Tuesday 28 June 2022

Wonderland. Part Two. Shawbridge Arcade Murals. Maxwell School. The Great Wood of Pollok.

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  My original intention on setting out was to visit Bellahouston Park and Pollok Park and nothing else but once again Serendipity rescued me by leading me through Pollokshields then down Haggs Road due to the fact I knew both of these parks well and fancied a visual change. Just a few hundred yards south of upmarket Pollokshields and Haggs Road you come to a very different neighbourhood. Pollokshaws. During the Industrial Revolution a cluster of industries grew up within the loops of the White Cart Water flowing through here, a substantial deep all year round river which encouraged the usual crop of dye works, print works, potteries, engineering factories, bleaching, cotton, and fabric works  normally associated during the 1800s and early to mid 1900s with a steady and reliable water source. A few valleys and rolling ridges away Thornliebank, Nitshill, Barrhead, Neilson,and Paisley had their own water dependent stream or river based industries springing up... and before that, spinning and weaving on a more basic person to person household level. Plenty of work created housing nearby for the workforce but by the 1960s factory decline had set in yet Glasgow's growing population still required old slums cleared away and new housing built. 

 The obvious solution, or it was then in the 1960s, was to build a cluster of hi rise flats, around 12 in total centered around the general area of Shawbridge Street. Separate free standing blocks appeared between 16 to 22 floors high, holding thousands, along with several lower rows of deck access blocks in the style that was fashionable then. Coming from 3 and 4 floor tenement land this was something very different for me, the nearest large skyscraper cluster to my house. A glimpse of the future perhaps? It was still working class though so I felt comfortable within it but not rough in any way. No threatening gangs lying in wait to grab a visiting teenage stranger, like some of the other districts in the city. This photo was taken around a decade ago and already there's about 3 or 4 hi rise blocks missing, already demolished. The original view was very impressive at street level and made an impact. Like a lone ant venturing into a shoe box turned on its side, monolithic concrete walls rearing up on either side of the access road. I loved the place then for exploring and it's the gift that keeps on giving. Only the rear white flats remain today and the white and grey front block.

Despite 10 years or more passing it's a place still in transition. The old hi rise flats, which were getting rough at the end, have been replaced with cleared ground then with modern new apartments, seen here... but it's taken a long time.

and here... the new look Shawbridge Street where 5 or 6  hi rise towers once stood. White and grey front block in the distance.


But there's still some older buildings left in the area... and that's what makes it interesting. Pollokshaws Burgh Hall is still immaculate and being used....


A really nice ornate example of late 1800s architecture completed in 1897... as you can see here. Built at roughly the same time as Victorian and Edwardian Shawlands and the Haggs Road tenements in the last post


Whereas a stone's throw away the Sir John Maxwell School, opened in the early 1900s and named after the owner of the land and the surrounding grand estate of Pollok looks like a forgotten ancient temple (of learning in this case) being reclaimed by nature. Teenagers, children, and adults alike love exploring old structures like this one and growing up, Pollok and Nitshill still had a few visible ruins in the 1960s.... old lime works, abandoned coal mines, empty grand mansions and cottages, usually buried deep in the woods and forgotten.



There's a security fence around this building nowadays to prevent further damage and a movement to save it but like a lot of these outdated structures it's how to re-purpose it even if you get the money raised. In a more upmarket area they would simply turn it into luxury flats for sale but that might not happen here in time with empty ground around it and a lot of damage to repair or strip out inside. A school abandoned since 2011 I think?


It was the empty ground that appealed to me I must admit. An overgrown football pitch covered in sweet smelling clover and buzzing busy bees. A few butterflies as well. A wildlife haven. I had a rest here and something to eat. June weather at its finest. Warm and sunny yet not too humid.


The reason I came over to this side after Pollokshields was I remembered visiting a nearby shopping arcade in this area that looked as if it had been newly abandoned...or most of it was anyway... pre pandemic around 2019.


This was it then on a freezing winter day with frost on the ground. No graffiti on the shutters yet so that's why I'm guessing it was newly abandoned.


