Wednesday 29 November 2017

Reflections. A Glasgow Night Walk.

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Normally I'd run a mile if anyone asked me to go out on a Christmas shopping trip but the caller was Belinda's mum Anne so I said yes. Above is Frasers Department Store in Glasgow's Argyle Street, which occupies the same 'head of department stores' slot as Jenners in Edinburgh. While we were shopping (yawn :o) the trip to see the Christmas lights in Edinburgh last year was mentioned and the observation that the lights there were much better, now that they'd seen both sets to compare. I had not seen much of Belinda and Anne since that time as both have their own circle of friends but recently we had reconnected again.

Radisson Hotel on Argyle Street. Right next to this a brand new hotel is under construction. One thing about Glasgow is that there's always new buildings rising and falling year by year. An exciting component of any large city. Glasgow certainly has loads of hotels.
This is it here, right next to the central station bridge. The only present I was looking for was a belt to hold my trousers up as the old one was on its way out. £12 was on offer under the bridge for a plastic bling belt so I waited and got two traditional leather ones for £4 pounds each in my local Bearsden Asda which is the nearest one to my own neighbourhood. I think that's less than I paid 20 years ago for the last one. Although there were loads of Christmas shoppers milling around we also noticed that Glasgow City Centre has two types of shops- bargain basement cut rate or high end expensive with nothing in between.
Anne also commented on the fact that nothing had changed since last Christmas with dozens of beggars dotted around the main shopping streets, some now in tents on the pavements, as it has been below zero this month. People have been giving them money, hence sleeping bags, food and pop up tents but should it really be ordinary people's burden to shoulder? A recent documentary on Panorama about VAT  showed that online shopping services from overseas are destroying UK jobs here by undercutting and exploiting VAT loopholes to the tune of over one billion every year that should have went to the taxpayer. I can see why a cashless society and online shopping benefits large companies as it means far less staff employed and higher profits but what does society get out of it in the long run? Services are still getting cut every year and with nearly all the public toilets closed where do all the homeless go to the toilet every day? Surely that's a public health hazard for every city and a mini humanitarian crisis right there not to mention people dying on the streets when they succumb to the cold, disease, and putting people off their own Christmas cheer but the political will to do anything appears to be absent currently with most of the homeless units full or shut due to cutbacks. Homelessness has apparently risen by 120 percent in the UK since 2010 and the very visible evidence of that is apparent on every shopping street.
I should just be putting photos up about nice things but I'm a visually orientated  person normally and not completely without human emotions or empathy myself so I do notice it despite growing up surrounded by scenes of poverty, squalor and vices everyday and accepting it as part and parcel of the human condition. Homelessness will always be a small element of any civilized society of course but in recent years we seem to be excelling at it. It is very noticeable these days just how much its grown so to not mention it on a visit to the city centre would be like going on holiday to Rio de Janeiro  and totally ignoring Christ the Redeemer on his mountain top. It is that visible on every pavement and city corner wherever you walk.
Anyway, back to the chocolate box stuff that any popular blog should be about. Bad me again...
It turned out this wasn't a major shopping trip after-all with just a few stores visited then a gallery show ( which I enjoyed, thank you) as Belinda's a big fan of graphic and unusual art, as am I. If you wonder what we have in common it's that. We get each other artistically... and that's not an everyday occurrence with people you meet... in fact it's very rare.
This being the case I mentioned the fact that Glasgow could easily be the equal of Edinburgh for visual entertainment in other ways, rather than Christmas lights, and suggested a walk along the River Clyde from the City Centre to Partick as dusk was descending, to prove my point. ( I'd already done a similar walk on the east coast with Belinda separately a few weeks ago that she really enjoyed so this was the Glasgow version. With Mum in tow its the nearest I'll ever get to a proper family invitation in the UK- and that's how I think of them for those wondering.
