Monday 19 July 2021

The Bridge. Ra and Isis.


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As it is light until 10:30pm in June and July in Central Scotland at the moment I've been taking a few evening walks with Anne and sometimes Belinda as well. Ostensibly 'dog-walking' to find new local areas instead of the usual run around the block that even little Snapper is fed up with has turned into a very enjoyable series of outings... and as Anne had not walked over the Erskine Bridge for many years  she was up for that next. Erskine Bridge slipway above.

At 200 feet in the air it also provides good views. Old Kilpatrick and Erskine here mostly hidden by trees.

Forth and Clyde canal and River Clyde view.

Erskine Bridge Overhead Sign.

When Erskine Bridge opened at the start of the 1970s and the new town of Erskine expanded from a village this hotel was opened by Esso. Then it became the Erskine Bridge Hotel. Now a European hotel chain has taken it over, (unfortunately during a worldwide pandemic), mixed reviews online, as the building is dated by its architecture but it does have nice country walks in every direction, is reasonably priced, and with a car you can reach Loch Lomond, Ayrshire's sandy beaches, Inverclyde, plus the Firth of Clyde islands in an hour. ( excluding 10 min and hour long crossing ferry times that is, depending on which island visited.)

Erskine does have a small sandy beach, seen here, right beside the old ferry slipway.

Anne enjoyed the voyeur aspect of looking down on all human life from here... like a friendly Goddess... so I became Ra.. and she was always Isis, hence the post title. Fitting, as a surprisingly large percentage of things in modern life we take for granted today as completely familiar come directly from Egyptian, Roman, or Greek culture and as the latter two were heavily influenced by Egypt and Alexandria it all stems from there... though, as far as I know, Alexander the Great never reached  the Dumbartonshire town of Alexandria to name it in his honour. The building blocks of European and North American society however still retain many direct links to that ancient culture- everything from money, to buildings, names of well known sports teams, scientific descriptions/labels, and food. Products we see or use every day in advertising or normal day to day life

Taking photographs through the eight foot high suicide railings and mesh can be tricky but it does provide artistic snapshots of the world below. A bird's eye view in fact.

Quite pleased with the result here as I always try to be arty. Aspirational? Moi? In the distant past I've shopped in Sainsbury and Marks and Spencer I'll have you know... striving ever upwards from the lowly base of my eternal pyramid, though my working class sensibilities would never allow me to put a foot inside Waitrose. That's too much to ask :) 

One showing the River Clyde and the old Erskine Ferry slipways redundant since the bridge opened in 1971.

View towards Clydebank and Glasgow.

We then did a short stretch of the canal and spotted damselflies. Unlike dragonflies these are not easy to see, being slim and much smaller, flying mainly below waist height, often over water. In fact most adults can walk along a canal or through a marshy field and never notice them as normally you have to be still and get your eye in. Even when you are deliberately looking for them it is not always obvious they are there. 

That's why I think they might, in part, be the origin of fairies. 'Away with the fairies'  might well describe anyone in a summer field in days of yore, who, instead of getting on with the endless toil of work is standing or sitting quiet watching tiny nature instead. Also children often see them first as they have sharper eyes and are closer to the ground. Loads in this photo but only obvious once I'd stopped moving and sat down to see them.

One on a fern.

Egg laying in action. Males are blue, females underneath are yellow/green and are dipping in the canal to lay eggs, I think. At this point a beginner kayaker fell in nearby and we had to haul him out as the bank at this point was either heavily overgrown with thick vegetation or rounded stone exits with no holds. Took a lot of pulling, effort, and coaxing to get him out eventually and that scared away the damsels with all the splashing and movement. Although grateful to be rescued from his predicament/dilemma  he did not seem that interested in tiny nature all around him and said so in words that cannot be repeated here as I was slowest in responding, wanting to put my camera away out of any possibility of potential danger or water damage first, before anything else, naturally enough. A full-sized, summer dressed, friendly Goddess leaning over him with all the abundant charms of Isis incarnate, helping to pull him to safety he did see and appreciate however, judging by his eye movements and general disposition. Acute observation, after-all, is one of my many talents. Who knew saving mortals together could be such fun.

