Wednesday 26 August 2020

Thornliebank. Orchard Park. The 1970s. Recollections. The Beautiful South. Part Two.


                                                     ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

For the second half of our walk I persuaded Anne to leave Rouken Glen Park, seen here, and continue on to the nearby village of Thornliebank. Back when I was growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s, exploring my local surroundings, as I still do today, you had a strange but dim inkling of history unfolding all around you in this area and of previous lifes lived. Just as children today might wonder why there is a large red and white building beside this pond, but not necessarily connect it to the hire of rowing boats in past times, so to did we in our youthful wanderings bump into various structures hidden deep in the woods of this area and only dimly understand it might be connected to past events. I vividly remember queuing up in line on the wooden boardwalk to row around this pond, exploring the small wooded islands and  having fun. Something obviously near impossible now. You did not get very long 15 or 30 minutes in the boats, as it always felt too short, before you were called back in, but in its day it was a very popular and thriving attraction during the summer months. Later it became a cafe/restaurant after the small boats disappeared into memory. Many public parks of that era had boating ponds in them.

Much more mysterious, to us exploring as children, finding a long necklace of small dams, lades, waterfalls, and sluices hidden in the deep woods of the park and the twisting gorge below this area, each surprising find provoking a sense of wonder, but not much insight.......that would take us long years and decades to fully understand. I now know both the nearby village of Nitshill, where I grew up, and Thornliebank, seen here on Spiersbridge Road, above, next to the gorge, were at the beating heart of the industrial revolution with brick works, coal mines, lime works, cotton works, weaving industry, bleach-fields, printing and dye works, focused right across Renfrewshire employing many thousands of people from as far afield as Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, desperate for work. Hard to imagine it now in this very green and lush setting but that's the real reason these villages and communities exist here at all. Hard to believe, looking at it today, that this was once the centre of a world wide business operation exporting goods internationally and linked to several famous names in industry.

For those interested type in      Portal to the Past. Thornliebank      for old photos.

Today it's a pleasant, quiet, rather sleepy place but just look at the photos and history in this link from the 1800s when it was a major manufacturing complex centered around this modest stream, the Auldhouse Burn, which even today you can explore and see the remains of widening efforts, various dams, solidly constructed timber lined channels, wooden water gates, and catchment ponds, all designed at great cost to provide a steady year round supply of liquid power for the industry and works downstream. ( as these abandoned relics sit deep within mature, rarely visited woodland and cover the steep sides of the Auldhouse Burn, both within Rouken Glen Park itself and nearby Thornliebank , I hope Anne now understands and forgives why she was dragged over such rough forgotten landscapes, keen though she was to visit them  initially :o)

During the 1960s and early 1970s I remember getting the bus past here on this road fairly frequently and seeing an improbable looking building clinging on stilts like a limpet to this left hand wall, in the photo above. No pavement but a gap/hole here still visible but it's now sealed off, then descending steps through an iron gate leading down to it, a two story structure if I remember correctly from the past sitting apart below the road like something out of a Grimms' fairy tale cover illustration. At that time it was still working (a printing work I think) but so bizarre hanging over this small but steep gorge on its long supporting stilts as to make a big impression on passers by. This gorge seems more heavily wooded now, 45 years later, as you used to be able to look down into it from a double decker bus and see the stream bed. Always a magnet and an invitation to explore at that age, especially as the modest but artificially widened Auldhouse Burn is deep and river sized here.

Thornliebank Parish Church. Some of the older buildings in this village date back to the original manufacturing  hub,  mid to late 1800s, and after that industry died out the railway lines and stations serving both Nitshill and Thornliebank meant both areas were ripe for developers and housing by the 1920s to the 1960s as the growing city of Glasgow expanded outwards towards these suburbs.

Thornliebank Library dated 1894. This km long stretch of Spiersbridge Road has always been a pleasant walk, owls hooting at night, heavily wooded on both sides, slightly creepy in the dark gloom of winter but a complete joy to stroll along on a sunny blue sky day. After struggling through dense woodland and descending thick sloping vegetation to see the 1800s era water containment project Anne appreciated this easy pavement walk even more. Who said suburbia was boring :) 

After you pass the library you come to the village of Thornliebank itself. Like most post industrial places with a long history it's a strange mix of architecture from various times. Mid to late 1800s. then more recent 1930s, 1950s and 1960s development... some of the latter run down and tired looking....not here but further down near the shops...

Main shopping street. It's what I like about places with a bit of history in them. I have been on walks through suburban areas recently which were very boring and unenlightened, everything dated to the 1920s, 1930s or 1950s and not changed one iota since then... and zero views...but not here. Back in the 1960s- 1970s the red western SMT bus no 8 heading for Glasgow City Centre used to pass here from Nitshill, leaving the southern gang lands and tenement estates of Pollok behind....