By luck or judgement we timed it perfectly and with frosty temperatures and light winds mirror reflections in the water were guaranteed. This is passing The Quay entertainment complex on the other side of the river from us watching. Fast food and films on offer. I've been here a few times to see movies in the past though I mostly buy them for £3 quid now and see them at home as it's cheaper.
Still on The Quay complex. There are good walkways/ cycle tracks on both sides of the riverbank here with excellent views of the city although the northern shore, where we were is continuous up to Partick whereas the other side is not. Both Belinda and Anne had been into Glasgow at night before of course, to see films, other entertainments, or shopping, but had never thought of a night walk along the river linking everything together like this. Obviously, it can be dangerous down here at night late on but it's dark around 4pm in the winter months and still busy with workers coming out of offices, shops etc  so safe enough up until around 7:00- 8:00pm. The biggest danger is getting run over by a cyclist as they are completely silent speeding up from behind without warning during the nightly commute. Given Glasgow's rush hour traffic problems it's a popular mode of transport for health conscious city workers stuck at a desk all day though not without risks due to dark pavements and unseen obstructions.
Apartment reflections.
I was switching camera modes from night-time to sunset to auto focus depending on what I thought would give best results and a clear picture having been disappointed with past night efforts in fading light. Night photography is tricky when walking with others that want a fast snap action, attention paid to them and an unbroken stroll along the esplanade. It did give them time to really appreciate their surroundings though. Anderston Complex here- one of my favourites in the city.
The Kingston Bridge carrying the multi lane M8 across the river.
STV Studios. Scottish News and Entertainment TV HQ.
and close beside it BBC HQ Scottish and UK TV Entertainment and News.
A building from a previous age. The former co-op HQ in Tradeston. Used to get excellent cooked breakfasts in here in the upstairs canteen in the 1970s. Hot rolls and sausage.Yum yum. A fantastic period building up close.
Circle reflection. The 'squinty bridge' at Finnieston. Officially known as the Clyde Arc. Note the old Clyde tunnel exit rotunda lit up. This is now occupied by a regular company after sitting either abandoned or used for temporary exhibits for many years.
The Rotunda Restaurant on this side. The original Clyde tunnel entrance/exit under the river. My Dad took me down this atmospheric hole in the 1960s and I still have vivid memories of that incredible experience. Probably why I still love tunnels and dark places to this day. Amazing place and a fascinating city back then. Another age ago.
 "You should do this for a living." I was told by my shivering companions. "You're a natural tour guide."
"Too cold and weather dependent for much profit. Health and safety risk. Very short season." I replied. "I'm surprised hotels don't offer it though- or maybe they do? I am available at a cheap price."
"So I've heard."  quipped Belinda.
Clyde Auditorium and Crowne Plaza hotel. We were all fascinated by the little glowing pink square going up and down this hotel as it moved guests between floors. Never seen it lit up before although a common feature in American hotels.
A better view here of the pink lift in this 16 floor hotel. Might be four of them in total although we only spotted one in action.
The SSE Hydro. Seating 13,000 people and the world's 8th busiest music venue apparently.
Daily Record and other newspaper publishing buildings.
The Clydeside Distillery- a new project opened recently along the river.
The Riverside Musuem near Partick approaching the end of our walk.
Student apartments and blue underpass. River Kelvin Walkway at Partick.
Glasgow Harbour and the end. Both Belinda and Anne seemed to enjoy it, despite the freezing temperatures, so we queued up in Partick to get the bus home then went our separate ways. A memorable trip of around 1 to 2 hours easy pace.

A lovely video to go with it. A Modern Classic. Fantastic seascape visuals in this. Best viewed full screen.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Kilpatrick Hills To The Campsie Fells. Faifley to Milngavie.

