Friday 25 November 2016

Autumn in Bellahouston Park. Glasgow. A Gallery of Colours. Trends in Social Housing.

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As I have a backlog of photos all the way back into early summer I thought I'd stick another post up before they get lost or I forget which external drive they are stored on. It's another park-lands post as I have many parks I'm fond of visiting within Glasgow, a city renowned in the past for gangland culture, giant housing schemes, teeming hi rise slums and violence but also one covered in beautiful park-lands, many laid out in Victorian and Edwardian times. This is Bellahouston Park taken from the central hill in the middle looking out over Mosspark, one of Glasgow's early council schemes/ estates and still a desirable area to live in. Many of the houses here are now privately owned. In contrast many of the later tenement and hi rise estates built after that time in the 1950s-1960s and 1970s have been totally flattened and are no longer there. My questions are -Was it the people or the architecture to blame... or a combination of both? And which model of housing works out cheaper in the long run.

Knightswood, certain parts of Pollok, Riddrie, Carntyne, and several others built during the 1920s- 1930s are also still intact and in much the same condition as the day they were built, maintenance and visual aspect wise.  Modeled on the garden suburb formula they contain an attractive mix of different housing types,  semi detached, terraced, or 2 to 4 in a block cottage style with back and front gardens. if you look at the photo in the Mosspark link above you will see they actually improve with age as the trees mature and grow over the decades.
As this model was supposedly unsustainable, expensive, and used up large tracts of land for a limited number of residents later schemes/ estates built during the Second World War and after consisted of long rows of tenements, or hi rise living or a new trend -deck access estates. Due to huge numbers pouring into the cities during a time of social upheaval and unrest, resources were stretched, overcrowding and outbreaks of infection/disease required houses to be built on a much bigger scale and fast. The first garden suburb estates generally catered for the upwardly aspirational working classes on decent incomes, whereas the later estates were open to all. Much brighter folk than me are still debating why it all went so wrong in these later estates/ schemes but I know from experience it' s much easier to keep your own property in a decent condition if you have fixed boundaries built around it. (i.e. a garden with a fence or a hedge, even if small in size)  You also soon see where any anti social properties exist in estates like these rather than everyone, good or bad, getting tarred with the same brush in the open tenement or hi rise version. There is a reason for this train of thought at the end.
I had a feeling the best autumn colours might be around the 'House For an Art Lover', a fairly modern construct erected in the 1990s in the park, it was built using Charles Rennie Mackintosh's original never used competition designs from the early 1900s along with his wife, Margaret Macdonald, who contributed greatly to the look of the interiors. I much prefer this view of the back of the building rather than the front aspect. Much cleaner and warmer lines as for me personally many of his concrete creations in white seem austere and lack a certain warmth or a 'we are at home, honey' feeling. I'm more of an Alexander Thomson or the very underrated William Leiper type. Both these architects are well known in Scotland of course and I see examples of their work everywhere on bike rides but world wide they don't seem to enjoy the same acclaim as Mackintosh.
Front aspect of the same building. For me this doesn't have any 'Wow' factor and is bordering on ugly.
The gardens at the back though are beautiful and this is where I found the best colours. I think these are types of Maple trees.
Red Romance. Vivid red was one colour I had failed to capture this autumn in nature until I spotted this maple. Seems to be a hybrid variety though.
A fallen leaf from the same tree. Canadian and American maples seem to have five or seven points to each leaf though and a straight trunk with a broad crown. Japanese maples have seven usually as a general standard but this has six as you can see. Japanese maples also have twisting trunks usually and rarely gain much height straight upwards. Still guessing it's a maple but an unusual variety... unless someone knows better? I'm keen to find out.
Same trees from a distance.
The back garden. House for an Art Lover.
One captured at the height of summer. Pollok Park from the nearby Bellahouston Park. This is taken in the middle of Scotland's largest city yet it looks completely sylvan in aspect. Pollok Park is Glasgow's largest park and the only one, because of it's size and wooded nature, you can get genuinely disorientated/ lost in... if only temporarily, by following the network of tiny back trails through the dense forest. Even after 30-40 visits over the years if you disappear into the wooded heart on minor animal trails you are never quite certain where they will come out which is part of its charm as it doesn't have as much colour contrast in autumn or ornamental tree displays and flowerbed interest.
'Elephant in the Room'   Bellahouston Park.
Nice mix of ornamental trees picked and planted for an autumn display
Colour blend in Bellahouston.
Looking across at Moss Heights and South Cardonald District. Glasgow.
Animal Life in Bellahouston Park. October 2016.

