Sunday 28 July 2019

Tollcross Park. The Rose Gardens.

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As my friend Anne enjoys a wander around the various parks and I'm happy to go anywhere with her... that provides interesting photography... we have been teaming up this summer to bag the best ones in true mountain list ticking style.  Tollcross Park sits in Glasgow's East End and provides a green oasis in an otherwise built up district. July is a perfect time for a visit as it's famous for its International Rose Garden, having more roses in one place at this time of year than any other park in the city. ( See map above, the red areas being the rose beds.)
This Giraffe mural near the park on Shettleston Road came as a surprise as it wasn't here the last time I visited and really brightens up an older, often dingy part of the city. Around five years old apparently so I maybe just missed it last time. We parked not far from the Children's Farm on Wellshot Road, but you can park unobtrusively in several other places on the streets surrounding this popular park or frequent bus routes take you past it or get off at Carntyne Railway Station nearby.
Anne had never visited this particular park before and tended to stay away from the East End in general, a common occurrence in large cities unless you live or work in different districts. i.e, West End folk tend to stay in the West End, South Side folk the same, East End folk similar story. This pattern goes way back to the earliest slum clearances in Glasgow and probably other cities as well. Folk from Govan, Kinning Park, Gorbals, etc ( inner city south side working class districts) in the main moved out to new council estates on the south side outer rim, like Pollok, Nitshill, and Darnley. Same as inner east end districts, like Townhead, Dalmarnock, Shettleston moved out to Easterhouse, Garthamlock, Ruchazie from older demolished districts but still on the same end of the city- just further out into the green outer rim. If they move upmarket it may still be to better class districts but within the areas they know and feel comfortable in or have a bond/affinity with... in this case Bishopbriggs or Lenzie, classier districts but still East End suburbia.
 I have that feeling myself. Originally a Glasgow South Sider but equally happy living in the West End for the past 30 years, although I've worked in every district city wide in the past and know them all fairly well I would still feel like a fish out of water at the start staying in the North East of Glasgow or the East End. You usually stick to what you know and feel happy with unless it's to do with house prices/new job location/ availability of accommodation etc--- human natural instinct to stay around a familiar watering hole that's provided a sanctuary in the past paints a largely unconscious preference for most of us but not all. Add in displaced groups from Ireland and the Scottish Highlands in the 1900s drawn to the city to work and having to establish new communities from scratch and you find people still settling in to the various districts with limited urge to move someplace else again.
Although she enjoyed the park and the roses Anne did admit, wandering around the urban city district afterwards ( I was on a fruitless gable end mural hunt through Shettleston after the giraffe spot for more giant sized animals) that, while she enjoyed exploring the novelty of a new place she did not feel entirely comfortable padding round completely unfamiliar territory without a clue where she was and seemed keen, after a while, to reclaim the safety bubble of the car.
HM Prison Barlinnie  The rooftops of Glasgow's maximum security jail. Weirdly, although the housing stock across the city has vastly improved in appearance and character since the 1980s-1990s era.... all the old violent, tightly packed, notorious council estates are long gone and Glasgow's population has almost halved in size..... but we still have more prisoners in Scotland per head of population than any other country in Europe. Can't really work that one out when the visual living environment is much improved. 20 years ago Glasgow was also the murder capital of Western Europe. Got to be good at something!
Wildflower strips in Tollcross Park. Blue Cornflowers.
Abundant summer meadows. Although these wildflower plantings are supposed to be helping bees and other insects it has to be said, (after observing several strips like this in various parks for a while now) I've not personally seen much insect life or bee activity so far. Nice to look at though. Maybe insects stay within their own self defined boundaries as well and take time to colonize/find new areas set in grassland deserts? i.e. they have to fly some distance to get to these new parkland strips, not just a garden to garden hop over a fence. You would think these borders would be alive with flying insects and bumble bees but my own garden has far more. Not a single butterfly, swift, or swallow observed in this park either during a sunny day where you would normally expect to find them in high summer, skimming the meadows. The well established flower areas in the walled gardens, botanic borders and waste ground empty sites city wide do have plenty of insects, bees, butterflies etc so there maybe something in that theory.
Yellow Borders.
A colour mixture. It was around this point that Anne mentioned thrushes and blackbirds. Mainly the lack of them in parks as they used to be very common in any parkland setting or suburban garden. I haven't seen one in my own garden for years now come to think of it... cats or magpies being the main suspects along with habitat change and food issues as both nest fairly low, either on the ground itself or less than 15 feet high. The distinctive alarm call of a disturbed blackbird is a rare sound in many woods these days yet they survived the impact of two World Wars relatively unscathed in numbers, until now.
Tollcross Park is a good size for a city park, one of the larger examples and I'd imagine is a great, much needed, escape from the surrounding built up tenement districts, which unlike the West End, or the South Side, has very little in the way of other patches of greenery, certainly in the Calton, Parkhead, Shettleston districts, ( although they are changing slowly to be more open plan) giving them a more drab appearance for visitors used to more tree lined streets. (Compare bare, tenement lined East End Duke Street, reputedly the UK's longest city street with the West End's Great Western Road- the latter a riot of year round leafy colour, wide grass verges, and daffodil dotted splendour.) Something you almost take for granted until they are totally absent in an area. So I'd imagine East Enders love this park for its splash of bright colour, and open aspect.

