Tuesday 24 August 2021

Mugdock Country Park. Kilmardinny Loch. Flash Flooding In Bearsden.

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Mugdock Loch. A wild corner of Mugdock Country Park... A couple of weeks ago I motored up to Mugdock Country Park, lying to the north of the City of Glasgow. Although usually a popular location for walkers and family groups thunderstorms and lightning strikes were predicted for the early afternoon.

 Water lilies. As I'd seen forecasts like that before on many occasions that didn't amount to very much in the end, I tossed my wet weather gear in the car undaunted and set off for a walk.

 Incidentally, I noticed this sign for the first time (maybe a new addition) walking around the loch and was interested to learn that the still sizable loch seen today is only one third the size of its former glory. In the early 1800s, the age of the great landscaped estates, this much larger and shallower loch  was considered too big and inconvenient so was drained by blasting away a retaining sill of rock. The sizable loch you walk round today is only the deepest part that remained. ( see map above for original size- apparently caused by a town sized block of static ice left behind by glaciers sinking into the land at this point through weight alone.)  

It stayed dry for a few hours and I enjoyed this normally popular country park in splendid isolation, only a few hardy souls braving the forecast of impending doom.

The meadows were at their finest with waist high golden grass and fragrant meadow-sweet  flowering everywhere.

 Yet plenty of mature trees for shelter should the heavens open in a rush. Glasgow highlighted in the distance here.

I had a good walk around my favourite spots, view of the lesser Kilpatrick Hills here, practically having the park to myself, which was a great expansive feeling during this long year of Covid on our increasingly crowded, trapped little island. 

 Two other visitors seen in the distance. 

 Part of the long rock sill keeping the remaining loch in its bowl, presumably a lower part of this further on was removed by blasting to drain the loch to its present size.

Anyway, I enjoyed a pleasant couple of hours wandering round this extensive park which unlike most country parks in Scotland's Central Belt  has a far wilder atmosphere to it and more places where you can easily lose yourself away from any crowds, even on a bank holiday, thanks to its impressive size and complexity of ever changing terrain. 

 Lightning flashes and rumbles of thunder started to make an appearance however by mid afternoon, which is a fairly typical summer weather pattern I know well from my alpine backpacking and camping trips abroad so just in case I wandered back to the car to avoid the possibility of flooded roads, which I've experienced near here in the past.

 I got as far as the boundary between Bearsden and Milngavie before torrential rain flooded the main road, as seen here. Being brave- or stupid- I decided flooding on this scale was worth a few photos so I parked up, on a small hill, at nearby Kilmardinny Loch. ( another former, smaller grand estate with its own smaller kettle loch. Giant chunks of ice must have stranded all across here in isolated numbers judging by the dozen or so small attractive lochs found in this vicinity. With a few low slung cars already stuck in the floods and traffic queues forming behind them I thought I'd be smart and avoid all that hassle with another walk round this second loch of the day. 

 On a previous thunderstorm occasion a few years ago this cautious approach saved the day as I went a walk of an hour or so and by the time I did eventually drive off the traffic queues and flooding had receded. This was a different beast however and the torrential rain, which seemed localized to this one small area only increased in intensity. Not surprisingly, I had this walk to myself  as well. Everyone else hiding indoors or stuck in traffic. Even on the journey up here before the thunderstorms numerous road works, temporary traffic lights and queues made it seem much longer than the map miles would suggest.

 Kilmardinny Loch and wet ducks. The rain was so intense walking around here it reminded me of  the French Pyrenees trip I devoted a chapter of my book Autohighography to as that was an amazing adventure with biblical thunderstorms experienced in the high mountains and deep canyons almost every afternoon, appearing around 3:00pm like clockwork, wading ankle deep on the paths within minutes after a bone dry sunny morning. Now it was happening here, in cosy suburbia, with the type of alpine mountain weather, thunder and lightning strikes not usually associated with Central Belt lowland Scotland. A months worth of rain must have landed on this area in the space of three hours- maybe far more than that. A taste of future years ahead perhaps as I personally think our escalating weather woes, which we've known about for a least three decades now will take a herculean effort to slow down, more than any radical change of lifestyle and habits can make a dent in with both poles and permafrost zones melting already. Hard choices ahead for poor humanity. No choices ahead for the poor dwindling animals stuck outdoors, caught within the effects of our avoidable transgressions.