Social Trends in Housing? I found this video a while ago on You Tube and found it fascinating. Although I can understand the architect's point of view to some degree I grew up very close to a similar deck access hi rise estate like the one featured and it went downhill very quickly without any sectarian elements involved whatsoever as did most of the others scattered throughout Britain. The ones that survive today have been extensively redesigned and mainly cater for young professional types or other folk without children. They are not suitable for families in any way and many had dampness, condensation, security and antisocial issues built in from the start. I personally believe, from first hand experience, that deck access estates were never the way forward for ordinary low income communities as they were scary places at night to walk through with a thousand hidden corners and a feeling of menace, isolation and unseen danger everywhere... even in daylight... and that was definitely as much the fault of the design as any input from locals. Most sensible people stayed in and bolted their doors at dusk unless they had a good reason to go out. Flat roofs are never a great idea in UK buildings with the levels of rainfall we get, especially in the north, and you would need a well paid job to afford the massive heating bills to keep these concrete rain soaked tombs warm in winter where the wind howls at speed through the elevated corridors rattling the letterboxes. A very interesting historical look back at the most infamous of the deck access projects in the UK and really worth seeing in full here. Everyone will have a different opinion of course.. they always do :o) Just maybe, if they had built the more expensive low level garden suburb type estates at the start, and kept going, even with cheaper materials, they would still be around today in reasonable shape and work out far cheaper in the long run when you factor in decades of unrest, ongoing repairs, security funding, stress,illness, drug, drink, depression, less job prospects, and other issues... not to mention the cost of demolition then re-building and re-housing most of the tenants still alive. These estates took a heavy toll on people... not just in Ireland but in communities throughout the world... and unbelievably they are still being built today. Estates like these, more than anything else at the time, helped to break up the old social communities and values politicians like to bang on about restoring.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Crieff. Torlum. Knock of Crieff. Perthshire Winter Gallery.

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Winter is here with a vengeance this week with fresh snow over the higher mountains and overnight temperatures dropping to minus 12 degrees in the highland glens. With a good day forecast for last Sunday however and more importantly, light winds, Alex, Alan and myself fancied a day trip into Perthshire and the upmarket town of Crieff.
Alex had still to do Torlum, at 393 metres, a sub 2000 Marilyn, and on his bagging list. This is he crunching upwards across knee deep frozen terrain on the hillside. No snow as such, just heavy frost.
Deep layers of ice crystals on Torlum so the overnight frosts lately must have been severe. This is officially the coldest November since 2010 over the last week or so. It felt like that in the house where I rarely put the heating on in winter except for eating meals and half an hour before going to bed. I grudge and can't afford the bills if it's on whenever I'm in. Running the taps last thing at night and in the morning keeps them unfrozen in cold weather. When I did put the heating on full blast my feet were still frozen so I don't see the point spending hundreds in heating bills every winter when I can sit in my sleeping bag with a warm jumper on watching the telly at night and feel toasty that way.
Autumn colours near the start of the walk, a tiny lay-by for one or two cars near Ballochargie next to Loch of Balloch where we then followed the forestry road up the hill until we reached open ground above the forest.
Several pines looking very Christmas- like coated with sparking white frost.
A zoom of the Knock of Crieff, and Milquhanzie Hill with its mast, surrounded by a blanket of mist.
We had several inversion effects occurring in this area with any low lying straths or glens completely submerged under a thick blanket of murk. Anyone down here might think it was a dismal day but hill-walkers and outdoor folk know different.
Mist rising off the moor under the sun's rays.
Higher hills around the Loch Turret area.
One of the monument above Comrie near the Deil's (Devil's) Caldron waterfall. Ticked this one off a few years ago with Alex on the blog.
Although darkness is around half past four pm now we still had time to climb the Knock of Crieff as well. Alan and his dog on the track back down.
Higher surrounding mountains covered in fresh snowfalls.
And a couple of Crieff from lower levels with the last of the afternoon sunshine painting the town in sunset colours.
Crieff Hydro on its hill. For the Knock of Crieff you follow the signs through town indicating Crieff Hydro and the car park for The Knock is just above that, past the riding stables. A good day out and fairly warm in the sunshine.
Added a link to my latest kindle book in the side bar. A Scottish Outdoor Kaleidoscope. £2:49. Unusual trips all over the country by foot, ferry, kayak and bike and all with the 'off the beaten track' approach not seen in most other guides. Includes over 400 original colour photographs taken by the author. First couple of chapters free to read here.

