Tuesday 26 January 2021

Inverclyde. Simple Pleasures Missed.

                                                     ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN


As we are in full lock down at the moment and have been for a month, with possibly a second month to come I am restricted to a handful of local walks around the house. One thing that Covid has highlighted for me is how much I miss even just a 30 minute car journey to somewhere else. Being the age I am, the high mountains in full winter conditions, climbed solo,  are probably beyond me now, especially as I have a damaged shoulder at present- too much hard effort just to come back down again with the risk of a slip and fall onto my bad arm something to be avoided. 

So I don't miss access to the mountains these days. What I do miss is the simple ability to jump in a car, bus or train and travel to Renfrewshire or Inverclyde, just across the river from Glasgow City, but currently out of bounds- not just from last month but effectively from March 2020 until now. So this is a gallery of several different trips taken over the past few years around the three Inverclyde Towns. Sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. As you can see from the photos above the connected strip of towns- Port Glasgow, Greenock, and Gourock, could easily pass for a Nordic Crime series as they do resemble parts of coastal Sweden, Norway or Iceland, especially in winter. As I've been watching several Nordic Crime series recently on TV ...The Valhalla Murders (Iceland) The Bridge (Denmark - Sweden) All The Sins (Finland) I know the fantastic winter scenery around these Scottish towns can be the equal of anything further north.

Here you can be just across the water from serious, rarely climbed, mountains in Highland Argyll yet feel no compulsion to struggle up them. Rugged, mostly path free, and as wild as anything further north they fall below Munro standards so are remarkably empty of hill walkers but make for a great scenic backdrop. Even though they are under 3000 foot high they are usually desperate hills to climb, winter or summer, with few ascents and no beaten trails to follow to the summits so I'm always happy just to look and admire them from a distance these days, having sampled their vertical delights in the past.

 And there's always something going on in the Firth of Clyde anyway. A Greenock hill top view here on a windless day after heavy snowfalls with the Clyde Estuary looking semi frozen, yet still open to shipping. A sea of slush basically. It was around minus 10 below and the sea did partly freeze with solid ice in the shallower bays. Apart from the deep water channel leading up to Glasgow (See line of markers) the view here is mostly mud flats at low tide, covered at high tide with only a shallow depth of water. If the Gulf stream (North Atlantic Drift) ever changed course or slowed/ deviated slightly we may yet see this channel frozen over, coastline to coastline. And as Covid 19 has shown us- things we thought were static and reliable can change in an instant if we mess with nature enough to cross a line..

Another reason I like this area is that there's always a chance down here by the coast that the unexpected might happen, and often does. Shipping and submarines to look out for in the various sea inlets, lofty surrounding mountains, or even a Royal Navy Helicopter Rescue with a Westland Sea King, as here.


So unlike my local handful of well trodden walks, good though they might be for mere exercise, this is a place where interesting events might occur.

A climber trapped on the 1000 foot high Cross of Lorraine that towers over Greenock. See black dot (climber) with helicopter about to land.

Helicopter landed and a rescue attempt underway. Rope lowered down to casualty.

Rescue completed and another life saved. Hooray! Yes folks, you never know what will occur by the seaside.

 The Great Orme of Inverclyde. Over eighty feet long, nose to tail, and a fearsome ruthless hunter, despite the smile. 

Ginger. Greenock's towering heavy horse sculpture, soaring high above this coastal town's tenement districts,  watching proudly over Greenock's docklands like the Pharos lighthouse watched over ancient Alexandria.


Port Glasgow's Endeavour Sculpture. A representation of the tall ships that used to carve a path through the icebergs to reach this port. At one time the main gateway for goods going into the city where ships docked here before being hauled overland on wooden rollers, full masted galleons pulled through the low Renfrewshire hills by teams of panting heavy horses to deliver their goods to the eager masses waiting in the valley beyond. What a sight that must have been! 

Incidentally, in an age where no one reads books or newspapers anymore, fails to check every fact, no longer trusts government advice, science, or history... and gets all our information via the internet...or populist leaders with their own agenda to push... do you think that's a good thing for society at large? Will we even survive this bold new Eden unfolding?  'Smart' phone in hand- or soon to be implanted in wrist? Do puppets care what hand is inside them... as long as they move and come alive?

 Lang Craigs and Gourock Bay viewed from Greenock.

Greenock Docks at Night.

 Greenock and Port Glasgow, lights at dusk.