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As I thoroughly enjoyed my day around the Kilpatrick Hills in the last post I thought I might as well walk the rest of this range eastwards- this time starting at Faifley, on the northern outskirts of Clydebank/ Glasgow, then finishing at Milngavie. On another stunning sunny day the following weekend I again boarded the number 2 bus through Clydebank, seen here, to Faifley, a housing scheme on the upper margins of the urban sprawl.
I was also lucky enough to see a familiar small plane from the Emerald Isle coming in to land at Glasgow Airport. They often fly directly over Clydebank with the landing wheels dropping down before touching earth on the runway which is located just the other side of the River Clyde in Renfrewshire.
I jumped off the number 2 bus just before the Faifley terminus on the eastern edge of the scheme. A right of way path crossing Douglas Muir to Milngavie, skirting the edge of a large sand quarry, has always existed here, but has now been incorporated into the Clyde Coastal Path, a 55km long 3 day walk, from Clyde Coast Skelmorlie/Wemyss Bay to Milngavie. All over Scotland in recent years a plethora of long distance walks have appeared in practically every area covering the country. Most of the tracks and paths have always existed of course, mainly used by locals or keen outdoor walkers but now they are 'official' and  signposted. In some respects this is good because it does let you know where they all are without resorting to obscure guide books, pouring over countless OS maps, or developing a decades long knowledge of the various districts to find out where they all are. Now a mouse click or a smart phone is all you need.
Clyde Coast Path link here with a detailed zoom in map of the route. (and the section covered by this walk can be seen in large scale down to individual street names.)

