Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Duncarnock and Neilston Pad. 2019- 1960s. The Kingdom. Part One.

                                                  ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
With the world and the UK plunged into months of uncertainty, doom and gloom at the moment, I thought I'd take a journey back in time to a bike trip undertaken in the 1960s. Traveling through to Edinburgh with Anne a few months ago I noticed an Irvine bus leaving from Buchanan Bus Station and I also observed it stopped at Neilston on the way. This would make a perfect solo trip I thought then- a full day adventure by bus and then foot- most of it new to me. With an early start I was on a double decker McGill's bus, upstairs at the front for photography, heading out across Glasgow's gleaming glass and steel financial district with the Kingston Bridge over the River Clyde ahead. McGills being the bus company that provides public transport in Renfrewshire, which is where I was heading. The single decker McGill's bus in front was Greenock/Gourock/ Largs bound.

Slip road onto the M8 motorway and Kingston Bridge. A beautiful sunny day. Beside this traffic on ramp sits the Bridge to Nowhere- once a dead end stretch of concrete that stopped high in mid air but now a pedestrian/ cycle bridge to somewhere, linking Anderston District to the City Centre.

Going over the Kingston Bridge and River Clyde. I had a real sense of excitement and anticipation on this journey. Normally I'm driving across here so this was more relaxing, giving me time to look around and take photographs of my home city.

I also had day long supplies. Bacon and egg sandwiches which I soon munched down 30 seconds after I took this photo on the bus....and ham and mustard sandwiches which I managed to hang on to until later on the the day. Damn, They are just too tasty. I also had two boiled eggs and some cold chicken slices, in case I ran out.

Taking this motorway express route through the city it didn't take us long to reach Silverburn Shopping Centre in the middle of Pollok. From there it was out past Barrhead to the smaller town of Neilston, deep in the heart of Renfrewshire countryside. Parking in the small car park directly below Neilston Pad dedicated hill baggers can march up this distinctive lowly mound within 20 mins or so but although I've done this several times in the past it always feels like cheating- undervaluing a fine summit. You should really do it from sea level or as close to that as possible to appreciate it more. This time I would do the hill full justice.
It may be only 261 metres or 856 feet in height but that's higher than the more rugged Arthur's Seat in Edinbugh at 251 metres. Which brings us to that long ago bike ride. Being the highest summit around on the south side you can see Neilston Pad from many districts within Glasgow. This is the view looking over Nitshill, (white tower block is next to railway station) where we lived, with the town of Barrhead behind. Neilson Pad is the sloping high plateau on the right, half of it covered in pines. Unmistakable profile.
This photo is slightly zoomed. Nitshill and Barrhead lie miles apart, not joined together, so Neilston Pad is much further away than it looks here. From Nitshill, where we stayed, it was a full day trip on bikes to get there and back but possible during a long hot summer with no school to go to during the holidays. Five of us set off... and this post is a homage to that trip... as it was one of the best day's of my life. My life up until that point anyway. It was also when I decided this was what I wanted to do with the rest of it. Aged 12.
And who could blame me with all this on the doorstep. I didn't have a camera then, only memories, but even today it's not changed that much.
Duncarnock summit from the Barrhead Dams. Five of us on bikes ranging from a cigar smoking  talkative and assertive 16 year old ( hamlet I think, slim cigar type anyway, maybe nicked from his Dad as he only had two and struggled to finish them.) on a sleek drop handled racing bike, to me at 12 on a three speed, straight handled, slow roller. Four boys and one girl. (The 16 year old's girlfriend, who was 14.) He was older and had more money than us. A bit flash and keen to impress with his personality but underneath that OK... and helpful if required. He was the only one that supposedly knew the route so he was the leader on the way to the hill via a complex network of traffic free minor roads. Having a racing bike and more gears suited us fine as he was usually well in front, moaning, when we caught him up, about how slow the rest of us were going compared to him. We were "mere children"- he was "a man." on a " man's bike." We didn't mind that at all as we experienced far more of the illusive company of that rare item at that age... a girl. Who also struggled to keep up with the chuckling cigar man out in front. Happily, we had no problems keeping pace with her. Like eider ducks two posts ago.

