Saturday 29 April 2017

Glasgow's Botanic Gardens and Spring Flower Gallery.

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A spring visit to the Botanic Gardens and Glasgow's West End- since the 1800s the poshest part of the city with numerous examples of grand period architecture, often based on earlier classical Greek and Roman  styles. The parks of the west end also have the most colour in late spring so I always try to visit, especially when the tulips and rhododendrons are in full bloom. The above photo is near the entrance at the junction of Great Western Road (a busy duel carriageway that doubles as a fine unofficial linear park in itself with several miles of colourful trees and flowers planted along its length) and Byres Road- a trendy shopping street running through the university district from working class Partick to upmarket Dowanhill and Kelvinbridge. (you can feel incomes rise accordingly as you walk up this street from dowdy Kelvinhall Subway Station to Great Western Road with its grand period mansions and prestigious hotels.
The Botanics of course are famous for the range of Glasshouses and Hothouses, pleasantly warm in winter and sometimes steaming and uncomfortably tropical during rare and sporadic heatwaves.
The range of colours here are always vibrant year round but in spring it's a kaleidoscope inside and outside.
Inside a hot house.
Glasshouse and spring sunshine.
Kibble Palace inside. This large glasshouse used to stand in a very remote spot attached to a large private house situated among the rugged mountains of the North Clyde Estuary. It was later handed over to the growing city and transported here which was lucky as no trace of the original house remains.
The view that awaits visitors to the Kibble Palace. Bard in the Botanics was a popular summer
entertainment for a while here.
The full building.
The Elf.
My favourite. The carnivorous plants section at the Botanics.
Insect devouring Sundews can be found in the Scottish Highlands of course with poor soils demanding extra nutrients from unlikely sources.
Going in is far easier than getting out in this kingdom of greedy plant mouths.
The former Hillhead Salon Picture House. Taken when it was a bookclub just off Byres Road.
Across the street from the Botanic Gardens at the top of Byres Road stands the Oran Mor- a former church converted into an entertainment venue with performing plays, bars and live music inside. Seen several bands here in the past but not been in for anything else as my social life does not involve much outlay of money sadly :o(   Sniff, sniff, wah!.
A sneak peek at the interior entrance hall. I know acclaimed artist and writer Alasdair Gray completed a large ceiling mural in this building but I'm not sure if this is his work as well.
Link here to the beautiful ceiling mural and brief history. (Now discovered it is his work from his own painting gallery inside this link. Worth a look.)
The Oran Mor Church and outside Botanics pond reflections.
Period elegance.
Flowers that resemble cranes.
Assorted bluebells.
The far end of the Botanic Gardens park lands near Kirklee.
Period tenements beside the old BBC HQ, now relocated into new accommodation beside the Science Centre close to Prince's Dock on the River Clyde.
Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, being the other jewel in Glasgow's West End crown along with Kelvingrove Park and the River Kelvin- Glasgow's other major river flowing through the inner city districts.
A lush beauty spot near the city centre district.

As is this... believe it or not I put a lot of thought into matching up videos to posts and this just seems to fit somehow as the Botanic Gardens are twinned with Oceania. Suitably exotic, tropical...and expensive looking. Could easily be a grand mansion in the West End- apart from the outdoor swimming pool that is :o)  I heard a small snippet of this catchy and unusual song on a recent TV advert several times and was interested enough to discover and hear the full version.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Ardeer Beach. Stevenston. River Garnock. River Irvine Trip.