Another western and a very good remake. Liked the John Wayne original but this is equally good and different enough to be an entertaining separate film rather than just a copy.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Upper Clyde Valley. Bothy Trip. Dollar Law.

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The Upper Clyde Valley map, Landranger Sheet 72 must contain some of the loveliest and most varied scenery in the Southern Uplands/Scottish Borders region. A large area south and east of Glasgow starting from the edge of Wishaw and including the upper reaches of the River Clyde running towards and then past the market town of Lanark, where it cuts a deep gorge into the surrounding rolling countryside.

 This map also includes the western portion of the Pentland Hills, seen above, furthest from the city of Edinburgh, and surprisingly empty of walkers yet still scenic and attractive. A group of us had booked a cottage with the BBA who have a number of locked bothies in this area. The one we had picked for our trip requires a key sent in the post and as I'm still in two minds about the effects of internet publicity on quiet unspoiled areas I'll not name it here. It does lie between two prominent hills- Tinto, 711 metres or 2,333 feet high and Dollar Law, 817 metres, 2680 feet.
The drive down, as ever, was delightful. This is great driving, cycling, and motorbike country on a nice day using the network of empty minor roads. In this district even the main roads are not plagued with excessive traffic which makes it all the more enjoyable in this increasingly busy world we all live in. Biggar, West Linton and then Edinburgh reached via the A702 is a delight to drive as is the winding A72 past Lanark to Symington then Broughton.
Our plan on this trip was to climb Dollar Law, seen on the approach here and we had a fair number out in force on a trip organized by Alex. Eight of us in total.
Although dry and clear the final slopes onto Dollar Law saw us encountering a bitter raw wind as these large hog back summits have little in the way of protection or shelter available. This is a summit photo and the wind chill factor must have been around minus -10 degrees up here, maybe lower. It certainly felt more like winter than autumn all weekend and snow fell over the high tops on the second day of our trip.
This fenced off portion of woodland shows how these glens could look if not grazed bare by hungry sheep and deer although the upper slopes and summits would still be clear of any trees. We can but dream... maybe someday more parts of Scotland will have deciduous mixed woodlands outside the urban areas- similar to the Lake District and parts of Wales. :o)
One from Dollar Law looking west in the direction of Tinto.
This is us arriving at the bothy and a good one it is. A scattering of trees around it give it an oasis feel in an otherwise bare area. Although I enjoy the wide open summits of this district it would look very different at low level with some of the natural woodlands restored and it would support far more wildlife than at present in an age when species numbers across the board are falling rapidly.
The bothy.
Night arrived and we entertained ourselves in the usual fashion with candles, wood burning stove, evening meal then drink.
A mixed conifer forest on the trip down.
Biggar High Street with it's distinctive curving poles. A lovely little town for a visit at any time of year, given good weather. Peebles and Moffat also have enough in them for an excellent day trip with shops, local walks and places of interest. Decent sized car parks can be found in all three. Christmas lights going up here.
An autumnal view looking across the local park in Biggar.
Scenery encountered on the drive to the bothy.
A range of different landscapes from small attractive woodlands ...
to wide 'open range' style rolling grasslands.
This could be England's South Downs near the chalk laden Sussex coast or even parts of rural America. A chameleon landscape unfolds round every new corner.
Higher hills and scattered upland farms.
The UK as a whole is famed for its range of diverse and contrasting landscapes within a small area and this region is no different.
A buzzard hunting for dinner near Tinto. A great weekend and good company in one of my favourite areas.

This video seems to fit the landscape above somehow. Tinto even sounds like a wild west name. A great modern western but filmed and directed like an old style one. Really enjoyed this when I first watched it years ago and still underrated somewhat. Fantastic landscapes, great action, an epic feel and good history about the last days of the free livestock grazers in America before the open ranges and water supplies were fenced off by growing townships and large ranchers. Worth a watch if it comes on TV or on Netflix. Well filmed, acted and directed.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Autumn in the Urban Forest. The Great Wood of Glasgow.

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Well folks, it's that time of year again. Autumn. With light winds and no major storms rolling in off the North Atlantic yet, often name checked as one of the most turbulent oceans in the world, this year it seems to be lasting well into November with many areas still hanging onto a full canopy of leaves. I have been out and about- sometimes alone-sometimes with my local muse 'Belle' or 'Tink' or 'That Witch in the Woods' (she has many names, bless her) and sometimes with more conventional friends. I didn't need to travel far as her area is the best for autumn colours and different varieties of trees.
  It's not surprising I met her in sylvan ways and we teamed up, instinctively drawn together, as I was a child of the great urban forest myself, growing up on a tough council estate- Nitshill in Pollok, but at the same time living deep within the largest mature deciduous forest in Scotland. Some might think the natural place for wild forests would be in the Scottish Highlands or Southern Uplands but it's not. Most of the trees there have been stripped out in the distant past replaced by mono-culture dark plantations of fir or pine which attract little wildlife beyond the outer edges and the natural regenerating woodlands have long been held in check by sheep, grouse moors or deer.
Instead a vast patchwork quilt of scattered woodlands and parks in the cities and towns, especially Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, provide a glimpse of what lowland Scotland must have looked like in the past.

