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A few days before the latest full lock down for Glasgow and Scotland started I decided to take a short drive over to Ruchill Park in the north of the city, near Maryhill. We have had over a week of severe night time frosts down to minus 12 in the countryside and mountains- minus 4 in the cities, plus a few light snowfalls from a settled weather system which is still dominating the climate over the UK for now. During the day frozen ponds and sunny conditions just above freezing attracted everyone outdoors, with hundreds of families descending on popular places like Queen's Park and Rouken Glen Park. By contrast Ruchill Park, when I arrived beside the student flats on Murano Street, had around 40 people in it in total- one reason why I picked it. It's much quieter. The other reason is that it has fantastic views over the city from the flagpole high point. You can also see a yellow vertical basket in this photo which will be explained later.
You could easily keep a stone's throw away from other visitors at all times and I had the flagpole viewpoint to myself, one reason being an icy ramp to access it which deterred some but not me as I came prepared with boots and gloves ( to pull/ steady myself up the spiral curving railings to the summit.) My reward was clear freezing views close at hand and atmospheric slight mist in the distance. Eight towers/spires in Glasgow's West End here, including the Park Circus set of 4 in the middle of photo.
The Ruchill flag pole summit, which, when you know what you are looking at, can be seen from most parts of Glasgow. Many of Glasgow's parks started out as grand private estates where the wealthy residents, (tobacco lords, shipyard owners, industrial revolution giants, overseas plantation speculators and the like,) often situated on green hilltops above the crowded, smoke and crime ridden city below could enjoy the peace and views without intrusion. Much as the modern bosses/ hedge fund managers/ IT billionaires enjoy looking down from 50 floor penthouse apartments today in various corners of the world.
Born with bugger all and being lucky enough to hang on to most of it all my life I could never afford to fly to New York City, Singapore, Bahrain, or Sydney just to see and climb the skyscrapers there or have the mentality, inclination, or confidence to backpack around the world solo but the trick to a happy fulfilled life is to appreciate what you have got within your grasp and not forever be wishing what if.... A view here of Garnethill and the St Vincent Street church spires (on left) with what looks like the square white block of the newish Scottish Power building. ( in middle) Although I've always fancied going up the Empire State Building or a host of other famous high towers/places around the planet I was realistic enough to know I might never get there given my job opportunities, annual salary, and unambitious, un-aspirational lifestyle where you work hard for 40 years and wait until you retire to splurge out on day dream trips. Like the 1960s drop outs however I wanted my hedonistic pleasures right away, while I was still young enough to appreciate and enjoy them fully. So I did just that and as a result I'm very content with my lot. I was also lucky in most of my jobs, many of which gave me direct access to tall buildings and intimate knowledge of dozens of housing estates as part of the working day.
From left to right. The needle of Glasgow sightseeing Tower, City of Glasgow University (middle with spire), University Library and Gallery of Modern Art. (square building on right) I never had the brains or inclination to go to university and study as in my day only the brightest from a working class estate background got offered a place or teachers would even suggest to a pupil that they might want to go there if they showed promise and ability but from a very early age I was aware of an obscure ambition of my own choosing and a select playground I could enter at will. And it was totally free. My life long Secret Passion and Guilty Pleasure. As Glasgow was already a city covered in hi rise flats, including the highest residential flats in Europe at 31 floors when they were constructed in the late 1960s, I would be an avid explorer of the built environment around me. There are currently 282 Munros in Scotland and I enjoyed collecting them in my prime years but I also had another list of urban mountains and wild areas I was exploring over many decades as well and one I started earlier and still continue to this day. I've always loved exploring city and town districts and especially the more 'colourful' areas.
