Thursday 17 June 2021

Gleniffer Braes Walk. The Blue Remembered Hills of Home.


                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN

When I was thinking of somewhere to go for a walk, given a late start, as it was early afternoon by the time I was free... but didn't want to squander the rest of a sunny afternoon and evening.... I thought of this place. Robertson Car Park above Paisley.

 a.... because it has a large car park and even on a sunny summer Sunday I might get a space.

b....because it's a beautiful area with five or six different stunning walks starting from here to choose from.

and c....because this is my true Eden and I try not to miss a single spring/summer here ....visiting at least once in May or June for the full range of colours on display.

The main path, as you can see here, takes you along the top of this escarpment (part of the Clyde Valley Lavas formation ) and is perfectly pleasant...

 with reasonable views of Paisley and Glasgow below in the distance. It was a fairly busy route though, given it was a dry Sunday afternoon with numerous folk and dogs returning from their own adventures along this path, so it felt a bit like swimming against a tide, saying 'hello' occasionally and wondering if I'd ever get a hello back ( far less of these casual greetings returned I've noticed since Covid started which is slightly annoying after a while. If I meet someone on the hills and we are passing near each other I at least expect a nod in my direction.)

So at the first opportunity, a few hundred feet from the end of the main car park, heading towards Barrhead direction, I took a grassy sward running down to the left taking me off the large busy path and my instincts proved correct as my mood instantly improved here. I fell over at this point ( a pesky granny/grandad stopper of uneven turf and a hidden hole being the culprit but I just laughed it off with a soft landing on grass) as I had found a beautiful, much quieter balcony trail that took me closer to the outskirts of Paisley through flowering white hawthorn and yellow gorse/ broom bushes but with a much greater chance of seeing wildlife. This is it here and I didn't fall over again as it developed into a delightful ribbon that descended only slightly then ran parallel to the higher busier track- eventually climbing up again to rejoin it. But what a world of difference lay between.

This lower path took me much closer to the outskirts of Paisley. In the last post on the blog, Botanic Gardens, I was in California ( of the mind) ... this time my fruitful imagination dialed up 'The Paisley Rivera' for some reason. True, Paisley doesn't have the coastal palm trees, the Mediterranean Sea, the upmarket restaurants, the billionaires, the super-yachts, the ultra expensive lifestyle, or the exclusive attitude to deter skint outsiders but I have stayed (very briefly) in the lovely city of Nice in the French Rivera so you can keep all that. (nice though it is to sample a tiny taste of it. )

 What it does have here in Paisley is a free car park, open access to fantastic scenery, blue water, grand mansions in the trees and perfect weather as it was just right for walking along in a tee shirt, no flies- no midges- a gentle breeze.....and no stress of getting to southern France during a pandemic either. 


......and to me looking more beautiful than one hundred supermodels or spectacular infinity pools clubbed together could ever possess. I also feel completely at ease and at home here. It's my level. Can't say the same about the French Rivera.

Paisley even has a castle or two tucked away...a ruined one above. Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace also came from here (Elderslie)... the remains of his house marked by information signs in what is now a small neat urban housing estate so all the images of him in Braveheart apparently growing up in a western Highland village then charging through the high mountains were just scenic decoration for the movies. In truth he fought nearly all his battles in countryside like this... in the Scottish lowlands in other words.

yet grand abodes still remain... ( large house in trees here probably a care home or a hospital mind you.)

After a nice meander on this lower path, seeing the sights, it curved back up again to rejoin the main track, eventually heading over the narrow but deep defile of the burn that cuts the plateau in half here and I ended up at these seats.

One facing over the city of Glasgow, seen here...

and one slightly lower down, looking across Paisley which led me onto the Tannahill Walkway.

This is also a beautiful tarmac path with exceptional views and leads down to Glen Park ( a much smaller car park here in the woods for around 10 cars) some of it in the great wide open as here... below...

running either level or slightly downhill with views to the north...    A link to a local mid 1700s Burns type poet and song composer who grew up here and often walked these hills. He's also partly responsible for Australia's best known song. You couldn't make it up.

