Tuesday 25 September 2018

Six Parks. Four Seasons. An Epic Bike Tour Compilation.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
One of my favourite bike tours in my home area is a circular trip around the west end of Glasgow, then crossing the River Clyde over to the south side districts, then through Paisley, then Renfrew- then back across the River Clyde via the Renfrew Ferry to the West End again. Although passing through urban areas it is a very green route normally and can be varied at will to include new districts off the template, using quiet urban streets, or cycle tracks, or a variety of bridges and tunnels, to create almost endless variety off the basic circular tour route. A fast head down cyclist could probably do the complete circle in a couple of hours but I like to dawdle along, take photos, explore places of interest and just enjoy myself so 3 to 5 hours for me normally. It's one bike tour I never tire of in any season so although I did it again last week here's a compilation over several years and different seasons taken on the route.
As it follows the River Clyde some of the way there's always the potential to see something new or interesting. Small warship here and a new boat I haven't seen before. Scotstoun district.
Although Scotstoun was once full of shipyards backing onto the river, still has factory units, one shipyard and works lining South Street, this elevated cycle track following an old railway line provides a green pleasant ribbon with good views at times over this tenement dotted, industrial west end district. This leads in turn into Victoria Park, full of flower beds, an interesting pond, woods and meadows that you can cycle through at low speed, with care for other park visitors.
The back woods. Victoria Park in early summer.
Swans near the pond.
Glasgow Harbour walkway/cycle track. If  sunny I often get off the bike and walk along this section just to enjoy it more and make it last longer. A beautiful highlight on the route.
Boats rides offered to visitors at Partick. Glasgow Harbour in distance, behind.
Power boat taking tourists up and down the Clyde with a barge collecting half submerged planks and blown over trees after winter storms. This is early spring with Govan district on the far bank taken from the Riverside Museum. Obviously hitting a submerged tree floating down the river at power boat speed might give passengers more of a thrill ride than they were expecting, not to mention expensive boat and engine repairs.
University of Glasgow spire with student flats then the TS Queen Mary steamer. A recent addition to Glasgow, undergoing extensive refurbishment and hopefully a future extra tourist attraction for the city and its shipbuilding past. At one time a fifth of all the world's ships started life on the River Clyde. Railway engines and additional track components were another leading export to every country at that time.
These days it's mainly war ships under government contracts built on the Clyde and at other UK yards.
Or boats collecting scrap metal from the UK's 4th largest city ( after London, Birmingham, and Leeds)
A different scarp metal jetty near Yoker/Renfrew.
Same one -different metal mountain and autumn colours. Rose Bay Willow Herb ( Fireweed in USA) just going to seed here sending drifts of white cotton into the air. A few years ago I was taking a photo of a 28 floor skyscraper when I noticed something unusual in the zoom near the top of the building- it looked like tiny alien space ships catching the sunlight, almost transparent and rotating wildly, 28 floors up, zipping past the windows.  After a moment of stunned disbelief I realized with a jolt it was large clumps of these seeds in different shapes and numbers floating past. Thousands of them after five minutes observation. I'd seen them at low levels of course but up until then I never realized just how high they could go. When the railroads first spread across North America these light as air seeds followed the railway lines, either inside the carriages themselves as floating, barely noticed, passengers or given extra lift by the movements of the passing trains. Who knows how high or how far they drift into the winds that disperse them around the planet. If they get high enough to invade the jet stream they could cross entire oceans and land a continent away in a few days. Even a humble seed is a genuine wonder.
Once over Bells Bridge at Finnieston and across the river to the south side views open up from minor city drumlins towards the Kilpartrick Hills and Campsie Fells to the North. A winter view from Hillington Heights here to the Campsies, another potential alternative offshoot district variation on the circular bike tour taking in Elder Park, Govan Church and it's collection of Viking Stones (bike lock required here) Cardonald Park, and Craigton Cemetery plus Moss Heights Flats.(for the views ).
Bellahouston Park is another highlight and my favourite halfway round lunch stop. A hilltop, a park bench, some food, great panoramas over Mosspark and Pollok and an unbroken 'sea of trees' contained within a large city yet stretching all the way to the far horizon and a view that always astounds, even now. How can such a large expanse of trees, yet so few visible urban buildings exist within a built up area? Impossibly true. The nearby Pollok Country Park provides that view and the answer, the largest public park and mature expanse of unbroken woodlands within the city limits, combined with several golf courses. A child's dream world for which I had a dream trio to explore it with, growing up. My very own Moonrise Kingdom experience.
A small part of that view over Pollok Park woodlands here. In full autumn colours. These woods are large enough on the minor back trails to get perplexed in. For a short time anyway. Delightfully lost in my case. I love that rare feeling of not knowing exactly where you are in a landscape, especially within a city I know so well. Any large forest area is the original maze and this was ours.
Sherbrooke. One of the handful of castles visited on the bike tour and the area I often visited during my childhood as I had relations nearby. Other castles dot this quiet affluent district and it remains a favourite location on the bike tour. As my relations had three females, girls my own age, it was always an extra special treat to go off exploring with them as most of my same age school friends were male. Girls were a different breed entirely. Strange and exotic creatures. They still are.
In winter, offering free food from my favourite lunch bench, I'm usually joined by avian friends who provide good photographic interest in return.
Many spectacular sunsets I've seen from here.
Even stepping in and out of my own personal sunbeam/ other worlds portal on certain occasions. And why not? I am a human rainbow after all. A true nature child.
A daffodil reflection in Spring.
or a shadow and shade survivor.
Leverndale Tower. The psychiatric hospital in Pollok I mentioned in the Edinburgh posts. Set within its own wooded grounds and boasting the usual Victorian Gothic architecture this place drew me in as soon as I could ride a bike to here. Any place that's mysterious and unknown- looking like this- in a land of similar sized tenements and streets is bound to attract teenage attention- but it was the actual grounds more than what went on inside here that attracted my interest at first. Although only the original tower remains untouched of the extensive complex that stood here it's still a powerful landmark for miles around and a cycle track/ walkway I frequent at least once a year on my circular bike tour travels through the grounds beside the River Cart. Still beautiful- still mysterious.
( Although advances in treatment for mental health problems have improved greatly since the bad old days a recent programme I watched a few days ago. 'Kids in Crisis- Panorama.' highlighted that under-funding- increased demand for services- and lack of staff in certain specialized areas means that many vulnerable children are either going undetected or fail to get any help when they need it. Teenage years are tricky anyway at the best of times but the current technology and social media revolution/growth must surely heighten any latent paranoia, feelings of low self worth, and increase addictive or narcissistic tendencies to a unprecedented degree. I can feel that effect to a lesser degree myself sometimes with this blog as in ..." Why didn't they like that post? Why so few comments for that one? Why so many for that one and how can I repeat it? (The cynically manipulative dopamine rush of any gambling product to pull you in.)  or...Have I pissed them off somehow with something I've said unintentionally???"  It's very easy to get sucked into cyberland... as if that's all that matters....then gradually stop living in the real world... and spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a screen instead.

