Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Lower River Clyde.

This is a companion post to the Kilpatrick hills post just past. There are a number of  good bike rides from my house that run along the Forth and Clyde canal in both directions. Two of the best explore the banks of the lower River Clyde. The first goes via Anniesland out past Clydebank and here at  Bowling Harbour, through the Vale of Leven to Loch Lomond side. From there a network of Minor roads in the rolling country north east of Jamestown (Balloch) lead you round past Croftamie and Blanefeild back to Glasgow. A fairly long day but highly enjoyable.
This is Bowling harbour. It used to be a major stop off point for the many steamers going up and down the Clyde, a shipbuilders yard and a busy working  harbour After a long decline its now a smashing little place full of quirky interest and has regained something of its former glory. Dumbarton is another place that is often overlooked but it has a great park (Levengrove) a very dramatic Castle and a scenic walkway/cycle track leading along the Firth of Clyde from this park towards Cardross and the Havoc Grasslands.

The second bike run veers south and crosses the Erskine Bridge then runs along the other side of the Clyde via Erskine all the way out over the hills and moors to reach Inverclyde. This was a run I did in the late Autumn just passed. From high up on the bridge the Kilpatrick hills look almost  flat here.  After such a poor wet summer I was determined to make the most of any good weekends and chase the sun wherever it landed. Today was a perfect example. Going by the forecast It was a gloomy,wet cloudy day anywhere over the mountain regions within a two hour drive away but in Glasgow and the lower Clyde area the sun was out all day. The city with its heat and concrete often punches a hole through the murk and I had just the ride to take advantage of this. Despite its proximity to where I live I had never fully explored the Marshlands of the Lower River Clyde before. It should be good for wildlife, photography and make an interesting outing I thought.
In places, as here near Newshot Island The River is at its widest, looking more like the Nile or the Amazon than the tame city River further inland. Here it meets the White and Black Cart Waters flowing out of Paisley which help to swell its volume considerably It actually narrows again after this point, squeezed tighter by the  landscape and the great  northern wall of the Kilpatricks looming above. This was after five days of heavy rain and storms and entire mature trees were floating past out to sea, eroded from the crumbling banks upstream. It didn't feel like the usual urban river. While researching this post I came across this link to a site showing what the Clyde looked like in its heyday. Many of the photos in here are stunning. Its another world. When I was a child being taken around Glasgow in the late 1950s early 1960s I Just caught a last glimpse of this powerhouse age before its final demise. For anyone too young to remember it this is an eye-opener compared to the empty scene now. Well worth a look and a lot of work to collect so much lost history and images.
A fine easy bike/walking trail leads through the grounds of Erskine Hospital  past the  new Golf course and sandy beaches with fantastic views of well known places across the river but now seen from a different angle entirely. On the OS Map of Glasgow however it looked possible to go from here all the way along to Longhaugh point and the M8 leading to Greenock. I didn't know anyone who had been along here and had never seen it in any guide. That was enough for me. Sometimes I don't need to go into the true wilds for fun and adventure. You can find wilderness nearby in the unlikeliest places imaginable. I also found where some of the floating trees ended up.
Only a few miles away over the higher mountain ranges rain and murk prevailed. In the words of Austin Powers..."That's not my bag baby!" If I have a choice I prefer a walk in day long sunshine. Which is just as well as it turned out to be one of the hardest, most desperate walks I have attempted anywhere. There is a  very good reason its not  in any guide.
Dumbarton Rock seen from the marshlands. It was around this point I had to ditch the bike hiding it in the reeds on the edge of the marsh. Walking was becoming difficult by now. Unseen holes, some of them three feet deep and filled with stagnant river water lurked every second step underfoot. What solid ground there was to step on was of the spongy tussock variety or deep sticky mud. It was worse than any hill I'd thrown myself up, even darkest, deepest Galloway which has some of the biggest tussocks and holes off the main walking paths anywhere. There and back It was under six kilometres of white unmarked ground. A blank on the map. It was up to me to fill in that blank on the map for curiosity sake alone. I rose to the challenge ..or rather sank, swam and crawled.
It did have some interesting Highlights though. This is the monument between Milton and Bowling. It's an area that  has intrigued me as its off limits to the general public with a manned guardhouse and no way in except for those with the right password. On the Map there is a lot of potential interest though with the remains of the ancient  Dunglass Castle marked, built in 1380, this monument, several piers and an offshore island (Milton island).An interesting boat  trip methinks. Its off limits because its the site of the old Esso Bowling facility and  fuel storage reserve but if it was decommissioned and opened to the public it would give Bowling another much needed tourist asset to complement the harbour. A nice walking/bike trail could be landscaped here linked to the harbour area. It would certainly be better than the side I was on.
Muddy  and soaked beyond belief I crawled and jumped my way across this hideous swampy void then returned to my bike. Due to the terrain it had taken a lot longer than expected. By now it was getting dark and very cold. A magnificent full moon was out above Clydebank as I zoomed along the canal, still dripping mud, intent on getting back home before I froze to death from hypothermia. It is not a walk I feel I can fully recommend therefore unless you are keen to do battle with several thousand, hidden jaggy edged freezing  mud baths. Waders and birdlife seem to love it though. Come to think of it waders would be just the right equipment for this place. Boots were sadly no match for the sucking ferocity of this overlooked wildlife gem and came up short in more ways than one. Never have the  backstreets of Glasgow looked so beautiful to my eyes on my return.
Everyone needs a cosy cave to come home to. It's what makes us human. I certainly realised this point after falling, splashing and crawling on all four limbs for hours. Who would have believed such wild adventure could be found so close at hand. What an epic. What a great find. The Scottish equivalent of a mangrove swamp.


andamento said...