The Clyde Coastal path travels up the side of the last/ nearest row of tenements in photo above and then heads right through woodlands, across Concho Road then up over farmland towards Milngavie.
As I'd done it before around a decade ago I fancied a sneaky alternative so I headed left on good paths through attractive open woodlands to reach another right of way to the left of the electricity pylons (in photo above) then followed a signposted path through fields to the Jaw Reservoir.
Erskine Bridge in the distance. Although on opposite sides of the city sprawl, Faifley is very similar to where I grew up in Nitshill, two medium sized tenement housing estates on the margins of the urban jungle with loads of good walks in the surrounding countryside. I always feel very at home in Faifley.
One of the countryside trails just behind the estate. It has five or six of these scenic paths crisscrossing the gently rolling wooded landscape and roe deer, squirrels, foxes and other wild animals are only a few minutes walk away from tenement land. One great advantage of growing up on the outer rim of various estates/schemes is that it's so easy to escape into glorious nature on your own doorstep if you are that way inclined. I don't know if I would have discovered nature as my muse if I'd grown up in the heart of that dark jungle instead of on the outskirts.
This is five minutes walk from the tenements in the third photo and another scenic path leading up to Cochno Farm. Although I grew up in a fairly rough estate with the usual crime, grime and gangs, all my free time was spent in countryside like this- observing animals, having adventures with like minded friends, and exploring the exceptional drumlin wonderland I was lucky enough to grow up in.
A car park does exist on Cochno Road that is popular with dog-walkers and locals but it is secluded and can feel very empty in poor weather on the edge of an urban setting. I would park in it for an hour or two to walk the surrounding paths but would not fancy leaving a car there unattended for a full day trip.. and never overnight. It is handy however when popular and well used on a nice day to explore this underrated but beautiful area with a variety of woodland paths in the surrounding landscape.
Just beside the car park and Edinbarnet Nursing Home a signposted path is followed uphill then through a gate up the side of fields to gain higher ground and Jaw Reservoir. The route is obvious and well marked.
You soon leave the houses behind for the upper slopes, sheep pastures, farms and panoramic views. Dogs should be kept under close control here.
A waterfall higher up marks the Jaw Reservoir over-spill exit channel.
Before the mirror-like beauty of the reservoir itself and the surrounding high moorland.
My plan now was to head east taking a line along the side of this pine forest until I reached the Clyde Coastal Path again. Don't be fooled by the wide path here as it soon ends and the rest is wild and wet, frequently rough going underfoot, often jumping tussocks beside the forest. It's not that bad though and I kept to forestry land inside the pine fence across trackless but grassy ground. This is not a right of way path but fenced off private farm land so I avoided all the fences, around six, and the farmers fields by keeping very close in to the forest edge until I was well past and could descend easily to the Clyde Coastal Path again past the sand quarry. I have had a slight run in with farmers hereabouts many years ago coming up from the other side then getting turned back to find a different way but I'm never confrontational as its a difficult job already and politeness always gets better results. Invisibility gets even better results so I normally just 'ghost' past any place that seems tricky now. If no-one knows you are even there and you drift past silently everyone stays happy. Too often farmers on the edge of urban areas see the worst of humanity with dogs attacking livestock, general vandalism and rural crime so it's not unnatural they are slightly suspicious of any strangers intentions. Farm dogs can also be aggressive to strangers if wandering loose near the farm buildings.
Soon the northern side of the city came into view. Maryhill/Springburn hi flats in this photo. There are or were guard dogs in this sand quarry area the last time I passed.
When my route along the pine forest edge got too difficult to maintain and I was well past the farms I stepped over the by now knee high fence then cut down through open grasslands to reach the Clyde Coastal Path.
By this point the Campsie Fells were the dominant view ahead and the next few miles offered up some delightful scenery on paths I hadn't walked before. Always good to get new views and unexplored trails even in an area I know well.
Secluded house near the Stockiemuir Road, A809, above Milngavie.
A view of Dumgoyne, a distinctive volcanic plug that marks the western end of the Campsie Fells.
It was at this point, just above Tambowie Farm that an open gate and a very old wooden sign post pointed down  through a wet field towards this house in view. Having had run ins with farm dogs before I was in two minds about walking through the farm buildings on the track heading in that direction but this path down the edge of the field led through a stile to the left of this house then onto the A809 avoiding the farmyard altogether. Heading down through the edge of this field seems to be the correct route anyway as it leads to these signposts.
Immediately across the road further signs highlight a zig zag series of paths leading down into Milngavie. As the route from this point twists around and detours past various farms by using open fields the signs were handy for once as without them I'd have been completely lost as to the next move.
With the signs it was easy enough and a very pleasant journey. A classic five star walk on this stretch.
The countryside here reminded me very much of the childhood fields that I used to explore with friends a five minute walk from my house. Short grass, munching cows and tended hedgerows as far as the eye could see. It was paradise for children then to visit every summer. When you see Dams To Darnley Country Park now its an overgrown waist high jungle year round with the farms gone. Apart from a few paths cut through it D to D is now an impenetrable maze of small jaggy bushes, long grass and brambles with around 80 percent of it totally inaccessible. It used to look like this so a very clear example of what livestock and farmers do to manage landscapes we largely take for granted as 'natural' when in fact they are carefully maintained. Dams to Darnley is still a nice area for a walk of course- it just looks nothing like it did 45 years ago... a completely different landscape without bovine lawnmowers in it or farmers to manage the field systems and I wonder what one suits wildlife more..... I'd suspect this one. The well maintained variety. When the farms shut and the cattle and sheep go its not long before everything is waist high and completely tangled a few years later.
Another set of dams- this time Milngavie waterworks. Another lovely place for walking. The start of the West Highland Way runs through here so you can link up with that to continue this walk by adding on Mugdock Country Park and its varied woodlands before descending into Milngavie. Around 14kms total distance. Paths obvious on OS map sheet
This is the edge of it here.
I was happy with what I'd done however and with shorter daylight hours I made my way down into Milngavie before getting a bus home. Another cracking walk and day out. Around 4 to 5 hours for this one as well... easy pace.

One of the strangest but most memorable videos on You Tube. A personal long time favourite of mine. What's it about? The eternal battle of the sexes? A comment on religion and age old traditions? Or on cruelty to animals and people? Very ambiguous, but full of symbolism and hidden meanings. You decide.

Thursday 16 November 2017

Rediscovering The Kilpatrick Hills. Glasgow's Arthur's Seat. A Gallery.

