Wednesday 24 August 2022

Claypits. Hamiltonhill. Forth and Clyde Canal. Port Dundas. North Bridge. City Centre. The Long Walk Part Two.

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A view of the recently developed Claypits area at Maryhill. My initial plan/idea was to walk from Gartnavel Hospital and Binghams Pond (see last post a week ago for that) and end up at the newly completed Claypits but once we had wandered round that (Anne and myself) we found ourselves on the edge of the district called Hamiltonhill. 


Neither of us had been in Hamiltonhill before, a working class neighbourhood on the north of Glasgow next to Possilpark, but the Claypits Nature Reserve higher path network took us out there, almost by accident. For someone like me who has a long history of exploring Scottish towns and cities, plus countless urban housing estates for the last 50 years this sudden blank in my knowledge was very unusual.... to have no idea of what buildings once stood here was rather unique. Looking at old Glasgow street maps of this area from the 1970s long rows of houses turned this into a heavily built up district at one time but I've no idea if it was cottage type houses, lines of tenements or something else. Cottage type houses, even those built in the 1920s and 1930s usually last and are still around today while it's usually tenement clusters that get run down and demolished.


 I presumed they had been knocked down and disappeared fairly recently but looking online this blank area, the size of a large city park, has been empty and green, even better tended with iron benches and large flower containers plus DIY football areas and short mown grass as far back as 2015. It was a mystery as the remaining houses here, still well tended with nice gardens, were of the low level cottage type so what stood here... tenements?... a couple of schools...., or more cottage types? I've no idea. 

It was a strange experience for both of us and you can see in this one the remaining surrounding low level houses still left, a black metal plant container and a set of goal posts as if an attempt has been made to turn it into a local park when the houses first disappeared... whenever that was. Looking at my old street map from 2009 all the streets here are still shown standing in rows of domestic properties but Hamiltonhill Street, Bonhill Street, Appleby Street, Dartford Street, Denham Street and several more have now gone... replaced by empty ground, abandoned lamp posts and wide grass meadows.


A goldfinch in Hamiltonhill. I'm well used to exploring waste ground within the city boundaries however and Glasgow is full of these once busy post industrial failed estate areas. Drumchapel, Pollok, Easterhouse, and Castlemilk all have former streets of houses and once packed residential districts now lying empty and abandoned with wild nature gradually reclaiming them.  Roe deer, birds, insects, and foxes moving in. A couple of years ago I wandered round Westerhill Street, Lyall Street, Peathill Street and Scone Street just off Keppochhill Road, beside Cowlairs Park... an area long flattened and abandoned 20 to 30 years ago... so much so that you can hardly make out anything at all with trees 20 feet tall covering each street... yet you can still look up current house prices online for sale of these non existent streets and flats that vanished decades ago. Weirdly some of the street names are still there, fixed in place on poles, yet adjacent tarmac ribbons are quickly disappearing beneath thick woodlands... and on the 'hidden Glasgow' site pleasant memories of growing up and going to school there within this self contained small tenement district of half a dozen streets are alive and thriving. The adjacent Cowlairs Park is an overgrown, wildly abandoned, and scary place that I explored a while back, looking behind me a lot, and keeping my wits about me for brick wielding feral types at all times. Despite Glasgow winning several recent magazine awards in 2022 for 'friendliest city in the UK/world', 'best city to visit' at no 4 on a world list of 53 cities (Edinburgh was first. Chicago second.)  certain parts of Glasgow ( that tourists never visit) give a different impression. Glasgow City Centre, incidentally, for tourists, is usually cheaper than Edinburgh to visit as many of its museums, art galleries etc are either free or cheaper than those in the Scottish capital.


Hamiltonhill Hi Rise Flats. We both enjoyed it here however as it was just like finding a hitherto unknown city park to walk across.