It also had a great view from a certain rooftop vantage point over the nearby Burgh Hall, Pollokshields and the Campsie Fells which is why Serendipity led me back here again.


Post Pandemic it now looks slightly different....


More graffiti on the shutters....which was to be expected.... but the biggest surprise....


....was the wonderful set of murals adorning it inside and out... that really made it shine for me.

A Bullfinch.

 Animal magic. Shawbridge Arcade.


Hawk and face mural.


Mouse and Hawk mural.

Side view of Arcade.


And snapping this one I suddenly realized this was where I'd taken and passed my driving test. Something I'd completely forgotten about until now. I learned in Shawlands over months of lessons but passed it in the streets around here at the test centre one afternoon. I also signed on the bru here when, like a lot of folk during the early 1980s Thatcher era of mass heavy industry, coal mine closures, and factory manufacturing collapse I found myself unemployed. Rather than being upset I took it as an excellent opportunity as you only had to sign on every fortnight or weekly, can't remember which, so I was off exploring around the UK instead. I was still living with my family and had saved some money up so with a potential 40 year working life still ahead of me I was free and determined to enjoy this unexpected bonus while I could. I joined several hill-walking clubs, travelled the UK, rekindled my acquaintance with my unique and incomparable  'force majeure' down in leafy Kent and basically had a good time... setting myself up for a possible alternative lifestyle approach and making new friendships that would last into the next 30 years. And it all occurred here. Call it a gap year(s) :o)

Bird mural.

Gothic Mural.

Unusual one.


I then went up onto the roof of the arcade for the views then went up higher still onto the grass slopes around the white hi rise flats, seen here, above. Found this newspaper article online after wondering who created the murals here.


 Cathkin Braes from Shawhill flats.

Shawhill Flats.



Hillpark Flats from Shawhill and church spire at Mansewood. Long walks, if you can do them, are very good for physical and mental health and I was buzzing with the natural dopamine effect of hard exercise walking over the umpteen drumlins that fill this wooded quarter of Glasgow.


One showing the position of the old school and shopping centre.


Looking towards the woods of Pollok Park where I was heading next. 

 It was after 7:00pm by then so I took the less frequented back trails rather than padding down tarmac paths, seeing two roe deer, a fox, and about a dozen squirrels...

...the animals growing bolder once they had these increasingly people busy and thinned out woods to themselves again as evening approached and most folk left for home.


Pollok Park Main Gates.

My car was parked at Bellahouston so I cut diagonally through the deepest woods in an urban city forest so extensive you can loose yourself in it, if only for 15 mins or so until you hit a familiar looking feature or path and recognize where you are again. Even after numerous visits over decades this is still the case although with winter storm damage, added new paths, and tree loss these woods are much thinner than they once were in the 1960s and 1980s. Yet still find new surprises to delight.


I had such a good time I didn't want it to end so treated myself to some food indulgence on the journey back although I didn't scoff it all in one sitting. This lasted me all week.  A great day out. Six of your five a day. There's fruit in most of these items somewhere :o)

Thursday 23 June 2022

Wonderland. Part One. Bellahouston. Pollokshields. Pollokshaws

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There are certain times of year in the UK you do not want to miss. One is spring... and another is early summer. I've always known this but sometimes, when other things or events get in the way, you can forget it's coming around. This fact was brought home to me recently when I went to a place I go to all year round, week in, week out, so I take it for granted.... but on this occasion it was looking very lush and exotic.... yet it's not normally an exotic place.  That's when I knew nature in the UK was at its very best for colourful blooms, trees in full leaf, and dense vegetation. The Scottish urban jungle was at its peak... and I was missing it!   It was the time to be outdoors.

So a grand walk was called for. Bellahouston Park, seen here, is one of my favourites for the extensive views over Pollok, once a grand and very extensive estate stretching to the far horizon in this photo. The last few years though parts of this park have resembled a building site with various pipes and drainage going in to stop flooding. (I have to admit I liked the giant pond sized puddles every winter as it was great for reflection photography.) They have been digging up the pavements here as well for more pipework/ fibre cable laying so I was hoping it was back to normal now. As you can see here and in the photo below it was not.


