Wednesday 28 October 2020

Pollok Revisited. Haugh Hill. Househill Park.



                                       ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN

During the last Pollok post when I was standing in the late afternoon sunshine in North Pollok looking over the surrounding districts I noticed this local hill, seen above to the right, sticking out higher than the surrounding houses. It was mostly tree covered but it suddenly dawned on me that I'd never been up it and as I was enjoying myself so much here  ... I'd have to come back another time.

So a week later, on another stunning autumn day, I arrived back in Pollok again to explore some further areas and I parked in Cornalee, near this sign just off Barrhead Road. I always try to park unobtrusively, not in front of anyone's house or in any locals parking spot and luckily there is extra space here, handy for the park that looked safe enough. First on the list to visit was Househill Park which runs from the main Pollok roundabout (where Silverburn Shopping Centre stands), along Barrhead Road to the Hurlet. Half of the park sits on the east bank of the Levern Water beside Hartstone Road and Haughburn Road- the rest of the park- the best bit for a walk- is a long broad green ribbon between Barrhead Road and the Levern Water. See photo below. Autumn colours were outstanding here.

Although mainly used by locals (it's never busy, probably because there's nothing really in it, other than grass, trees, a few seats and a path and it does not have an official car park attached to it) I was nevertheless very impressed by its beauty. It's a wonderful park that's very underrated (except by the locals) which officially ends at the Crookston shops but in fact the pleasant green ribbon and path carries on further until the Hurlet. When I was growing up in Nitshill the local doctor and dentist both had an office beside or in this row of shops so I had to walk this route a few times a year.

Although never that keen on the dentist (I didn't mind the doctor as that usually didn't hurt.) the 45 minute walk there through the old mining village then along this green ribbon was always a delight. It's fair to say any walk in Nitshill or Pollok was and is a special joy as we were surrounded on all sides by beautiful woods, fields, and fantastic scenery- gently rolling hills, ridges, streams, and wonderful views in every direction. Imagine a clock face- 1 to 12. well from my house there was a different enjoyable walk for nearly every hour on it wherever the hour hand pointed going round... that's how good an area it was.

It's been 30 years since I've been in Househill Park but it's still stunning, especially on a sunny day in October. This is the part of the park across the stone bridge on the other side of the Levern Water

You can either walk on the short grass if its dry or stick to the path through the trees.

Even walking along the pavement on the dual carriageway of Barrhead Road ( Househill Park on right, Cornalee hidden on left in this photo) is a holiday outing in itself, especially during lock down when it would have been very quiet. It's not a busy road normally, except at rush hour times, so it feels serene.

Cornalee is a small estate of only six or so rows of modern tenements, built after the main Pollok area was completed. It sits right beside the middle class district of Crookston Road which has expanded greatly on both sides since the 1970s.

Crookston Shops. When I was young, in the 1960s, the doctors surgery was in the middle of this row (gone now) and the dentist was in a private house nearby ( amazingly still there, yee ha!) Househill Park looks much the same but Haugh Hill has shrank considerably. It used to be a huge grassy hill area between Crookston Road. (the housing development part of which only went up as far as Gamrie Road then on the right and Mulben and Faskin Road on the left. After that it was all open countryside and farms with only Crookston Home on the right and Leverndale on the left much further down interrupting the pastoral scenery. All this area, on both sides of Crookston Road is now modern housing estates- a cul de sac land of owner occupied starter homes.

I mention this as Haugh Hill back then in the 1960s, when I was going to the dentist was massive. On old maps this area used to be a working farm, part of the giant Pollok estate, and on mid 1800 maps although still mainly scenic rural farm land Haugh Hill and Househill Park also boasted coal mines, lime works, several lime kilns, and ironstone pits dotted around, fueling the Industrial Revolution. Both the nearby Hurlet and Nitshill, although rural hamlet and small country village back then had sizable industries, far more than today, but it was not without risk. Nitshill's Victoria Pit in 1851 recorded one of the worst ever Scottish mining disasters when 61 out of 63 miners, men and young boys, were killed underground by a massive explosion. Many were married men from Nitshill and Barrhead, with sons working with them so often father and one or two boys were killed together- a huge loss to the families left behind with the sole breadwinners dead.  That severe shocking loss of entire male family groups overnight must have sent many of the ones left behind completely mad, not to mention destitute..

