Sunday 24 August 2014

Glasgow City Bike Ride. The Nature of Obsession.

Forth and Clyde Canal near Maryhill. The single remaining Hi Rise flat here was one of three and they were used as the fictional location for Jack and Victors flat in Still Game which is why there were numerous shots along the canal and overhead views of the nearby Maryhill Basins.
For years I've been asking Alex during hot spells in summer if he fancied a town or country bike ride sometime instead of always hill-walking every weekend as this is a way of generating your own breeze, on a day when there is none available, and they are usually free of summer flies, midges, clegs, ticks, etc. but he's just not that interested in cycling for its own sake although, ironically, he's far keener than I am to watch any televised bike races, Tour de France etc. from the comfort of an armchair. I prefer experiencing the real thing and get bored watching other cyclists on television after a short while. I've never watched more than two stages of the Tour de France though I always sit down with good intentions. They usually just inspire me to get out on my own bike instead, albeit at a lesser level. Alex, from my own painful observations, only uses his bike as a convenient way to reach remote mountains to satisfy his need to bag hills on a list and rarely cycles for pleasure as a separate pursuit in its own right. This is not a criticism, merely an observation, as everyone is different but it got me thinking in this post about the nature of obsession. Everyone is obsessive to some degree as it's a fundamental part of human nature. It's what makes us tick and function and I recognise that trait is within me as well to a strong level in other ways. More so when I was younger and didn't fully understand the forces involved.
                                             Canal boat Near Ruchill/ Firhill Basin
I finally got him out on a bike when he was particularly bored and I suggested a run near my house, from Anniesland to the city centre along the Forth and Clyde canal. A favourite of mine but new to him. This is mainly flat and easy but with the potential for great variety and interest throughout. A canal barge and new housing photographed here near Ruchill.
Alex seemed impressed by this route and was surprised how green and rural it was despite running through the heart of north Glasgow. Another interest was not knowing where he was some of the time as he emerged from long leafy green sections to appear above a road or set of buildings then gradually try to work out where this was. Getting lost, if only temporarily, in a familiar city is always good fun.
 One of the things I love about cities is that they are constantly changing and have the ability to surprise you. This is a recent mural that has appeared on a gable end of a building in Maryhill. It is obviously carried out with consent as it's a professional job and covers a large area of a tenement near the canal. Glasgow, at the moment, seems to have embraced murals as they are appearing all over the place within the city. Cheaper than a sculpture (and of no interest to metal thieves) they can have a big effect if well done. This link below has images of the other Maryhill Murals we missed.

The pillars of an old bridge over the River Kelvin and the Wyndford Flats in the distance. The Kelvin Walkway is another green corridor that is available for walkers and cyclists to use, running between Bearsden and the city centre.
Partick Thistle Football Stadium. Firhill canal basin and timber pond is close by from the days when it was a vibrant working canal and Alex enjoyed this section as it was also green and rural with plenty of past history. New information boards about the various areas we cycled through have suddenly sprung up all along the canal since the previous time I cycled here last year, which may be due to the Commonwealth Games 2014 effect.I've noticed on my travels around Glasgow that fountains that have not worked for decades are suddenly up and running again spouting water, historic park gates dulled with time and neglect are freshly painted and new services, like a free Govan ferry have been introduced.( summer until 21st September only) Whether this will continue after the Commonwealth Games end is anyone's guess. There is also a new fitness track, monkey bars, and trim trail at Port Dundas, an area of the canal bank I never used to associate with healthy activities,  unless walking your pit bull counts :o)
Alex, observant tech geek that he is, noticed that little squares were attached to all these new attractions that can be used by smart phones for additional information so no doubt some enterprising young person is filming pull ups here and posting the video online as I type.
Park Circus Towers from Port Dundas.
From here the canal runs into a dead end so we cycled down through the back streets of the city centre to Rottenrow Gardens where we had lunch. These have been created in the space formally occupied by Rottenrow Maternity Hospital, where many Glaswegians, myself included, first saw the light of day. 