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As I've not been back to the Kilpatrick Hills above Glasgow for a few years I thought I'd revisit them to see the magnificent views over Clydebank, Glasgow, Paisley, Renfrewshire, East Kilbride etc etc...
Of all the hill ranges that surround Glasgow the Kilpatricks are the only ones where you really do feel like you are standing above the city- looking down on it like a living map. The main reason why Glasgow has a tall, man made viewpoint tower near the city centre is that it doesn't have an Arthur's seat in the middle of the urban sprawl- a high natural observation point where you can look down over the complete city, end to end. It does have dozens of smaller drumlins across the various districts but they are too low to give a proper bird's eye view of the entire city in one panorama. Scotland's largest city sits on a glacial, family sized, egg box carton sea level plain surrounded by low hill ranges. One of the reasons it regularly hits the heights for UK air pollution levels and spectacular winter fog inversions is its geology, Britain's 4th largest post industrial city sits within a shallow bowl. When winds are absent anything within it lingers for weeks or days at a time and I clearly remember, with a few adult males, getting off the bus in the 1960s into thick yellow fog then walking ahead to scope out the road beyond the headlight beams when the driver was completely blinded and could only see yards ahead. An exciting adventure as a schoolboy and the stuff of vivid dreams later on- many nights spent wandering unsighted for hours at a time in my bed through that mysterious yellow realm with a world of half seen structures lying ahead. When industrial and domestic chimney smoke was an issue from the  early 1800s until the late 1960s Glasgow, like a lot of UK cities, had a reputation for long lasting smog. One memory bubble that came back to me recently with full impact, like a punch to the face. How could I ever forget such memorable dreams from that time? You always need a catalyst to recall.

The Campsies, to the north, offer a distant view of the city but are too far away to really see much in detail... the Castlemilk/ Cathkin Braes, slightly closer but still viewed across the districts rather than downwards... Brownside Braes to the south west, roughly the same.
The Kilpatricks therefore are the Goldilocks Hills in my mind... high enough and close enough to be just right... and the putrid yellow smogs of my childhood days that killed many thousands in British cities until the clean air acts of 1956 and 1968 made a real difference to health are largely absent today.
Above, moving right to left are Drumchapel Water Tower (white round) A corner of Linkwood Flats (white hi rise, still in Drumchapel) the white and red stripe of Anniesland Tower and the spire of the University of Glasgow. ( in darker shadow)