 It did make for some interesting special effects though as the rain, thunder and lightning crashing around this ten foot high Gruffalo carving made it feel like I was on some waterlogged primitive tribal island just waiting for King Kong to arrive. Luckily, I was still semi dry at this point as I had full waterproofs on... and a black umbrella raised above me. If it's good enough for Indian gentlemen during the monsoon its OK in my book. ( Incidentally, I used to get a fair bit of stick decades ago for carrying a small foldaway black pocket umbrella if it was pouring down outside. This item was greatly frowned on by your typical hard school council estate teenager and even adult alpha males, as male pride dictated you got soaked going to school, sat in class dripping copiously on the floor,  then walked home soaking wet yet again, with a cold... survival of the fittest 1960s and 1970s style. Even wearing a hat or having a hood up was frowned on as being totally soft and unmanly. I used to envy the girls, sitting dry in class, umbrellas at their feet, but knew I'd be a target if I used one myself in my particular school of young assassins. It took a presumably gay, or just more intelligent, fellow pupil  who was very brave, or had a death wish, to persuade me to try one by his groundbreaking example. Unlike him I wasn't protecting fashionable clothes- it just made sense to stay dry. Unlike him I didn't get beaten up as I was very careful about hiding it away before I reached the school itself. My near neighbour and fellow classmate went even further in his macho approach to outdoor attire, attending school each day, winter, summer, snow, sleet, hail, frost, in just a thin white cotton shirt, blazer, and rubber gym shoes. He was completely nuts though... or had zero money for warmer clothes. In his book anyone different got a kicking... probably through jealousy.... or a deep sense of injustice .....or just to keep warm.... but I got a pardon somehow. No idea why. ( The Gruffalo, for anyone wondering, is a character in a popular children's book here.)

 The deluge did make the various wood carved animals along the trail stand out though, sparkling as if painted with clear varnish.

Even the older models. After my walk around this second loch I was curious to find a better way out through the floods so I stayed on foot to try to find a clear route through the back streets. Unfortunately Bearsden and Milngavie run over drumlins so the whole district has steep streets, hilltops, dips and hollows.

Although my car was safe on its hilltop I soon found out I was trapped on an island in suburbia as most of the surrounding hollows were under water, so deep the police had already cordoned several minor roads off altogether.


So I went back and had lunch in the car. Another wait -another heavy thunderstorm. By this time I was getting slightly concerned as the water levels were increasing not subsiding.

 I stopped here briefly under this mature tree on my walk as marble sized hailstones were damaging my trusty black umbrella at this point so I wanted more shelter. This was during thunder and lightning storm number three. The heaviest and last one of the day. Such was the intensity of the rain and hail it took 15 minutes from dry road to this level of standing water, full drains gushing upwards and ankle deep streams racing down steep tarmac. No streams or rivers anywhere near so just water from gardens, minor roads, and driveways hitting this point. It was hard to believe how fast it arrived here. So far I'd spotted several stranded cars in floods so I didn't fancy being one of them. Eventually, when the rain stopped, I set off but even with skillful caution I still had to go through one more major flood on the switchback near Anniesland Cross before I could breathe easy again... or so I thought.

Like a lot of other cars and traffic I made the mistake of turning into Fulton Street beside Temple, thinking that I'd left the worst of it behind. No way was I getting across this one though. Two stranded vehicles already trapped. Once again I had no option but to double back, join yet more nose to tail traffic and find another route home. It took three hours to travel 10 miles that day. An adventure but not one I'd want to repeat. On the plus side I did not see any damaged property or homes just flooded roads and several cars but with this level of flooding happening so quickly there might have been some somewhere else.

 A hot shower, a change into dry clothes, then a tasty self prepared meal rounded off an eventful day.

Friday 13 August 2021

Dumbarton Rock Walk. Part Two. Musings.


