Saturday, 25 April 2020

Neilston Pad. Renfrewshire and Glasgow Panoramas. The Kingdom. Part Two.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Still on the upward trail after getting off the express bus to Neilston I followed a delightful rural path as it skirted the edge of this small Renfrewshire town. My route from the bus stop at Neilston's distinctive old cotton mill followed the lane behind the mill to a hole in the wall just before Crofthead Cottages then entered open hillsides, fields and woods on a good path, seen here, which mainly ran parallel to the Levern Water. It then crossed Uplawmoor Road at Brimstone Bridge and continued up a similar path, still in good rural scenery beside this same stream. It ended further up at  the next minor road (Neilstonside Bridge) so I turned left onto this minor tarmac road to get to the waterworks beside Neilston Quarry.
Walking minor roads around here and between Neilston Pad and Nitshill, using the rural back country network to get around via the Barrhead Dams is no hardship. On that long ago 1960s bike ride we only encountered about a dozen cars in total and even today it's not changed much, still quiet roads to walk along, although Neilston itself is growing recently, new housing estates springing up on its outskirts. Our 16 year old minder did a grand job back then, negotiating the labyrinth of twisting country lanes with faultless skill to lead us to our eventual destination, all the time keeping us away from turning into busier A roads with increased traffic. And all without a map, just knowledge gained from previous racing bike excursions around the wider area- which is why our parents, when they heard of our plan  said " go with him , he'll keep you right." And he did as well.
For the rest of us it was the furthest away from our local housing estate we had ever travelled on the bikes so we were glad to have him along as it gave us more confidence, on what was for us, a real adventure into the unknown. And Renfrewshire is beautiful- by any standards. Greenhill country. The cow meadows, above.
Punk Rock. HVS 5a. Neilston Quarry, which I passed on the way. We used to climb here occasionally as it's a good beginners crag although there's only a handful of easy rock routes in it but it sits in a nice location. Neilston Pad is not far away now and another  20 minutes walk across grassy slopes saw me nearing the final rise.
And this is it with a steep path leading up through the trees on the left. On the right is a broad plateau of knee high golden grass- a fairly strange feature for a hilltop in the Central Belt.
On the summit plateau.
To the south west the landscape rises further to the 1000 foot mark but here, this far north in Scotland, the landscape changes quite dramatically into less fertile moorland where pine forests and a few sheep earn a living for the fewer farms willing to carve out an existence on these bleaker, more mist prone, colder slopes.
New and old tree plantations here, above. To my mind, back then and even now,  there's not as much delight, mystery, and wonder in this harsher, slightly higher environment- not much incentive to explore these identical mass planted forests either. In my youth however the similar environment of nearby Fenwick Moor with its marsh draining windmills? was always a looked for oddity on bus runs to the coast, these basic D.I.Y structures of farmyard metal and wood eventually replaced by more profitable and state of the art wind farm turbines on a massive scale.
Plantations are good for timber though without destroying the slower growing deciduous pockets of woodland- some of these small pocket woods scattered over the billiard table green slopes hundreds of years old by now.
And the views in the other direction are/were something else again. Thankfully, still free of new housing estates or wind turbine desecration. The shy and secretive Drumler Craigs here.
 Looking back the way we came on our bikes in the 1960s made us almost burst with pride. An amazed euphoria, in me at least, that this was all our playground and that we were actually allowed to travel through it. (Strictly speaking it was and is the farmers playground of course but there's just enough in the way of minor roads, country lanes, rural footpaths and open ground snaking though it that it did feel like ours as well- especially the more open and public friendly Barrhead Dams- Corselet Road area, which was our main, easier to reach, backyard playground most weekends. The rest was just an added bonus to explore. This was what the now overgrown Barrhead Dams Country Park used to look like- filled with dairy cattle, short grass fields and trimmed hedgerows- all courtesy of hard grafting farmers and reservoir  maintenance teams. Lose the working farms and livestock however and you soon lose all this carefully maintained beauty... replaced by a jungle of waist high weeds, fast growing bushes, and long buried paths.  And the farms are slowly going- one I noticed last year on a trip with Anne near Patterton Railway Station and due to its proximity to the ever expanding Newton Mearns... a likely candidate for more green lush fields swallowed up by further housing developments. Probably the most amazing thing about this part of Renfrewshire is that it has remained untouched for so long- still beautiful 50 years later. Most of Drumlin Glasgow must have looked like this originally before it was covered over by the various housing districts- many of them named after individual farms or grand estates- the only reminder of lost rural Orchard Park, Castlemilk, Byres Road, Cowlairs, Possilpark, Thornliebank, Drumchapel, and Sandyhills.