Levern Water at Househill Park. Despite its modest size this stream, beginning its life in the hills of the Renfrewshire Uplands used to power several large mills in Barrhead before it even reached this point, Any stream or river was heaven sent for the local bleaching, weaving, dye works, print works, cotton mills, and textile industry so Renfrewshire's generous streams were all put to good use.

Even by the late 1960s, with the Greater Pollok schemes/estates fully completed, Haugh Hill, a large empty high point between Kempsthorn Crescent and Crookston Road , was mostly untouched and still larger than most Glasgow Parks. Looking at a 1960s map it covered more undeveloped acres here than Tollcross Park, Queen's Park, King's Park, Victoria Park and Linn Park, almost double their size, yet I do not remember noticing it or climbing up it. No memory of it being there at all, grassy or otherwise... which is why I wanted to see it now.  Better late than never....

Unfortunately now it's a shadow of its former glory, its wide open slopes of yore munched into by new housing developments so that over half of it is gone, Pollok and Crookston almost touching back to back, separated by only a thin screen of trees in some places.

The path up Haugh Hill itself, now a small community woodland, is ok for what it is, but compared to what it must have been like in the past it's only a small echo of its former glory. Thickly wooded throughout, one circular path in and no views from the summit. As most of the trees here are 20 to 30 foot high I found myself wondering if Haugh Hill in the 1960s would have been mostly grass with wide open views. I have walked on a path on the far side of Haugh Hill, starting behind a Lidl Store on Crookston Road when cul de sac developments were just starting up there (20 odd years ago) and that hill had wide open views then with no trees to speak its an overgrown wooded jungle I failed to find a path up at all this time around so it just shows what can occur 20 years later.

This is on the summit of Haugh Hill... a circular ditch running most of the way round it, just like the path up. It's quite a claustrophobic place now with only one route up and down, something we didn't particularly like as kids because we preferred to see any gangs coming towards us from a distance. It struck me suddenly looking at this ...'why would you dig a long circular ditch in the middle of a wood?'. It's not a half hearted thing either as it would take a long time and plenty of full man hours and commitment so maybe decades ago the trees were not around?

Dropping down the hill slightly on the north side the slope did open out and give partial views so I can imagine this being a wide open grassy hill in the past. All it takes is a few years without livestock grazing and you get young trees appearing. 

Even going back 40 years ago the change in housing in Pollok and the other big council estates in Glasgow is dramatic. People today looking around Pollok would never imagine it looked like this in the past. A back court in South Nitshill around the late 1980s, the Thatcher years in the UK when London was booming with the banking revolution, the great shares sell off of British companies into private hands, many going overseas for a knockdown price, and an influx of jobs and people going south while shipyards, factories, mines, and heavy industry closed here and in the north of England, leading to massive unemployment, half empty estates, and widespread depression, in people and in the northern economy. Yet in the south it was boom time as all the highest paid jobs went there.. and they have stayed there to this day. While the post industrial cities declined London increased by two million and then they had the problem of overcrowding to deal with.

Priesthill in Pollok- late 1980s, after ten years of northern austerity and a decade of high unemployment levels. Most of the older tenements in Pollok were flat roofed three and four levels high and you can tell by the tenement design when they were constructed. These are late 1940s (Bundy district ) early 1950s type. South Nitshill, one photo above, came later with pitched roofs but still damp, built 1958 to early 1960s including Castlemilk, Drumchapel and Easterhouse, similar style and look then across all these mentioned. Most tenement estates in Glasgow have gone now from that period. Many started off good with high hopes but nearly all the 1960s ones have been flattened. Dampness,vandalism, big families from that time, isolation on the outskirts.and a lack of any facilities at the beginning (apart from churches and chapels that is) all contributed to their decay.