As well as grassy meadows it also has wilder areas where youngsters can feel genuine freedom away from busy streets of tenements and constant traffic activity.
And spacious views across the city. Glasgow's City Centre here, near George Square, and surrounding buildings with a plane taking off from the airport.
Cranhill Hi Rise Flats around Bellrock Street. Many of the streets in Cranhill named after Scottish lighthouses or hazardous sea features. Most of the old tenements knocked down or redone/remodeled in nearly all the Glasgow city housing estates.
A view across to Glasgow's South East districts. Rutherglen, Cambuslang etc and the large wind farm stretching over the moors from Glasgow to Kilmarnock, one of the UK's biggest turbine locations. Police Scotland HQ- the low building in dark blue beside the River Clyde at Dalmarnock. Middle right in above photo.
Forge Market ( blue sign/pole on far left) Castlemilk (three hi rise flats visible) and Cathcart. Looking South across the city.
Rose splurge.
The formal part of Tollcross Park.
The Glen, a shallow depression along the stream that flows through the park. A nice feature as it's one of the wilder areas and you can almost forget you are in the heart of a surrounding busy built up district.
Wilderness within the city.
Tollcross Winter Gardens. The first time I came here they were still open but they've been abandoned for years now and sadly neglected. Once a proud feature as only a handful of city parks ever had them. Not sure if budget cuts, vandalism, or just being in the wrong area ( not as visited, statistically important, or as fashionable as The Botanic Gardens, Victoria Park, or Glasgow Green perhaps) but closed nevertheless.
Townhead and the black roofs and spires of the Royal Infirmary. Before stone cleaning city wide occurred several decades ago most of old Glasgow looked like this- buildings blackened by 100 years of chimney soot, smoke belching factories, steel works, and the industrial revolution. A largely grey and black world back then- like the difference between black and white TV and colour. In the 1950s and early 1960s flowers often provided the biggest splash of primary vivid injection to the eyeballs as children. "Flower Power." Maybe that's when I first developed my dopamine addiction. My colour fix. And it's stayed with me for life.
Tollcross Park. Worth a visit at any time of year if you have not been... but especially in July and early August for the roses.


Thursday 18 July 2019

Bellahouston Thunderstorm. Growing up within the Great Forest.

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It's not always easy when you have been exploring the outdoors for as long as I have- over 55 years- to find new or interesting places to visit. Travelling into the mountains usually costs money, which I do not have much of at the moment, or inclination to go myself as a solo trip, but fortunately I have many other outdoor interests nearer home I am equally content with at present- great beach walks- city walks- cycling-    kayaking, ( risky sport on your own though) micro worlds- history of places and architecture. So loads to choose from.
 But my first and greatest passion has always been woodlands, farms, (cattle and horse dotted fields), streams, waterfalls, and rolling ridges. Pastures and Parkland settings mainly. I consider myself very privileged indeed to have grown up in Pollok/Nitshill ( reputedly the original area was pronounced Nuts-hill, named after a long gone hazelnut wood not itchy head-lice or angry local bams. Hence local pub in Nitshill village- The Hazel Wood.) on the southern outskirts of Glasgow, as, although I grew up within a fairly rough council estate it was, in Mr Weir's words ... " very easy to escape from." Above is a view over Pollok Country Park from Bellahouston Park with the Kennishead hi rise flats in the distance. A much loved lookout and park in my case. Mature deciduous woodlands stretch south for miles in a wide unbroken realm which also includes  Haggs Castle Golf Course, Pollok Golf Course, Cowglen Golf Course, Crookston Wood, and the well preserved ruins of Crookston Castle, former home of Lord Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots, where they were reputedly matched up in the mid 1560s before getting hitched, even though neither were actually from Scotland in heart or mind. An early version of the 'dream team.'  Lord Darnley was born in England apparently (Yorkshire), his father having large estates in both countries originally but the Scottish ones were stripped from him after he backed the wrong side, a common occurrence during that troubled period meaning he'd only returned to Scotland after decades in exile.

