Wednesday, 19 August 2015

River Clyde Walk/Cycle.Route 75. Cambuslang to Westburn Horseshoe. Bioshock Infinite.

                                                  ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

I had a problem with my car a few weeks ago which meant I had to put it into a specialized garage for repairs. This happened to be in Cambuslang, which lies on the south eastern edge of the city so I had a few hours to kill while it was getting fixed. I know Cambuslang fairly well as I have friends there and have cycled, walked, worked, studied and played in the vicinity over the decades. Like close neighbour Rutherglen, Cambuslang is now a part of Greater Glasgow but it's a sizable community in its own right with a prosperous past founded on coal mines, limestone, iron, steel, and engineering works during the industrial revolution. This is the Allison Drive district which lies behind Cambuslang's busy Main Street of shops, and offices.
The walk starts here and heads downhill towards the River Clyde via Clydeford Road to the large roundabout. Here you can access the River Clyde path and National Cycle track. I've walked along this stretch before many years ago but it was in winter on a dull, raw day and I didn't enjoy it much.
When it came to writing a comprehensive kindle guidebook to the best urban walks outdoors in and around Glasgow I only included this one as part of a cycling tour. It is very isolated yet sits in an urban area with no real escape routes should you meet someone nasty. For this reason and my memory of it being uninteresting, flat and dull I didn't include it as a walk in the book.
I entered the path along the riverside at the roundabout just where this sculpture of a heron adds a focal point. Being high summer the river banks had turned into the usual late July jungle with a cornucopia of wild plants surging upwards. Higher than most were the giant hogweed, a Victorian introduction onto grand estates and gardens that then escaped into the general outdoors and is now a serious summer pest over much of Europe, the USA, Canada and many other parts of the world. Another escapee, Indian or Himalayan balsam was also in evidence but that only grows head high whereas Giant Hogweed can reach 5 metres or over 12 feet in height in favourable sheltered spots. Almost a annual forest invasion of poisonous plant/trees lining river systems worldwide and one that can cause third degree burns and blindness with its toxic sap if you handle any part of it or get it in your eyes.
Was John Wyndham thinking of these when he was inspired to write The Day of the Triffids in 1951?
 No matter, that classic novel captured the public's imagination so much that any large out of control plant is always called a "Triffid."
These examples in the photographs are just getting started height wise but they are responsible for severe burns every summer as each new generation of inquisitive children learns the hard way not to go near them or touch them. Even after the burns have healed the sap can leave that affected area hyper sensitive to sunlight for many years afterwards.
As soon as you leave Cambuslang at the roundabout you also leave behind the noise, traffic and energy of a built up area. This time, on a sunny day in high summer, I really enjoyed this walk and would give it 3 or 4 stars personally as I noticed dozens of new plants, wildlife and insects all along the route. It is such a  jungle environment down here that the River Clyde is not actually visible for much of the journey and you would need a machete to cut a track down to it... And a pair of safety glasses, gloves and overalls to avoid Triffid sap spillage. I did go a long wander under and through the best hog weed plantations I could find but was very careful not to touch anything. It did feel like an alien environment under the leaves. Hard to imagine it is a humble member of the Carrot family like Parsnips, Celery or Parsley. Also the same plant family that was used in the witches special flying ingredient- Hemlock.
Butterflies and bees were everywhere along this ribbon of tarmac and with it being a sunny weekend during the school holidays loads of families were cycling the path network if they lived locally.
A bank of pink thistles stretch in a long line along the route. Daisies, yellow vetch, red and white clover, brambles, gorse and hundreds of other flowering plants, many of them weeds if they appear in gardens or parks, cover this section in a riotous dazzling display of flowers which in turn attracts insects...
Which in turn attracts birds. A large thrush after snails here.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have a training base here with towers, purpose built flats, mini hi rise apartments, and various other buildings so they can practice firefighting in a realistic setting. This complex runs along the walkway on the opposite side from the river and provides further interest rather than distraction.
Some of the fire service buildings purpose built to train in.
A view of the Red Road Flats, in the north east of the city across the river, which are soon to be demolished. Once the highest residential flats in Europe when they were constructed during the late 1960s. They rise 28 to 30 floors high.
The best glimpse of the River Clyde in high summer can be had at the weir beside Carmyle, a small but ancient community and one where Walter Smith, former manager of Rangers F.C., grew up.
Shortly after this weir a track leads up from the main walkway/cycle track, away from the river towards Westburn, another small community, and one I've only visited a couple of times decades ago. It seemed fairly well kept and prosperous which is nice to see. I love exploring new places and I'm just as happy on a good urban walk as on a mountaineering trip. 
A different view of Cambuslang on the return. By this time it was early afternoon and was starting to get humid and muggy so I walked back via Westburn Road, (which is still a pleasant and surprisingly car free road outside of rush hour times ) to Cambuslang, taking in a small nature reserve with ponds and stream en route.
2 to 3 hours at an easy pace. Under 5 miles in distance, mainly on the flat, but an enjoyable walk nevertheless and it can be extended along the river walkway to Newton bringing it up to around 8 miles. Timed it just nice to collect my fixed car.
A link here to my Glasgow guidebook which has details and photos of over 70 walks and cycle rides around and within the Greater Glasgow area. including Paisley, Clydebank, Cumbernauld, Motherwell, Hamilton and East Kilbride. £1:99 on Kindle and packed with colour photographs, many never seen on the blog.
Forgot to post this photo. I was pleased to see an old cinema on the main street in Cambuslang which had lain derelict for years and was a boarded up eyesore is now a new Wetherspoons. Nice to see a stylish old building like this one saved and being used again.