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The wild emptiness of Ardeer Beach at Low Tide. A sunny weekend and many of Ayrshire's more popular beaches would be busy with day trippers soaking up the sun. I did think of the Troon to Irvine beach walk, as that used to be my favourite but in recent years the numbers walking that have increased to the point that it's no longer a joy for me, except in mid winter or on a free day mid-week.
As a contrast here is a photo taken on the same day (a Saturday a couple of weeks ago) of the beach walk at Irvine, heading for Troon.
Far too many distractions for a young dog to encounter and not much feeling of a 'wilderness walk.' Dogs, horses, young families, girls, etc.
My new favourite. Looking back towards the car parked on the esplanade/pier at Stevenston. (car marked.) You can also park at Saltcoats in the main car park there and either walk or cycle along the esplanade beside the railway line there, then across Stevenston beach to reach Ardeer.  A while ago we did this in mid-winter but cut inland to explore the maze of abandoned buildings and infrastructure half buried in the sand dunes. This was Alfred Nobel's explosives factory, one of the largest in Europe and also the reason why he set up the Nobel Peace Prize as he didn't want to be remembered as a warmonger and arms dealer to future generations.
On this remote peninsula that was a proper sand dune island in the distant past, before the course of the rivers changed, the Swedish inventor of dynamite set up his factory- a small town by any other name- with a railway station, docks, its own harbour, workers sheds, canteen and HQ.
The sand dunes here were perfect for sculpting around the huts, as seen in this well preserved example above so that any accidental explosion got soaked up in the dune and didn't spread to all the other huts dotted around, also busy manufacturing -the 'Devil's Porridge.'
This area has something of an unsavory reputation I suspect. I've been here several times now- a few on my own- where I looked behind me a lot- and once with Alan where we walked from Saltcoats to Kilwinning then got a bus back in the early darkness of winter. A really enjoyable epic trip that did feel as remote as anything up north- and less populated. It also felt like a long way so I'd recommend a hybrid or mountain bike (smooth hybrid touring tyres work best on sand) as the sands at low tide are firm to ride across and numerous paths and tracks lead inland across the peninsula.
One of many dunes in this area. One of the reasons it's my new favourite beach is it's scale, lack of visitors, and strong feeling of empty wastes stretching to the horizon. From what I can gather it does have a history of nudest activity (mainly men) dogging,( not the puppy love kind either) and occasional local teenagers roaming around, curious about the World War period ruins, barbed wire, old buildings, and dark tunnels scattered around.
I've never seen any families or children roaming around here and girls are conspicuous by their absence. Well, you would not want to be a lone female, wandering in the maze inland, encountering dubious characters in such a lonely location.  If females are going to visit, out of curiosity, I'd suggest going in a group, even walking on the beach to the river mouth as you may well encounter dodgy masculinity of the sausage variety.
Anyway, being a rare warm day, we got into the vibe of the place by stripping off- boots and socks removed anyway- then trousers rolled up in typical 1950s beach attire style. Alan finding a raised sand bar here out to sea. Dog over- excited by the sea and sand and all that macho testosterone floating over this district.
Dog's passion/ ardour quenched by cold water.... and quite right too. It may be a manly beach but there are limits.
The main attraction for us was its remote location and lack of visitors- a real novelty these days when so many places are stuffed full of day-trippers on a sunny weekend and we still had a few spots on this peninsula we hadn't explored yet. Jet skiers out to sea.
Paraglider over Ardeer. It may be central Scotland's least visited beach but the folk that do show up are interesting characters.
Even Stevenston Beach gets few visitors except for locals but I like that as well. I had a great cycle across here at low tide a few years ago with a summer thunder and lightning storm raging across the peninsula but myself, peddling like mad under increasingly darker skies, keeping just ahead of the rainstorm moving ever closer behind me in a dash for the car at Saltcoats. This is also a wild flower haven along the cycle track to here in spring/ summer.
The desolate and forgotten appeal of the River Garnock Estuary. Old dock.
Old Crane for loading/ unloading. There are dangers here in this area. Crumbling buildings, unsafe docks, holes in the ground- mud flats you wouldn't want to fall or stumble into. A place to use your own judgement and common sense.
Obviously, there are certain areas where it's not a good idea to cycle or walk across. Basic stuff though. i.e. test planks and buildings before you stand on them or enter inside....avoid mud flats.
But the rewards are great-  very few people here... so you win the keys to a lost kingdom.
River Garnock-River Irvine meeting point. The town of Irvine in the distance.
The wide open aspect and huge skies of the Ardeer Peninsula.
A very special place.
Irvine esplanade lies just across the river mouth but it may as well be on the moon as you can no longer get across to here with a section of the modern bridge removed.
As seen here. This used to lead to the Big Idea building- now shut up and boarded off as a white elephant as not enough visitors appeared when it was open.
A lot of money had been spent on this project though as you can tell by this ornately carved entrance bridge.
Other pedestrian bridges onto the peninsula do exist however if you know where to find them and you are not put off by a lack of maintenance.
Large carpets of flowering gorse inland makes a colourful addition with that sweet and spicy coconut aroma wafting across the dunes.
And superb scenic vistas like this one are your reward.
Swan Love. Two's company but three is just annoying.
What a place and again a full day trip lasting around six hours and we only bumped into half a dozen other folk here- all adult males and a pair of teenagers exploring the ruined buildings. We definitely picked the right spot to spend a busy spring Saturday. No other beach near an urban area compares for lonely grandeur in an increasingly busy over- populated world.
Robert Burns Mural. Ardeer Beach.

Extreme parkour compilation video taken on high buildings. Obviously illegal, very dangerous, mad, bad, and also rather pointless to risk your life on but fascinating just the same. Top rock climbers get applauded for new routes by their peers, often with commercial rewards and sponsorship money but this is pure athletic climbing and jumping for it's own sake and you will not believe most of the stunts here for ultimate commitment without any safety net and also the levels of dedication, training and skills required to complete them in certain cases. I can't imagine being a parent though and seeing your own child doing this stuff online as many participants have died. No surprise there after seeing this footage. People will always find new ways to push the boundaries though- as in wing walking and going over Niagara Falls in various containers in the past.  Nobody dies or is injured in this but it is not a video for the fainthearted. As an ex- rock climber it is both stunning and unbelievable that certain humans can actually do these stunts and live to tell the tale. When you are young though you usually believe your body is indestructible until you have a serous accident or illness and it's only as you get older life seems a precious gift it might be worth sticking around for to appreciate fully.