On that long ago scorching summer's day we sat out on the summit of Neilston Pad for ages, taking it all in.  Craighall Dam here. Only the wind turbines are a new feature. We had unbelievable leeway then- unthinkable now. As long as we were back by dinnertime.. around six pm usually, or an hour before dark in winter, we could stay out all day. Our parents weren't neglectful- they did worry about us and would raise the alarm after that time but that was just the way it was back then. If it was dry at all, children played and explored outdoors- one reason being there was very little inside the house to entertain them and housewifes wanted them out so they could get on with the daily chores- shopping, cleaning, washing clothes, dusting etc... all the things women love doing every day instead of exploring :o)
The Greenhill Country. A small pleasant land of many wonders.... but for how long? My own Mythago Wood lies somewhere here in this district.... resplendent with faint echoes and relics of World War One gun emplacements, ruined mansions and haunted ancients buried deep in the woods, abandoned, soon to be sealed off coal mines, dark pits, and many a dark tower of the mind.
Then turning northwards from Neilston Pad summit we reluctantly began the long cycle ride back to Nitshill and Glasgow, or in my 2019 journey the long walk back to a bus stop, but retracing almost the same route decades later. Hillside Road, outskirts of Barrhead here, above, and another fine walk, also described on this blog, which crosses the Fereneze Hills and adjacent Brownside Braes between Barrhead and Paisley. Also a childhood lucky playground for myself and various nature inclined friends. Then as now it was not always easy to make lasting friends or meet people with the same interests and that bike run is also memorable as it was one of the very few we did together.   I, somewhat naturally, thought " I'm loving this! Let's do it again next week! Same group- different destination!" but it never did become a regular occurrence for various reasons... and it left me wanting more.
                                        A view of Renfrewshire from Neilston Pad summit.

Although I tried my best to generate lasting interest it proved hard to get the same ' dream team' back together again. Or any local team of bike/walking enthusiasts for that matter. Either they had conflicting ideas on where to go, wanted to go other places by other means, did not like it as much as me, or they fell out and argued. Which was a shame but I was too young and inexperienced then to convince them otherwise so it fell apart.
It would take me many years and a lot of wandering on my own initiative to get another 'dream team'  together... eventually. A story told in my kindle novel Autohighography.
On the bike run or walk back, after a few up and down miles of winding country minor roads you come to a few scenic high points over Glasgow. One view of it here. In this photo you can see in white the four high rise flats of Springburn, the two pink high rise flats sitting beside Bellahouston Park, the extensive woods of Pollok, The Silverburn Shopping Centre ( distinctive white bus stance hoops sticking up) and finally Nitshill (white tower block, bottom right)
In another direction from the sun-kissed summit edge of Duncarnock you can see Castlemilk on its wooded slope, or what's left of it anyway, as all the big four housing townships have halved in population size with most of the old 1950s/1960s 3 and 4 level tenement clusters replaced/thinned out with more modern houses. Pollok, Castlemilk, Easterhouse and Drumchapel, each district containing between 25,000 to 40,000 tenants soon acquired formidable reputations for gangs, poverty, and general lawlessness, especially in the 1960s to the 1990s but they are much changed now and the one thing they always did have, an abundance of surrounding leafy woods and interesting walking scenery, they retain to this day.
Glasgow is an amazing city in that regard. A lone buzzard here flying high above the outskirts. Once home to notorious gangsters and grim housing estates, often classed decades ago as some of the worst housing estates in Europe, yet always surrounded by beautiful parks, great walking potential and abundant deciduous woodlands.
Crookston Woods in North Pollok here with Moss Heights high rise flats behind.
Cathcart and Hampden Park in this view. Like gods on Mount Olympus we could gaze down from our bikes and see a vast metropolis before our feet in all directions in full 3D hyper real glory.
A view towards Loch Lomond, Drumchapel with its white water tower, and the start of the Scottish Highlands here.
Two walkers coming off Neilston Pad in the afternoon.
The city centre. In front the isolated mansion of Pollok House surrounded by Pollok Country Park woodlands. As good as a bird's eye view or a high climbing modern drone.
High Blantyre from the heights... or looking in that easterly direction anyway. I still find these panoramic views very special as an adult but think of how intoxicating they were to a 12 year old- the entire vast city of a million souls spread out like a living, breathing, map for the first time- and wanting to get busy as soon as I got back... exploring every district... every high rise tower in sight... every weekend.  That was one of my early ambitions not exactly matched by my companions. First Glasgow- then hopefully down to London to explore there, district by district, park by park. A realistic, achievable goal....... given time.