This area is surrounded by the buildings of Strathclyde University and I've been here before but it wasn't to Alex's taste. He was bored... I was in my element. Usual story with our conflicting interests.
I was inspired by this view. He didn't think much of it. Although I enjoy hill-walking, on several past occasions, usually during an ascent of an unrelenting grassy mound of a hill that seems to go on forever with dull regularity into the distance, our situations are reversed. I.m bored and unhappy to even be there yet he is enjoying it as there is a trig point to claim at the end of it and he obviously likes the wide open, empty spaces, aspect. I do as well but from my point of view if there is nothing remotely interesting to photograph or look at on certain hills  I usually switch off inside. I'm being honest. Variety and photography on a day out are two of my obsessions nowadays. Physical  exercise is the only real plus point for me on this type of  hill. An endurance to plod up zombie like until it ends. After 40 years of plodding up slopes I enjoy ascending hills of character these days. It makes no difference if I've climbed them before as long as they are interesting. Life's too short for wasted days without variety. The steeper and more rugged the better yet I have a limited head for heights. I like frightening myself. It makes the old heart beat faster.
Everyone is different. How often in real life, books or films does the phrase "you don't understand me" crop up"?
New buildings and murals are springing up all around this area from Cathedral Street to the Gorbals as part of the massive Collegelands project.
Managed to actually photograph a mural getting painted in this one. Unless they are window cleaners.
An ornate old tenement on the edge of Collegelands. Hope they keep this building.
Not cycled past the Tennent's lager brewery for years but even here murals are everywhere.
Alex suggested heading uphill to visit the Necropolis so we did.
Glasgow Cathedral and the David Livingstone statue.  An iconic figure who grew up on the banks of the River Clyde and in later life was driven by his own obsessions to explore Africa and find the source of another great river, The Nile, far from his homeland. An obsession that eventually killed him before he succeeded. Famous quote after criticism and dissent in the ranks moving up river in a small boat.
 " I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward."                    I love that line.  Unsurprisingly, his companions didn't see the funny side.

Any necropolis or major graveyard in any city has its share of monuments to people driven by one obsession or another. Many of civilizations greatest leaders, dictators, madmen, artists, poets, writers or thinkers had a vision that they followed relentlessly, often throughout their adult life's to its inevitable end. One side of that coin can lead to terrible extremes in rare cases ....Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Jack the Ripper, yet its the exact same coin that produces more benign results usually... someone that dedicates their life to finding a cure for a disease, or to end repression, or to make a stand that lifts them above the norm. The same impulse that moves someone to spend decades in a foreign country for little reward providing an essential aid service is only a more understandable and productive version of the same force that makes an individual spend every free minute planning hill routes then climbing mountains... or buying far more goods on E-Bay than they will ever use until every room and cupboard is full... or being obsessed with another person in rare cases to the point of being a danger to the object of that affection.

Most obsessions are harmless but they usually evolve somewhere in childhood. Many folk never understand the root cause of their own obsession but it can dominate their thinking and alter or inspire their judgement, to good or ill effect.

For once both Alex and I were happy wandering around here as he found things that interested him and I did also. Here too crypts had been given a new coat of paint and selected statues returned to pristine white condition.
It's the best I've seen it looking in a long time. A popular tourist attraction now after several decades of neglect in the past. Views from here are extensive over most of the city.
I particularly like this one. No name or any other information given on the gravestone except this poignant carving and two words. A mystery.
After a hunt on the internet I found this. Mystery no more.

On the way back we cycled from the city centre along the River Clyde past Glasgow Harbour. This is Andy Scott's Rise Sculpture on the cycle-track. Although the much larger "Kelpies" are getting most of the attention these days I still prefer his smaller, more intimate works. If you stand under them for long enough they will come alive.
The Riverside Museum came next and here too signs of the Commonwealth Games effect were observed in the form of a large tennis court sized sand pit for young children to play in. A great idea and a variation on the "city beach" approach which is currently popular in major urban areas around the world. Unmanned hire bike racks are also available now along the cycle track in the city centre which is a smashing concept but both these new additions could be subject to abuse so may be just a temporary summer attraction or a test to see if folk can behave themselves. Credit cards seem to be required to hire the bikes. £ 10 pounds a day/ 24 hours. Smart phone friendly here too by the looks of it. I hope they are a permanent addition.
                                             Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship. Glenlee.

Although Alex enjoyed this bike ride more than the last one a couple of summers ago I'm not holding my breath that this will be a regular occurrence as collecting hills will always be his main preference.
As obsessions go it could be far worse :o)

The video this week is very apt. Like everyone else I've sat through big budget blockbusters in the past and been less than impressed when special effects are used in place of a decent original storyline. Having both together is great but it doesn't always happen.
Darren Aronofsky's 1998 film was shot in black and white on a restricted budget yet I was riveted from start to finish. The tale of a talented but highly obsessive young mathematician who turns his apartment into a supercomputer to predict the patterns and fluctuations in the stock market. It's not a film that everyone will like but its full of unusual ideas, great invention and compelling acting throughout. The musical score is brilliant. I have little interest in math so anyone that can make that discipline seem exiting in any way gets my vote. It never seemed exciting in school and was my least favourite subject. Maybe if I'd seen this film then I might have tried harder... but I doubt it.

