Monday, 31 October 2011

A Springburn Hills Day Out :)

Sometimes, if its dull in the west coast of Scotland, as it frequently is here, living in a large city can be a bonus.
Outside in the surrounding area it can be dull and gloomy but under the concrete sprawl of the mighty metropolis with its heat and vapours a micro climate exits that can punch a hole straight through to sunny skies above.
This was predicted to happen on the forecast the night before but I waited a few hours on the day to be sure...until eleven o clock in fact and bang on time it came to pass. Dull and cloudy beyond the ring of hills that encircles Glasgow. Sunny and warm within. Time for an urban adventure.
Sitting in the car park in my local retail complex eating a roll and bacon I had a look at my large street finder map of Glasgow. Where to go....always the problem. After so many years exploring or working in the city I'd been most places. The main reason I climb hills is for the view and any excitement involved so I wanted to find some place interesting and elevated I hadn't been to before with good views.
There was only one place that stood out but it was in an area situated in the north east of the city with a well deserved reputation. Looking at the map though it had many green spaces on hill tops I'd never stood on before. That was enough for me. Although I'd worked a fair amount years ago  all over Maryhill, Possilpark,
Ruchill, Springburn and Sighthill  I'd never been around the parks and open areas much. They looked as if they would have great views over the city from new angles.
This proved to be the case. Ruchill Park came first. A park of 50 odd acres situated on a hilltop surrounded by a mix of social housing. Some were older estates like Maryhill and Ruchill itself, others were newer like the adjacent  long row of student flats purpose built for incomers studying at the university. Many of the scenes in Still Game were filmed around Maryhill and Ruchill. The park however, situated on a hill leading up to a flagpole highpoint was very quiet. I'd been here once before years ago without a camera and it was  just as deserted then as well. Its the sort of park you tend to look around you a lot to see who else is there. In this case it was just two guys walking their fighting type dogs, a common sight hereabouts, but I did also see two old women walking normal dogs. So maybe that's just me. Being quiet it actually had loads of bird life in it, a large flock of bullfinches eating berries of which the park has an abundance. In the right season Waxwings sometimes frequent it because of these trees.
Birds don't bother about fighting dogs though. Being descended from dinosaurs they're well hard!
The view point up at the flagpole is amazing. I've spent ages trying to get a decent clear photo of the Park Circus church spires  above Kelvingrove without poles or wires in the way and here it was at last. It's a slightly unnerving place though I have to admit. It's reached by one lone spiral entrance rising up to a flat summit ringed by thick bushes and railings. It's hard to see from below if anyone's up here until you arrive out on top. The only way down as an escape route is by this same narrow path. Reminded me of Dalmarnock Low level train Station for some reason which has the same vibe of single way down and up. Wasn't too keen on lingering around on that underground platform either for any length of time though the locals probably didn't think anything of it. Needless to say I made sure there was no one else coming up behind me. Call me cautious, most folk you meet in parks are fine but I'm just naturally always on guard in urban areas I don't know very well. Relaxed but aware of what's around me.
The view towards the City Centre ,Cowcaddens and St Georges Cross.
Looking towards Port Dundas, The Forth and Clyde Canal and Townhead. Port Dundas was the closest the canal could get to the centre of Glasgow and goods were unloaded here to be taken down into the city a short distance away.

Alan McGee, the guy that ran Creation Records and discovered Oasis and  signed many other indie bands lived in this converted warehouse building for many years. Luxury penthouse apartments with stunning views.
I'm happy with these flagpole views though. They come free.