Meanwhile, I'm still finding plenty of interest in the gaming world with my new nighttime companion recommending many excellent fantasy worlds to explore. I'm still not interested in game play for itself in any way as I just like the stories and characters involved. Better level of entertainment than most of the TV programmes at present.
Some games have a high level of sophistication and are full of elaborate themes, art and detail. My current new favourite world to enter via You Tube is Bioshock Infinite and I was immediately intrigued when I read this concept and backstory to the game.  
I was particularly intrigued by the idea of American Exceptionalism and the retro art detail and film noir feeling throughout. Refreshingly different yet also disturbingly familiar to most in its portrayal of a two tier society governed by absolute authority and the vision and drive of one individual dominating the lives of others.This excellent short fan made video should give you a taste of that elaborate inner kingdom. Is this the game version of Gone with the Wind? It certainly has the scope, detail and grandeur of an epic and the lead characters seem like a loving homage to old Hollywood. Best watched full screen.
 I featured these particular two games for a reason. I've noted that people have cried or been emotionally attached/moved in some way at the end of these, despite them being animated fantasy worlds. That shows you the potential power they have in the future. 90 percent of mainstream  Hollywood films would pay large sums of money before a camera is ever taken out its bag to guarantee that kind of instant human connection to the product being sold and these outstanding games make it all look easy... so I ask the question again. Is this the future of film?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Finnich Glen. Full Gorge Traverse. The Last of Us.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
It has taken me 35 years to do the wetsuit traverse of Finnich Glen on the OS Landranger Glasgow map. I have used this map more than any other as it has more walks and cycle rides on it than any equivalent Scottish map.  Finnich Glen, on the road to Drymen, and not far from Queen's view and the nearby Whangie just creeps in on the northern edge of this map and scout groups, girl guides, outward bound, team building courses, and mountaineering clubs have traversed it for years.
A first for us though and a chance to use our wetsuits again.
I think this is where they shot the final battle scenes in "The Eagle" a Scottish film based around the missing Roman legion who  marched deep into highland Scotland and were never heard from again, presumably killed by the Caledonian Picts, a warlike race who controlled north Britain in ancient times. Many films and TV productions have used Finnich Glen as a scenic backdrop, including Outlander I believe.
I've not visited this glen/gorge for a few years and the access path is harder than ever to climb down with the wet summer making the red mud very slippy. Luckily, some ropes have been tied around a fallen tree or it would be a graded climb in its own right. Dull Red and Moss Green are the dominant colours once ensconced deep in the belly of this dramatic chasm.
One of me in my wetsuit looking slim and youthful. John and Alan were up for this unusual trip. In places it felt like wading up a river of blood with deep red pools and shallows.
"Never done it but it looks around waist deep." I commented on the way up to the gorge. "Not more than chest height anyway. A fun trip. I'll be a dawdle."
With the recent rains however it was in prime condition. Waterlogged in fact.
"Might need a bit of swimming action here boys but not more than a few strokes. Ten foot deep pools in a couple of places."
Alan in full swimming mode.
Like a lost world.
Fallen trees submerged in the gorge make things tricky underfoot.
The midway section of the gorge.
Getting past the first waterfall.
Swimming the second deep basin to reach the crux waterfall.
Getting up the waterfalls. Like a leaping Salmon!
The beauty of Finnich Glen gorge.
The Devil's pulpit.
Sliding down a riverbed into the gorge.
The road bridge. The traverse was so good they opted to do it again in reverse. 2 to 3 hours in duration but a mind blowing experience. Very different.
                                                                 Garden of the Gods.