Flat roofed four floor tenements in Pollok: long streets of these older districts, slowly abandoned and awaiting demolition. It was an education to work in them however and I loved the experience, having jobs that took me into every corner of every Glasgow scheme. What a privilege to be there at that time. In the old days you could easily tell the deprived areas in most cities. In the 1960s Swiss/ French architect Le Corbusier was a major influence for town planners/ architects and one of his ideas was to stack people like wine bottles in the cities in vertical towers and as Glasgow had a massive influx problem and overcrowded slums, doubling its population every ten years for a long period, living in wine racks took the place of the earlier garden suburb idea and low level housing with back and front gardens fell out of fashion. By the 1930s Glasgow had over one million people living within the city limits which also explains why it constructed more high rise tower blocks than any other city in the UK during that time, attempting to house them all...(38 to 40 children in each primary class looking at old school photos of the 1960s Pollok.) Poverty still exists of course but governments and local authorities are much better at hiding it now. The housing stock now is a world away from the failed tenement estates of the 1950s to the 1990s (when  most were eventually pulled down) but now we have a chronic housing shortage in the UK and private landlords instead. It's only in the last decade that the city population has started to rise again to around 560,000 within the city limits but the Greater Glasgow conurbation, including nearby outlying towns and attached city districts like Bearsden, Newton Mearns, Barrhead and Paisley stands slightly over one and a half million.

Even at its worst though, in the bad old days of full estates and large class sizes in the 1960s, Pollok was a fantastic area to grow up in... an adventure every time you went out the front door. And in every direction from that door a new rolling landscape of woods, farms, meadows, streams, and hilltops to discover. This was brought home to me recently when I did a couple of walks- one in Bearsden one in Merrylee/ Clarkston- and I was soon bored. Very little to see or photograph. Large houses, affluent area, nice gardens, people with apparently good prospects and opportunities- yet no good distance views to speak of over the surrounding area (which I always like) and very few open areas to wander in either as large houses had claimed any scenic spare ground or it was fenced off private land.. so no potential exploration thrills anywhere...just long streets of well heeled houses in the sections I visited but nothing interesting woods... and nothing had changed there since the day they were built 70 to 100 years ago. A perfectly pleasant neighbourhood to live in but also a very static one to the visiting eye. Not the same scale of excitement at all. Districts trapped in amber, looking exactly the same as when I first explored them in the early 1970s. No wonder so many teenage rebels come from affluent suburbia. They may have money and be able to go places further afield but as children growing up there's not so much fun and adventure to be had in the immediate vicinity, except in each others houses and gardens. No wild euphoria of wonderful places to discover in these streets.

 By comparison our own world was always changing, transforming into something else every five years. From good scheme to bad... older buildings coming down... new ones rising up. A living, breathing, kaleidoscope... yet always the comfort and delight of a vast woodland realm surrounding you. Instead of wolves and bears in the forest we had local gangs in each area, giving us a heightened awareness when exploring.

Growing up in Pollok was never boring outdoors... it even had its own castle.... to be continued...  last part next....

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Pollok Revisited. Tales from the Great Forest. The Bundy.


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A couple of weeks ago, in early October, I was driving back from Kings Park near Rutherglen and as it was the rush hour, with traffic filled streets, loads of road works, a jammed M8 motorway where cars inched forwards a yard at a time, and dozens of traffic lights everywhere going any other route, I took my tried and tested default setting of driving back through Pollok. Traffic is always less busy here, few traffic lights, no road works, wide and usually quiet dual carriage ways... and trees... always loads of trees. In the rush hour, or at any time, it's a very pleasant way to go so it was Kings Park Avenue, Menock Road, Merrylee Road, Nether Auldhouse Road, Barrhead Road, Braidcraft Road, Corkerhill Road, Mosspark Drive, then under the Clyde Tunnel to Anniesland. A route I've traveled hundreds of times over the years- my default setting so I do not even have to think about it and it's nearly always stress free. More than stress free- it's a beautiful journey, of the kind that's getting less common in the city these days with a sizable number of formally spacious roads that have suddenly narrowed recently, converted to cycle track use with far less room for cars on them. As a keen cyclist myself I should be pleased by this but as a driver it has turned many wide pleasant roads with broad pavements (where you could cycle along on anyway, although by law illegal, without any hassle) into much narrower unpleasant and more congested corridors where you have to concentrate over every inch of tarmac ahead of you. The potential, with a busy line of parked cars on one side, including children popping out between them suddenly and raised bumps and bollards on the other cycle lane side increasing any accident risk greatly( in my considered opinion, having travelled most of them.) makes it more and not less dangerous for all concerned. Couple that with newly extended foot high raised bus stops sticking six feet out into the road so buses can deposit prams and elderly passengers level with pavements and you have a large increase of obstacles for the motorists to discover, especially in an unfamiliar area.

