Saturday 29 June 2019

Loch Lomond. River Leven. Balloch Country Park.

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Got a phone call from Anne earlier in June that she fancied a park walk and the news that daughter Belinda was free as well for a few hours was an unexpected bonus. It was during a week of rainy days and occasional heavy thunderstorms so I racked my brains to think of someplace they had not been with plenty of interest yet shelter to keep them from getting soaked. A and B are not keen on hill-walking or tramping around in a downpour usually so Balloch Country Park was a good choice with plenty of mature woodlands and meadows with the added bonus that they had not been in it before.... or visited it in the distant past...they couldn't remember which it was.
Balloch itself is a 20 minute drive from where we live in Glasgow's West End so handy to get to with a large car park, bus station, and railway station right beside the park gates. In spite of this it's never that crowded winter or summer compared to other Highland/ Lowland tourist hot spots yet is fairly scenic.
Balloch Railway Station- The end of this particular branch line coming from Glasgow.
The last time I was here was in Autumn a couple of years ago so this colourful new mural on a prominent gable end in the town's High Street was a total surprise. Ben Lomond, Scotland's most Southerly Munro, Loch Lomond, and the paddle-steamer Maid of the Loch... all depicted behind the proud owner of the local restaurant. Adds a real splash of colour to the town and is an additional visual asset for visitors wandering around as well as a clever promotion for the business. This is the view you get from an elevated position above the town although as far as I'm aware the Maid of the Loch is still stationary, based at Loch Lomond Shores pier, though visitors can explore the interior of this vintage paddle steamer at close quarters.
The late local climber and TV broadcaster Tom Weir once famously said 'the best thing about Balloch is that it's easy to get out of ' but although a funny throwaway line that is doing it something of a disservice I've always thought. Sure it has a few rough housing schemes on the outskirts- or did have in his day- but these have been largely upgraded and the small town itself, the only bit the tourists visit, can be really scenic. Main Street above.
Any place with a river as pretty and interesting as the River Leven, seen here, running through its centre, filled all year round with small boats, is a place worth a visit. Certainly seeing it through first time eyes impressed them both with the scenic variety. (Anne did remember a long ago visit when she walked around this river section briefly- but decades previously) . You can also travel here by car, bus, or train then walk/cycle down the length of the River Leven Walkway into Dumbarton and the Clyde Coast estuary mud flats or.... explore the substantial Balloch Country Park, which is what we intended to do now.
Built in the early 1800s Balloch Castle and the landscaped grounds surrounding it once belonged to the Earls of Lennox, (older castles have adorned these slopes dating back to the 1100s, ) then changed hands over the centuries  to the Darnley Stewarts,( Mary, Queen of Scots husband Lord Darnley being the last of them), then Glasgow District Council, then leased to West Dumbartonshire. Although work to restore this building seems to be ongoing, at the moment it remains closed to the public, which is a shame as it is the centrepiece of a lovely park.
 Another attractive circular walk of a few scenic miles duration that can be done separately or added on to the park outing runs from Balloch via the Lomond Shores complex on the opposite bank of the River Leven, then up the lochside to Cameron House and Duck Bay via a good path network, returning to Balloch slightly inland near the parallel A 82 but still wooded, rural and interesting. This combination of estate parkland then Lomond Shore loch side trail is a classic 5 star outing with great varied scenery. Suitable and interesting at any time of year and in any weather due to its sheltered nature.
Balloch Castle Clock Tower.
A view from the castle looking down towards Loch Lomond and Luss. Modeled on the grand estates of the past, Capability Brown style, large mature trees complement short grass vistas and sweeping meadows and the first swifts and swallows could be seen and heard cruising across the lawns. A pleasing occurrence. A regular sight all my days and almost taken for granted as a background canvas every Scottish summer in the parks until recent years.  I've not seen as many in places like this that you would except to find them. My local park used to zing every summer evening with the scream of hunting swifts flying above my house up until a few years ago but it's a very rare sound now over largely empty meadows and urban rooftops... in my district anyway.
Balloch Castle and assorted dog walkers. Luckily, the rain had abated by the time we arrived. We had little Snapper with us dancing around on four paws and after hearing another strange and inappropriate dog name shouted out across the lawns by an owner it gave me an inspired idea. This particular dog, a large no nonsense breed, had a daft soft name- lets say it was "Clancy" for the purposes of this post... or 'Buttons.'
" Poor dog." says I. "It must curl up in embarrassment  every time that gets shouted at it."
This led to a discussion of weird celebrity children's names.
" You should call your children Syphilis and Chlamydia when you have them." I cheerfully informed Belinda.  "I've always thought they were pretty names for girls... or ancient female Greek philosophers... or exotic flowers. Take your pick. Be the first to remodel, recycle, and re-appropriate them. Think out the box."
"Hey! Don't give her any weird ideas. She's got plenty of her own, thank you. Thrash him with a stick. " Anne scolded, pointing to a fallen branch nearby. " Hit him really hard." She turned to the dog. "Bite him boy! "
" You really need a double act," I continued undeterred. "Sooty and Sweep, Pinky and Perky, Ant and Dec. Something catchy and memorable like that.  A wee female companion for Snapper perhaps. Snapper and Sarcophagus... Snapper and Sepsis... Snapper and Sargasso.. Snapper and Synchronicity....
Although we didn't get any rain in the park itself during our visit- over the surrounding mountains it still remained dull and drizzly so it was a good choice of venue to avoid a soaking. The sun even made an appearance. The 3000 foot plus Munro, Ben Lomond, stayed buried in thick mist and clag throughout.
The Sea Life Centre and Aquarium at Lomond Shores. Folk on the upper terrace here, taking in the view.
A rich carpet of treasures. I think this is 'milky way,' a Chinese Dogwood Tree. Beautiful spread of flowers.
A view over Loch Lomond to Duck Bay Marina and Hotel Complex.
The 'Big House' The former Youth Hostel and fictional home of the lady laird in the long running Scottish TV series 'Take the High Road.' Screened 1980s to early 2000s and very popular in its day set around the village of Luss. River City, filmed at nearby Dumbarton is its modern TV series equivalent. Due to changing tastes and times a few of the Scottish Youth Hostels have closed but this was certainly one of the most spectacular ones. Amazing Interiors. Probably a private residence now. Can't find out much about it but it was up for sale years ago.
Link here for photo interiors. Wish I'd stayed there, even for one night. Too late now :o(