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The second half of our coastal walk through Dumbarton found us on waste ground heading for Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton FC. Although I found the new housing in the previous post interesting I liked this stretch more as it was full summer and any 'waste ground' is never wasted by nature which usually reclaims areas discarded like this as her own lost child within a few short weeks. One day she will put her arms around me and I'll return there as well.

 A study in pastel here. Although I like bold primary colours in the main there is something extraordinarily beautiful and delicate in the softer, muted shades of pastel. As ever, nature perfected the technique of working in pastels first, long before any artist.



Clematis flourishing in the wild.

 Woodlands of the imagination.

I was keen to show Anne and Belinda Dumbarton Rock. The castle was shut due to covid or scaffolding work, not sure which, but it was the rock climbing walls I was more interested in. Don't know if it's the same for everyone but chapters in my life tend to be marked by outdoor activities rather than work or relationship related bookmarks. School years, college, before and after London. the Munro bagging years, the rock climbing years, the backpacking years, the coastal walks and kayaking years ( an enjoyable but necessary choice after knee damage sustained through 25 years of increasingly heavy rucksacks) the central belt sunshine and hedonism years (another deliberate move after decades of rain, wind, and mist on the mountains most weekends and an increasing desire to do exactly what I wanted for a change in fine weather instead of the majority vote compromise required in any group situation... which was nearly always hills, hills, mountains, mountains or hills... in poor or indifferent weather. ) Although I've had a wide variety of different jobs over the years most of my pleasurable moments have occurred away from work, in my spare time, giving the best memory markers, although looking back, sometimes they do seem like they happened to another person entirely as I have a habit of trying many different things, given the chance. If I'd had loads of money and friends less obsessed by hills I may have indulged in many more sports. Wind surfing, sailing, longboarding, European city exploration, collecting different countries and exotic cultures, living abroad to experience all that...living in different cities... a vast collection of exotic girlfriends in my phonebook :o).....the wish list is endless...or maybe not- just a matter of luck and the opportunities you get in life... but I've done alright for a kid from the council schemes. No complaints at all.    

  "show us your best moves then." they demanded with a smirk. I had to admit that even 30 years ago in my flexible prime Dumbarton Rock was one venue I never wanted to get far off the ground, after an early scare.  Six to eight feet was desirable on the boulders or the sea level traverse but anything higher than that brought out a strong sense of impending doom due to natural polish on the basalt and the level of the grades. I did get up onto the biggest boulder, seen here, a few times by various routes then promptly slipped on the summit first time out. Luckily it was completely flat where I fell as my feet went without any warning and I landed painfully on my back, legs in the air. Falling off it completely in any direction would have been really serious as the ground is covered in smaller rocks, hidden by vegetation but still sticking up like a covered over animal trap.. The fact that I'd slipped so suddenly on what was essentially flat ground, even with climbing shoes on to aid grip, demonstrated the bar of soap properties of the rock here and put me right off going any higher. The three notable classics of the crag... Stonefall Crack HVS, Longbow E1, and Desperado HVS on the cliff behind the boulders all seemed harder than the grade implied as they felt vertical and strenuous in the extreme for a V.diff to VS climber like me. And that was the easy stuff here. I did like the sea level traverse around to the castle railings though and the general situation of the place. How long have the boulders rested here? One thousand years? Since the last ice age? And how long will they continue to sit here, above or below the waves? Another million... or until another cataclysmic event moves them further or wears them down eventually into dust. Even stone immortality succumbs at some point down the line.This rock has been a defensive fortress since the stone age: will these hard glacier resistant boulders outlast the twilight of humanity to experience other earthly creatures clambering over them in the far distant future?  I would not bet against it.

 Sea level traverse around the base of the cliff.

The main face holds the hardest routes that only elite climbers attempt, boasting some of the UK's hardest rock climbs so we rarely observed anyone on them during visits. Overhanging and comparatively long routes in the high E numbers put most people off.

Maybe it's because the protruding cliffs/rocks in this area were scraped clean by glaciers in the distant past but the dense compact surface and sloping holds, clearly seen in this photo, do little for the confidence in achieving upward progress.