As a still wavering undecided voter in the looming election, pissed off by the fact that not many relevant facts are forthcoming as to how the next few years will affect the ordinary householder given a yes vote. ( If I was richer and had young children I'd defiantly vote for an independent Scotland without a second thought as I could then ride out any inevitable bumps along the way but those on the bottom rungs always suffer the most during any upheaval. i.e... look at the example of the Scottish parliament building which went well over budget, partly due to our own elected Scottish politicians constantly changing their minds about what the interiors and fittings should look like, the Edinburgh trams fiasco, and a Glasgow (turning) Tower that is an embarrassing joke and should be included in Glasgow's coat of arms.(the tower that would not turn)
We handed over a perfectly good rotating tower to Rhyl in Wales after the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988 ( Although intended for new housing this site lay derelict for years afterwards due to yet another downturn in the economy) then decided years later we should have one ourselves on the same spot which has never worked properly since its arrival. The 240 foot Skytower in Rhyl has been an attraction down there for years although its now shut and its future is in doubt, awaiting £400,000 repairs due to weather damage and age as it's situated on the coast subject to storms and salt erosion. No doubt the transition to an independent Scotland, if it happens, will throw up similar unexpected costs and surprises, as Westminster, judging by its negative campaign portraying Scots as a nation that cant even be trusted to handle its own resources, will probably go in the huff and do everything to  try to make it fail in the early days ( Hopefully we have learned lessons from the Darian Project) although I do believe we should have the right to control our own country and get who we vote for as a nation. I'm not a particular fan of Alex Salmond but at least he is a clever and able politician and seems to be capable of making shrewd decisions then carrying them through.
Although I believe it will be good for Scotland in the long run and that we should control our own destiny( nothing to do with not liking England or the good folk of London) my main selfish concern is how it will impact on me personally over the next five years financially as no one really knows what's going to happen during that time period. I'm sure that standing upright unsupported after so long on a drip feed will be painful but I've decided I might be willing to take that chance.
An interesting article here from an American, now living in Scotland. She makes good points. I am now possibly, maybe, voting yes and hoping the transition, if it occurs, is not a hard affair. I cant see my own situation improving dramatically if a yes vote is forthcoming but maybe the next generation of young Scots can look forward to a brighter future than they have at present where the main growth industries seem to be educating students, most of whom will work elsewhere, care homes (low paid, long hours jobs) call centres, and zero hours contracts. According to the latest polls  however, the better together campaign are still ahead so many folk must be content with another 5 or more years of austerity cuts.

Sunday 17 August 2014

The Antonine Wall. Duntocher. Clydebank. Drumchapel.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
Shortly after the Drumchapel walk I had to put my car into the garage at Clydebank for a few repairs. As this would take a good few hours and I had the rest of the day off anyway I decided to walk along part of the Antonine Wall which starts on the west at Old Kilpatrick then runs through Duntocher via Goldenhill Park then skirts high Drumchapel taking in Hutcheson Hill and Castle Hill. Although not much remains here of the actual wall (in reality a deep trench and earth raised banks beside it) it does run through some nice farmland scenery, most of which was new to me and I'm always on the lookout for new walks, especially now I have a pet project on the go, part of which involves finding the best underrated or little known walks in my local area.
A link for those who like nice interiors.
Above is the Titan Hotel Complex and next to it, in the grounds of Clydebank's new catholic secondary school, are several large circles of wild flowers. Poppies are the most obvious, but daisies and several other varieties are present too. This is what gave me the idea of wild flower meadows in the vacant brown site plots of the big estates. Many of these areas have been lying vacant for over a decade and they could be used as wildlife havens in the meantime until new housing or other plans are forthcoming. I'm not suggesting such concentrated formal circles for Drumchapel  and the other empty plots in the big estates but a lighter sprinkling  of various wild flowers and the odd scattered shrub (like fushia bushes which flower from May/ June right through to early November) would help birds, bees and butterflies and give these drab, almost forgotten, blank areas some colour and life. Yes, you will get some damage and children already seem to have run through the middle of these poppy circles  but that's to be expected as its directly on a school route and hopefully they will survive once the novelty has worn off this new addition to the landscape.