Don't know if summer's were warmer and drier then but they seemed to be, looking back. I remember it was a scorching hot day. Although only around 8 weaving miles there and 8 weaving miles back, on the way inwards it was mostly gently uphill then over several rolling folds of landscape for most of the journey so we stopped frequently any time it leveled out for a seat on the grass. Then as now Duncarnock and Neilston Pad rest in sublime scenery... and sublime memory.  A patchwork quilt landscape of green fields, farms, dairy cows, sheep, horse dotted meadows, woods, and small dams. Packed with interest round every new bend.  Also a group of large reservoirs turning part of the journey into a water-world of dazzling light and saturated deep colour. Cloudless blue skies above, distant blue horizons mirrored on the still waters below. This landscape also has a strange chameleon quality in that  it can resemble so many other of rural Dorset...The Weald in Kent... Glastonbury Tor seen from the Avalon Mashes...any number of other scenic locations, mostly situated down in England and enjoying protected status.
I felt then it was the nearest I'll ever get to a mythical heaven. And that was the moment I decided... " this is what I want to do with my life- It doesn't get any better than this." When we reached Duncarnock, seen above, once hilltop home of ancient stone age tribes we went swimming after climbing to the summit. ( not supposed to swim here but it was the 1960s- no health and safety rules back just drowned or survived. No fuss involved.)
And what a view from the top.
Renfrewshire is still a delightful rolling landscape on bike or foot, wave after wave of valley and ridge-line. Add in drumlins, over two dozen scattered dams/reservoirs, and it's unique in Scotland. It does not cover a large area but it's special.
Duncarnock side view. Surprisingly rugged and steep ascent from the front here up a small cliff cunningly disguised as an easy grass rampart... until you reach it and start climbing.
Great Crested Grebe. Barrhead Dams region.
Family Group.
A Juvenile. Camouflage markings.
Adult with a fish.
Meanwhile, back in the present, I stepped off the bus at Neilston's old cotton mill. (If you are getting off here to do this walk as soon as you leave Barrhead ask the bus driver to stop at the old mill in Neilston. Being an express bus it skirts the town on its lower edge without going into it. There is a bus stop here but you get no warning and you can easily flash past it with the next stop miles away.) Go up this hill for a short distance then take the first lane right, walking behind the building until you come to a path through a wall over the fields, again on the right hand side.
I'll repeat again....this lane takes you behind the mill, seen here, and follows a head high wall for a short distance until an obvious hole in the wall just before Crofthead cottages leads to a path through trees then into open grassland. You don't want to miss this step over as it's the start of a fine walk to eventually arrive at Neilston Pad.
Follow this curving, banana shaped route slightly downhill around the side of a grass slope then head upwards again , still on an obvious path, heading for Brimstone Bridge. A very pleasant walk with a fine mix of trees.
As you get higher views start to open up over the surrounding ridges. Lochliboside Hills here.
Rural magnificence unfolds before you...
The infant Levern Water which further downstream powered several cotton mills in Neilston and Barrhead up until the 1960s.
One of the old catchment dams for the mill.
After crossing the minor road at Brimstone Bridge ( No Satan! Not today- I'll see you later in private!) you follow the upward path under this railway tunnel (still skirting the edge of Neilston's houses by sticking to open countryside) then upwards again towards further rural bliss.
Views now open out fully to reveal the wonderful green-hill country of my youth. Could easily be Hobbiton.... or anywhere good you can think of..... An undulating empire I was besotted with and explored for many further years. The 16 year old I never saw again after this trip, close up at least... he soon left for the world of adulthood and work, upgrading to a motorbike and roaring glimpses in the distance. Some people grow up fast due to personal circumstances, others seem to be in a speedy race to get there, uncomfortable with simply being a teenager, and he was one. Hooked on maturity, getting married, getting settled down.... or the idea of it, anyway. ( I may yet become an adult at some point, engaging in occasional grown up activities, but I'm in no rush to do so. I prefer being me instead.) The girl I did see frequently, close up, as she lived in a tenement building nearby and became an occasional companion but almost always in a group setting, exploring our surroundings until she too moved away a few years later. But the landscape and I stuck with it the longest- the real love affair of this story. And they both lived- me and nature that is- happily ever after. The end...

of part one.....    a lone buzzard flying high over the great forests of drumlin Glasgow. Cardonald College ( now part of Clyde College in white.)

Incidentally, if you fancy more of the 1960s or past times  I've watched and enjoyed several BBC TV series.... Back in Time For Dinner, Back in Time for School, and Back in Time for the Corner Shop. All excellent and currently available to watch on Dailymotion.
Also been watching Race Across the World (South America.Very Good) and The Nest.... On TV.  An excellent five parter set in Glasgow. Both probably currently available on i-player just now.


Anabel Marsh said...

Intriguing! I know nothing of this countryside at all. It looks lovely.

Carol said...