Most people that grow up and live in cities, towns or villages (unless they change drastically, something happens untoward, or they are just too quiet to live and get jobs in) have a long lasting history  and a very real love affair with that place. It is my eternal totem. Although Glasgow changes all the time with new buildings springing up as soon as you turn your back on it and entire districts rising and falling year by year, decade by decade it has always been an exciting lifelong companion to share my life with... and it never lets me down..... so to see it spread out in all its glory across the flat plain below is both a wonder and a joy. Over 2 million people (this includes all the other towns and urban areas all the way to Hamilton) spread out in one vast view makes an incredible and thrilling sight that I never tire of seeing. In the photo above, the Kilpatrick Hills rise in a long escarpment above Clydebank and a faint balcony trail can be found running along its edge. Most folk, being baggers, just head for the two or three highest points in the range further back towards the plateau like interior.. which is great as it means you can easily avoid them.
Which I did. This area used to be little frequented except by locals but with the internet it's got busier year on year and dozens of cars line the minor road above Old Kilpatrick every good dry day.This has caused problems with local farmers, service workers etc needing access, so a while ago barriers were erected, presumably by the local council or officials, to stop anyone parking on the grass verges and they now park beside the bowling club/ train station. This area is also packed any sunny day nowadays and just means the locals can't park there to use these facilities.
A situation I have noticed happening on Skye as well as most pictures on TV recently of that famous Scottish island show long lines of cars and churned up lay-bys in summer near any famous outdoor location. The last time we were at the Storr and Quirang on Skye a few years ago, (world famous rock formations used in dozens of films)  hundreds of cars lined the road on both sides with the existing lay-bys totally overwhelmed. A growing theme in the countryside in popular places these days. Knowing that and leaving the house late around 10:00am I took the train instead, one way, to Old Kilpatick as I suspected I'd never get a parking place. This proved to be the case. As the farm track up to the high-points looked  busy with walkers  I picked the alternative option of this grassy route up onto the ridge line. With Scotland's wet climate and hill-walking more popular than ever grassy trails like this one and empty lands without people everywhere are an increasingly rare commodity these days. Somewhat ironically, I've often found the lands surrounding urban areas and in the Central Belt can be far quieter than the traditional wilderness areas- like the Scottish Highlands.
And what a view you get up here. two million plus people take up a lot of room and on a clear day you can see the urban sprawl almost stretching to the horizon.
The southern uplands bulk of Tinto in the distance here, looking across the city.
A view of Dalmuir flats, The Titan Crane and The River Clyde.
Erskine Bridge. As I enjoy balcony trails for the views I maintained a wandering line along the escarpment edge instead of walking further up into the interior. By doing this I was completely on my own so it just shows how focused most people are on one thing- summit ticking.
Old Kilpatrick and Erskine Bridge. The train station here is very handy for the hills and I thoroughly recommend it. Get off at Kilpatrick Station and walk uphill past the Bowling Club then the route up the farm track is signposted to Loch Humphrey. Enjoying the solitude I carried on in the direction of Dumbarton.
A view of Dumbarton Rock.
And a kestrel looking for a mouse or vole in the long grass
A view across to the rolling uplands of Renfrewshire.
This really is an excellent balcony trail.
It was at this point I discovered signs of heavy machinery leading into the interior. Since my teenage years the Kilpatrick Hills have been largely un-fenced and open plan- offering great spacious walks across an empty upland habitat from the River Clyde to the Highland boundary fault at Drymen where the higher mountains start.. You often see small groups of roe deer dancing across the tall grass meadows here in what is probably the largest expanse of wild open ground anywhere near the city. Unfortunately, that has now changed as forestry interests appear to own most of it and extensive new planting is now going on at a fast pace. Inland, large areas have been fenced off, young trees planted, and access roads into them created.
This was a bit of a shock as I was intending to head inland at this point over previously open landscapes but several seven foot tall fences blocked off my intended route. I did meet someone after this point who said it might be the Woodland Trust or the Forestry Commission. Although these may well be 'the good guys' I have to admit I'm slightly conflicted about this whole subject. The Woodland Trust have a large site at the nearby Lang Craigs and landscaped the area there, planting trees, improving access for all by creating new walks/mountain bike paths and ripping out one of the most spectacular massed displays of Rhododendrons anywhere in the UK as they 'didn't belong.'
National parks often have the same effect on me as they just seem to encourage more folk into them, some misbehave then inevitably you tend to get restrictions that you never had before when less people visited and access and publicity was not as good. I mention this because a long line of white tape has been tied in place leading down to my grassy, largely unknown and unfrequented balcony trail that looked suspiciously like a template for a future mountain bike run. Troubling stuff.
Also troubling was trying to find my intended path through three different sets of high fences placed between Loch Humphrey in parallel lines... seen below...
and Greenside Reservoir ...see also below... an easy walk before across open, un-fenced, ground.
Eventually I managed it without climbing over them so it can still be done but it was a bit of a maze to get through and involved some strange high level detours round the side of lochs.
A lesser trail under the Slacks. This is what the fenced area used to look like. I suppose I'll get used to it eventually as all things change and there are long established forestry plantations up here already but it will look very different to what it was before in the past- high open grassland stretching for miles.
I did find an info board at the start which gave me the idea of  a circular route  across the Kilpatricks ending up in Faifley where I could get a bus back to my house.
This I did and had a great day of around 4 to 5 hours duration, easy walking.
A spectacular trip.
Great views...
And a full moon to end. I've zoomed this up to the max to show 'the man.'

This video looks like a fabulous coral reef in a shallow sea,  somewhere really exotic, but it is in fact the wonders of creation happening inside your own body. After seeing this it should make you wonder about needless wars, death, violence and torture occurring daily around the planet. We are stardust....and part of some great unknown cosmic plan. Amazing visuals.