This photo of Knightswood Park illustrates this perfectly. A couple of years ago it was a wide quiet road with just a few scattered cars parked on both sides. Acres of driving and parking space either side- it is a much narrower road with a long line of parked cars on the right hand side ( this was a wet day it's usually packed solid with cars on a good one) and a cycle lane on the other. With winter and wet weather coming on the large number of daily joggers and cyclists have thinned down to a trickle- and I'm really happy with that. I used to really enjoy driving or cycling through this park if I was in the area but now I try to avoid it. Wet packed autumn leaves are also as slippy as ice on a bike and require care.

I use other roads instead to move through this area, ones as yet unaffected... where you can still cycle or drive down in style and abundant wide-ness with time to look around you and enjoy your surroundings more. The feel good factor that's been totally robbed from that other street, photo above. Can you kill a road!? Yup! You can! The good unaffected road below.

Anyway, back in Pollok it was late afternoon and I'd already had an enjoyable day out walking and photographing autumn colours but when I reached Pollok, ( the photo below, a bus stop in Braidcraft Road in Pollok this is,) the light was so special and the scenery so magical I had to stop and get out.

Nearby was a small grassy hill in North Pollok I'd driven past many times but never stood on and filled with walking endorphins, giving a calm happy mood, I decided this was the time to see the view from it.

Five minutes later I was standing on its broad grassy summit with panoramic views over this side of the city. North Pollok and the white Moss Heights flats here in this one.

Kennishead Flats (used to be five blocks of them) and the great wood of Pollok in this one, made up of  Pollok Park and several adjoining wooded golf courses. At one time the vast Pollok Estate had stretched from Govan, beside the River Clyde to the Renfrewshire uplands, covering almost half of modern South Glasgow and there was still a sizable chunk left of it today.

In every direction you looked from this small hill the view was one of woodlands stretching to the horizon. Around 50,000 people lived and live in the greater Pollok area yet they appeared mostly invisible from here, only the modern frontage of the Silverburn Shopping Centre in the heart of Pollok standing out tall, like an Aztec temple emerging from the surrounding jungle. From this distance and angle it was a magnificent sight and brought a feeling of great pleasure and tingling excitement- like an old time explorer viewing brave new lands. I've never had that feeling inside it wandering around so I must be a scenery voyeur. The further away from it the better it looks.

As I was standing on this low hill, admiring the view in all directions, a young teenage/ twenty something local wandered up with his dog, checking me out. In an upmarket area people usually ignore you- pretend you're not case you speak to them presumably,  but in the schemes there's always a chance  they'll come up to talk to you... just the way it is... and he was friendly... just curious about what I was up to and we had a short conversation, six feet apart of course, mainly about how brilliant it was to grow up in Pollok with views like this on your doorstep. The vast Pollok Park was just a short ten minute walk or cycle away. Rosshall Park was within easy walking distance as well...Bellahouston Park also viable on foot or by bike, reached through several miles of unbroken woodland and meadow if required. Pollok itself was one giant wooded park... albeit one with houses in it...and a population a third the size of the city of Dundee or holding equal numbers to a town like Kilmarnock- yet it was mostly invisible from this hill top, standing within the centre of the beast and it brought home to me yet again how lucky I was to have spent the first 27 years of my life here. It was a childhood Heaven on earth- with just enough Hell in it to stop you being bored.

In some of the other large schemes/ council estates built in the 1950s and 1960s  and especially in Easterhouse, Drumchapel and Castlemilk, 'The big four' with 30,000 plus lucky residents each you had woods and scenic parts as well but also long ranks of three and four storey tenements clustered together, which if you lived in the middle of them could feel claustrophobic, the view front and back one of other tall tenements straight across the street from you and rows of identical verandas and windows staring back. That extra height level from three floors tall to four made a huge difference psychologically, even as a visitor, walking down and between them. Streets of four storey tenements on both sides of a road immediately felt more threatening with that extra level added, darker, more claustrophobic, less light, less colour and space in the sky above. And that's from someone that likes caves and tunnels.