 Evening walks also bring a chance of catching great sunsets so here's a few recent ones we have enjoyed. 

'The Road'.    A potential new walk in Heaven for Ra and Isis.

Yet another West Coast Sunset.

from the currently three month dry, unexpectedly hot and rainless desert lands of ancient Egyp-..... Scotland!!!??


Sunday 11 July 2021

Joy... Euphoria... and Wonder. A Kilpatrick Hills Balcony Trail Walk. Summer Flowers.


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A summer Scottish wildflower border. A mix of red poppies, blue cornflowers and giant daisies. Although I've been busy doing other things recently I realized the four seasons were galloping onwards without me. Having been confined to the Glasgow area during the Covid 19 lockdown, along with everyone else, and with most car parks full of visitors by 9:30 am, that would normally be somewhere else, I went off going into the great outdoors a bit, preferring less popular pursuits to escape the crowds.

Now though, with several months of good weather and summer in full swing it looked as though folk were escaping further afield, leaving overcrowded local car parks half empty again. This coincided with less restrictive measures to keep people in one city area and the hawthorn blossom appearing on the slopes of the outlying city hill ranges which was an opportunity too good to miss. 

So on a perfect day a few weeks ago in June I started going out again more, enjoying the novelty of summer outdoors yet knowing I would be able to get easily parked again in some of my favourite beauty spots, even if it was mid morning or early afternoon by the time I arrived and was free. Canal reflections here.

It was one of those rare days that must have escaped from Heaven itself where everything you looked at, even mundane everyday things, seemed to have an extra sparkle of magic about them. Warm and sunny enough to walk happily in shorts and tee shirt yet not too hot and humid to be unpleasant. A faint gentle breeze arriving when needed. Just right in fact. The A82 here near Clydebank. A pleasant arrow straight road at the best of times on this particular day it seemed to sparkle and shimmer like a golden highway.

A flowering laburnum tree dangling over the road dipped my receptive mind in pure honey. From this moment on I was aware of three strong sensations on this walk, hence the post title. Joy... Euphoria,... and Wonder.

I parked at the usual Kilpatrick Hills car park near the Erskine Bridge, which for a change, was half empty. This was probably due to it being packed solid for months on end previously, each day of lockdown and folk, free at last to roam further afield, wanting a change from too familiar hills but for me it was perfect as I got my quiet slopes back at just the right time.

For a few short weeks in June the white hawthorn blossom covered the sides of this pretty escarpment and I was bewitched. I've been in continual, undiminished love with someone since early childhood and it filled me again with sincere admiration and joy for her presence. The Sacred Feminine herself. The rebirth giver of new life from old and the greatest eternal muse for humanity. Mother Nature.

It's taken me decades to fully understand that most humans are addictive creatures by natural inclination. It can be anything... coffee, food, sex, golf, hill-walking, acquiring money, power, drugs, gambling, religion, stamp collecting... the list is endless to trap the unwary like unsuspecting struggling insects caught on a sticky Scottish sundew in a damp bog. For me it has always been nature though as a constant companion and I recognized that sharp dopamine rush immediately. For the duration of this walk I was intensely happy. The colours, the various smells and scents (yes, even cowpats, dung flies, and shade rich country lanes have their appeal) all combined to make this poor addict intensely happy. As addictions go it's a fairly good one with few harmful side effects I'm aware of and much cheaper than most. For me, like gold jade or opal it never, ever, dulls its luster. I'd recommend it.

The dead end road leading into the Kilpatrick Hills. Straight on then left following this tarmac ribbon the route travels steadily upwards to eventually reach the various summits of the Kilpatrick Hills. Turn right here in this photo and a flat dirt track leads along the edge of fields in what is now called the Clyde Coastal Path. ( this walk will have a separate post later.) Wanting to experience the brief but exquisite hawthorn blossom up close though I took the middle ground, straight onto the open hillside.

Bunnies at play.

Unadulterated joy and intense euphoria my reward here. The hills are plain green again sadly but for a few short weeks each year the blend of white hawthorn flourish, the coconut spice laden scent of yellow gorse and the sweet heavenly perfume of dog rose bushes cast their spell over visitors to Scotland's lesser hillsides. Free ranging cattle herd in the middle of this photo.