Anyway, back to the Antonine Wall. During the Roman Conquest of Britain things progressed relentlessly, mile by mile, in a slow but continuous push across flatter terrain, and local tribes were either crushed underfoot or bribed into submission to join the Romans until they crossed the central belt of Scotland and arrived at the edge of the Highlands. The Roman system of fighting preferred flat or at least open ground for large scale troop movements but once in the steep mountains and trackless forests of the north they were vulnerable to ambush and attack.
 Even today you can see the mountains squeeze down close to the coast at Old Kilpatrick, and Dumbarton Rock with its formidable defensive properties is not far away. The photograph above of the Duntocher Burn Path is the route I followed between Dalmuir Park and Goldenhill Park, which is a pleasant walk through mature woodland then runs beside the stream. Interesting history and scenery. It is signposted where it crosses the main roads and is fairly easy to follow once you see the route here. Parts of this were new to me yet I've been in Duntocher many  times but usually for work purposes. The might of Rome stopped at Old Kilpatrick although the Romans were able to penetrate further north up the easier and flatter east coast before meeting strong resistance.
Goldenhill Park is nearby and is situated on a lovely little hilltop with great views. Being a high point The Romans had a large base here where the troops could live and sleep until required. Attacks and raids on the wall were common as the hill tribes knew the landscape north of here would shelter them from the worst of any reprisals as they could just fade into the forests and mountains again.
AD 142 to 165. Although it stretched right across Scotland they held it for less than 25 years. The most far flung, heavily defended barrier in that vast empire. A combination of rugged mountain landscape, warlike tribes that fought in fast surprise attacks rather than meet head on in full scale battles and trouble in provinces nearer the Roman heartland meant an early end to this barrier and they retreated back behind Hadrian's wall in Northumbria before finally abandoning Britain altogether. The Hunterian Museum in Glasgow has a fine collection  of decorative stone work and artefacts gathered from the wall.

View from Goldenhill Park looking towards Faifley.
View from the park towards the Kilpatrick Hills, Duntocher, and Drumchapel Amateurs Football ground. See "Douglas Smith" link on the previous post.
At neighbouring Hardgate, Cleddans Road is taken into farmland following the route of the Antonine Wall. (usually marked on OS Maps as a dotted line)
Another minor dead end road I hadn't explored and a nice surprise to find it was scenic. It runs up beside the golf course then past Cleddans Farm.
Looking the other way in the direction of Drumchapel. It doesn't actually go into this scheme/ estate but passes nearby before going over Hutcheson Hill and Castle Hill.
 A view of Faifley and the forest beyond. Large areas of Scotland in Roman Times would have been covered in forests, swampy bogs, or trackless tussocks so building a wall across the landscape would always follow low hills and easier marching ground.
 Hutcheson Hill Area and the grasslands around Drumchapel. A network of paths snake through this area proving some locals still like walking and exploring in the vicinity. It might be just my preference but I always find any stress, grief or problems throughout my life have been lessened by an enjoyable walk outdoors. It never fails to cheer me up... and the fact that it's free has been an eternal bonus.
Castle Hill. Still on the Antonine Wall route and a major station for troops before the pleasures of the Roman Bath House at Bearsden, the foundations of which can still be seen there. As I was on foot and getting tired by this point and still a good distance from my house I cut down here back through Drumchapel to meet up with the Garscadden Way again and the long walk home.
                     Path/Cycle Track through Garscadden woods on the Garscadden Way.
This full route can also be done by bike as it is mainly on good paths, minor country roads and lanes over undulating but not too taxing terrain. Any rough sections can be walked rolling the bike beside you for short distances. An enjoyable outing in an area I've largely taken for granted... or ignored...until now. The things closest to you are often hidden in plain sight and that goes for relationships as well.
   Dusk over Clydebank.. Although it didn't rain several large dark cloud fronts swept over this area.
Which was great for photographs when I eventually got my car back.
More poppies to end the trip. Normally you have go to the drier East Coast of Scotland to see such a fine display.

