Sunday 25 June 2017

Musselburgh. Joppa. Portobello. The John Muir Way. Edinburgh's Seaside Coast.

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On the same day that I was through in Edinburgh a few months ago and did the Edinburgh Castle circular walk in the late afternoon it had already been a productive day out. An early rise, bus into city centre, and then a Glasgow to Edinburgh bus ride followed by a number 30 in Princes Street saw me eventually reach Musselburgh- over 3 and a half hours later. Part of the problem was that the number 30 to Musselburgh, being a bus route, seems to travel round half of Edinburgh before departing the city then repeats the trick in the large town of Musselburgh itself by visiting nearly every street and place of interest before reaching the final destination at Fisherow. Fun though it was to trundle out to various outlying retail parks, housing estates, railway stations and then a free tour past Queen Margaret's University I was nevertheless conscious that time was a ticking away from me.  (On the return leg I got a number 26, Seaton Sands, from Portobello, just inland from the beach, and it took half the time of the number 30 being a more direct route through the city.  With hindsight I'd take the 26 every time.) Above is Musselburgh Harbour and Arthur's Seat ( The ancient volcano situated in the Scottish capital's heart.)
The reason for coming here was to revisit The John Muir Trail briefly, and coastal walk as I realized, looking at an Edinburgh map some months ago I had never explored this section between Musselburgh and Portobello before. Warm and muggy predicted in the west  when I left Glasgow, by the time I got through to the east coast seaboard a strong steady wind and white horses were intent on producing a frisky sea. Small dogs were having trouble standing up at the seafront due to a steady roaring gale. Some would call it a howler of a day but it was still sunny at least and the wind strength meant I could keep my jacket on without overheating although it was not a particularly cold wind. At times during this walk it became very hazy with a sea mist coming and going so the wind maybe helped to keep that away. A view of the main swimming beach here, above.
Musselburgh I had visited before and enjoyed it here. A nice harbour, beach walks in both directions, adequate shops, and an interesting history.
Also a town on the John Muir Way and The North Sea Trail, the mega long distance latter going through Scotland's east coast then on-wards down the east coast of England then through the various coastal communities and countries that border the North Sea with,  the Low Countries, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway all on the list. Over 3000 miles long, conceived at a time when the UK was still a part of Europe.

 John Muir Way link. 130 mile walk between Helensburgh and Dunbar, usually done in a week to 10 days depending on speed and mileage walked per day.
In the other direction from Musselburgh Harbour lies Musselburgh Racetrack,  Ash Mountain, and the Ash Lagoons below it- an almost monotone grey, sterile landscape like nothing else in Scotland- caused by the depleted waste deposits from a nearby coal burning power station and dumped here over many years but loved by many birds- like a grey Scottish version of flamingo potash shallow lakes amid bleak empty scenery abroad. You get a little glimpse of that type of environment here.... but I'd already been several times so not today.
So Portobello it was. Edinburgh's Seaside burgh from a time when folk still took UK holiday's along the British coast. Although Portobello has an exotic name this didn't save it from the same neglected plight of many former tourist seaside resorts but it is making something of a comeback in recent years for day visitors and seems reasonably popular once more.
The rough wave action coupled with the infamous east coast swell meant that the beaches were littered with a colourful collection of shells and bright objects.
At low tide this 5 km walk should be fairly straightforward around the coast but as it was now afternoon I was hitting it close to high tide levels so that and the wind strength made it interesting.
Back garden escaped flowers gave some sections a bright splash of colour.
Like the wild sown hanging gardens of Joppa, seen here. A biblical name perhaps so why not? The ancient town of Joppa mentioned in the bible became Jaffa in modern Israel, many, many years later, famous world wide in the mid 1900s for its beautiful oranges.
Rather than go along the main street through Joppa, which you could easily do, I was stubbornly determined to stick to the coastline where possible and had been happily rock-hopping along the shore front, under a long seawall of back gardens.  At this point however it looked tricky ahead and a combination of unpredictably high drenching sea spray off the waves, wet slippy cobbles sloping into the frisky sea at a deceptively easy angle and natural survival skills saw me creeping under the last few houses, ridiculously high up, along a near vertical via ferrata traverse ladder of homemade ancient iron spikes,finger cracks in walls, and tiny wet footholds.  And that was the good bit.
The section beyond the last house to the stairs back up onto the promenade looked OK from a distance but when viewed close up, as seen here from the opposite side, it was strictly a hands and knees affair, and a long unpleasant crawl over large boulders, where sodden seaweed, and  sudden jets of spray spurting upwards through numerous high tide gaps between said boulders straight into your face awaited the luckless crawler. Looking down at the route from above I was very glad I'd bottled out this last section, turning back when unsure of traverse success and increasingly large wave heights, and common sense had thankfully prevailed as a ten foot high sea wall meant that escape was impossible once committed to the 'boulder field of  needless degradation and depravity.'     Or that's how it seemed to me viewing this lucky escape and let off.
My bruised sense of dignity at being discovered by locals crawling over rocks at an advanced age like some scaly creature from heraldry eventually triumphed over my equally laudable intention to stick to the coastline...  at all costs.
Next came Joppa Rocks, famous in Scottish geology circles, though reached at high tide here. There's not much in Joppa as its just a suburb of Portobello- pleasant enough place to live but not a lively seaside resort. Quiet and mainly residential now by the looks of it.
Next came Portobello beach itself, 3 km of fine sand and esplanade running the full length of the town. If younger I would have attempted a 'Chariots of Fire' style slow motion run and leap over the long line of sand stabilizers fading into the misty distance but reserved my energy for other endevours instead.
Some nice period buildings lined the seafront, reflecting the Victorian and Edwardian grandeur of a stay at home holiday Britain when two weeks at the seaside every summer was a generations old tradition.
The still open Swimming Baths. A good sensible idea as only an adult strong swimmer would have a chance against such large waves with the wind that day. A couple did brave the heaving seas outdoors that time but they each had heavy duty wet suits on and looked like experienced coastal swimmers.
Up until this point I'd only passed a few walkers, mainly out excising dogs, but now, passing the shopping and entertainment district (Public Toilets here and at Musselburgh sea front.) the crowds appeared. Maybe about 100 or so folk, mostly students or families playing together. That may not sound like much but given the wind and sea strength on this particular weekend  I was impressed it was busy at all.
Oyster catchers.
Bottle Kilns for producing glass products. Part of Portobello's interesting past.
As usual the beach was empty again after the shops were left behind. Still Portobello district.
Looking back along the beach towards Musselburgh Harbour.
George Street. Number 26 Seaton Sands bus to Portobello and Musselburgh passes by here.
Back in Edinburgh once more and just time to squeeze in a castle circular walk before heading back to Glasgow. Interesting day. Around a 2 to 3 hour beach walk between M and P but can easily extend it into a longer walk if required.