This is one of the reasons I was comparing the Lake District (and Wales) with mountain Scotland in the last few posts as I noticed the difference straight away in all three landscapes when I first started going down there. The Scottish Highlands may be wild, scenic and empty but both these other mountain areas mentioned seem to have retained their deciduous woodlands far better, or have planted more, and look very different as a result. You notice that when it rains as natural shelter is never far away down south... even in mountain regions. Trees add a huge amount to any walk, especially deciduous woodlands.
Of course in parks you have a mixture of trees gathered from every corner of the globe by Victorian collectors - a practice frowned on now, but it does make for spectacular landscapes. From Gourock in the west to Airdrie and Carluke in the east the urban forest sprawls, admittedly not unbroken, but certainly vast in size and for the most part deciduous. (ie. the leaves drop every autumn) It's one of the reasons I like living in a city, as although I like the Highlands and mountain areas they are bare and pretty lifeless places by comparison... or so I think anyway. I've always loved my urban jungle of trees and from many parts of Glasgow looking out over the city (Bellahouston Park hill looking towards Pollok, Barrhead, and the South Side springs to mind) all you really see is a continuous belt of woodlands stretching to the far horizon with only an occasional hi- rise or tenement rooftop sticking out to remind you that humans live within it at all.
I didn't think this way years ago of course and it's taken me decades to form this viewpoint, reading and understanding history, social trends in landscape engineering and picking up information here and there but I believe it's a valid one. When I was young I wasn't interested in all that- I just loved woods and all the usual things that children of my generation who lived outdoors when not in school enjoyed. Climbing trees, collecting berries, fruit, nuts and conkers in season, building dens, and generally having a good time outdoors without computers, any technology, or adults. We now live in a news, media, information and gadget saturated age but back then the TV was six inches square, black and white, and usually grainy and hard to watch with a small aerial indoors that often required frequent adjustment to get any picture at all. Not worth staying in for if dry weather outside. Newspapers were only of interest to us for the cartoon page. Innocent times in many ways but we did have our dragons like every other age. The threat of pedophiles probably existed but they never frequented our woods much and any adults were either given a wild berth when seen or chatted to happily if known. Being half feral anyway as kids few folk could creep up on us... usually it was the other way around...just like the natural caution the rest of the woodland animals and birds showed towards any humans that came into the forest. Suspicion or fear didn't enter our thoughts very often but when they did it was usually easily understood and not the vague shadowy menace always lurking in the background it is now- like a friend getting beat up by a drunk parent a few times, someone getting injured outdoors falling or landing poorly or the risk of drowning in the many flooded quarries nearby. Stuff we understood and just accepted as part of life. On the plus side pedophiles would also be given a good kicking, maybe even killed by other adults, if caught... which tended to put them off as they didn't seem as numerous as they are today although punishing innocent strangers was always a possibility.
A spotty dog. Maybe escaped from 'The Woodentops.  ' Remember them?

Back in the present I still love trees and even have favourite ones I treat as trusted old friends, many of which should still be around long after I'm fertilizing the roots of others.
Capturing the best of the autumn colours is a yearly occupation now and I always think I can do better each time. Good motivation to get out there and explore.
A rare selfie.
This year I stayed mainly local for this gallery which allowed me to photograph in a range of different lighting conditions- full mid- day bright sunlight, as here,above - late evening sunshine, like the photo below-
and in overcast dull conditions.
A double rainbow.
On the brae.
On golden paths we travel...
to experience the joy of deciduous woodlands...
with sweet witch I wept the last...
to think how easily this could all end...
Do you believe in climate change children?
If so... clap your hands...          **** the fairies. How we deal with that now and in the near future is far more important.

No wonder we spent all our free time outdoors. Dodging older kids aiming air rifles at you, occasional gang fights and the usual falling out among friends was much more fun than watching TV back then. Enjoy. Funny how this seems brilliant now ! Didn't think that back then though :o) Andy Pandy probably put me off. A puppet Jimmy Savile and slightly dodgy even then.