I wasn't enough of a fan to have more than a greatest hits Lynyrd Skynyrd album in my collection but two of their songs are classic anthems that are right up there with the best. I learned all the words to Sweet Home Alabama years ago but if you were an aspiring hot shot rock guitarist in the mid 1970s and 1980s this was the one guitar solo you really wanted to master.
It's years since I've seen this but one thing is still obvious. These southern boys really know how to play their instruments. Spank that plank son! Many young guitarists in bedrooms tried hopefully but few succeeded to reach these heights. Apart from a great evocative song its one of the finest guitar combinations of all time at the end and the piano and drums are not too shabby either.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Drumchapel. The Big Four. Lessons Learned?

Sign on canal track.
I knew this would be a tricky and long post to write so I kept putting it off. I first noticed this sign when I was cycling along the Forth and Clyde canal into Clydebank for an OS map in early springtime a few months ago. As I live on the north west side of the city and regularly use the canal for walking and cycling my immediate thought was " hello, I've never noticed that before." It seemed like an invitation.
Clydebank from Drumchapel.
As I enjoy walking, both up hills and through urban areas I filed it away in my rapidly decreasing brain cells as somewhere interesting to visit in the near future as I always get a kick out of visiting new areas. Drumchapel, of course, is not new to me. I've lived in Glasgow all my life and I've visited relatives and various friends who have stayed in "The Drum" since the early 1960s onwards. I live not far from it and I've worked in it and most of the other Glasgow council schemes (estates) on and off for many years, especially during the 1980's, a turbulent time for most working class areas in northern Britain when money was squeezed tighter than a fleas arse by a right wing government that didn't seem to care about the social consequences of their actions. (ring any bells.) All told I've spent hundreds of hours up here.
Most folk that drive past Drumchapel on the A82 heading north only know it as a long wall of tenements sitting above the great western road retail park but I have fond memories of playing in the summer grasslands around the large water tower, one of the highest parts of the scheme, with similar aged friends during the 1960s and knew the 1980s Drumchapel very well as I was never away from the place in a work capacity. I'm also well acquainted with the present version although its been several years since I've walked around the place on foot.
                                             A rough hand drawn outline of Drumchapel.
Part of the reluctance to put a post up is the fact that I have never actually lived in the area so wasn't sure about appearing cheeky, or offending anyone, by commenting on it now although I have plenty of experience of what it feels like growing up in one of the big four city estates that put the corners on the map of Glasgow and the video I'm going to attach at the bottom sounded both truthful and  familiar to my ears. Drumchapel, Easterhouse, Castlemilk, and Pollok. I grew up in a similar tenement estate in Pollok and have written about that experience here.
 Most families moving into these newly built areas from the overcrowded slums of the inner city districts didn't know that much about them beforehand. My own family had a choice of Easterhouse, Drumchapel or Pollok and I sometimes wonder if I would have grown up the same way in the first two if my parents had picked these as they visited Easterhouse to view the prospective abode they were offered but were put off by its situation right in the middle of the scheme with zero views from the windows except into someone else's living room. Pollok was picked for its woods, hilly aspect, and surrounding farmlands and proved the right choice for a nature lover growing up. Refuse a house too many times though and you were soon labelled "a problem tenant." Once you accepted a house in any of the schemes it was very hard to get out again if you didn't like it, especially if you were low down on the points system, with no overcrowding issues or pressing need to relocate. Unlike a jail sentence good behaviour didn't count for anything here and could actually prolong your stay as the worst houses were always the first to get knocked down while the rest remained intact.
View of Glasgow University, The Western Hospital, and Park Circus from Drumchapel, which has great views over the city as it is built over several hills.