 For a winter view of the gorge see Dec 2010 on this blog,   .

And so is this... I don't play computer games normally but meeting someone much younger recently opened my eyes to the giant strides in this genre. Compared to early versions of Lara Croft the artwork,sophistication and ambition of modern games is staggering. In another 15 to 20 years you will be lucky to tell the difference between the cyber world created and the real one you are living in.
Having been disappointed by a few recent films she suggested this instead. "This" is as entertaining and gripping as any film, with great characters developing into a memorable double act to rival any icons in the film world . A brave new frontier to send panic though the entire traditional entertainment industry methinks....
After the excellent Breaking Bad finished recently on Spike there has been a hole in my nightly TV viewing until I found this. The complete edit of " The Last of Us" as a film. I'll start with Part Three as it doesn't spoil anything yet stands on its own but it's all available on You Tube for anyone wanting a cracking and surprisingly emotional and gripping journey through a destroyed America. The ending can be viewed without joining. I watched "The Road" a few years back and didn't think much of it as it was far too grim and serious as a visual journey. This animated "Game" works far better as a film than that one, full of unexpected beauty, wonder and interest as it develops, with memorable lead performances of Oscar winning quality. 5 out of 5 and well worth watching in full.
Is this the future of film? Reminds me strongly of John Wyndham books in its warmth and humanity shining through despite a bleak surrounding environment. Better than many recent, much hyped big budget films. A few swear words and probably a 15 rating but this modern classic is a real game changer in every way. The point when games grew into enjoyable films in their own right with believable "living" personalities capturing our hearts as much as any real actor.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Loch Lomond Island Adventure.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
For some reason I wasn't looking forward to this summer, even before July turned out to be the wettest on record for parts of Scotland. Probably because Alex has only a few Corbetts left in remote areas and doing the same familiar local hills over again didn't appeal. I've always been someone who enjoyed a wide range of sports outdoors and I'll try anything that comes along. I love new sensations. Live for them, and I've always been out of step with the various clubs I've been in because of that. Kayaking in a hillwalking club... coastal walking in a mountaineering club... Cycling in a running club...etc etc.
So I bought two inflatable kayaks, seen here. Nine foot long, two separate blow up chambers consisting of the floor in black tough plastic (which is the most likely to get holed) and a green upper section( which may keep you afloat if the bottom gets punctured, even if its just long enough to get you to shore and make repairs.
I have to thank Alan for this as he mentioned that Lidl or Aldi had them in stock for under £50 quid so I rushed down but they were all gone. I had thought of buying kayaks again but I have nowhere to store them and the inflatable models I'd seen were a few hundred pounds in price. Too much for an occasional venture on my limited budget. These were just under £70 quid each from Amazon online.
I've always believed a sense of purpose in life is the greatest gift you can give someone.
We parked at Luss and had them up and ready to go in 15 minutes. A beautiful day as usual. Saturday last week in fact. Alan already had a wetsuit and buoyancy jacket as he likes snorkeling in rivers and sea lochs and has a small motorized dinghy. I used to have two kayaks and still have all the gear gathering dust in my bedroom. Not any more. As it was a lovely hot day we didn't bother with the wetsuits but obviously life jackets or suitable buoyancy jackets are a must although these kayaks are pretty stable overall in calm conditions. Very easy to drown though if you haven't got the right gear and capsize a long way from land. Something you should always bear in mind and the reason I bought two kayaks as I used up most of my luck solo kayaking in the past.
We lost no time getting out on the water and Alan soon got the hang of maneuvering about. Although not as fast as the 12 foot fiberglass kayaks I used to have these are much easier to store in the house and still get you adventurous places. They have a small detachable fin (skeg) on the bottom to keep you in a straight line. A foot pump, paddle, repair kit and instructions are included with the craft.