Then it would turn right here, where this car is, and enter another world entirely...


The middle class district of Orchard Park. Coming from a tenement estate, surrounded by many other rough tenement estates, with buildings often covered in graffiti, gangs, poverty, and a air of sometimes palpable depression and despair this bus ride was a real treat for me. An hour long holiday. Whereas the green and cream Glasgow corporation buses no 48 and no 49 used to trundle through the working class districts and grim council estates of my youth into Glasgow through the heart of Pollok the red Western SMT buses no 8 and no 10, leaving from Paisley and Neilston respectively took a very different route into the city. A distinct class above. Due to having to avoid competition with Glasgow transport passengers as much as possible the number 8 went up here....sticking to East Renfrewshire by avoiding the Glasgow boundary lines... and poor people... altogether...

then traversed the decidedly upmarket suburbs of  Giffnock, along Kilmarnock Road past Merrylee, Newlands and Shawlands. Even today, seeing this modern view with Anne over Giffnock, I got that very same thrill. A feel good factor and a view filled with optimistic opportunity that made me want to walk across it... all over again...


Even the names here like 'Orchard Park' ' Wood Farm', 'New Lands' 'William Wood' ring out in the mind with broad clean brush stokes of rural idyll and assured beauty.

and invoke a rich land of plump apples, soaring butterflies...beautiful happy residents...

Cornucopias of wealth....

and radiant sunflowers gushing positive vibes everywhere... in the gardens at least...

The reality can be different though. Aged 14 I found myself without any friends.   I normally only ever had one or two close friends anyway growing up as that was all I needed to explore with but suddenly I didn't have any suitable companions at all. In a transition period for our estate they moved away, parents got a new house or other jobs etc, etc and I found myself at a loose end, on my own. Knowing that situation, some months later, a family friend introduced me to a brother and sister who lived in this area, an even more high class district nearby as it turned out, who were in a similar boat. We met in Rouken Glen Park in the early 1970s in summer sunshine and seemed to get on ok. We liked the outdoors and exploring places.

Although we inhabited two very different worlds we sort of clicked immediately, being teenagers, and although they lived in Eastwood, further out again.... the No 8 bus...., Rouken Glen Park..., Shawlands... Glasgow City..., and the Barrhead Dams gave us several fixed points halfway between our respective districts as convenient meeting points. It was pure serendipity that it happened at all but it turned out to be a good two years. They were in the middle of a messy divorce, a dysfunctional household with a new stepmother they didn't particularly get on with (at that time) and an older, very missed, brother who had just left the house for university. I wanted friends to have new adventures with... a simple ambition with no extra it worked. We all had bikes which made the halfway meeting points even shorter, 30 minutes or so, and to their eternal credit they never seemed to mind my own humbler circumstances. At 14 that didn't matter as much as it would with adults, more socially aware of any difference. We didn't hang out every weekend, maybe one in every three or four as it had to be dry to be enjoyable but we did a lot of firsts. First time I visited the 23rd Precinct record shop in Glasgow's Bath Street was with them... pouring over the racks of colourful 1960s and 1970s LPs by bands I've never heard of but household names now... First time wandering around Shawlands by ourselves without older company in tow. First trips into the city centre without parents... a big event in itself. Then as now Glasgow could be dangerous for teenagers on their own and in the 1960s and 1970s gang culture was huge in all the tenement estates.

First time I poured over a proper record collection was in their house, a family group collaboration of around 30 albums from Bob Dylan to Donovan to Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks etc possibly reflecting the older brothers taste in music more than their own but pre- internet this was fascinating stuff and my first real immersion into psychedelic artwork and the later USA California driven visionary hyper real art of the American West Coast... an early form of the open world 3D computer graphics we see today in all its vivid glory. We didn't need drugs to appreciate the more elaborate sleeve designs and could spend ages just looking at the covers while listening to the music if the parents were out elsewhere. At that time, in the council estates at least, colour television sets were a rare, highly prized, luxury item. Small black and white TV sets still ruled in most households. Anne of Green Gables still sticks in my mind from 1972 with Kim Braden as the lead actress playing Anne, mainly because it was the first time we had watched anything on TV in colour. Until then you normally had to visit a cinema for that privilege so the swinging sixties passed us by- not so interesting when our own version of it was in black and white images viewed on a ten inch screen  The era of glam rock probably occurred as the swinging 1960s, for most ordinary TV viewers back then happened within uninteresting grey boxes. The outdoors held far greater mystery, adventure, vivid colours, and potential excitement so mostly we wandered the woods, lanes, and meadows together, keeping to the local wilds as our main enjoyment back then was always outdoors. This suited me fine as although on my very best behaviour in that domestic setting up there I did feel, when the parents were present, that I did not really fit in to this world and could never relax properly. They need not have worried though about any downwards contamination as by age sixteen it faded out naturally. I started work as an apprentice, had far less free time to kill and they headed for university. A companionship of convenience that suited us both at the time but fizzled out gradually later. Different paths to follow in life as adults.