Same cattle herd with the wild uplands of Renfrewshire beyond. A rural vision strongly associated with pleasure deeply embedded in my childhood DNA memory bank. So many hot sunny summers like this one spent watching cattle in the fields, roaming the broad-leaved woods, streams, and meadows with friends or alone around the Barrhead Dams. High mountains (when I still had the energy, drive, and spring loaded legs to climb them) I always enjoyed.... but these lower pastoral, lush, rural landscapes have always been my bedrock of happiness. My default setting. My natural homeland.....

So, instead of marching past these lower foothills to explore summits I've done many times before over many years I tried to find balcony trails instead running level along the escarpment at middle height.

 As seen in this photo of the range. the first heavily wooded section with the house ( right side in photo) I had to climb up to the rim and skirt around but after that, just like on the Gleniffer Braes walk,  I found several lower balcony trails to follow at mid level running across the escarpment.  Being sheltered and lush this was where most of the wildlife occurred as well.

 I timed it just right for millions of tiny butterflies to flutter past and I do mean millions... one of these spotted every ten steps along the trail. A small heath butterfly I think this is. Multiply that over an entire hill range. The dry sunny weather has been kind to flying insects and insect eaters this year I'd imagine. Hopefully more productive for them this spring/summer given the decades long drop in many species reported.

Micro worlds. A tiny fly that could fit on a human pinky nail quite easily. Millions of them as well in the deep grasslands like little leaping white winged fairies, flying up to escape each careless landing footfall. Yet each exquisitely formed. Joy! I do believe in a magical, largely invisible, kingdom living all around us and this is it in action right here

.Almost on top of the escarpment now where the views open out further.

Mar Hall, golf course, and a Renfrewshire panorama leading to the hills of Muirshiel/Inverclyde in the distance.

Delightful balcony trail high above the River Clyde. Joy!

Phone box view. The wonderful Kilpatrick Hills in June.

The Erskine Bridge. It was on this Kilpatrick Hills walk that I realized  that I still had unfinished walking business in Erskine as I spotted the low hill and ridge in the previous post that I'd never been up before.

And this is the route here marked out roughly along the River Clyde from the Erskine Bridge then up the low hill detailed in the previous post.

And the route of the other enjoyable Erskine walk from the bridge along the River Clyde downstream then through the Big Wood.

A descent path on a sun-drenched hard baked balcony trail. Deep Joy... and Euphoria!

The return. Kilpatrick Hills main track.

 The Erskine Bridge shimmering like a mirage in the late afternoon heat haze. Joy!

The glorious exception in Scotland of three long months of very stable dry weather, very little rain, and almost endless blue skies all thanks to a static jet stream. Joy!

Just pure simple joy! Having read stories online of people being charged an opportunistic fortune for a one or two week holiday in the UK I cannot recommend a cheap day out locally like this enough. I've not had a real holiday like that for ten years or more yet I don't miss it at all with all this on the doorstep. You could have a week of day trips like this for very little money going back home each night yet still enjoy it immensely. I certainly did.... and have for ages now. Cos I'm an addict I suppose :o) 

Friday 2 July 2021

An Erskine Walk. Craigends Hill.


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I thought I would start this one with a slightly elevated panorama of Erskine New Town, seen in detail above. Like many other new towns it started life as a small village that mushroomed after being earmarked as an overspill development. It now has a population of around 15,000 but the numbers are well hidden by green carriageways, roundabouts, and loads and loads of mature trees. Some of the other Scottish new towns started from a bare canvas, scenery wise, being built over high moorland, like East Kilbride, or in the middle of nowhere, like Cumbernauld..... but Erskine was already a winner, situated on lush low ground, complemented by a low ridge with various sculpted country estates and attractive farmland already on its doorstep and larger established communities like Glasgow, Paisley, Clydebank and Renfrew a short distance away by bus or car. Some of the other larger new towns I've visited look a bit tired or run down in a few areas 60 years after they were conceived, although new build houses have replaced old stock in some, like Cumbernauld.... but Erskine, maybe because it's smaller in size, has stayed well kept and looked after.