And best of all at the end we had a gentle mile long freewheel on the bikes down the Aurs Road then descending further into the traffic free Corselet Road, a long snake like lane and journey, gliding effortlessly and serenely under the trees, past blue eyed dams and green eyed demoiselles, all the way through the Barrhead reservoirs back to our humble scheme. One of many highlights during a sun soaked perfect day.
Which left a burning desire in me to taste that heady mixture in that heavenly chalice again- a geas if you like, placed upon me, with the lightest but deepest of touches, to forever replicate that wonder filled experience. Giving me, back then, what all humans eventually crave...must have in life... in order to thrive. A strong sense of purpose... and a mission.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital. A newer edition to the skyline. Anniesland/temple gas works behind. The end.


Anabel Marsh said...

Great views! I’m amazed at how many familiar places I can pick out.

Rosemary said...

I hardly know that southern side of Glasgow, usually we tended to go north.
The name Nitshill always makes me smile - I wonder just how it came to have such a strange name.

Carol said...

that looks pretty nice too...

I've never been anti-wind farm although it seems like it's fashionable to be. We have 3 just up the road from me and I love them. They generate almost all year (just missed 7 days last year) so are obviously well sited. I wish they'd put one in the field behind my house for our small village and the next village. Especially as, here in the real countryside, houses don't have gas central heating and many rely, as mine does, solely on electricity. And you've got to admit, windfarms look much, much nicer than nuclear power stations!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Yes, only two buildings had me stumped momentarily- one was Schaw House in Bearsden,a former hospital( the large fawn coloured building on a distant ridge in the first Glasgow panorama photo) and the other was Cardonald College, now Clyde College, as I thought at first it was a domestic hi rise tower.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
the south side is nice, very green, lush, and interesting. Supposedly it's from Nuts-hill as a hazel grove used to be there in past times, hence the local pub being named The Hazelwood. That entire district is very rich in mature trees which is probably why I love them so much, though not in a tree hugging manner. Typical Jekyll and Hyde Glasgow though Nitshill also had one of the deepest coal mines in Scotland, an industrial past, and some fairly rough council housing schemes. Beauty and the beast in the same glass.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Very near that unspoiled patch of beautiful landscape featured in the blog sits Whitelee Wind Farm with 215 turbines, which starts in East Renfrewshire then runs continuously into East Ayrshire and Lanarkshire as well, making it the largest on shore wind farm in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe and that's only one of around a dozen similar wind farms surrounding Glasgow. At least a power station is a single building in one location. There's hardly a hill in the Southern Uplands now you can't see a forest of wind turbines from. Thousands of the buggers stretching horizon to horizon. Metal triffids.

Andy said...

Whilst I don't think I'd ever give up living out in a rural village, there is something about the exploration of the urban environment, its parks and green spaces and the hinterland beyond that's intoxicating. I can really sense the joy from that one day from your youth and how it shaped your love of the outdoors and all it had to offer. Great stuff :)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy,
living on the outskirts of a large city has always suited me perfectly, plenty of urban or rural walks, various large retail shops five minutes away, beaches and seascapes 20 minutes in the car, high mountains the same, and in my hasty, not always perfectly judged youth, occasional dips into darkness, drink, and depravity with 'Sarah', always my chosen 'queen of the night' on adventures when big city excitement came calling and I failed to resist. I suspect I would be bored on my own in a village... you need a family around you for that.

Ian Johnston said...

Another great post Bob - the amount of wild country within sight of the city is quite astonishing - and you'v really highlighted the contrasts and the closeness well

Carol said...

I know how many windfarms your lowlands has as I drive past them all the time on my way up to the Highlands (or, at least, I used to). They never bothered me. I just see them as doing a useful job, quietly and without pollution (after their manufacture of course).

By the way, you definitely don't have to have family around you not to be bored in a village if you're the type who loves peace and quiet like I do. I'm perfectly happy in my now properly rural area on my own. Depends on the type of person really... I find towns and cities boring as I don't like any of the things to do within them, e.g. shopping, cinema, theatre etc.