 Lord Darnley did have a claim to the Scottish and English thrones as did Mary, Queen of Scots, an extra political incentive to get married. Although born in Scotland, after the age of five Mary spent her childhood in France only returning here as a recently widowed adult, so she did not really know or remember Scotland much either. Although they left an indelible mark on the nation's consciousness and in local place names it could be argued neither enjoyed their short time here very much with early death and long imprisonment just around the corner a few years after they arrived on Scottish soil.
By way of contrast, I, and several generations before and after me, enjoyed in full the golden years of this great estate. Why? Well... going back several generations from when I was born in the 1950s it was mostly private land, ordinary children had far less free time to play before adulthood, often going down the local coal mines from a young age until retirement, ill health or death.... and at the other end... 1990s to the present day, children have far less freedom outdoors without adult supervision. We had little in the way of toys, wealth or material possessions but we were rich in other ways.

From around the age of six or seven we, my friends and I, began exploring this wonderful kingdom every weekend, setting a template for my later outdoor life. Before that age we were largely confined to a few streets, usually within spotting or shouting distance of the house but after that age the pull of a vast unexplored region on our doorstep proved too strong as fields, woods, streams, ponds, grasslands and ridges lived five minutes walk away from my house. And at that period of time in history we were free to explore it all on our own, all day long, as long as we returned for dinner or before darkness descended, usually 4:00pm in winter- 7:00pm in summer... if dry. An almost unimaginable concept now in this internet age of instant tracking and minute by minute child- parent contact but perfectly normal then. Indeed, if we arrived back early from a local wander with pals, turning up at the house after only a few hours on a sunny day that's when our parents got concerned. ' 'Did you have a fight with your friends?' ' Aw, could you find no- one to play with- are you bored?'