This is looking west towards the Maryhill barracks where many troops were billeted during the war years. The high stone wall around these flats still stands as a boundary marker today to that period. Anniesland and the Inverclyde/ Renfrewshire hills lie in the distance.
I descended and followed the green ribbon of the Canal  path past Firhill Basin where all the barges used to tie up and barge workers could  then socialise and swap stories at night. Nearby is Partick Thistle's Football  Stadium. The third but smaller of Glasgow's better known football teams. Celtic and Rangers being the others obviously. This took me round to Sighthill Cemetery, the second oldest burial ground in Glasgow after the Necropolis, both built on hilltops. I was now in Springburn. The Rome of the North.     Great history and info why here.
Although I knew of its illustrious past as the great railway centre of the world, building then sending steam locomotives to every corner of the globe from the mid 1800s to its limping demise and closure in the 1980s,many of which are still providing a service to passengers today I hadn't heard it was sometimes referred to as the Rome of the North. Like Rome  this former self contained railway town was built over seven hills.
Sighthill Cemetery in the heart of Springburn. Before the Industrial Revolution many of these seven hills with their fine open views had large mansions and country estates on them owned by the tobacco lords, the great and the good. Petershill, Keppochhill (Cowlairs Park) Balgrayhill, and Springburn park itself, once resplendent with its fabulous glass enclosed Winter gardens, ornamental ponds and rockery. It's now faded somewhat but you can tell its been posh at one time. See the same link above for a very interesting and informative description of Springburn at its peak. It still has its castle tucked incongruously down a suburban cul de sac surrounded by council houses.
From Sighthill Cemetery with its expansive views my eye was drawn to the bold outline of the red road flats at one time the highest residential flats in Europe. Glasgow is a city of towers in every direction. Springburn has more than its fair share but many of them are in the process of demolition, hence the gaps as the interiors are stripped out. Due to prior knowledge of its reputation they were hard to let to folk from Glasgow so a lot of asylum seekers ended up here instead and in nearby Sighthill which even has its own African café in the shopping area.
Something else caught my eye though in the other direction. A bare grassy meadow area not far away that looked a bit like an Aztec temple, rising in rows of terraces, one on top of each other. With a shock I realised I'd never been up there before. A completely new unknown area right in the heart of Glasgow. Cowlairs park.

Many years ago when cattle were still moved on foot into the growing  hungry city Cowlairs was the point where cattle were rested, in lairs, on the side of this hill before being driven fresh to the markets and abattoirs below, trundling and complaining down through Cowcaddens.
Later, in the 1920s a park was created for the growing workforce in the nearby rail yards. It was a functional place. Few trees or fancy touches, these were hard working folk with not a lot of spare time or public holidays, just nine football pitches and a pavilion, stacked on top of each other, carved on ledges out of the side of the hill. Its a derelict waste ground now between Possilpark and Keppochhill, looks as if its been that way for many years,  and in the words of the locals...Its super dodgy up there. But I couldn't have been happier. Amazing views and a new place to explore. It is a tad rough though and I avoided the bush unsighted, overgrown pond area as I could hear some sounds of nefarious activity coming from that direction(kids burning tyres or some such)
What a place though. A new viewpoint.

My last port of call was Sighthill itself. It's got a park as well. A bare place with some trees and meadow and  a recently made stone circle. If you are a kid  here though this is the best it gets for a  nearby playground. Wandering through here I found myself thinking how lucky I was growing up on the outskirts of the city. Although it was a rough scheme I spent most of my childhood in real farmland and lush countryside which was only a street away.
Growing up here I'd imagine you would adopt a pretty tough outlook on life.
The biggest fighting dog I've ever seen lurked round the corner at the local shops.(I noticed the African cafe had the shutters down, don't know if its still used.) The guy holding it on a chain was just as impressive and together they made a formidable sight. Just for a second I thought of taking his picture but I didn't have the bottle as I didn't fancy getting my bits chewed then stamped pulpy if he took offence.
Most of this area was the domain of the St Rollox Chemical works, at its height the biggest in Europe. Sighthill Park and  its surroundings are built on the waste and spoil heaps of this long gone complex. The east end of most northern cities tended to hold the poorest members of the population due to the prevailing wind direction. During the time of heavy industry, coal fires and large smoking chimneys the rich lived upwind of the smells and pollution. The poor didn't have a choice and had to settle close to where the factories and work provided a living for them. No cars then. Most folk walked to work.
Now that a smoke filled city is no longer the problem it once was the east end is slowly changing with new housing and infrastructure. Its been going on for years but It will take generations to really change the whole area though as attitudes and history can't be swept away overnight. This current recession certainly doesn't help. Unless its free entry I can't see that many locals using the new  purpose built Commonwealth games velodrome at Parkhead.
Wonder what this area will look like one hundred years from now though? I hope it now has its best years ahead of it again.
The new North Glasgow College. Springburn.


Russell said...

Very interesting report. You probably know this, but it is reckoned that Springburn at one time manufactured one in four of the world's locomotives. Amazing! Russell

The Glebe Blog said...

