Monday, 18 June 2012

Inverclyde And Renfrewshire.The Greenhill Country.Part Two.

Style....Kaleidoscopic.Films, books ,music everything else.

Be aware traveller. There are many different ways to explore the labyrinth of minor roads that sweep across this fantastic area like dew on a  spiders web and make it so good for cycling. Dozens of routes. On foot or bike. Although people do live here it is surprisingly empty and wild, current fashion luring most outdoor folk towards the honeypots of the greater ranges.
Here's my suggestion for one of the best rides to give first timers a real taste of the area. Walkers can do a shorter version of this and still be impressed.
OS Map Sheet 63 Firth Of Clyde.
Parking.Knapps Loch area. Semi hidden large lay by off main road just beyond that loch going out of Kilmacolm.
Suggested route. From here to Quarriers Village Then Hattrick Farm road, then past Killochries then past Blackwater to Gateside,  Down B788 to Balrossie School minor road.
This is it here by the way. Then along Strathgryfe to High Maternock then left then right up and over a white road (on OS map) on a reasonable grassy track to reach 187 and 201 metre spot heights towards Port Glasgow then along top of the Industrial estate,where I received a back tyre puncture (which would normally have pissed me off but I was so happy by this time I just laughed.)
Puncture view surrounded by sunny Port Glasgow.

Then down through sleepy Woodhall Into Finlaystone Country Estate.This is Woodhall  by the way not the country estate.I often wonder where all the people go from council estates like this one and all the many tower blocks  due to be pulled down in Glasgow. That's thousands of people. They are not building many new houses for rent these days and not everyone can afford to buy their own home. Maybe that's why they put up the suicide barriers on the Erskine bridge. Expecting a rush perhaps?

Just watched a programme with The Specials which highlighted the fact their big hit "Ghost Town" was inspired by a visit to Depression era style Glasgow during the Thatcher demolition derby solution to Scotland's  heavy industry and the streets of boarded up communities left in the aftermath.You get the distinct feeling now it may happen all over again. The Specials naturally thought of Coventry going the same way as Glasgow as that was home for them.
This is the gorge within Finlaystone. £4 pound entry fee to visit here.£3 quid  if concession or child.
The Old Laundry at Finlaystone gorge.Now open to show what life was like for a laundry maid working for a large house and estate. Hard and fairly relentless mostly I'd imagine. Good for soft hands and getting rid of colds though when washing the linen in ammonia.
The sunken gardens. I could go on but you get the picture. Large country estate ...big mansion house. Tearoom and mature grounds.
"Pride and prejudice" for here as I know a family with 5 young daughters of marrying age not too far away in Greenock :)

If you wanted to skip the Port Glasgow bit then just go via Kilmacolm and Auchendores reservoir road  to reach Finlaystone which is more scenic than Port Glasgow but not as much a shock  to the senses going from one of the richest areas in Scotland within a couple of miles straight into one of the poorest. Then,for those that have the energy  up via bogside, north glen farm, mid glen and whinny hill.This is very up and down but very scenic.The  first part of the route as far as High Mathernock is not hard but beautiful,  ,just gentle bumps and easy dips.
What I really want to write about though is the variety seen on this route and what such ever changing landscapes do to imagination.Well ,to my own at any rate.

Dumbarton. with the Luss hills just losing the last of a heavy rain storm.I was lucky as I was cycling in a sun bubble all day.Mind you that always seems to happen to me somehow. I picked cycling today as it was hot and humid with thunderclouds hanging over the mountains.
View over the dark ,gloomy Cowal hills and the coast from high above Port Glasgow on that  grassy white road.

You can see here how the great ice sheets would have taken the  easiest channels to the west coast waters. Loch lomond and its Islands lie  up to the left ,landlocked in a  deep trench but connected to the sea by the River Leven and its scooped out Vale.
Now we get to the crux of this two parter. For me this has always been the ultimate landscape for any one day tour.It has so much variety packed into such a small area that on a  four /five hour easy cycle ride you can be in almost any part of the UK or further afield.
Last year I walked up Blackcraig hill with Alex near New Cumnock.Normally I like it down that way but I found the hill itself so monotonous I almost turned back and only took three photographs of the day out.Its never been posted.Other folk might like that hill.Fair enough.It just was not for me.
I,m never bored or uninspired here though.I switch instead to a whole new level,able to see reality but also to glimpse in my mind when I,m cycling or walking so many other endless possibilities or see echoes  and hear voices calling to me in places far away.
How can you not be inspired when round the next corner could be the roofs of Hailsham  boarding school from the exquisite and heartbreaking "Never let me go"......
Or around the corner after that the lonely farm house on the moor from Emily Bronte,s "Wuthering Heights"....I could have my pick of a dozen hill  farms on high moorland around here but I,ll choose this one....
Or  bring to mind the rolling Dorset Downs  and the  bitchy writers groups,dairy farms ,cattle and  wagging tongue shenanigans of  "Tarmara Drewe" with this landscape of villas and mansions hidden in the woods.
This area is full of driven ,high achievers who normally have a desire to obtain the best things in life and by the very laws of nature not all will  be able to behave themselves if a pretty butterfly floats past nearby.
Voices call out from hidden towers and rich princesses stuck out in the countryside try to fill their days.Maybe some get bored here but not I.
When I was very young I  used to read Oor Wullie and the Broons. I liked them and one year was most disappointed when I received a Rupert the Bear annual instead . I went in the huff for weeks. Even though he sat on a bucket I could relate to Oor Willie. At that age I didn't know Rupert and his  pals were drawn versions of English, fairly posh children playing in a typically rural , small village,  southern landscape.
I didn't get many books then, maybe one or two a year. All I knew was that if a child wearing the gear that Rupert had on ..scarf ,hat, gloves and checked trousers turned up at our school he would get beaten up every day...Even if it happened to be a girl wearing that stuff.
Now I,m older I can more easily recognize one of these characters as being the Mayor of London.Another, changed into a suit, our current Prime Minister. Hi Rupert.
But that,s beside the point.When I did pick it up I discovered it had one big advantage over Oor Willie.It was in spectacular colour and it was full of adventures in Caves,coves,beaches,romanticized English countryside, castles and towers.Inverclyde and Renfrewshire were a perfect fit for all these. Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir wouldn't look out of place dropped into the Home Counties of England.After all they were probably modeled from examples down there.