 A loving homage to the old west of dusty inland America, great artwork and a memorable song, performance and delivery makes this five minute wonder special.

Friday 16 June 2017

River Kelvin Bike Ride Part Two. Maryhill Park. Dawsholm Park. Acre Road. Summerston. The Drumlin City.

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A view of Balmore Road and fields of growing crops just having left the Forth and Clyde canal, passed through Cadder and then Lambhill Cemetery on the outskirts of Glasgow. I was surprised to see growing crops and still busy farms in this area as Possilpark and this part of North Glasgow has traditionally been home to several rough estates/schemes. Lynn Ramsey's critically acclaimed but fairly grim and depressing  'Ratcatcher' was filmed around this area on the nearby canals and housing estates but to me it was not uplifting enough compared to my own happier and carefree childhood on the urban outskirts around Pollok. More Moonrise Kingdom growing up in that environment than Trainspotting although I was not unaware of its darker side at times. Fortunately, I picked the light... or the light picked me.

Yet in my own area of Nitshill all the working productive farms that used to make the surroundings so delightful to explore as children have all gone and been replaced instead by waist high jungles that used to be short grassy fields, dotted here and there with hawthorn hedges, bright yellow gorse bushes full of yellowhammers and linnets singing their hearts out and herds of black and white dairy cattle that maintained a park-like short grass setting. Even a few real fruit trees, plus crab apples, gooseberry, raspberry, plum and brambles in season were found by chance or word of mouth... and an occasional hay harvest to sneak into in the autumn and more conker trees than we could fling sticks at. In short a cornucopia of riches on our doorstep. Maybe the difference between the two areas is that simple fact- being walker and child friendly we did explore the farms and fields on a regular basis and very little scenery was out of bounds to us whereas you can't really go on a stroll through these fields of crops without being chased, which is probably why they have lasted in this area so long. Not the same incentive to explore here either and nowadays of course most children are not allowed to explore the surrounding countryside unsupervised. Very wise given that busy road between Lambhill and Milngavie.
Anyway, as in the last post,  Part One ended on the River Kelvin Walkway, seen here above. An enjoyable if secluded walk or cycle that brought me out as intended  to a two way split just above Acre Road. I took the left hard track, leading directly away from the River Kelvin and soon ended up in Summerston.
I've not visited this area much either so I was keen to have a cycle around the main loop road to see how it had fared since the last time I explored it around 10 years ago. Both Summerston and Darnley were built in the 1970s, The last of the large housing projects in the city completed by Glasgow City Council.  I found it interesting to compare these two estates, built at roughly the same time. Summerston still exists and looks a nice place to live even now in 2017. It reminds me of East Kilbride in some ways with a similar self contained new town look. By contrast most of the original Darnley estate has been flattened decades ago as it started to deteriorate from the moment it was constructed- a flat roofed deck access estate on multiple levels that soon acquired a number of antisocial problems like severe dampness, a lack of community spirit, no clear tenant boundaries around each home to enforce, frequent gang fights in the warren of corridors, connecting walkways and communal stairwells, numerous empty flats and squatting. Was it the people that destroyed Darnley or the flawed building design that did it in? I think part of the answer lies in Summerston which has a large population but is still thriving . ( the new low level Darnley by the way is a modern attractive estate with gardens and obvious boundary lines around each in... i.e. this is my property and you are clearly trespassing on it....probably  the way it should have been constructed from the start.)
Still in Summerston. Wide pleasant roads, a nice environment and no sign of deck access development, graffiti or vandalism. Very few of these deck access type estates survived for more than 20 to 30 years after construction- I wonder why...,_Sheffield
the most infamous one probably being the Divis Flats complex in Belfast which proved perfect for IRA snipers... elevated and hard to discover in the network of open dark corridors above the city scape below. A 'Streets in the Sky' concept that was in vogue at that time. The Park Hill Estate in Sheffield is one of the few survivors from that period and doubled for the demolished Divis Flats in the film 71. The included link has a photo gallery to give readers an idea of what deck access estates looked like as Divis, Darnley and Park Hill were similar in design.  