Much to my surprise, as I was only writing it for my own benefit and as an aid to past memories before I forgot them altogether, the Pollok post has been the most visited entry during five years of blog postings with close to 4000 page views so far. Most of the mountain posts, no matter how spectacular they are, are lucky to get 200 to 300 hits, so folk must enjoy reading or seeing photos of the area they grew up in, even if they move away. Or maybe it's more than that as I really enjoyed the recent TV programme on BBC 2 "The Secret History of our Streets." looking back on Duke Street, Reidvale's community inspired success, and the background to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show hitting the east end of Glasgow even though I have no strong connection to that area and I'm looking foreword to the Aberdeen one on Fittie tonight. I enjoyed that far more than watching Lulu and John Barrowman dancing around at the Commonwealth Games although hopefully this time some useful money will have poured into the city and will be wisely used. It is worth bearing in mind that the video at the bottom of this post was made 3 years after the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, although they ended up owing money then instead of making it.
Grasslands along the Garscadden Way looking towards the Kilpatrick Hills, a walk or cycle track which runs along the outer edge of the estate and is the main attraction for a walker.
 (In case anyone's wondering I'm not going to put further posts up on Easterhouse and Castlemilk as I don't know those areas well enough and will leave that to people better informed than I am.) Rather than type out the history of the scheme here's the concise version here. Many people have fond memories of growing up in Drumchapel and the other
estates on the outskirts of Glasgow, especially during the early years of the 1950's and 1960's but during the late 1970's and 1980's all the council schemes had high unemployment as factory after factory closed down and other work was hard to come by. This was the transition period that brought in the death of heavy industry nationwide in favour of a service and business reliant UK, most of which was centred around the South East and London and still is. Drumchapel was hard hit as it did have substantial employment opportunities in the local area being close to the Clydebank shipyards and several factories in the early years. When these contracted or shut down there was very little in the way of other jobs. It's no surprise the Punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s struck a chord or three in the UK during this time as various jobless, angry and cynical young groups sang out to many other jobless, disaffected and bitter teenagers who wanted to kick down some closed doors and grab a slice of any action for themselves. A new musical focus and energy was one of the few real positive influences to emerge during that tough period, and, in retrospect, instead of being subversive, actually helped a lot of youngsters through those difficult teenage years by finding a voice they could identify with.
The Water Tower which looks down on Drumchapel. Views up here are extensive. Rural fields and farmlands to the West and North with the Kilpatrick Hills as a backdrop. The Garscadden Way starts on the Antonine Road at the Drumry roundabout, not far from the World of Golf , Five a Side Games Complex and the fiberglass Dinosaurs on the A82 and runs in a circle past Garscadden Wood (bluebells in spring) and Colquhoun Park. It's a varied walk with open views and attractive woodland and the biggest threat you will probably face, like elsewhere in Glasgow, is the continuing trend for "status dogs", huge wolf like breeds that need to be walked occasionally between meals. Larger cars, larger dogs and larger TVs seem to be the norm everywhere these days.
It's also on the flight path to Glasgow Airport so planes descending and taking off are a frequent sight on this undulating walkway which runs over several drumlins.
Garscadden wood is fairly large with fully grown mature trees and more recent plantations. There are usually buzzards and other birds of prey around here.
Good either walking on foot or on a mountain bike.
This is leading up to the highest point which also has extensive views.
Linkwood Flats.
An unusual view of Knightswood. Not all cottage type flats. If fact the Scotstoun /Knightwood district probably has a higher density of Multi Story Flats than any other area now.
Drumchapel itself, like all the large council schemes, has changed considerably over the years. Much of it has been knocked down and new areas of low level housing have replaced the long rows of identical tenements climbing the hillsides. It may use up more land but garden cities are the way forward. You cant beat an individual low level house with a small garden to sit in. You can blame problem tenants but even battery hens housed in long warehouses go mad and peck each others feathers out if placed too close to each other on wooden poles in a factory set up. It's well established when folk have cottage type houses with a small garden to call their own they take far better care of these properties as they have fixed boundary lines to enforce. Tenements or deck access units don't and most have been knocked down.
Modern Drumchapel and low level new housing around the water tower viewed from the hi flats.

 Although more expensive initially these individual properties last and most are still in good condition in all the big estates so they actually save money in the long run. Glasgow was the fastest growing city in Britain during the early decades of the 1900s and the city father's deserve credit for housing nearly half a million people in such a short period of time when new land to build on was in short supply. Even as a child though, visiting Drumchapel or Castlemilk to see relatives, I thought they were far too large and impersonal to ever work properly. How anyone could think this was utopia in housing is still beyond me yet numerous videos in the 1950s claim exactly that in gushing terms and as a social housing experiment they have extracted a very heavy price on many of the residents who had to live in them. "Homes for heroes" didn't exactly live up to the billing. Of course in the early 1950s the city planners didn't know that years of mass unemployment lay ahead as the shipyards and factories had plenty of orders after the war to replace all the infrastructure and ships lost to bombs and U boat attacks. People were still pouring into the city then from the Scottish highlands and Ireland, looking for work.

