction and back. At this time of year, winter, I thought the bird life would be good along the canal with the added bonus of a new bridge being built at Stockingfield near Ruchill on the north of Glasgow. This was to make the spot where two canals meet much safer as before the new bridge here pedestrians and cyclists, as well as cars and lorries, had to squeeze through a short but narrow tunnel on Lochburn Road on pavements a foot wide with traffic zipping past. Built in a different era before any concept of health and safety existed it was a dangerous bottleneck by day and even more so at night. It also separated the adjacent  working class communities of Maryhill, Ruchill and Gilshochill with the canals acting as impassible barriers without a bridge spanning them and a dangerous underpass the only other option between them. I've cycled and walked through that tunnel in past decades and it is unnerving, even worse with children or pushing a pram.

As I've been on this walk from Anniesland to the City Centre along the canal many times over the past 40 years, by foot and cycling, I picked a static,still, sunny day for maximum pleasure and perfect reflections. Swan and Geese here.


Although bird life was plentiful on the water, recent walks had made me well aware that everything was not perfect in my wonderland with millions of birds worldwide already decimated by their own pandemic in the form of bird flu. Several birds on this walk were either dead or dying. You could tell the ill ones because they were sitting out the water, on dry land, huddled up tight in a ball, paying no attention to anyone or anything getting close. Easy prey for foxes which is probably what happened to this one overnight. Otters and badgers will eat dead or dying birds as well and bird flu can spread to other species. including humans and their pets, like dogs and cats.


So although it was a beautiful morning with amazing reflections it was a two sided coin and you could not pretend the other side didn't exist. Small barge here used to clean weeds and other debris out the canal and keep it free of snags for summer boat travel.



View along the canal.

 Coot Reflection.


Female Goosander on a sunken log


Male Goosander and Male Mallard Duck.

Reflections near Maryhill.


A slight breeze created this startling effect of golden ripples. 


And revealed some unusual predators. What I think is a Mink here exploring the canal. I've only spotted a few mink over the decades, half a dozen otters, and one wild or feral polecat so not a usual sight on any walk.


Also this larger mystery beast cleaving through the water at speed. Anyone know what this is.....?...... because I do :o) And it's not a girl doing wild swimming in the canal. Glasgow isn't that posh ...yet,


After a few flat miles of walking I arrived at Stockingfield Junction. This is the support pillar and tension cables holding up the new bridge.

 New bridge across the canal. Perfect day for reflections.


A bike going over the new bridge.


This photo reminded me strongly of Cumbernauld. Same pedestrian/ cyclist elegant solution to get over several dual carriageways there. Same distant view of white tower blocks, same spindly trees and a huge sky feel above on a nice day as that town sits high on a moorland ridge. It's a good town to explore by bike and Stockingfield Junction, on the day I was there, having recently opened, had attracted a fair number of curious cyclists.

 One thing that puzzled me here was several low humps of concrete/ asphalt. I looked it up online with no success as to their purpose so it remains a mystery. If I'd been younger I'd have been enticed into walking along the top of them and I'd imagine cycling along them by intrepid bikers will be an irresistible temptation but I don't think that's the reason for them being here with a nasty jolt around the bottom which certainly stopped me jumping off at the thought of it. Maybe they will be painted with art at some point.

 Certainly at the moment it looks unfinished somehow.


I can normally think of something extra to add on these occasions to give it some extra sparkle but I was uninspired with this attempt.


This also looked like an unfinished sculpture of some kind. Heavy concrete legs capable of holding up many tons of weight...



So I added a bubble.... from another planet... here perhaps to sort out the mess humanity has made of it's beautiful green ball..... gifted to it by God. The only one we have and the miracle of the entire universe.... before we trashed it that is. 


Buried car artwork.

I liked these colourful ceramics around the base of the pole. Children often make the best art pieces.


So I'm presuming these are made by local schools or the like. Although I enjoyed the day out and the new bridge links the three communities better with safer bike and pedestrian access when I looked it up online to find out more about the purpose of the humps I was somewhat gutted to read that Andy Scott's 'Big Man' project was originally proposed for this area. I'd forgotten about that in the many years since. This was a giant human figure striding the canal holding the bridge with his arms but the concept ran out of money due to a downturn in the UK economy at that time. Which is a real shame. Although the current bridge is a fine piece of engineering, and serves a purpose I personally do not think it has the same 'WOW' factor as a giant person striding the canal with a bridge in both hands. Although expensive that would have really put this part of North Glasgow on the tourist map of Britain although with the increased influx of people they would have had to build far more infrastructure around it to support it... ie car parks, visitor centre etc.... as there's not much there at present and 90 percent of visitors at the moment arrive by foot or bike along the canal.


The 'mystery beast' on the canal.