All three towns climb up steep hillsides making them a photographer's dream, day or night, to explore. I've been coming here since the 1960s and know the area well through every passing decade.

Port Glasgow daytime.

Port Glasgow at night.

 Hillside wonderland. Port Glasgow.

Ice covered streets at minus 8 below in Port Glasgow several years ago.

Tower Hill in Gourock from Lyle Hill. Dusk descending.

 Ice coated streets in Port Glasgow.

Twinkleland Empire. Exploring the hills of Greenock with Anne and Belinda in happier, free movement, times.

 The up and down nature of urban Inverclyde. Towns built over many different hillsides. A joy to explore.

Waterloo Road School. A fictional UK TV series set in a real (but recently empty) Greenock School. Would not like to chase a rolling football here.

 Warehouse apartments. Port Glasgow. 

Curious seal.

Winter ridges on Arran.

The Firth of Clyde island chain. Great Cumbrae with the mountains of Arran behind. The end.

Thursday 14 January 2021

Kilpatrick Hills under Snow. Sunset and Night Photos.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

Even before the current full lock down only a few hills, for those living nearby, were within easy reach and it was obvious, from rising Covid numbers, that a full lockdown was coming at any moment. A fairly heavy dump of snow had arrived on the Kilpatricks, see above, so I was keen to get up there before they dropped out of reach as well.  This trip was taken before the lockdown came in.


As I'd been up them twice now in the last two months ( the only viable hill group available to me) and as the car park was always packed out with cars every day I decided on a late afternoon arrival. That way I could get a parking place, enjoy two hours of sunshine, maybe see a good sunset, then get a few night shots.

Late December- dusk over the Campsies. In many ways, Covid 19 has not impacted on me as much as it has on others as I normally walk solo most of the year anyway, I also restrict myself to the Central Belt area at present, due to petrol costs incurred in travelling further afield, and I only go food shopping as I rarely need anything else for entertainment. No cinema, no retail therapy, no hospitality outings, no takeaway meals, no trips abroad... even before Covid happened. The only things I do miss are city to city bus trips, a wider choice of hills, and occasional human company. But basically I'm a bear in the woods, happy and content by myself since March as long as I'm eating well and have a favourite scratching tree. 

So off I ambled up the hills once more, looking for berries or a dead fresh rabbit, having a good conversation with a few fellow hill-walkers descending the path- at ten foot apart distance markers obviously- no chancy two metre zone for me.. and I enjoyed these brief five minute interactions, as even I need some contact with the outside world around me to stay semi sane. ( I've never been totally sane at any point :o) 

The sunshine felt good on my face but it didn't last for long and an hour later it dropped into sunset mode. A view of the River Clyde here, looking towards Greenock.

Sunset over the Campsie Fells from the Kilpatrick Hills. A foot of snow in places higher up but deceptively camouflaged here, hidden by foot high heather.

Reaching the snowline above Clydebank and the City of Glasgow.

Renfrewshire sunset just starting.

or a doorway into heaven perhaps...

or the immortal heartbeat of the sinking sun.... the life-giver of planet Earth.

or a last warm kiss from the wicked witch of the west before bed. Take your pick.

In any event once the sun departed the full moon came out, giving much needed light but little warmth. Temperatures soon dropped below freezing again.

I lingered up high to watch all the urban lights come on in my magic metropolis below. Erskine Bridge lights here.

Metropolis at dusk.

Had to watch my feet though on the descent  as many of the once grassy paths had turned into mud and slush. Inevitable given the numbers of visitors involved and the year round rain we get here.

In places it was ankle deep mud, increased by mountain bike use, which are perfectly suited for land rover type tracks but do cause a lot of long lasting damage to grass paths- as this route once was, before covid restrictions funneled the masses into smaller exercise areas. Maybe it's gyms being closed or daily briefings on TV promoting the benefits of outdoor activity together but huge numbers of people, keeping fit in various ways, arrive on every canal bank, local park, hill, and meadow, hour after hour now, proving once again how ridiculously easy it is to brainwash the general population at large. Grannies and grandads who haven't moved off the sofa for years are now powering up inclines, in battered slippers, anytime a brief ray of sun appears.

 Anyway, down I went into the darkness... of my black and thrice damned heart... Bears only believe in nature, after all.

Cloudscapes lower down.

Under the underpass.

Full moon in the car park.

Train Station at night. The end.

And then the stars came out.                Farewell Cassini.