 Pollok, started before the Second World War as a well laid out garden suburb, was more diverse in it's construction, and more low level, being older, than the other three giant estates. Large numbers of cottage type houses with back and front gardens which are still immaculate and well kept to this day interspersed with only a few isolated three and four storey tenement blocks, like this one here at Pollok's main roundabout made up the central core. Most of these still stand today and it's only in the Pollok G53 districts with clustered tenements, Calfhill Road, Dormanside, Craigbank, Priesthill, Nitshill, South Nitshill and Darnley that most of the changes have occurred and the tenements/ deck access estates there have been knocked down and replaced with low level cottage types. These original tenement estates only had a lifespan of 30 to 40 years-( mine was riddled with damp from the start, despite heat and proper ventilation, if the other houses were the same that may have been part of the problem. Built of Wilson Brick I think or flat roofs, which seemed unsuited to the rain soaked Scottish climate.) the cottage types going on 80 to 90 years and still looking good.


Mosspark on its hill here above- along with Knightswood and Carntyne, introduced some of the first wave of large scale council housing estates  in Glasgow built in the 1930s on-wards but all low level cottage type housing, still desirable areas and standing to this day, many of them ex council home owners now.  .



Looking southwards across Pollok the view was equally good. Great colour in the trees and pupils heading home from school around 4:00pm. It felt like a magical landscape and I've always felt completely at ease here as an adult.

Speaking of which this is St Paul's High School in Pollok. When I went to this exact same site it was a taller building, a 'non denominational' secondary school called Craigbank. As a pupil there however I always thought of it as a protestant school even though I was never religious or sectarian in any way, reinforced by the fact that Bellarmine, (then the main large catholic school in the district) was five minutes walk away, and as children everywhere, started to think from primary school age they were different from us in some manner- otherwise why have separate schools?. It was a puzzle to me. What was the difference? Before school age we all played together in the tenements and didn't care- after leaving school we all worked and played together.. and didn't care then either, certainly in my case, but that period of going to school made us separate units.You always have to have a yin and yang though.... for good balance. Coming out of school at 4:00pm we had to catch a bus on Barrhead Road where the Pollok Shopping Centre/ Silverburn now stands. Except back then in the early 1970s it was not there- that site was occupied by the Bundy scheme- a small council estate built in the early days of Pollok's development in the 1940s and already 30 years old by it's last decade on the planet. By the late 1970s it had gone altogether and a question that still puzzles me today is why was the Bundy so notorious that it had to be flattened and obliterated completely by a shopping centre? It was only a small scheme/estate of five or six streets, only a couple of them tenements, the rest cottage type houses, so it should have lasted longer, yet it loomed very large in our teenage imaginations and reality. At that time, in the early 1970s, four or five much larger districts of massed tenements existed in Pollok with gangs in each of them but the one that was at the very top of the 'to be feared' list was the Pollok Bundy. Even though we went to school right beside it and could see the first row of dark tenements a stone's throw away from our bus stop I was never tempted to wander through it- and I never knew anybody else who dared either. I wish now I had explored it as it's remained a mystery to me why it was like that. I have a dim memory of a three storey tenement street, not far from the bus stop, half the stair windows either broken or bricked up and usually a gang of surly teenagers hanging around in the close-mouths watching us until we jumped on a bus. That's one of the reasons I never went exploring. This group never seemed to go to school as they were always there before us when the schools came out, just hanging around. Online I can only find a few photos of the old Bundy when it was newly built and it looked fine.