That and the fact that if you did get to the top of the route the way down was rarely obvious, either by dubious abseil or a steep descent on grass above vertical cliffs. Other climbing venues, like the Hawcraig, The Whangie, Auchenstarry,or Craigmore felt relatively safe, well used, and almost friendly. Dumbarton never did.... yet I liked the scenery around it.

Next up was a small wood which has been touched by covid, The human variation of it anyway.

 I suppose if you have children keeping them amused and occupied indoors and out over the past year would have been a challenge and some of the efforts on display had an almost pagan element I liked. For some reason I thought of Dougal and the Magic Roundabout here.

 Anne thought this one looked like a forlorn stood up bride, holding a bouquet of flowers. Aw.

By this stage the weather was changing with a storm coming in. It was turning grey and overcast with a breeze appearing, sounding the various wind-chimes with a mournful tinkle. Previously, I've been a bit contemptuous encountering all this extraneous tree decoration everywhere, most of it poorly done or haphazardly thought out but this felt different. Most of it was fairly artistic, the area was devoid of people, and after a year hanging up this stuff had more of a feel of an art installation or a witches cottage in a remote area rather than just assorted tat. 

Home made house.

Pagan offerings.

The stuff of dreams...

 Happy cow.

The woodland realm....

 Best pals  hanging out together...

After this interlude we continued along the coastal path...

Following the River Clyde estuary upstream as far as the right hand side of this photo... 


By this time a light drizzle was starting to sweep in but the last three months have been unusually dry and sunny so we welcomed it's cool reviving touch and it made us realise how fortunate we are to live in a country with normally cool temperatures and abundant rainfall.

Eventually the path, which had been good up until now, split in two with the larger branch leading under this railway bridge. People over six feet tall might have to crawl through here but I just managed it bent double, head, back, and bum touching the underside of the concrete.

 this path led us up an arrow straight lane to the edge of the houses in Dumbarton. Given enough energy you could easily carry on here into the Dumbarton hills and woods of the Overtoun House Estate via a hole in the wall just to the left of Strowan's Well Road next to Gruggies Burn, which you follow upwards through the trees, (the hills and woods seen above) but we were getting knackered by this point and the rain was increasing.


So we finished off a great day with a taste of Italy instead. A multi pack choice of this plus seedless grapes, dates, sliced kiwi fruit, boiled eggs, and chicken breast which all went down rather well. Thank you good companions.


Thursday 5 August 2021

New and Old Developments around Dumbarton. Mermaids Walk.


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I'd arranged to meet Anne and Belinda in Dumbarton for an unusual but very varied walk that I thought they would both like. Not an early start but timed for the tide going out so a lunchtime arrival here. The River Leven in Dumbarton, above.

One big change we noticed from the last time we were here was new housing appearing on what was previously derelict land and a new riverside walkway. I have noticed over the past year that practically every parcel of waste ground or derelict land in my area has building works green lit on it- presumably to stimulate the economy as it's mainly outside construction work bringing in wages and job security plus much needed new housing. I will miss the old waste landscapes though as some plots have been vacant for over a decade or even longer turning them into fertile green oases (plural) and thriving natural wildlife havens in the middle of otherwise urban sprawls and handy locations for local kids, dog walkers, and visitors to explore. More on that aspect later on in this post.

 Levengrove Park came next which is always a well kept green jewel no matter the season.

Colourful borders, plenty of mature trees,wide green meadows, and an attractive shoreline esplanade walk.

 Arboretum and fountain next to the circular ornamental  garden...

Planting beds that change with the seasons. Mid summer display of lupins here....

 But what we were really here for was this..... Big Skies- Thick Mud...

Out in the River Clyde Estuary at low tide you can walk over a mile from dry land into the mud flats. You do need boots or wellies of course as you will sink in a few inches- ankle deep in a few places- but it is a totally unique experience of big skies, shifting cloud scapes and vast horizons. Obviously going that far out you have to be very wary of the tide as in certain places, like Pillar Bank, you can be standing on a full acre of firm sand a mile and a half off the shoreline yet have deepening water creeping in suddenly much closer to shore to cut you off completely but other than that it's ok.

 With the tide going out you can walk from Dumbarton to Cardross or further still, right on into Helensburgh itself along the various mud flats, shallow water, and sand, giving any birds a wide berth of course as they have to survive out here as well and earn a living from the seashore.