When The Lord of the Rings dropped into my Christmas stocking aged twelve it made a big impression on me.
("Christ ! Not more F****** elves! "A disgruntled comment from an Inkling,one of Tolkien,s writing group when told of his latest offering :) I love that!
To me it was obvious this could be the Shire as well.It was a perfect,almost magical version of the English landscape as described in the book.Magical because it was so far north. The map of the Shire showed the same small rolling hills ,woods, meadows and farms.In the middle of that imagined landscape drawn from Tolkien,s own childhood memories Greenhill Country  sat bang in the middle of his Shire.
Look at the sign in the photo above this one.I rest my twelve year old minds case.:)
This has always been for me my Shire and even when I look at the modern film version that Peter Jackson Shot in New Zealand so many views of that still match  the views here.A wooded rolling country of small gentle hills and streams.The only thing missing is the hobbit holes.After all "The fairest of a thousand parishes" quote about Renfrewshire  was penned long before the Lord of the Rings was ever written.
Maybe its just I've grown so used to placing books and films into this remarkable landscape from an early age its become like second nature to me.
But it is amazing how many of these classics where the landscape is a star can fit in here like a glove. Its got that level of diversity.
It certainly makes a cycle ride here a fun experience.
What do I see in this landscape other than fields and farms?
Decades of books, films, plays and half remembered  ghostly characters  that flit in and out of my mind constantly here. Nowhere else has that effect. Just here.         " Cold comfort farm? "Why, That's here as well of course , just over the next hill.
That early day's pack horse man was spot on.This is a changeling country.
But I've always known that.
I don't need peacocks and horseboxes sitting outside my front door when I can play in sunshine every weekend and can transport myself to so many different imagined and real landscapes all over the UK at will.
All you need is imagination.... and I've always had my fair share of that.
If God offered me the keys of heaven right now I,d say.
"Pah! Old man! Is that the best you've got? I,ll stay right here then .If you  ever want a tour around  some real quality scenery anytime just give me a shout."


Russell said...
Above link might amuse you.- Or perhaps annoy you. Life's about taking risks. I used to work beside David Moffat, who made the puppets / video.

blueskyscotland said...

Very Good Russell.
I liked sticking my hand up Sooty and Sweep as a kid.Had a matching set.

Paul said...

An other great report through my own old cycling country, which is amazingly varied and I once worked in Finlaystone so thanks for the memories.

The Glebe Blog said...

The language in part two isn't as eloquent as part one Bob. Maybe you yourself are a Changeling to suit your surroundings Eh?

I love that 'Old Laundry' that conjures up images of a moment lost in time. I remember the empire.

"When I was very young, I used to read Oor Wullie and the Broons". I still get a second hand copy of the Sunday Post, and if I haven't time to read it, there's always time for a visit to Auchenshoogle. I must still be a wee boy.

Your picture in these posts certainly give the impression that this is Middle Earth.
Not a lot of people know of my connection to J.R Tolkien, but he and I both served in the Lancashire Fusiliers. The author served in the regiment from 1915 until contracting "trench fever" during the Battle of the Somme in October 1916. I served until I contracted Wench Fever, got married and had kids.

Grand post Bob

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Paul.
Glad to be of service.
If I die in Glasgow I hope some kind soul that knows me drags my body over the border into Renfrewshire.
If I feel really ill I,ll maybe sneak into a wee wood and hide there just to be sure:)

blueskyscotland said...

Spent a lot of time on that first part Jim.Mainly cutting it down from five pages.
I had loads of information about what early pre Glasgow and Old Renfrewshire must have looked like before humanity mucked it up but didn,t want to make it boring or too long winded.
Thats interesting and funny about the Lancashire Fusiliers and the "wench".
The laundry still has the old mangle rollers,wood powered furnace boiler for hot water and an early wooden tumble dryer the size of a fridge that was filled with clothes,hot water and ammonia then turned round by a giant handle on the side for ages.
Makes you realise how lucky we are today.Just pop it in and forget about it.
Then it took almost a week per wash.

Carol said...

I've never read 'Oor Willie' as I don't think we had access to it in England, but I used to read Rupert books and loved the countryside images in the stories. Our local moors in t'Dales look just like some of the Rupert scenery actually, our local 'Brow' always reminds me of the Rupert books.

I once got into a lift at work with a group of girl colleagues and we were amazed to see a guy in the lift with yellow and red 'Rupert' check trousers on. We all looked at each other and everyone thought the same thing but kept our mouths shut and our faces straight... All except the cheekiest lass amongst us who just shouted out, "Oh, it's Rupert"!

By the way, those 'Prove you're not a robot' word quizzes are getting harder!

blueskyscotland said...

Yeah I know about the word verification Carol.I use a magnifiying glass.I leave it off normally for a couple of days after each post but then not all spam gets caught by the filter.

Carol said...

Ah, I thought it sometimes wasn't there - that explains it...