We then headed for the Walled Garden, which is colourful at any time of year, except bleakest mid-winter. Balloch Country Park and its wilder network of upland back trails stretch for miles along Loch Lomondside, providing a full day out and it's certainly big enough for first time visitors to get temporarily lost in but the main features, like the Walled Garden and Castle are signposted.
Approaching the Walled Garden.
Flowers inside this sheltered oasis. Doctor to worried patient. "You have a nasty case of Blue Delphinium in your lower border, I'm afraid. We will need further tests."
 See- certain words are easily transferable.
Just as detailed photography of subjects can soon morph into art painting.
Flower detail with Bumble Bee inside.
The intensity of natural form.
Walled Garden view.
Flowering overhead trellis.
Tree parade.
The often overlooked Japanese Garden, sitting just a stones throw above the Walled Garden.
Vibrant colours and a glimpse of blue sky.

Small tree with large dangling globe shaped red/pink flowers- like a cross between a cherry and a fuchsia bush.

Also found in the Japanese Garden. Not a clue but I'll find out later hopefully.
Ornamental year round foliage to complement the more seasonal blooms.
We returned along the River Leven, seen here, which has several small sandy bays. The tourist passenger boats Silver Marlin and Silver Dolphin, moored at Balloch, use this short river section to enter Loch Lomond for an hour long cruise. Smaller boats from Luss traverse the inland islands further up the loch- 23 in total. One of the great delights of owning kayaks decades ago was exploring these wooded treasures for the first few times- as wonderful as any new mountain trip abroad and a fabled kingdom to explore.
A cracking outing of a few hours duration that rescued what might have otherwise been a soggy day. Much to my great disappointment Belinda has not popped out any children yet or bought another hound so my fine suggestions for unusual baby names may alas be forgotten and consigned to history....