Going lower still the Tannahill Walkway sinks down through several small woods in dappled shade. Despite its popularity wild deer can be spotted here occasionally- something I know only too well from my childhood in nearby Pollok/ Nitshill when deer/ foxes/wrens/ yellowhammers/ goldfinches/ ring ousels/corncrakes/ herons/ linnets/ stoats/ weasels/ kestrels/ water voles/ frogs/ newts/ skylarks/ buzzards.... and Uncle Tom Cobley and all ...were frequent companions on summer walks.

 Speaking of which Glen Park is a real hidden gem as it contains the Gleniffer burn and gorge, a scenic waterfall, and a necklace of small ponds, man made centuries ago, to not only complement the grand estate and mansion house of a wealthy industrialist that used to live here but also to supply his dye and bleaching works downstream with steady constant fresh water. This is the largest pond today.

 Filled with tadpoles....hundreds of them.

from here I went straight uphill in a line to the much larger Glenburn reservoir situated on the upper section of the plateau where I found these highland cows resting peacefully.

Docile beasts even with young calves- unless you deliberately annoy them or you get too close with a dog. Which you don't want to do with these horns.

Although I avoided most of the main track on the outward journey by using green grass balcony trails contouring across the lower slopes of this escarpment I returned the normal way across the top as this was much easier and faster, just a straight line walk on level ground across the plateau to the car park. A great day out. Just myself on this one but with so many decades of previous visits a trip with a lot of memories dating right back to nine or ten years of age and coming here with my Mum, Aunt and cousins. In those days we walked from Nitshill to Barrhead first then accessed the hills that way- most of it using country back lanes, green fields, small woods, and farms filled with dairy cattle, goats, hens, and horses encountered right from the house. My introduction to earthly Heaven.

 It was very special back then- it is still rather special today. No corncrakes or ring ousels ( mountain blackbirds) remain in this district mind you, as far as I'm aware. 

As mentioned in the first chapter of my book Autohighography  I could see this extended hill range from my bedroom window every morning so that was where hill-walking, rock climbing, mountaineering and adventure pursuits really started for me. An early magnetic attraction. First three  chapters can be read free in this link. Full book £1 on kindle and worth that price if you like the outdoor life although it's also about relationships in group settings as well.


One of Anniesland Tower, the Dawsholm Gas Works, and the three cruise ships still moored at Govan docks.

Oh Great Metropolis! The quiet road ( bottom left) with the two cars on it is where I caught a bus back into Glasgow on a previous winter visit with shorter days. Arrived back at Tradeston in the dark after  travelling through the back streets of Paisley and Renfrew almost an hour later- still with another bus to catch.  Always an adventure by public transport but great fun! Pre covid days though that was.

Rolling Renfrewshire in early June.

The central ridge of Paisley containing the heritage trail of old important buildings. Coats Memorial Church, Coats Observatory, etc etc... It's not only Glasgow that can claim it is 'a dear green place.' Nor does it have a monopoly on drumlins.

One showing the still beautiful open countryside between Glasgow and Paisley with woods, fields and meadows miraculously still there after 60 years. L stands for Leverndale Tower in Pollok. N stands for Nitshill (Nuts-hill apparently) although it's off further to the right out of shot but it gives you some idea of how far we had to walk as kids to get to here yet how much of it was through such fantastic pastoral landscapes that we didn't even mind that it took a full day.. This is home. This was and still is my eternal Eden.

 A zoomed shot. Miles and miles on those poor wee suffering legs.... it still looks a long way now! (You may be able to make out the ruins of Crookston Castle sitting to the right of Leverndale Tower on the edge of the wood where it meets the back field in the photo above. Immediately above the red chimney.)

Friday 11 June 2021

Botanical Pleasures in June. A Natural High.


Map of walk.                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN

I haven't been posting as frequently lately as I've been busy doing other things  and posting every week became a bit of a habit rather than a pleasure so I've dropped it down to two a month in the meantime.