                                                                A view over Pollok
 Luckily, I'm a grown up and remember an age before social media arrived so I can understand what's happening and squash those feelings flat before they gain control over me but for anyone of teenage years being judged, sentenced, condemned by online trial, applauded, deliberately deluded, criticized or praised daily...this often is their entire life, biggest reward system, and notion of self worth in society. There's a good reason why the people that develop all these social media products often restrict or ban entirely their use among there own children as they know it's highly addictive and can be damaging.
For example....On a recent bus ride a normal family group I noticed in a passing park were walking slowly through beautiful flowerbeds on either side yet everyone- mum, dad, four children, including two aged around 7 to 10 were all glued to separate screens intently- hardly a glance away from it's controlling influence.. Each locked into their own small world yet moving together as a fugue state collective unit. They might as well have stayed indoors for all the attention they paid to their surroundings or each other. Turned into zombies by the all important screen, even outdoors. Only granny, walking behind, was fully human- no phone visible... just enjoying the park for its own sake- and not as a backdrop casual selfie snap either as an afterthought - and as such completely isolated by the rest of the group who walked along slowly as one organism, staring down into their hands the whole time. A different species to them. A brief snapshot of modern life glimpsed from a bus by a person equally addicted to landscape photography and posting online every week so I am aware of a certain hypocrisy in that viewpoint :) I rarely use a mobile phone or any gadgets outside though unless someone calls me first for a brief conversation and I'm always very observant and interested in my surroundings at all times. You can feel very alone in a crowd of people however- even more than on a solo walk, especially in smart phone land where ignoring people you are with in favour of online interests, popularity checks, and number of hits is the new normal and an addictive drug to literally die for in some cases. Is the asylum now within the community at large? Or is the community the real asylum to escape from? Recent long bus trips and casual observations have made me wonder about that.)
                                                               A view over Nitshill.
Given where I could have grown up- Easterhouse- ( It was a walk round the asylum grounds there not very far from the house they were offered that changed my parents minds instantly) so you could say an asylum delivered my destiny. Like a standing stone in the landscape. A portal to jump through. And jump they did- back on the bus to decline the offer to move. The second council house they were offered a few months later was here. Pollok and Nitshill. My childhood and teenage years paradise home. Also a fixture on the modern bike tour circle.
Easterhouse- flat- not as many trees and parks-swampy fields containing little of special interest- high gang violence.
 Pollok- equally large in size and population and gang violence but full of rolling wooded small hills, farms, fields of cattle, ponds, dams, and old castles to explore. Thank you God and Bishoploch Mental Institution- the asylum that truly saved my life. ( it's now a local nature reserve beside Easterhouse but one of the few I've never visited, funnily enough.)
Barshaw Park in Paisley. A winter view.
Barshaw Park again. Summer pond reflections.
The Renfew Ferry crossing back over the River Clyde then up towards Anniesland and home. New apartment block constructed here just recently. And this is it.
And after all that exercise- my reward. Pork chop and egg omelette for dinner. Yum yum. The end.