Erskine Bridge. I wasn't originally planing on going to Erskine itself but instead the plan was to be travelling further afield down the Clyde Coast but it looked decidedly murky over that way with darker skies and rain clouds so I was hesitating about going that far. Then I saw from the Erskine Bridge high point, seen here, a large ship in the distance further up river but moving downstream and that settled it- so I immediately headed for the Booden Boo car park situated directly under the Erskine Bridge. Then I waited.

It didn't take long for not one but two ships to sail past. The Deo Gloria... a Hopper Dredger operating under a Netherlands flag. 70 metres or 230 feet long. This was the ship I spotted from the bridge. That would have been impressive enough this far inland on the River Clyde but ten minutes later I hit the jackpot. Photography wise.

The BRO NYBORG an oil/chemical tanker registered out of Denmark, seen here passing Clydebank and the Titan Crane.

This was a bigger beast again. Twice the size in fact at 144 metres in length or 470 feet long.  

 It also had its own pilot boat/tug. The Greenock based tug the Anglegarth. Given that the Bro Nyborg looked as tall as a ten storey skyscraper and that a large oil rig had already managed to scrape the underside of the 45 metre 148 feet high bridge and given the River Clyde's shifting sandbars and not so deep 'deep water channel' that's always a wise move.

 The Anglegarth. It was already a very lucky start to the walk and I hadn't even set off yet.

Passing under the Erskine Bridge with plenty of clearance.

The walk itself was perfectly pleasant without being too spectacular. A flat path leads from the car park along the River Clyde in both directions. Downstream the path passes a small sandy beach then the Mar Hall Golf Course then into the Big Wood in an enjoyable circular tour already described here in detail on November 2020. This time I followed the path upstream towards Renfrew and Glasgow to reach Erskine Harbour.

 It's an enjoyable flat walk past the obvious iconic 1970s built hotel with good views but as I'd done it before, several times, I headed inland when the path turned away from the river as I fancied exploring new ground. 

   Slightly inland from the river, in June, a path network and clover meadows give an enjoyable twist to the scenery.

Blue (or purple) flag Iris here.

At this point I was turning back on myself  having walked a few km upstream along the River Clyde. Now I was doubling back inland to skirt the edge of Erskine's housing districts.

The Park Mains and Freelands cluster of housing I manged to easily avoid by sticking to green paths on the northern edge of the urban sprawl but I turned further inland at Rashielee/Bargarran as I fancied heading up to the low ridge/hill seen in the first photo.

This took me past a small shopping complex, seen here, then onto an elevated walkway...

....above the road system then I turned right at the end of this to follow more green wooded paths through half hidden housing, under an underpass, past Erskine Baptist Church to come out on a higher level. Like most new towns you can get slightly lost here but as long as you head roughly in the correct general direction you want to go you will get there. If in doubt consult the map or follow the grass verges beside the arrow straight road system rather than the maze of cul de sac housing- unless you know the area well already that is.


Another green grassy hill and a newer part of Erskine by the looks of it.

Although most of Erskine is flat pleasant walking... or cycling... when you do gain some height within it views are spectacular.

 A view of Clydebank and the Radnor Park hi rise flats from Erskine.

Bus stop. Erskine New Town. Bargarran area roundabout.

Dalmuir and the Kilpatrick Hills from Erskine. Slightly murky, hot and humid weather.

Eventually I arrived here... with a cat and a goose coming to greet me. Craigends Hill.

Craigends Hill sign. Part of the Erskine green path network.

 You know you are in the right place if you start seeing exotic beasts. I had no idea this place was here. Lamont Animal Farm. Situated right beside my hill of choice.

Llamas I think.


Assorted goats....

 Donkeys, goats and a pig...

Horses going up the hill...

 Timed it just right for the buttercups..... murky weather over where I was headed originally so yet another serendipity day. Yeehaa !

 Only a low hill but a very enjoyable one at this time of year. 

Erskine is similar to where I grew up in Nitshill in that anyone with a love of the natural world is well catered for............ as soon as you leave the front door. 

 Ten steps from your house and you are in the wilds....Completely! But that's the magic of Renfrewshire for you. 


The Golden Kingdom.            10:00 pm June sunset over the Erskine Bridge.