Balgrayhill Flats and Springburn Park. Many districts in the drumlin city of Glasgow start or end in the word hill. From about the age of twelve I discovered I really enjoyed wandering around new districts I hadn't been in before, especially hilly ones, and like anything else in life, if you enjoy it, that view from each high point can become a habit/ passion/ addiction. Middle class districts were mostly boring as they were safe, perfectly pleasant, but unchanging- and composed of flat low housing with little scope for danger... or thrills. And they are still the same today. Unchanging. I prefer wandering through top or bottom landscapes- Large mansions, castles, grand estates- or 'colourful' and architecturally different housing schemes as they hold far more interest for me. However I'm old enough to remember working as a young apprentice in various tenement shops in the 1970s in this district, along Springburn High Street, before that busy, curving up a hill, town centre district was cut in half/ transformed/ demolished by the dual carriageway currently running through the middle of it. I also explored this deck access estate in the 1980s when you could still walk freely along all the graffiti covered corridors and stairwells from top to bottom, the 'streets in the sky' concept, before most were either demolished or like here, converted to door entry systems and enclosed structures. So when I look at this photograph, above, I see three separate sets of memories and adventures. The view today in 2020, the 1960s /1970s trips along the old shopping street and occasionally meeting my sister and her husband at the local Springburn Train Station or a scary 1980s excursion through this deck access estate on my own when it was known as 'Hell Hill' and was at its roughest. Built in the late 1960s these distinctive six floor high rows of flats, seven separate blocks in all, closely resembled the Darnley deck access estate, near where I once lived, and like that estate, 15 years after construction, built with architectural naivety and a basic lack of understanding of human behaviour on the lower rungs of society that any estate resident could have foreseen and pointed out, suffered badly from having no boundaries at all. In its original form anyone from outside could walk through it from one end to the other passing every front door in each block without stopping or hindrance so it soon became a hi rise playground for local youth and gangs to hang out in. Unlike properties with a garden it was far harder to say "bugger off -you're in my space" when all you had was a front door leading directly out into an open corridor used by all. A fatal design flaw in many deck access developments UK wide. Ok if limited to young professional types who just need a box to live in, when not working, but unsuitable for family groups as each landing held dozens of children who lived there, encouraging others to join them in an open plan experiment./free for all.
Flagpole view of Maryhill District and the Wyndford Hi Rise flats. Although I've never managed to get up the Empire State Building I was very lucky to grow up at a time, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when you could gain access to practically every residential council hi rise building and deck access estate in the UK without any problems. So along with my Munro memories I have just as many and more vivid recollections of hundreds of mainly solo urban adventures through housing estates and up skyscrapers in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Paisley, Greenock, and London, many now demolished and long forgotten, as each town and city changed its urban identity decade by decade. I never really kept an accurate list of all these urban mountain summits I stood on over the last 50 years but I would guess they easily matched 282. And not a boring one among them. My guilty pleasures. Although I hasten to add I was always on my best behavior when I visited. Curiosity only. That type of visually wild and immediately daunting housing estate is almost non existent today, even in Glasgow, which has smartened itself up, although poverty still exists, just less obvious.
The gleaming yellow frame of the Barclay Curle cantilever crane on the banks of the River Clyde. Renfrewshire Uplands behind covered in fresh snow.
West End. Left to right. Oran Mor Spire, One Devonshire Gardens mansions, Botanic Gardens, (wooded area in front) Glasgow Harbour apartments (at back), Q.E. Hospital. (white block,)
City Centre left to right. Cowcaddens Flats. Cineworld Multiplex, St George's Cross Hi Rise Flats. Garnethill Church.
Left to right. Port Dundas warehouse buildings- once a busy hub on the Forth and Clyde Canal and Monkland Canal, delivering and taking away goods to the city, including coal to keep the various factories and heavy industry going but now converted into upscale apartments and small pleasure craft/house boat moorings.
I also noticed a few groups of young guys playing Disc Golf. This is a recent trend as Springburn Park has them as well. Baskets are placed around 30 metres apart and you obtain several plastic discs to throw ( a bit like a small Frisbee) and you try to get them in the basket, working your way around the course.
Perfect for dry, rock hard conditions underfoot as in wet weather the grass can get boggy. Once you get some practice in you can get your discs flying a considerable distance and it looks a worthwhile game. We used to do the same as children with circular metal lids from paint tins, Fray Bentos pie lids, heavy bathroom ceramic tiles, and plastic skimmers, anything we found lying around that was flat and could be flung a distance, but if they ever hit you, spinning at speed, they could chop your head clean off or cut you up badly. Ah, happy innocent times in the schemes. Can't beat the good old days of creative DIY.
Gartnavel Hospital. Long high building in grey with white middle strip. Been in there a few times over the years.
The glass roof of Maryhill Shopping Center.
Glasgow Tigers Mural. Possilpark. I was also off to Springburn on this trip as I had already guessed we would soon be placed in lockdown again when any walks would be heavily restricted once more to a few miles distance.
This mural reminds me of some past deck access encounters for some reason in dark corridors of the mind. Happy days in the wild urban jungles of yore. Adrenaline/ heightened senses due to trepidation in strange places often leads to exhilaration and enjoyment afterwards when you survive to emerge out the other side. Just like rock climbing a cliff face or finding yourself in a war zone... fear and pleasure often go hand in hand as facing danger can sometimes lead to situations where you feel most alive and vital.