Crab dinner for a hungry gull. Looks more like a beak mark than mermaid teeth to me but I'm no expert in these matters.

The edge of the deep water shipping channel a mile from the shoreline with a rain storm coming in. Not a spot to get stuck fast in the mud hereabouts methinks. As the Prime Minister said of the recent 'Freedom Day' let up of Covid 19  restrictions in the UK. 'Use your common sense, people.' Wise words that also apply here for this mermaid walk.

 A sunken boat on the River Leven that failed to endure the relentless power of  the rising tides. The ebb and flow of natural occurrence pulled by the moon.

Returning back nearer the land and a different shore front walk in the local area.

Two recently restored wells in the park dating from the early 1700s and one of the first large scale drinking water projects in Scotland running a pipeline under the River Leven into the town centre from a natural spring on the opposite bank. Bearing in mind the River Leven was always a well used highway for boats of every size since medieval times, including Viking raiders learning the twisting water overland route to enter the secret vastness of Loch Lomond with its 23 islands and later a notable shipbuilding and export port in Dumbarton.

 An even earlier 1200s well discovered nearby from the same spring.

 The restored well in July 2021.

 On the edge of the park we had good views across to Dumbarton Rock and Castle which lies on the opposite bank of the River Leven. A popular bouldering and rock climbing venue it is not a place for the fainthearted or beginners however. As it was very handy I used to go here occasionally to climb or boulder on summer evenings as it's a scenic and impressive location often sunny, sheltered, and midge free but the good climbs start at HVS to E 10 or thereabouts and the grades seem extra hard as it's mainly vertical or overhanging walls. See person in blue in above photo to give it some scale. Even the boulder problems often have bad landings onto sharp rock and being black basalt the place has a natural polish and slippy texture so you have to be careful to avoid a fall. Good place to cycle to though along the river track network and around an hour from Glasgow on scenic green trails using that method of travel.

 We then walked round to see the new housing. They are probably nice inside but I have to say all three of us on this walk independently thought it could do with a splash of colour. Six floors high in some places but a plain brick finish overall. I know the developers or housing associations responsible for new builds are under all kinds of restrictions and budget constraints I'm not even aware of but I always think even minor splashes of colour lift the spirits.

There was a very tall red brick building in Dumbarton lying derelict from old industry until recently ( now sadly demolished) close to this spot and I've noticed in other towns that architects or developers often like to replicate notable local iconic architecture in new build projects in the same vicinity but to me, looking at it just now, it definitely requires an extra zing. Warehouse apartments are fairly trendy these days but usually that means refurbished old stock not newly built faux warehouses. A good set of professional rooftop coloured edges/ battlements or Templeton Carpet Factory zig- zags perhaps or a well thought out muted design feature to give it some kind of lift...especially as this is a showpiece river front location........ so I've added my own... :o)


Something like this perhaps... only better thought out. Hmmmm, I could do better myself....don't worry.....my first go at it.

New waterfront path.

Dumbarton's new waterfront seen from a distance. As this view will presumably last for 40 to 60 years, unless climate change wipes normal society out altogether, I just feel it could have been more vibrant with good use of colour. Towns and villages throughout Ireland seem to manage it no bother, without any fuss. It's summer here and not raining but already it looks drab. Imagine if it looked like this instead....

 Ten year old buildings in Govan I really like. Just the sight of them instantly cheers people up in a similar post industrial, very historic, but generally rather drab looking area.

Even within Dumbarton itself , hidden away in the trees, later on in this walk, they have colourful modern houses.

 Once the scaffolding is taken down however it would probably cost far too much to do now... in retrospect. Another colour suggestion photo, above.

And a pastel tinted version which would not cost very much... done at the time of construction that is. A much better effort... getting the hang of it now.

 I consoled myself with a colourful dinner instead then settled down to watch Danish detective drama 'The Killing'. Thank you box sets and swapping. Grilled chop, pineapple rings, potatoes with butter slipped in, marrowfat peas, triangular egg with cracked black pepper, and cherry tomatoes. Art is everything in life! Mermaids rule!

To be continued.....in part two.