Friday 14 September 2018

Edinburgh. The Long Walk. A Grail Quest. The Final Part.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
It took two local Edinburgh buses to get from Easter Craiglockhart Hill to Corstorphine Hill, the last summit on our seven hills of Edinburgh tour.
Edinburgh Zoo was our drop off point and by that time Anne and I were both refreshed and rested from our journey across the city with plenty of new districts observed from the upper deck. I've been in Edinburgh Zoo a few times now- £20 adults £17 concession.- so we didn't go in.
Corstorphine Hill contains the largest concentration of public access mature woodlands within the Edinburgh city boundary but on the zoo side it also has a few open slopes of short grass and meadows with views. The summit and the far side have no views at all only deep woods and paths snaking under them. A real 'Mirkwood' of a place and large enough to get semi lost in for a brief time.
The high flats of Wester Hailes and the outlying Pentland summits here from the open meadows, halfway up. Spotted a roe deer here, even though it's a popular hill for dog-walkers.
Being contrary we didn't stay in the open meadows long but cut across sideways on a  heavily overgrown back trail filled with brambles, thistles and other jaggy plants.
"Can you explain to me why on earth are we leaving a perfectly good easy grass path for this jungle hell hole?" Anne inquired, not without good reason as it was hard going through the undergrowth at this point and painful.
"All will be revealed shortly." I explained. "Trust in me." I hissed like the snake in the Jungle Book and increased my eyeball size with a fixed manic stare.
And it was revealed. Shortly after. A grazing zerbra. This little known trail leads past some of the zoo paddocks where you can see the inmates for free. Channeling a reminder of my old childhood psychiatric hospital grounds illicit explorations here made me all nostalgic and the thrill of seeing something you would normally have to pay for was an added bonus.
"Aw, poor wee bugger." Anne was smitten by this little convict.
" Typical Australian." I joked. "Happiest behind bars of some description."
I thought about it for a minute. "You know, we are incredibly lucky in this country. It might be cold and wet in summer but we don't get much snow for being this far north, it's green most of the year, and all our insects and animals are harmless. Sleep out on a hillside without a tent in Australia, or anywhere hot for that matter, and the stuff of nightmares will come to find you every night. I've seen it first hand. I've been there. Spiders bigger than apples- poisonous centipedes the size of spaniels- giant lizards that can take a leg off in one quick gulp. Last night was nothing. A few wee friendly British bugs."
"Aye, right enough." She conceded.
"Kangaroos." I pointed out.
" This is brilliant. How did you find this trail."
"Male intuition."
" Any other surprises up your sleeves H.P?"
Just then I noticed a small furry creature crossing the tree canopy above to a position within the enclosure.
"Yep. Himalayan Tree Monkey"
I pointed it out.
" That's a squirrel isn't it?"
"Nope, Himalayan Tree Monkey. It's inside the zoo so it must be an exotic species and I recognize it."
"Do they even have trees in the Himalayas?" She asked smiling, confident it was a squirrel but just a touch uncertain, knowing my knowledge of animals was far better than hers. This is a zoom so it wasn't as obvious a view as this, being further away.
" Yes, they do have forests in the valleys. It's a distant relative of the Yeti, mon cousine, like the difference between Giant Pandas and Red Pandas."
"Your talking bollocks again."
"Wouldn't be the first time. Had you going though. Didn't it. "