Wednesday 19 June 2019

June in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

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The Month of June is often the peak period for flowering abundance and colour. Early Summer. After that interlude many plants have flowered already so the countryside by mid summer- July and August- is mostly green.
So I set off on my bike, suitably inspired, to capture said riches before they disappeared for another year... first to Victoria Park with its Fossil Grove and Quarry Trail...
Then by a winding route through woods from Dumbarton Road to the end of Westland Drive through Scotstoun and Jordanhill- a green, partly subterranean corridor and one fairly new to me, passing the old Scotsoun Showground- now the National Badminton Academy and Sports Complex...
Seen here...
via sinewy trails and snake slithering wonders...
past productive allotments...
Avoiding traffic and busy roads until the path ran out near the northern end of Westland Drive. From there up onto Crow Road then through the quiet grounds of Gartnavel Hospital and Bingham's Pond before Cleveden Drive and the Botanic Gardens. A route I've not cycled before but one I was delighted with as it avoided most of the busy built up streets above via deep hidden channels and quiet places, weaving a lush snaking path through the hectic West End.  A necklace of earthly delights and a mystery tour for me. Maybe at one time this was an old discontinued railway line as it has that partly subterranean, back of houses, feel to it.
Jordanhill College on it's rising wooded slope, High School of Glasgow playing fields from Crow Road.
Anniesland Cross and Tower.
Glasgow's Botanic Gardens. The entrance gates.
Glasshouses and June splendour in abundance. A myriad of flowering rhododendrons.
Vegetable gardens. Bees on flowering chives... certain flowers attracting specific types of bees and insects I noticed here, while seemingly excluding others. The marvellous interdependent complexity of tiny flying creatures, flowers and plants most people are completely unaware of, except for a quick, surface observation in passing. Mid life adulthood normally set in highest gear by now for many, family driven, then hard to escape that learned habit of constant speed, movement, and distractions, with the planet a mere blur of self maintained perpetual activity zipping by.
 Or...just be static instead for ten minutes as still watchfulness and micro eyed patience often brings it's own rewards and an inkling of understanding as to what's going on. Ironically, life starting out and life ending...balance each other out on the sea-saw these stages often share a visual connection of greater clarity, with the surroundings they exist in heightened and sharper nearer birth and death. Forced by inactivity or the fresh wonder of new sights placed directly in front of them to observe minute details in close up proximity. Sometimes no choice in the matter- static baby in push chair... geriatric in care home garden.
                                  Smaller orange bottomed bees congregating here.... above...
Meanwhile, heavyweight bumble bees land next door, crawling  like furry tanks over their own preferred nectar laden blooms, each colour coded banquet laid out to cater for a range of different discerning guests.
Astrantia, I think here. The wonderful complexity of flowers we are only just learning to fully understand and replicate with mathematical precision thanks to computers and 3D advanced learning imagery.. yet at a point in time.... when we threaten to destroy it all completely. Will A.I. cyber bees, (currently being developed) along with spy flies, ants and mechanical butterflies replace the real thing in time and continue pollination, tiny flying machines unaffected by pollution and pesticides?
Could we eventually replicate all the startling complexity of life given time... and if so.. are we living right now in a future simulation? After war has left us little to enjoy. Is this reality real?  Given the current woeful state of UK politics it's a valid question...
Being something of a perfectionist photographer I wish I'd removed that red bin before taking this shot... I also wish chocolate bars had not been miniaturized in this brave new model of the universe we currently live in today. Will anything else precious and treasured shrink in size I wonder, looking down, as the months and years progress? Never mind climate change and Brexit- everyday commodities are rapidly disappearing in front of my eyes..Extinction is a possibility for sweets and treats as I hang on to one of the last normal sized Mars Bars in history, hoping it's not going to change overnight into a tiny bite sized cousin-which is the new normal bar now. Also 2 litre  Irn Bru and Coke bottles losing a chunk of volume overnight to 1.5 litres, yet increasing in price. Just when you thought they couldn't steal anything else of value from the ordinary punter....
Bees on Geraniums. We are all made of stars.... apparently...carbon atoms... just smaller versions now.
and cavalcades of blooms...
with constellations arranged everywhere below our feet...
sinking into a poppy nebula in micro worlds of wonder...deeper and deeper layers the further in you travel...
A galaxy contained within a single bloom in close up detail... stars visible here....
countless millions of bees and other insects grafting hard on a single sunny Sunday afternoon in one large garden alone...
each individual tree an entire Noah's Ark of buzzing, whirring life...
in a world far beyond any reality...
in an Eden behind the stars...
where great sunsets arrive like buses... every evening...on time..
and it's all completely real and all above board....:o)