 If you were academically clever, plain lucky, good at sports, talented in some other way or just extremely focused and determined to find a better life for yourself or your family you could eventually escape your situation but for many stuck in a deep well with no ladder this was not an option and after a while there is a tendency to just give up. Although a lot of people have happy memories of the places where they grew up in I worked in the worst areas of Glasgow throughout  the 1980s in a succession of  low paid government sponsored jobs (unemployment money plus bus fares and or £10 to £20 extra for completing each full month) and the depression and lack of opportunities in all the schemes at that time was palatable as soon as you entered them, like a black cloud hovering over each district. Suicide or marrying young to someone in another area were popular avenues of escape. As my own estate was going rapidly downhill as well at that time due to mass unemployment and cutbacks in services I was in the same boat, wondering if I would ever outrun my situation. Painting railings in the schemes, moving families from one run down giant estate to another, where they always hoped for a better life, boarding up empty houses, clearing gardens of rubbish and cleaning off graffiti from walls, which would go back up again the next day, took the place of real jobs in Glasgow during my 20s. A lot of the time these job creation schemes seemed clueless as to what to do with us next and you would line up in rows to be picked into squads then sent off to work in some far flung estate on the outskirts then brought back at night again, squeezed into a van. History does repeat itself and the same ideas of working to earn dole money or working for free for several years to get "on the job training" are being rolled out again. This goes right back to the 19th century when the unemployed built roads and the Caledonian Canal across Scotland for a kipper and a few potatoes a day to feed their families. I also had a spell building cycle tracks in Edinburgh. A volunteer is worth ten paid men :o)
A hidden path between Drumchapel and Clydebank looking very green and lush in mid summer.

I actually quite enjoyed some of these "jobs" as it was an exciting time and I've always got a thrill out of seeing other areas. It could be dangerous though as I had a spear thrown at me once in a scheme, which missed me by inches, and I've had bricks and bottles aimed in my direction occasionally. One of my workmates got hit by an object dropped from a building and had a spell in hospital as a result. He didn't come back. I found a bag of dead kittens once in an empty flat we were clearing out, several strangled dogs and half a badger. Also a few bodies. It was an education into human nature. Fortunately, these jobs suited my lifestyle at that time as I was intent on exploring every city in Britain then for my own purposes. I too had an agenda to follow and a strong sense of purpose which kept me on the right track. It was not a cycle track.
The Drumchapel of today seems a much better place to a casual outsider, with a wide range of housing types, many of them owned and most well looked after although there are still various social problems in all the large estates, especially with the current recession and cut backs biting into any progress.(very similar in that respect to the 1980s) Certain lessons have been taken on board though and any poverty is much better disguised these days in the estates and happens behind closed doors. Hardship is largely invisible now, instead of obvious and in your face.
Glasgow Club. Donald Dewar Centre. above.
 Drumchapel has a long history of producing footballers through Drumchapel Amateurs, a football club who punched well above their weight and produced many well known names. Interesting article here with a surprising cast list.
At one time these vast estates boasted between 30,000 to 50,000 residents but most of the big four have halved their population. This is Invercanny Drive, above,  near the middle of the scheme.
Drummore Road and Summerhill Road district. Another empty plot of land lying vacant that used to have streets and tenement houses. One reason for Drumchapel being much quieter these days is the vast empty spaces between the new housing developments, slowly being reclaimed by nature.
As in previous civilizations the graffiti left behind sometimes outlasts the actual buildings that stood here.
Parts of Drumchapel are attractive in summer with wild flowers adding loads of colour, as here around the Garscadden Burn.
And the sunsets can be spectacular.
The grounds of Garscadden House, a large mansion that older folk may remember, now part of the Leg it Round Drumchapel Trail. This trail is not obvious, or well signposted and I lost it several times after this section, despite knowing the area. I came here in the late 1960s with a mate to see the Girnin Gates, the much missed entrance to the house that existed here, only to find they had been demolished a few years before. Wah! They were almost legendary in Drumchapel (a local pub was named after them) and several theories exist as to how they got their name.
Drumchapel is decorated with many walkways, linking between the various districts, and this plus the
empty spaces where houses used to stand almost give it a rural feel that some of the citizens of Detroit will know well.
Rose Bay Willow Herb cover the surrounding grasslands in high summer.
Wild flowers are sprouting up in central Drumchapel.
The farmland near the water tower. It's a very colourful area with good walks in the surroundings.
Pink parade.
Track near Clydebank.
Lush grasslands.
Where the old school used to be, on the hill between Kinfauns Drive and Summerhill Road. Another area that could be classed as a wildlife reserve, as nature is reclaiming it fast. Observed long tailed tits up here and a sparrowhawk.
The centre of Drumchapel viewed from the same school and not a building in sight. The old tenements of Cally Avenue, Bayfield, Barnkirk and Blackcraig, Ryedale, Jedworth and Rozelle are no more, having been lowered or modernized and painted to look less grey and uniform in appearance.
From memory the first streets of tenements to go were at the top of the hill around the Cleddens Kingsridge area above Katewell Avenue. This district  has been redeveloped with new housing but the central district around the old school has been lying empty for around fifteen years now and Invercanny has been vacant since the late 1990s I think? Are any plans afoot to rebuild these areas too or at least landscape them into a more attractive environment? It need not cost that much money to turn these areas into a low level, and still open, basic park land setting that will enhance the whole area. It's been a wasted opportunity for the past fifteen years in my opinion. Carpets of wild flowers are fairly cheap but stunning, like the new circles of red poppies in Clydebank next to the school at the roundabout. Instant feel good factor. You don't even need to remove the street layout. Just packets of wild flower seeds, and some vision. Given time nature will do it all by herself anyway. She's good that way.
 Drumchapel could be a very desirable place to live given a bit of real out the box thinking. I'm sure the present community must have some good ideas in that direction that doesn't necessarily involve large amounts of money. The internet is a great tool nowadays for finding solutions to problems. And if houses are planed later up here it's still easy to fit them in. Bright colours improve peoples outlook. Instead of painting railings, why not paint the empty pavements, Street Art Utopia /Detroit style. (link on this blog. There must be some good local street artists and if the results are visually impressive people will be interested to see it. Drumchapel already has the Pegasus sculpture which is memorable. Visual arts that stand out. Sculptures are expensive though compared to wild flowers.