That looks really nice - especially Duncarnock. Do you even dare get on a bus or train now? I don't think anyone around here dare use them any more - I'm very worried there won't be any after this - especially the buses :-(

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
It's fairly secret and restricted to locals, keen cyclists, or folk arriving by bus or train due to a lack of safe car parking with few lay-bys in the area. But that's what saves it and makes it special. You can park under Neilston Pad and climb it from there but the great beauty of this area is to walk from Neilston Mill, ascend the pad and Duncarnock then walk through the Barrhead dams to the Darnley. Bus or train back from there. That's an unforgettable classic long day walk through the finest scenery.
Barrhead to woodneuk, over the Fereneze Hills via Harelaw Res, Glenburn res, Braemount CH then back via Thornliemuir path is another cracking circular I posted a while ago.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Carol,
this virus thing could last for years with partial lifting of lock downs then shut downs again. It's still to hit Africa, South America, Mexico etc properly so things like catching buses, trains and planes could be a risk for a long time. It's a ********** disaster that will take ages to clear up and could well mutate further especially as wet markets in China are open again. Hard line countries Like Russia, China, North Korea etc should fare far better with tighter controls than the west can
manage so it could change the world order, paralyzing western economies. Strange times.

Rosemary said...

Why is it that I now fancy a bacon and egg sandwich?
Looking back is something that I imagine many of us are doing during this dark moment in our history.
I too am enjoying the Race across the World - who do you think will win?
The nest was filled with lots of tension, but all was finally resolved in the end.
Do you know where that wonderful contemporary house that was used happens to be situated?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
A bunch of good programmes on at the moment and I've also stockpiled some box sets from a charity shop to keep me entertained indoors. The glass house is Cape Cove on Loch Long- a five star holiday retreat for rent but it's not cheap to stay there. The Nest really showed Glasgow in a good light, great location shots,and I managed to guess 95 percent of them including Finnich Glen and The Devil's Pulpit, a red walled gorge also used in early Taggart, Outlander, and in the film The Eagle- once a quiet, little known oddity with Victorian steps down the middle but now "Pure as the driven slush" to use Tallulah Bankhead's witty viewpoint of supposed virginity. Posted years ago on Blueskyscotland. Finnich Glen. Full Gorge Traverse ... which is one of my more spectacular, vivid colour, posts if you haven't seen it.Well worth a look.

Kay G. said...

Those Back IN Time Shows sound good. I am in AMerica, we might get to see them in about 4 or 5 years! And if I ask you about them, you will have to go back in time to remember them!
That photo of the building with the steep hill beside it, is the hill as steep as it looks?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
You might be able to watch them for free on Dailymotion. Full episodes. It's like You Tube. Just type Back in time for Dinner into Google to find them.
Yes it is.

Anonymous said...

"The happy highways where I went and cannot come again." Pretty much my childhood too. Fishing in the Barrhead dams. I remember some 'bad boys' from Barrhead stole my pal's bike.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anon,
yes, we were really lucky to have that area as a playground and Pollok as a whole, the greenest and thickly wooded of all the big council estates at that time period.
Will put the second part on next week and I've a few other back posts on Barrhead/Pollok/Nitshill/Priesthill, Dams to Darnley, and Arden if you haven't seen them yet. Just Type in Blueskyscotland then the districts and they should come up. Over 100,000 page views for the various estates combined but less than 1000 for the surrounding countryside posts. Guess it was only a select few that explored the fields, dams. and beyond. Back in the 1960s just past the Brock Burn bridge at the halfway dump there used to be a dirt lane leading to an old cottage, a rectangle curling pond and a flooded quarry- all gone now alas but the WWI army camp shooting trenches near Patterton are still there in the woods.

Ian Johnston said...

I really enjoyed this post Bob - a great link from past to present. It's amazing how much green space there is around cities if it's searched out...which I guess a lot of folk are discovering at the moment. Looking forward to the second instalment :o)

Andy said...

There is always something of interest in your own back yard. I finding that as I cycle from home in the lockdown, I'm taking in the views more than I did, stopping the bike to take photos. Without being spectacular, Herefordshire is a beautiful part of the world if you look at it with an changed perspective.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Ian, Both you and Andy, below, might like Final Ascent. The Life and Times of Hamish MacInnes which I watched on BBC Scotland last night at 10'00 pm. A great documentary about the Glencoe Mountain rescue team leader, writer, high peaks adventurer, and film safety advisor/director/cameraman. Amazing life and story, some of which I was unaware of but continually interesting. Really worth watching.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy,
Yes, your part of the world looks very similar to Renfrewshire though not as many small dams and reservoirs. Up and down green fields - neither high mountains or lowlands but somewhere lush and gently rolling in-between. Worth tracking down Final Ascent ( See comment above) Might get it on BBC i- player. A cracking true story of a life lived on the edge.