On this particular path in the present we turned off Orchard Park Avenue at the top of the hill and climbed even higher via Sherwood Drive into Woodfarm. A view above from Woodfarm looking towards Eastwood/Williamwood I think. Normally the posher the area the more mature trees obscure the houses but this is the beautiful south after all and trees and rich woodlands are everywhere in abundance...

Even in large council housing schemes/estates like Castlemilk, seen here from Woodfarm, with the wind turbine on the Cathkin Braes visible....


and Pollok, Both these large districts/townships holding 30,000 to 40,000 residents at their peak skillfully hidden deep within a forest.

And with that we returned to the sylvan delights of Rouken Glen Park and the waiting car. 


East Renfrewshire. Always a pleasure to visit. Later on in my teenage years serendipity or plain luck would strike again, allowing me a chance to increase my travelling education still further beyond the constricting walls of my own estate in a land of dreaming spires and gleaming streets. No, not Oxford but Greenock in Inverclyde and this match proved a much better, longer lasting, fit with companions that would remain on the same page as we grew up together into adulthood in that 'kingdom by the sea'.

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Rouken Glen Park. The Beautiful South. Part one.


                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Another park trip with Anne - this time to Rouken Glen, situated on the south side of Glasgow near Thornliebank and a park I'm very familiar with as I grew up within walking distance of it. 
Of all Glasgow's park ponds Rouken Glen is arguably the most scenic so although Anne had been here before she had never been over when the water lilies were out- which is a magical event- too good to miss. ( I am aware it's in East Renfrewshire before anyone pulls me up but it used to be under the  Glasgow Parks umbrella for most of its existence and was a famed Edwardian jewel in the city crown and a big destination event in the era of tram cars.)
Waterlilies in full bloom.
White ones as well.
I've never seen it look so beautiful... or maybe the months of Covid 19 lock down made it seem extra special and fresh. Smaller yellow water lillies forming a mat here. There must be a squad of dedicated gardeners in Heaven though... and in Paradise... to keep some sort of order... as wild nature, left to its own devices, or sometimes affected by human tampering, is often in chaos. Always in flux...never a still picture for very long. When I looked this yellow version up to find out what it was this seemed to be Nymphoides or Floating Hearts, a species, like many others, introduced by keen gardeners with large estates on private ponds but now a vigorous out of control pest in North America, New Zealand, Ireland, The UK, Sweden etc etc due to its ability to form dense mats that cover the water surface.
A close up of it here. Presumably it joins Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and the Butterfly Bush on the invasive species list, plants that are already spreading out of control across the countryside. I do not remember seeing such a large mat of it before in this pond but Rouken Glen has had a reoccurring problem with  duckweed covering its surface in a thick blanket in the summer months, aggravated by excessive feeding by folk throwing bread in for the wildlife. Too much to get eaten by the swans and ducks.
Hence 'The Big Duck' in most park ponds. This is what happens when you feed them too much... they increase in size!
Hypericum Inodorum here, I think, with lovely little cups and balls. Nature often astonishes you with its sheer complexity of design patterns. Different stages of flowering here although they look like two separate plants.
Peacock butterfly on a ragwort plant.... which to a hungry bird from this angle might be mistaken for the eyes of a large predator, like a cat, resulting in a hesitation, giving the insect a chance to escape.
The golden kingdom of bees. No prizes for guessing why I call this district 'the beautiful south'. It just is... 'Teddy bear' bees... the flying monkeys of this mini world. Don't you want to stroke them? Very soft fur. Take a million bees to make a wizard's coat in the days of Thea Philopator.

A parade of coneflowers. A feast for the senses. Good enough to eat?
Nectar Loving hoverfly. Unlike most of its unwanted persistent cousins that zoom into your house the minute a door gets opened in summer this little guy is a joy to have around and one of my favourite insects. They even land on my fingers with the right temptation. Completely harmless and easily identified from a wasp as they move very differently through the air. 
A wasp in close up view.
I've always been in Eden... and you can live here as well... it's easy.
Sunlit wild dog rose.
The lush treasures of late July. My personal gold addiction I have to seek out and mine every year
Bee sheltering from heavy rain by hiding within a flower... as did we...for a while.... but this walk was not over.... it was now time to go back in time... down the rabbit hole with young Alice... a journey back to the early 1970s of my youth ... to be continued... 
                               Red Clover after rain has passed. An impressionist view.