I'm still getting out and enjoying myself though and as June is a favourite month- early summer and all that... I was keen to experience it as it only happens once a year. This spring/summer so far has been fantastic in Glasgow- hardly any rain and two months of almost daily sunshine- so much in fact that Central Scotland now feels like arid California ( there is a California near Falkirk in fact- a former pit village I've cycled through) but this is more a California of the mind. 

As you can see from the map above where I normally park is on Queen Margaret Drive near the park gates but this proved impossible as I was meeting up with Anne and Belinda in the afternoon and by that time any spaces were already taken. Luckily, you can sometimes park in the network of streets around North Kelvin College or Kirklee Road so that was where we arranged to meet.

This was complete serendipity as we had a much longer walk into Glasgow's botanic gardens through a network of quiet upmarket streets we were mostly unfamiliar with, travelling across North Kelvin meadow...

part of it seen here...

then the handsome stone bridge at Kirklee Road to access the arboretum. We all forgot how nice this area is in early summer with the fresh green leaves at their best on the trees. Still deeply immersed in my 1960s and 1970s book collection I'm now re- reading the slim volumes of Richard Brautigan.   A Confederate General from Big Sur.... In Watermelon Sugar... Trout Fishing in America... and The Hawkline Monster ... all mostly set in the American West Coast.  California and the hippie culture, have been passed around in the last month and enjoyed. He's a very unusual writer and his books are filled with some weird and wonderful characters and ideas. Still funny 50 years later.

 That cerebral input.... the weeks of unbroken sunshine... wandering slowly through a posh area of classic old architecture ...and a vivid imagination... all combined to give me a completely natural high. Female company... hell any company during covid 19... but especially them... was the perfect icing on  top.

A path in the arboretum leads down into the River Kelvin Gorge which, on a day of scorching hot California style sunshine, was most welcome as we descended from heatwave dry openness into cool damp shade under the trees.  Sometimes it's only after completing a day out you look back and think 'that was a great day out' but on this occasion it was a dream walk... a dream day.... and a 'dream team' meeting... right from the outset. Every single second of it was truly special... in the moment... as it occurred.  Hence the title.

Walking in Heaven after this would have been a grave disappointment. A pure let down. A scunner in fact! Back entrance to the Botanic Gardens. Bluebells.

Flowers were at their very best....

Femme Fatales were at their finest, funniest, and most radiant... two lightly perfumed angels floating along, barely touching the ground... one of several bridges over the River Kelvin and my joy was almost un-containable by this point. Nature does that to you... especially at this time of year...

 The parks department were out and about... planting borders and weeding...

I was kissing bumble bees, babies, budgies, beagles, bald headed bikers, and perfect strangers all over the place. Hey it's San Fransisco in the 1960s man... it's allowed! At least in thought. Begone Virus! Hello the Haight Ashbury 2021 style. In my mind I was already, vividly, there. Without the need for any  lysergic component either. Nature and sunshine alone works for me.

It was just wonderful... and rightly so. How many girls are called February??? March??? There's a good reason April, May, and June were once popular girls names when we lived and worked outdoors, closer to the natural rhythm of the seasons. The three best months in the year for colour, health, and beauty. 

I almost wafted away in sheer happiness...internally....

Set controls for the heart of the sun....

 Everywhere was colour, scent and visual splendor.

Unusual flowers... Black eyes peas from Venus perhaps...?

Grey Squirrel        I tried to kiss it... it ran away up a tree.... so I kissed the tree... and then me...twice!

 Vincent's Sunflower substitutes.

  A truly magical time of year. A month named after a Roman goddess you know... the Queen of all the gods.......Juno.

 A border detail...

Pink Magnolia...

A sunlit trio...

The wild River Kelvin.

Semi tamed part....

 City street overlooks the river gorge...

 The cream season for flowering debutantes..

A flower kaleidoscope... incidentally an instrument invented by a Scotsman I seem to recall...

 and a matching sunset to end what was a stunning day out. Thank you.

  So good I felt inspired to have something different for tea. Sweet chilli chicken, boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, sliced kiwi fruit. Very tasty cold... far too hot for cooking in a kitchen. A sunburnt but very happy bunny goes to bed.