Looking back it seemed almost a crime not to stay out all day as a youngster when you left at breakfast as it usually meant you had to be entertained, looked after, and fed by grown ups. Most parents would chase you out the house unless it was pouring with rain, a collective UK mindset at that time even though bad things did happen, especially in the rougher council estates. The difference was it was mostly word of mouth communication about any dangers in those days... radio, early black and white TV, and newspapers having far less dominance or influential in most folks life's or thinking processes. Especially children who only read the cartoon page in newspapers and watched very little TV then. With no gadgets or fridge freezers in the house, bigger families, and a lack of labour saving devices, housewife's seemed to be constantly active then anyway... either cleaning, washing, shopping daily, or cooking... with little time to look after children.
But for us, growing up, free time was always an adventure to be truly savoured... outdoors. Egg hunting, jumping streams, playing with newts and tadpoles, finding conkers, mushrooms and berries in autumn; Raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries, brambles, rhubarb, and apple hunting in season sprouting in the hedgerows and abandoned orchards. With little in the way of snacks or money any free treats we could get off the land provided us with extra energy, juice to quench thirst, and the satisfaction of the quest. The area had once been a well tended grand estate but now, mostly donated to the public, we could wander anywhere- large sweeping meadows, old buildings, fields, large reservoirs, old orchards... and none of it out of bounds.
A slice of Pollok, Nitshill and the Brownside Braes above Barrhead and Paisley in this photo above. The Misty Mountains of my own personal 'Shire'. Renfrew-shire that is- fairest of a thousand kingdoms reputedly and I truly believe that.
It wasn't all paradise back then however and it certainly had its dangerous elements- places where children and teenagers could easily find themselves captured and tortured by rival gangs or malicious strangers, beaten up or killed, dangerous surroundings where one wrong step could plunge you from a height or suck you under and things that looked innocent and benign but weren't. At that time, 1960s to 1980s, gang violence in the various estates was pretty bad all over Glasgow and many of the streets in Pollok, built before and after the war years, had seen better days. The earliest constructed of the big four estates/ schemes in Glasgow with mainly flat roofs.  It was far rougher and more threatening then than it looks today with long rows of older tenements crawling over the ridges of a 30 thousand strong population council district,  many streets already half abandoned and listed for demolition by the late 1980s by my twenty something years. An interesting, fairly exciting place to grow up though and I did not find it dull at all.
Pollok late 1980s. Not a place to play in unless you lived here but certainly my happiest working experience- every day exiting, filled with adrenalin, and completely unique. Much better than working in an office or a factory as we often covered all Glasgow's council schemes city wide. I was even paid to go into these areas at night- a wild education. A 1980s version of the Wild West that sometimes had us riding shotgun duty up on the stagecoach.
Yet 30 minutes walk from my front door in the other direction, heading away from Pollok and Glasgow, I also had this. The pleasant peaceful water world of The Barrhead Dams. Variety in abundance. I would not trade my childhood and teenage years for anything as I don't think I would get anything better than this.
Anyway, back to where I was at present- which was Bellahouston Park in summer. Beautiful photographic light as a thunderstorm was predicted. Having completed my own blog challenge of going ten years outdoors in Scotland without a rainy day I decided I could treat myself to a downpour. This was one occasion when I did want rain on a walk and loads of it.
Leverndale Tower during heavy rain. I did get my wish an hour later with both thunder and lightening over the distant ridges and forests, bad weather and dark skies gradually approaching my position on top of a hill. I stayed dry under a tree when the rain hit then moved slightly downhill when the lightening flashed overhead.
Really enjoyed it as everyone else scurried for shelter out the park, leaving it empty of humans. A lot of water splashed down very quickly in a summer burst of humid energy. Although intense and tropical in nature it did not last long and 30 minutes later the sun made a watery appearance. Being under a mature deciduous broad leaved tree for that time I was still comparatively dry- judging the shelter time perfectly between rain first hitting tree tops and ending before the delayed drip effect trickled down to when it was time to be in the open again away from the wet branches which would soak you long after the rain had passed.
It also gave me a chance to examine the new wildflower borders, planted in many UK parks as an aid to insects ( butterflies, bees etc) to try to reverse their dramatic decline. The strange thing is... looking at the rough council estate photo above... in the 1960s to 1980s period of heavy industry, still smoking chimneys, a busier river, crumbling housing stock, and closing factories the world still seemed a vast, underpopulated place to its inhabitants. Now, on the surface, it looks much better visually, what houses around there are look scenically attractive- if not always affordable, but the world, its forests, it's natural resources, climate, and wildlife are no longer limitless. And it's not really climate change that's the biggest problem- that's just one immediate danger ahead on a long motorway. The main elephant in the room is human population growth competing for the remaining fresh water, land, minerals, food, living space, money and possessions. One thing about being poor is that you soon realise you do not need very much to live a comfortable happy life- just enough money, food, water and shelter to get by without the added stress of chasing the latest available technology, a new car, a bigger house, more promotions at work, etc which is in itself a familiar reliable recipe but now stretched to breaking point at this particular period in human history.
Pansy display. Walled Garden.
House for an Art Lover. Bellahouston Park.
Outside panel detail. More wife/artist Margaret Macdonald than Charles Rennie Mackintosh here I suspect as she went in for female figures in groups throughout her designs. As I've said before, many years ago, when I first discovered Mackintosh designed buildings in Glasgow in my early 20s it took a while for the penny to drop that all the finest creations that left a lasting impression on me belonged to her.
Without the panel decoration this back elevation would not have much going for it.
Walled Garden view. There are only a handful of parks in Glasgow that have these treasured enclosures.
Flower mix.
Sun- flowers.
Big Foot.
Red Roses.
A delicate display of colour.
Mosspark view.
Looking South over Mosspark towards Darnley. He left behind a tree he took shelter and rested under as he was feeling unwell, tended by his royal wife, and a place name as a legacy of his time spent in this district. Wonder if he enjoyed his woodland realm as much as me? Probably not as he was ill during this flying visit on horseback and dead by the age of 21. Murdered. Nae luck at all. Partly self inflicted through drink, bad temper, arrogance, and doing dodgy stuff with women of ill repute, other than his wife.
Blood on the leaves.
Entering the realm between the seen and the unseen now. Multiverse creatures appear. Beware of falsehood ahead.
And again.
Do we even live in reality any more?... and how can we tell?... look closely at the bench...