From one world of colour straight into another. An overused word but not on this occasion. This is truly mind blowing in every way. Complex, clever and stunningly brilliant. Like nothing I've ever seen before. The clue is in the title. Best watched full screen.

Friday 7 August 2020

Levengrove Park. River Leven. Dumbarton to Balloch Walk.


A day out with my friend Anne and the first time we had managed to visit each other since the Covid 19 lockdown. This is Levengrove Park in Dumbarton which always has beautiful flower displays that change with the seasons. It also has a surreal quality to it, like a Roald Dahl film set, with its exotic mix of palm trees, different shaped pines and  multi coloured flowers.
A flower throne fit for any queen.
Colour mix. Poppy, Cornflower, Daisy.
Over the past few years a big impact addition to most parks has been wildflower strips to help the bees and other flying insects as numbers have dropped alarmingly. So we were surprised and delighted to find long strips of giant Ox-eye daisies in Levengrove Park, a recent new arrival. I have noticed though that previous wildflower plantings only last one season in full, rich condition- by the second yearly flowering other weeds have succeeded in smothering most of the flowers and by the third year most have disappeared. So you really have to sow new beds/strips every year to get the full benefit sadly.
By contrast weeds that grow naturally, year on year, without any human help, and despite eradication attempts by those same humans, usually thrive and hold their own- like this roadside verge of colourful yellow ragwort and rosebay willow herb- both poisonous to livestock but loved by flying insects and bees just the same. 
Clover is another flower that bees adore, it even smells like honey, yet it can be a vigorous hard to eradicate weed if you want a perfect green lawn. I love them all.
Ants on a child's discarded orange here. Natural recycling.
Cornflower and bumble bee.
Dumbarton Rock and Castle.
A Garden of Delights. Levengrove Park. One of the real gems of Dumbarton.
Dumbarton to Balloch cycletrack and walkway. River Leven View.
Looking in the other direction, towards the Clyde Estuary and Dumbarton Rock.
Levengrove Park in full summer flourish.
A grove of many different hues.
Beauty in abundance. In any walk I am drawn to perfection... and colour... and sparkle... in this world.
But I did remember to keep a three metre distance from my companion at all times.....even though it was hard :)  Not on my part though... a fully extended walking pole held at arms length made a convenient prodding device  if Anne or anyone else came too close, needing a gentle reminder, and I was more than happy to use it.
( I had an inexplicable bruised foot resulting in a painful limp yet no idea how it occurred, almost overnight. In fact it's so inexplicable and weirdly sudden one might suspect someone else to be sticking pins in a doppelganger doll with carefree abandon.... and who would fashion such a tiny creature of evil intent one wonders!!?? Obviously a miscreant versed in the dark arts and illicit alchemy as in 2020 on this good flat earth mere scientific advancement or informed medical suggestions as to a cause or possible remedy for any illness are never to be trusted)
Such a lovely place. One of my favourite local parks to limp about in. 
But enough of that... on-wards up the walkway towards Balloch following the River Leven.  Forward painful foot and heed no smirking female advice to rest up! Very occasionally seals swim up here from the sea until they find themselves in Loch Lomond. They have to return after a few days however as they can't live in freshwater for very long and get sick if they stay.
Further upstream you come to the Leven Swamp, a brackish marshy area and flood plain. This is a water safety valve. Even though it meanders in loops the River Leven is the only outlet for the vast Loch Lomond. It is one of the shortest rivers in Scotland but also one of the fastest in spate with very powerful currents after flooding. When this happens this outlying marsh fills out to capacity and even the walkway/ cycle-track is underwater and impassable.
In calm conditions though it is beautiful and fairly wild. Freedom fighter ( or terrorist, depending on nationality/ political interests/ point of view)...Robert the Bruce spent the last three years of his life here in a purpose built mansion house with its own small dock and canal near Renton, a retirement gift. In calm weather you could go duck hunting, fishing, boating, or visit friends.. as the river, at high tide, leads out to the Clyde Coast and the open sea. Not a bad place for a weary solider to end up after years of fighting to free Scotland from English rule during the wars for independence..
As it's a colourful post here's a colourful video to match it. One of the most spectacular and poetic wildlife compilations you will see anywhere and a classic six minute song The Beatles would have been proud to put in their own back catalogue. Best watched full screen... for full effect of course.