Monday 28 February 2022

Dumbarton To Cardross Coastal Walk. Winter Mountains and Birds.

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 During the recent run of four big storms coming off the Atlantic Ocean one after another, hitting the UK with power cuts, fallen trees, and flooding, the weather was mostly stormy, raining or lackluster in nature but a couple of perfect sunny days popped up occasionally and one of these occurred on a Sunday. Part of Bowling Harbour above.

I had to faff about doing stuff in the morning so it was after 10:00am by the time I was free. That ruled out the Kilpatricks car park which would have been busy by late morning so I travelled to here instead.... Bowling Harbour... and then on to Dumbarton.

 Although I've been in Dumbarton many times before it struck me that I'd never walked around the coast to Cardross and that recent falls of snow from the storms would make the surrounding mountains stand out. 

 So far this winter there's been a real lack of snow at lower levels and the scenery has remained mostly green.

It started off easily enough with a good path I'd taken before and a pleasant two hour walk or cycle ride in its own right to either the Havoc Football Grounds where there is a minor road under the railway line or continuing on until the last houses in Dumbarton's western suburban edge where a flat then increasingly steep path through woods leads upwards to the last few streets in town. This stretch was familiar territory.  The continuation along the coastline to the village of Cardross was not.

 Langbank across the Firth of Clyde Estuary in Renfrewshire.

 The last visible house/castle in Dumbarton. At this point the good broad path I was following turned into a faint narrow one and was exceedingly muddy and waterlogged by this time.  Makeshift planks spanned the deeper puddles and boggy ground so even without the recent storms dumping fresh snow and rain on the landscape I'd imagine good boots or wellies would be required here year round.

From being an easy dry walk popular with other sightseers and local dog-walkers I was completely on my own past this point. The path narrowed down to a rabbit trail through thorn bushes then disappeared altogether. I was happy though as it felt more of a challenge now and the Firth of Clyde views, the bird life, and the coast itself had real charm.


A view across to Port Glasgow and the Ferguson Marine Shipyard.


 A large circling bird too far away to identify properly and the snow draped mountains of Argyll situated in the upper reaches of the Firth of Clyde.


There was plenty of bird life around. Think this is a pochard. A distinctive brown headed duck.

 Flock of Oystercatchers.

 The seaside town and harbour port of Greenock in Inverclyde viewed across the water.

 I'd imagine this walk would be much easier at low tide when you could walk on the mud flats or sand and avoid the rock strewn shoreline altogether but I was still enjoying it as it was so empty and wild feeling. Never met a soul.

 Told you it was a lonely spot. 'Wilson' dressed as Santa from the Tom Hanks film Castaway found in a remote shoreline cave. I stopped for a chat... (as you apparently do with inanimate objects if you spend a long time alone)... but the intervening years had not been kind and had made him slightly bitter in his attitude.

"You're looking good." I informed him, "if a different shape."

" I'm pebble shaped now. You spend twenty two ******* years drifting in the world's ocean's chubby and you'll be a different ********* shape as well. That's why I eventually ended up here during the recent storms. Not so waterlogged any more. Streamlined. They could have easily saved me off that raft as well, took me on that big container ship, but Tom vetoed it. He always knew I was the better actor in every scene we did together back then. An up and coming talent! Me... quiet, dependable, loyal, calm demeanor, always upbeat. Him... all waving arms, sobbing, hysterical, depressed, ranting and raving, pouring out all his problems every night into my ears.A grown man! What was he- 12 years old or something!? Made me puke! Overacting big baby! You never saw me crying or loosing it once during that film. All the crew liked me... not him. I was not only more popular on that film set but the better actor all round. There was even talk of an Oscar nomination as I made that film far better than it could have been. Everyone knew that. Me!!!  The real star!! I had my own trailer and labeled chair on set. People predicted great things for me. I could have gone on to have a long lasting and versatile  career. TV shows, musicals, dancing and singing is my forte you know..., candid interviews with the biggest stars...It was all laid out for me when I got back to L.A.  A sure thing! Ever seen me in another film since then? No!?"

I admitted I had not.

"Rolled off that tiller and floated away on the waves my ass!  I was thrown off that raft on purpose when the crew weren't looking then left for dead. He carried a doppelganger coconut aboard that ship wrapped in a towel during that last rescue at sea shoot, pretending it was me. His best buddy and lovable co-star that he saved once more! The crew were devastated when they eventually found out the deception but by that time it was too late. I was gone! " He sighed, and a single tear ran down his cheek. "so I'm done with fickle humans and their tricky ways- Get your own cave Sonny. Beat it.   **** off!  I'll not warn you again."

So I did. A sad tale. Despite my offer of lasting friendship and a permanent home with me, safe and warm on a sunny windowsill in my kitchen he seemed resolute and determined to carry on alone, now that he had found land at last, after all these years drifting aimlessly at sea so I left the strange little figure to his fate. He was not really alone though as he had many, many friends among the world's sea birds and other aquatic creatures.... and their company suited him much better these days. I wished him well.

 Assorted seabirds.

At this point the tide was still coming in fast... the faint path had disappeared altogether...and the going was slow underfoot, picking my way over rapidly disappearing boulders and seaweed.

More oystercatchers. I wondered how many years of isolation it would take, living alone on a desert island before a human would start talking to a volleyball as a trusted confidant and friend? (other types of ball to confide in are available.)

A rare spot of normal easy walking across a sandy beach. Note the train which I was intending to get back from Cardross. Still determined to make it.