As the Luss Water was just around the corner we had an exploration of this quiet river system first. You can travel up as far as the wooden bridge on the edge of the village until it gets too shallow.
Used to be one of my favourites this place. Like a mini Scottish everglades.
Canada Geese overhead.
The statue of Wee Peter and Alan in a sheltered Bay.
One of Loch Lomond's many islands. There are 23 in all and everyone is a gem. I've been out here many times over the decades and they are still beautiful. A kayak is the best way to explore them as you have such freedom and can cover sizable chunks at a time. Six inches of water is all you need to get around allowing you access to some surprising places that even boats can't reach.
Getting in and out of a kayak is the hardest part however, requiring technique, and Alan soon found this out the hard way. Early days yet :o)
It didn't put him off though and he was soon back in the saddle after a quick change to dry gear. He soon swapped his "Tigger" bounce in tail first then push off approach for a more cautious entry and exit from the craft. 
Considering it was mid summer and the school holidays, Scotland's largest loch was surprisingly quiet until mid afternoon. Maybe the normal run of poor weather put people off until they realized it was turning into a great day. Light rain or drizzle never bothers most kayakers and even mist or fog can be exciting and beautiful, unlike a mountain excursion. Island hills looming out the mist can appear huge and mysterious. Wind and choppy conditions are the main drawbacks for inflatables as the speed goes right down and it's hard work.
Alan and Ben Lomond, 974 metres, Scotland's most southerly Munro. Incidentally, "The islands of Loch Lomond" by Clair Calder and Lynn Lindsay is an excellent island by island guide, I've had for decades giving the history of each individual island on the loch for anyone interested. We visited three islands during this trip, the cluster of Inchtavannach, Inchconnachan, and Inchmoan. It's no coincidence these are the three islands mentioned in the Loch Auchenfuffle chapter of my book Autohighography as I've had many great camping weekends out here before it was a National Park. I'm also pleased to report that certain exotic furry creatures, mentioned in the book, are still alive and thriving and you can still camp around the shores of these islands... at the moment.
 I've met a few people over the last few weeks that have read my book and enjoyed it so I'll plug it again. If you are interested in a slightly comical offbeat view of Scotland it may be to your taste for £1:14 pence.
Sadly the old summerhouse, which was still intact and infrequently used in the book, is now a ruin in a poor state of repair. I'm surprised it's still standing to be honest. One of the reasons for mentioning it in the book and making it a centre point in the chapter is that we experienced it right at the end of an era when it was still in good condition yet lying empty. Spooky and magical in the moonlight doing gymnastics on the lawn when I hung around with people that could still bend. The National Park did have plans to adapt it into a water headquarters at one point but must have decided it was impractical for some reason. Even in this state it still provides some shelter for island animals in grim weather when the tourists go home.
Other groups of kayaks were out, some with inflatables, which are increasingly popular, and traditional sea kayakers with their faster streamlined craft. You only really see the true beauty of Loch Lomond by boat and visiting the islands. A fact I realized only when I had a kayak the first time.
Hard framed kayaks gliding under Inchtavannach through the "Narrows."
The Narrows and old boat with trees sprouting in it. Most of the 23 islands have lovely woodlands.
Fallow deer swim from island to island occasionally. Is this Paradise? It can be when it's quiet and silent. I used to come over here in the depths of winter and have the entire loch to myself 30 years ago. It's probably just the same today out of season.
Beach stroll on Inchmoan. The sandy island mentioned in the book.
Self propulsion has a magical effect on humans. It just feel right somehow. Cycling, walking, running, kayaking, seems to hit the spot emotionally and enjoyment is almost guaranteed as a result. Well worth £70 pounds.
Great to be back in a kayak again.
Fantastic trip and company.

Heard this song decades ago on a folk compilation and it was a highlight. Still like it and the words are truer than ever today. A vastly underrated classic.