I watched that documentary on Alan McGee and Creation Records.An amazing guy,but very self destructive in the earlier days.
This is a great look at the Metropolis Bob.
I remember as a kid reading of the glory of Glasgow's manufacturing and how it was named the Empire's Second City.
Ravenscraig ,Clyde shipbuilding and as Russell says Springburn to mention just three eh.
Oh the glory days.Where did it all go wrong and who's to blame ?

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Russell.
No I didn,t know that.I,m an empty sponge me.I soak up loads of knowledge then a few months later its all dripped out the back somewhere :)

blueskyscotland said...

Yeah, I Meant to watch that Jim.
You get nothing on all night then come 9 oclock you get three things on at the same time that looks interesting.Watched something else instead.Actually learned a lot myself from my last three outings.Still to post 2 of them.

Robert Craig said...

Nice to see the picture from Ruchill Park. One of the best viewpoints in Glasgow. I haven't been up there since my student days. There is a student 'village' at Murano St between Maryhill and Possil at the bottom of Ruchill Park, with a small windowless cube of a pub opposite. I remember going in and getting banter about cheap drinks in the student union. In fact the drink was cheaper in the pub!

My favourite view of Park Circus is from the top of the tower block opposite the Glasgow School of Art on Hill St. Seems a shame they are pulling all the tower blocks like Red Road down now. I know no one ever liked them but I don't know if anything will go in their place, probably just wasteland.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Bob; learnt more from this post than in five years of living five minutes walk from Ruchill Park.

My father in law, Alex, spent his young working life at the Springburn locomotive works. My lovely wife was born in Campsie Street in Springburn.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Robert.
I was just thinking of that a few weeks ago,standing above Barrhead looking at the backdrop of nearby Glasgow that I,ve known since childhood.Its my favourite urban view of all.When these towers go however it will completly change the nature of the city.Like a hippy getting a skinhead which is what gave me the idea to capture them all while I can.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Pete.
Did you know the pub in still game "The Clansman" was a real life one in Ruchill.Don,t know if its still there though.Also found out what the big dog was.A french mastiff crossed with a pit bull.Glad it wasn,t running off the lead near me.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I fear that canine bovver boy would eat wee Dougal on the spot, me too probably.
I've not seen or even heard of Still Game so I'm away to look it up now.

blueskyscotland said...

Good God Pete! I,m shocked!
It was one of the best,most entertaining comedies to come out of Scotland....ever! miles! You are in for a treat.Well worth watching.Put it this way its one of the few things Alex and I can agree on.
Start at series 1.Two old guys who live in a high rise in maryhill overlooking the canal basins.If its not free on i player you should be able to pick up a box set of each series for under a tenner.Filmed all over Glasgow its Classic and timeless.Can,t believe your wife is not aware of them though.And her a local girl!!!!

Fountainwell49man said...

I spent 20 years in Sighthill and quite frankly I wouldn't swap it for anything. The best place to grow up.

I now live in a modern estate in Knightswood and I don't think theres anything such as we had in Sighthill to entertain the kids these days.

No up the graveyard, no gang huts, no blocks full of classmates and friends.

By 1986 when I moved out, there was a new craze on the block...Heroine.

Glad I got out.

blueskyscotland said...

Fountainwell49 man.
I can imagine there was a good community in Springburn then.That,s around the time when I worked there for a spell.Hard drugs flooding into Glasgow during the 1980,s changed a lot of places,mine included.
Also didn,t help splitting Springburn in half with the new road when that was built.
Good views from Knightswood hill though(Trinley brae)but you,re right about there being not much for children there.

Dvorak said...

You might be interested to know that if you now visit Springburn Park around 0925 on a Saturday morning, you will now find dozens of people readying themselves to run 5K around it. Springburn is the home of Glasgow's fourth parkrun (the others are at Pollok (the first in Scotland), Tollcross and Victoria).

I attended the first one and, to be honest, I didnae even ken there was a Springburn Park before that. Starts at the statue and after aboot 2.5 turns of the park, finishes at the fountain. As you found, some interesting views (as there are from the top of Tollcross parkrun.) Springburn doesnae have a llama though.

I must get back and take some pictures of the flats with their red haps on (highly appropriate, wonder if it was meant?) before they are gone for good.