 What's to say this photo of spring flowers, below, cant be attainable throughout the large estates too if you pick indigenous natural varieties that self seed very easily every year. Think of the money spent in the past to little effect up here.
The locals will just pick them? Not if you put enough in at the start they wont. Bright colours lift the human heart into a better place and its a gift that keeps on giving. The rose bay willow herbs seem to do alright in their field surroundings and grow every year naturally. A lower level carpet of flowers though inside the estate to avoid the temptation to set them on fire during heat waves.(you can tell I grew up in a scheme as I'm well aware the surrounding grasslands get set on fire after a prolonged dry spell, as they do on the outskirts of many large cities worldwide.) It can be done with a little creative thought and imagination though but the community needs to feel a part of it as well by getting the children involved. Could this be Drumchapel? What think you? It will not solve underlying social issues but there may even be grants available for eco friendly green re-wilding or "nature improvements" as they are available to absentee landlords, even if they don't actually improve the land and have never visited the properties in question. A recent scandal I remember watching yet it's perfectly legal. If you know how to milk the system it's a cash cow with big udders for some.

Maybe the words at the end of this very watchable video need not be true after all. This is an accurate portrait of the way I remember most of the Glasgow estates looking in the 1980s  and unless you were there at that time you would never imagine how bad these places were. Generations condemned to live without hope or colour in their life's. It was the children growing up during that decade that I felt sorry for the most as it really was a lost generation as far as decent jobs were concerned...or any jobs. For the bean counters in government it was worth the sacrifice but once you have a negative frame of mind locked in to any community from birth it is very hard to change that outlook. Add in drug addiction clinics, alcohol dependency units and many people that are unemployable for life after ten or more years on the dole in many post industrial communities and it actually costs far more money trying to instil a positive mental outlook and drive to succeed back again. In fact it is almost impossible.... or is it?  Governments never seem to think of that mind you when they commit an entire generation to the scrapheap with political decision making as they usually just think in five year terms... then its somebody else's problem. Drumchapel was not the worst area by any means as I visited rougher schemes than this one. The commentary starts after a couple of minutes. Well worth a look. I was thinking of calling this post "The Life cycle of the Underclass" as history teaches us the same thing happens again and again to the folk on the bottom rungs of any society since medieval times. Three steps forward then two back with very brief good spells to inch painfully forward followed by long recessions where you inevitably get dragged back again close to where you started. Another five years of Austerity Britain cut backs should just about do the trick. We truly are " all in this together."
It's like an eternal shell game only one without a pea under any of the moving cups.
But maybe these communities deserve better. They might actually enjoy(sweet) peas...and daises... and cornflowers.... and poppies... and a bright future for the area's children... even if fickle jobs come and go. Despite decades of human interaction the bluebell woods are still there above the scheme and are fondly remembered by those who have lived there.. and they came free of charge in 1953. Just a thought.