They have almost finished the drainage work but a large fence was being erected in the flat southern section of the park and when I asked what was going on I was informed it was a ticketed pop concert scheduled for mid June featuring the latest trendy singers ...( but no- one I'd heard of or wished to see.)


Another disturbance in the park. 

This didn't bother me though as there was plenty of the park left which was undisturbed so I made my way to the top of the hill for the views. Clyde College and Leverdale Tower in this one.

From long acquaintance with this area I'd say that this south western quarter of Glasgow is easily the greenest and most tree filled part of the city and you can see that here in these photos.

 Something I've long thought of as 'The Beautiful South' even before a well known UK band claimed that title.

House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park. So far this was all very familiar to me so I deliberately picked a different route to visit places on foot I have not been in for a few years or in some cases several decades.


It was a warm sunny day with just a light breeze so the shade of the trees was very welcome


I left Bellahouston Park by its back entrance onto Dumbreck Road and found myself in 'Wonderland'  or in the real world Pollokshields. The only time I've been bored on city walks is when I've travelled through a flat landscape, consisting of lower middle class districts with pleasant but fairly identical housing stock. Mainly because nothing happens there. The walks I do enjoy however seem to be at the top and bottom end of the scale... either grand mansions or wild council estates... as they are much more interesting to travel through.

Pollokshields has grand mansions and wide elegant streets and from a very early age I've always loved wandering through places like this. Much more to see... lovely well kept gardens... and on a sunny summer's day it could almost be a fantasy land. I've got no envy or inclination to live here being perfectly happy and content with bothy life and what I've got at present but I just like the feeling of wandering through such a beautiful area with interesting architecture as all the buildings here are individual and different.   

 So through the rabbit hole I went... from one life into another. Like Alice I used to come here as a child to visit my cousins and it was always a special occasion... and a privilege to be here. A feeling that's never left me.

For one thing it has wide boulevards and an exquisite range of trees, even on the main busy traffic corridors.. and in the sleepy back streets it has such an air of timeless antiquity you can easily imagine horses and carriages pulling up outside a grand abode in 1910 with a pair of well trained dalmatians padding along in the rear. And maybe a butler or a footman coming out to greet the inhabitants of the coach. In short a place to dream. 

With a couple of magic castles thrown in for good measure. This one is Haggs Castle, a late 1500s tower house that was once the home of the powerful Maxwell family who owned most of the surrounding lands for miles in every direction, then it was nabbed for war use, then a Museum of Childhood, and now it's a private residence once again.

A different view. We used to walk past this building on the way as an extra visual treat. Castles of any description always have a major influence on young imaginations. Even the word 'castle' conjures up images of past times seen in numerous films like 'The Long Ships', 'The Vikings' 'Taras Bulbas' and 'Ivanhoe'... all 1950s -1960s classics frequently screened on TV back then and even now... featuring castles.

Another highlight for me is that grand mansion lands often occupy the best hilly ground within any city and offer excellent views ( well, you would, wouldn't you) so it is a joy to walk through these areas.

 And I do like a nice hill top view over the city. A view looking towards Cathkin Braes here.


Also good for flowers.


Just like Wonderland

 The beauty of June in the UK...


...and the perfection of flowers.

 Wild flower mixture in June.

 I certainly remember this row of tenements on Haggs Road as this was where my mum and me used to get off the bus to walk to my cousins. The Old Swan Inn was the pub at the far end corner of this row for many decades previously but now I discovered it has had a makeover.


Swan mural beside the pub.


 A very familiar view from my past. The road up to Shawlands on the right was where we went shopping, trips to the cinema, had my first driving lessons, hair cuts, discovered nightclubs and pubs, etc...and at half the price and half the distance into the city centre a popular alternative weekend destination for the first 27 years of my life. This stylish gastro pub is now called Eala Bhan which means The White Swan in Gaelic from a famous poem so it's went upmarket but still retained its heritage, hence the mural. And that concludes the first part of the walk.... In part two serendipity makes an appearance, grabs me by the goolies, and takes me to a very different location... and a sight I did not expect to see.