Although mainly covered in large mature trees there was one point, at the rest and be thankful, that views across the city opened up again and we could see our first hill of the trip. Calton Hill.
" That seems like a full week ago." Anne marveled.
" I'm told I have that effect on some people." I answered dryly.
"We've certainly packed a lot in."
"We have and it's not over yet."
We were now on the John Muir Trail, father of American conservation and long distance walking in wilderness guru, but brought up near here on the Scottish East Coast at Dunbar. This is a multi day route named in his honour and also features in the Robert Louis Stevenston book Kidnapped. Scotland has two famous 'rest and be thankful' hill stops- maybe more.
At this point we could have continued down the other side of Corstorphine Hill and walked to the sea at Cramond where I intended ending up originally. Many great walks end by the sea or ocean- so a fitting finish line but that was still a good distance away across urban, built up streets and traffic.
Instead, on an impulse, we boarded the no 26 bus, seen here, which took us direct from the woodland edge at Clermiston down to Portobello Beach instead. Edinburgh's seaside. It's one of my favourite local buses and I knew from the time looking at my watch the tide would be out when we arrived.
Portobello Beach. A fitting end to our walk............................................ only it wasn't.
Looking across the sands towards Joppa. I'd already done the Musselburgh to Portobello beaches walk, (a previous blog post) but had never attempted walking in the other direction- from Portobello to Leith so that was my new territory treat to myself.
"Oh bloody hell! How far away is that? Will it never end!!! " Anne wailed at the thought of the extra distance.
" Not far." I promised. " and a walk filled with seven modern wonders.I guarantee it."

" Ta Raaaa. A Portobello mermaid." I stated halfway along the coast 20 mins later.
" Is that it."
"Yep. The First Wonder. Looks a bit like you. Three fingers and a thumb. Are you sure you've never been spotted on the beach sunbathing?"
"Cheeky ********."

"The Second Wonder. As in how come these places are almost invisible to society at large." I elaborated. " A deliberate look away attitude and silent collective agreement to ignore anything going on there as a 'necessary evil'. I've seen them in various countries abroad and they are usually in the worst part of any landscape as a punishment- boiling hot empty deserts- fetid swamplands- remote plains- bleak moorland in our case- really out of the way places deliberately picked so that most people never see or visit. Out of sight- out of mind. The modern version of the old asylum hidden in the woods."
" Mmmm. Never thought about it like that." She conceded. "Hey, how come you know there's seven wonders on this coast if you haven,t been along here before?"
" Yes, I wonder that as well. And behold!. The Third Wonder appears! Thank you. I like your style."
She had to laugh at that.
"Exploratory platform. Wonder what they are drilling for?" I raised an eyebrow and silently mouthed 'The 4th wonder.'
" I wonder how long this walk is?" She asked, playing along "Where exactly are we going now?"
"Remember I promised you a grail quest as well as a seven summits mystery tour?" I asked.
"Well, here it is. The biggest mystery of the trip."
The remarkable facts in this short link.

On a previous no 26 bus ride I had been intrigued and stunned to get a brief glimpse of this monument looming over the rooftops of a residential district, far away from any of the usual tourist haunts, other monuments, and completely isolated in a cosy suburbia of low bungalows miles from the city centre. No greater oddity exists in Edinburgh.
" Now that is a real wonder." She admitted.
" Biblical marble story panels. The Red Sea drowning the Pharaoh's troops, horses, and chariots."
"Amazing decoration." My companion agreed.
" The Song of Moses and Mirriam, rejoicing after the enemies of the Israelites have been heavily smited by God. Totally cuffed rotten by the hand of the almighty into submission."
"A worthy end to a great walk. Why so many bare breasts in classical sculpture though?" She wondered. "and why did they always use marble for people back then?"
"Ah, that is The Seventh Wonder." I declared. "Humans were actually made of solid marble back in that time and often went about topless because they never felt the cold. Why do you think classical figures are always carved in white stone and half undressed. Always. It's just art imitating real life. Or the ubiquitous saying "They were hard in those days." What do you think they really meant by that? It's a well known fact. Look at the people of Pompeii. Real life ancient humans. Touch them. Stone not skin. Obvious and simple. Ancient history. Fascinating stuff. The Marble Age. ...Just like in the near future we will be half human and half machine combined. It's happening already with the sleepwalkers consent. The Cyborg Age is now upon us."
And so it was told.