The other areas around our school are neat and tidy to this day. This is right beside the Bundy and it always has been an almost middle class district of prosperous looking streets and well looked after cottage type houses and gardens, even back in the 1970s when it was council. Maybe that's why the Bundy gang liked travelling to other, more rougher parts of Pollok to fight. I had an aunt that lived in Arden, miles away from the Bundy scheme across open countryside but another  tenement estate. On one visit  I noticed the back courts there had new high gates across them to seal off these openings into the rear of the tenements. Apparently, according to her,  the Bundy had been coming over and fighting with the local gang and just running wild about the place. I could believe that as they occasionally ran through our area as well. It all added to the myth- like the wall built to keep out King Kong. Sometimes the wall failed to keep them out though, as on one occasion that I know of, they stormed our school for some reason, throwing stones through the windows in a mass attack, even though it was broad daylight and teachers and pupils were sitting in each class. Yet The Bundy was also where most of our parents went shopping, before the shopping centre was built- to the single row of shops near the front of that scheme, at the main roundabout- and always came back unscathed. It was all very strange- yet very normal for that time.

And it wasn't just myth that their reputation stood on. A view of Nitshill tower block in the distance from North Pollok, a view close to where the Bundy once stood beside the sloping turf roofed building known as The Wedge. Our scheme in Nitshill was a few miles away as well so they took a bus to get to it. Aged 14 the first I knew of this was standing in a friend's close talking to him when a younger upstairs neighbour shouted the dreaded words. 'The Bundy are coming!' He shot off up to an upper flat and dived inside, slamming the door. Thinking I had plenty of time I went out the front onto the main street to see if he was exaggerating and noticed several teenagers with knives in hand prowling towards me but still 50 yards away. Before they noticed me I walked fast through the close again telling my friend it was true and that they were approaching, saying 'see you tomorrow, shut the door!'


I then ran into the back thinking I'd have plenty of time to reach my own close but was horrified to find out four of them with knives and other weapons in hand were more advanced this end and I had reached the right age to be a target. They would not have harmed anyone younger but I was now a teenager and 'the enemy.'  As soon as they saw me they charged so I zoomed straight for my own close. I lived on the ground floor of a three storey tenement, one of dozens in a large rectangle surrounding an open back court but it was completely empty that day, everyone else safe inside, and I knew if I thumped my own door and waited to get in they'd get me so I ran straight up the close stairs to the top level banging all the doors on the way and shouting for help. Even though I was not in a gang I'd already seen several teenagers stabbed or badly beaten just as an onlooker in the wrong place at the wrong time so standing my ground was not an option. The last person I knew that had done that lost his good looks to a razor slash for having the cheek not to run away. Outcome depended entirely on the mood of the pack. Luckily the guy in the top flat had a large Alsatian dog which he immediately let out, barking loudly, so I didn't get stabbed as they didn't come all the way up to the top landing, and other doors started opening. Growing up in Pollok I had a few other run ins with gangs carrying weapons but that was the worst. I definitely thought I'd had it then and probably would have been stabbed if I'd stayed at my own door as they were not far behind me.  That was my 'welcome pack' introduction to the Bundy... and I didn't like it much... but that was just one part of the Pollok I grew up in... it had many other sides to it.

A beautiful leafy place... and occasionally deadly... certainly in the past...

to be continued.....

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Camelot in Glasgow. An Autumn Gallery.

                                                    ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

This world I exist in is full of bright colour.

And after years of trial and error I now know the best places to find it. 

 Therefore, each October I seek out my autumnal grail on earth...

A knight riding out from far Camelot perhaps... in search of treasure...

Any weariness soon fades as I approach the city of towers...

  maybe in one of them I shall find a companion...

to aid me in my quest and make the long miles flow easier...

through this fabled realm.

A bright day to ride forth is always a blessing...

for who can resist the lord's ' shining path.'..

no sweeter wine was ever tasted...

than the company of true friends... and a token on my sleeve


"Are you coming out to play?" I asked...


"We certainly are." they replied. 

Our numbers grew to three.

" Where will we find what we are looking for?" They inquired.

"Why not look inside yourself- it's a good place to begin."

So we did.

and, after a while, our 'seventh sense'  gave us the path to travel...

so we followed it to a magic door...

where Guinevere, the Queen of the fairies lived.

but sadly she was out shopping...

so we settled for Jocasta instead......

A classic from the 1970s and an amazing range of visual characters portrayed on stage from a true pioneer in music. It was a very different band after he left. Worth watching. Multiple personalities in action. Half lead singer, half leading actor.