Looking from Summerston across to where I was earlier in Gilshochill. Glasgow has over 40 separate districts with hill in the place name. The Drumlin City of many different summits.
One from Maryhill looking over towards Glasgow University tower between the hi flats. Glasgow used to have more high flats than any other UK city or town and even though many of the tallest blocks have been demolished it still has dozens left.
Maryhill Park sits between Summerston and Acre Road so I had a cycle round this green oasis as well. Although a small to medium sized park it has extensive views over a wide area so you can't really see the park boundaries when you are in it... just a wide sweeping landscape to the north.
Campsie Fells. Luckily I stayed in sunshine here as at this point a fast but heavy rain shower hit the higher, west side of the Campsie Fells.. always nice to watch from afar as long as you can avoid it.
It was pouring down here for a full twenty minutes but jammy me managed to stay dry a few miles further south.
Acre Road came next. Still within the district of Maryhill but isolated and separated from the rest of the city and Maryhill itself by the adjacent park and the River Kelvin. A Glasgow mid level over-spill estate it has always struck me as a far flung city outpost somehow but I remain fascinated by it as it just seems to have materialized in the middle of green fields and countryside like an urban mirage. A Maryhill brigadoon.
It's really just one dead end road with various mid level blocks leading off it, a bus terminus and a couple of small shops. It also meets up with the West of Scotland Science Park campus of modern parkland setting low plan research and development facilities and that is where I headed next.
Bumble bee in a wild rose.
Young swans.
West of Scotland Science park entrance. The reason for cycling through here was to avoid the busy Maryhill Road  and instead take a quieter parallel route along a walkway/ cycle track leading down into Dawsholm Park by crossing the River Kelvin again.
River Kelvin heading down to meet the River Clyde at Partick. Kelvingrove Park view here.
West of Scotlland walkway/ cycle track. This runs beside Maryhill Road and skirts the left hand edge of the cluster of low buildings enclosed in this pleasant woodland setting. At the bottom of this slope a sharp right hand turn leads up into Dawholm Park.
The River Kelvin at Patrick. Smooth and placid for most of its Partick it suddenly develops several small rock shelves and waterfalls as seen here near Yorkhill Hospital. Glasgow's other but less well known major river flowing through the city districts, in less than a mile from here it pours into the River Clyde beside the Riverside Museum and Tall Ship. During the industrial revolution however it's steady and reliable water supply powered various mills and factories along its banks, most of them long vanished or buried under greenery.
Dawsholm Park itself sits on a hillside with expansive views and few would guess now that this area was originally large bare spoil heaps over 100 years ago- landscaped and remodeled from coal waste into dark woodlands and sunny meadows. This is a view of Anniesland, Moss Heights and Cardonald with the Renfrewshire Hills behind. My childhood green upland playground of rolling braes is here in this photo, the much loved countryside lying between Nitshill and Barrhead. The rim of the bowl that Glasgow sits in very apparent here.
And another local range of hills I knew intimately growing up. Looking south towards The Brownside Braes and Gleniffer Braes between the towns of Barrhead and Paisley. Barclay Curle Crane on the River Clyde here looking across Scotstoun district and South Street.
Dawsholm Park view towards Jordanhill- Scotstounhill districts.
A buzzard beside the 24 floor Anniesland Court tower, The tallest listed building in Scotland and the only skyscraper in the city to have a category A listing so it may be around a while longer than the others.
Close up of buzzard over park.
Glasgow's new super hospital, also hi- rise with a helicopter pad on the roof for outlying emergencies, folk on the Firth of Clyde islands etc. that would take hours travelling by road.
Looking north west towards Faifley, Drumchapel and Clydebank with the Kilpatrick Hills this time as a backdrop.
And one of the nearer Kelvin Court flats, Anniesland College as was, and Great Western Road area with Gartnavel Hospital sandstone chimneys middle left.
Seagulls on the canal and more rain showers arriving.
Water Lilies.
And a sunset to end. An epic trip.. but only 4 hours long.

Liked this in the 1950s 1960s.. still think its funny now.

And a clip from a modern hard hitting film I really liked. Watched this on Film 4 recently. Cracking adrenalin rush movie which features the deck access Divis Flats. No surprise for guessing where the most lawless district of Belfast used to be when they were still standing  :o)