Normal awkward walking service resumed with this stretch of angled slabs. Still managed to cross them though with the tide still rising up them as I did so.  Railway line nearby.

 Patch of snowdrops.

I then hit the biggest obstacle yet encountered  and this one finally beat me. A full km or so of large boulders piled up as a sea embankment with the water lapping on one side and the metal perimeter fence and railway line directly above on the other higher edge. Ten years ago I'd have danced across a km of sloping boulders like this no bother but fast footwork, confidence in my overall balance and split second reflexes to react to surfaces tilted at all different angles with every new step taken are in the past. Not as easy as it looks in the photograph unless you are young and springy. I started off walking upright then soon moved to all fours for safety as deep holes and sharp hard edges hinted at a snapped leg or hip if I put a single foot wrong. Crawling for a full km was not a pleasant thought, even though I was relatively  close to the station now so I reluctantly turned back for around a mile and found a tunnel cattle creep under the railway line then followed the main road on foot back to Dumbarton which luckily had a pavement all the way. At low tide  Dumbarton to Cardross along the coastline would be much easier but I still enjoyed it.

 A fun day out. Lang Craigs and Doughnut Hill above Dumbarton.

 Concerned onlookers... "Which twin has the Tony.?" being an old hairdressers line.

 and hopeful lunch guests....


Sunday 13 February 2022

Modern Shipping on the River Clyde and Clyde Estuary.

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I noticed recently there has been a slight increase in the number of large ships travelling up the River Clyde to the various docks. So much so that practically every day there's a new arrival. With the weather being poor recently it makes a good alternative and I can see it becoming quite addictive. This is the Shannon Star leaving Clydebank Docks recently and the first ship I managed to see leaving the dock itself- a skillful operation considering the small amount of room available, meaning this ship had to back all the way in to reach this position so it could face the right way for departure out again.

Most large ships coming or departing the river have an accompanying local tug just to make sure everything goes smoothly as these ships travel the world's oceans and can easily be in Turkey, South America or Germany a few days later.  This one, Shannon Star, was built in 2010, is a chemical/oil products tanker at 128 metres or 420 feet in length and was off to Norway next. A short hop away. You can look up the world's ships on AIS Shipfinder and zoom in on your own local river or sea port to see what's there. It's free online and also has an app which is handy if you want to know when individual boats arrive or leave port. 

 Last glimpse of the Shannon Star as it departs under the Erskine Bridge and passes the Erskine Hotel.


Some ships are so large that they dwarf the river they sail up, like a floating metal skyscraper. This one is the Aurilia, a bulk carrier, and at 225 metres or 738 feet long, is much taller, (if placed upright) than London's iconic Gherkin, 591 feet and even the sloping Leadenhall Building, at 737 feet and 48 floors high.

 Another giant ship I spotted recently at Govan Docks was this one with its own cranes. Due to the recent flurry of new buildings being erected in Glasgow City Centre I'd imagine concrete, sand, metal, and stone will be in high demand until they are completed and shipping is still the best way to deliver heavy bulky materials. I never got the name of this one....

 ... but going by the colours, the black line on the upper bridge, and the pale yellow cranes this is the same one passing under the Erskine Bridge, seen above. A lucky glimpse as it wasn't planned.

Another example, The Bro Nyborg, a tanker passing under the Erskine Bridge.

 Stril Explorer, An Offshore Support Vessel with what looks like a helicopter pad on the upper deck.

Sten Hidra, another oil tanker moored at Clydebank Docks.

Fishing Support Vessel Minna.

General Cargo ship Jomi passing Renfrew.

HMS Duncan on the Clyde a few years ago. A warship built on the River Clyde but based around Portsmouth after its launch. I vaguely remember the end of that great shipping era on the River Clyde in the late 1950s to 1960s when the numerous yards here still built some of the largest and fastest ships around for the international market but I was too young as a pre teen to really appreciate what I was seeing at that time. The QE2, the last of the great liners to be built at Clydebank was launched in 1967 but I had other things on my mind then so it failed to register much.  This post might make up for that oversight. Unlike the three recent cruise ships, docked at Govan during covid 19, and the QE2 launch, no large crowds witnessed these ships departing...  only me or a mere handful of other watchers... but that makes it even more special somehow.

HMS Duncan full view. If Russia invades Ukraine we might need all the UK warships we can get... on standby... and then some.  Strange times we live in.

Firth of Clyde Estuary. Greenock is the West of Scotland's main deep water port for container ships and passing cruise ships. This is a smaller version of one but I have witnessed cruise ship monsters moored here for a few days, three times the height of this example, the number of stacked decks and cabins towering well above town's church spires and skyscrapers. A sight to behold for lucky locals.

 A yacht passing the upturned hull of the sugar boat bound for Tate and Lyle's one time sugar factory at Greenock. The island home of various seabirds now and surprisingly large.

Kingdom of Fife passing Gourock. A familiar ship in the Clyde Estuary and an Offshore Tug/Supply Vessel.

 Container ship Jana passing Greenock's Lyle Hill with the Cross of Lorraine WW2 Free French memorial clearly visible.

Hercules fly past and tanker.

 Hercules bomber close up.

Second bomber. 50 years anniversary?

 A busy Clyde Estuary view. Large tanker with police escort.

Scenic backdrop for tanker.

 Skog. Firth of Clyde. 

 Nuclear Submarine with winter mountain backdrop.

 Pipe and Cable laying ship. Greenock docks.

 It's a hard life but somebody has to keep watch down the various docks and document it. A new hobby perhaps!? A change is as good as a rest they say.