Happy New Year Bob!

I enjoyed your link to the old Glasgow site - so different back then, and very interesting to see the old photos though they only give a hint of what it must really have been like.

Thanks for the info in your previous post about parking etc, always good to know. I'll not be following today's walk though!


blueskyscotland said...

Happy new year Anne.
I actually enjoyed it in a " I can,t beleive this is so bad" sort of way.I was not too bothered about not getting out of the house when the weather was rubbish but now that the sun is out I,m keen to hop around again.

Carol said...

Haven't read your link to Old Glasgow riverside but will in a moment. Enjoyed reading that though - but sounds like it would be better to take a rowing boat next time (or a canoe or something) for your exploration. Really love that photo of the full moon - beautiful.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
The Glasgow link Is well worthwhile.A time when you could almost walk down the River Clyde from boat to boat. Some of the best relating to this walk are right at the bottom of page.Old Erkine ferry photos with The Kilpatrick hills behind.This one and the recent Portencross "Sharks visiting UK waters" link are two of the most interesting and unusual sites I,ve found on the internet.Well....I liked them :)

Carol said...

Sharks as in them things wot eat people? :-o Good job it's usually too cold to swim in the sea off Scotland!

blueskyscotland said...

That Dont help kayaker,s much though.Its like paddling out to sea on a tasty breadstick.There,s a reason why so many solo kayaker,s go missing! :))

fatdogwalks said...

Bob - are most of these cycle routes you mention "off road" on separate cycle tracks?

I'm always looking for routes for J and I to do on the bikes when the better weather comes in - and you've made this area rather tempting. J only likes separate cycle tracks (as do I lol) Never thought of heading out that way on the bikes before.

Neil said...

I'm really enjoying your tales of the area around Glasgow, Bob. I must do more of this sort of walk/cycle myself. Problem at the moment is that I feel that I have to do as much of my first passion, climbing hills and photographing them, as I can while I am still able! Neil

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ken.Yes It is on a seperate cycle track running from Erskine along the clyde waterfront to past erkine hospital.There are a number of cycle tracks over that side that link up with a few busy road sections inbetween.Also Good cycling at Braehead and renfrew ferry park.
However the best cycle path/no traffic cycle paths are....
Queensferry-Dalmeny estate coastal ride.this is on blog and is fantastic and easy cycling.
Silverknowles Esplanade Edinburgh.Flat good views.
Dean village water of Leith Walkway.Park on Arberetum Place outside botanic gardens.From here Cood walk cycle to dean village and beyond or cycle walk to leith and back.
Loch Leven.Good flat cycle round North side of loch to Vane farm.
Pittencrieif park.Dunfermilne.Nice big park with car park.Can explore park or use it to travel on bike along Fife cycle track round mid fife.On blog
Dalkeith park.Good big park.Parking at main entrance.Loads of cycle paths to explore.Edinburgh.Arthurs seat.Park at St margerets loch.Great cyle ride around quiet road halfway up hill.Shut to traffic on sundays.Also innocent railway tunnel and cycle track nearby to Portobello.On blog
Musselburgh harbour.Park here cycle paths behind racecourse to Ash lagoons and Prestonpans(part of the John muir Cycle track.Flat easy interesting.Bare and bleak in places though.On blog
Loch ore country meadows Park.Network of easy paths Walk or cycle.On blog
Great Cumbrae(millport)Fantastic cycle road island on quiet flat roads.On blog
Bute.Same.Can do on a summers day.On blog
Castle semple.Lochwinnoch.Great cycle or walk Along cycle track to Hill top temple then St brides ruined church and woodland rides.Good place for a network of routes.On Blog
Loch Katrine.Easy flat cycle on private waterboard road to Stronachlacher and back.Great scenery.Normally no traffic at all.
Callendar to Minor road along Loch Venachar once over main bridge in town very few cars go up this dead end road.
How,s that for inspiration?

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Neil.
Your quite right.There,s always plenty of time to do the stuff I do when you have had enough of summits or the knees go.I was the same,very dedicated to the heights and climbing to the point of obsession but As I got older I got more into nature and lush habitats and as you know many more types of creatures exist at these lower levels.Now I like a mix of everything ,low and high, and one perk of that is I get to spend most weekends in sunshine playing with little furry animals as I can pick my weather height to suit the conditions. :)

fatdogwalks said...

Wow! Thanks for all the info Bob. That's given me a fair old amount to investigate. :)

I'm looking forward to getting back out on the bike come the spring.

The Glebe Blog said...

You're a mine of information on your Scottish geography Bob.
There's an old boy who's a good walker who joins us on our rambles and when he gets home and his wife says "Where did you walk today", he says "I don't know, but I enjoyed the walk".
River traffic has changed beyond all recognition even in my lifetime.Back in the 50's and 60's most boats were working boats, and pleasure craft were the exception. My first job out of Scotland was as an 18yo on the Tyne which I'd guess was probably as busy as the Clyde.
The fishing's gone and containerisation revolutionised the cargo boats.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim.
I try my best as do we all in Cyberland.My house is close enough to the River Clyde to hear ships fog horns or the Renfrew Ferry occasionally sound if mist lies over the river.A very evocative sound when heard late at night.Its a rare sight now to see a large ship heading up the river but when it happens its still very special.

Douglas Wilcox said...

Hi Bob, I enjoyed reading about your trip immensely. It parallels my own trip from Glasgow Green to Port Glasgow. At first it was difficult to drag myself away from the islands, lochs and mountains of the west coast but as soon as I had launched I was in another world!

Neil, I loved the mountains too, until my knees gave out. There is an alternative: sea kayaking!