More waste ground wanderings in Hamiltonhill looking across at Springburn and Springburn Park. A brooding sky in this one but although it looked like an approaching thunderstorm was about to burst forth at any minute it stayed dry, humid, and warm.


Where the woods are here in the distance, immediately left of the Hi Rise flats of Roystonhill, is where the long abandoned community I mentioned stood beside Keppochhill Road. This is also a green park-like area you can visit from here. Just like abandoned urban areas of post industrial Detroit are now turning into city farms, growing crops, so too are parts of outer Glasgow, like here, returning to full wilderness. At one time, in the 1920s to 1960s era, a tightly packed Glasgow had over one million citizens within its boundaries but now with several over spill towns like East Kilbride, Cumbernauld, Glenrothes, Erskine, and Irvine sucking residents away, it's currently around 600,000 in population although roughly two million people live within the Greater Clyde Valley Conurbation, like Paisley, Hamilton, Airdrie, Motherwell etc and other surrounding towns and suburbs of the west coast urban sprawl.  

 It is strange though to wander round these deserted districts... feeling like the Omega Man/Woman... or an extra in The Last of Us, (The first one) ( An excellent and visually beautiful computer game that can also be watched on You Tube as a stunning and surprisingly enjoyable post apocalyptic film.)

'Waste ground' is never wasted where nature is concerned however and this place was alive with bees, leg rubbing crickets, hoverflies, and other insects making a home here.

A row of abandoned shops in Hamiltonhill. Ellesmere Street. Any customers long departed elsewhere.


Wandering past here took us out to Applecross Wharf on the Forth and Clyde Canal and sweet scented carpets of white clover. We had a seat and a lunch break here with two prized pineapple cakes each from a local bakery shop.

And following this canal in turn took us down to the Wave Park, Glasgow Kayak Centre and Monklands Canal under Port Dundas. Anne had been with me a few months ago when we passed North Bridge, the new estate being built in Sighthill, from the other direction, that is still under construction so we were curious to see how it was progressing.

Like the Claypits district a lot of hard cash and newly constructed landscaping is occurring here. This is looking up towards Port Dundas. 

Hopefully this small hill will be a lookout view point in a new public access area.


The new North Bridge development. My first thought here was 'Hhmmmm. Long slope.... looks good for skateboards, electric scooters, and roller skates... or Parkour jumping'. Personally, I always think designers/ architects/ town planners should have an ordinary working class common sense person as an extra technical advisor. Even just for a look at the computer generated model images before the actual build starts. Anyone reasonably intelligent from a council housing scheme/ estate background might have told them putting old folks immediately above rows of local shops in the various council estates in the 1950s- 1970s was a bad idea... likewise constructing deck access estates with no personal space boundary markers ( i.e. there's a gang standing right outside my front door every night but I can't say anything as it's a freely available open public corridor) Likewise this place here...and... so many decorative slabs and trees.....with all the seating in this area it looks like an open hub you are meant to congregate in, for whatever purpose eludes me at present... but I can guess local teenagers might find this an obvious outdoor attraction away from public scrutiny, all that's missing is a roof to shelter under in bad weather. Local groups of kids had already found it when we were there in the early evening and it's not even finished yet, the surrounding houses still being built. Like us they were just curious at anything new appearing in their district, offering some fresh visual excitement. But vandalism may soon take hold. I hope not but history says otherwise.

I get the Claypits area with it's path network and sloping ramps for ease of access but we ( Anne and myself) failed to see any merit in this sunken area. It obviously cost a huge chunk of money.. millions at a guess... for this entire hard landscaping project over two hills but unless this is a spectacular water feature or something vital to the canal/ water operation I can't see the point of it being here. All I see is very unfriendly ground and an accident waiting to happen for kids larking around and falling badly on hard edged surfaces or older folk tripping over unintentionally. All the wire netting and different steps/levels everywhere is just asking for trouble. And, as I said, I can see it getting vandalized, run down, or neglected, as well, fairly quickly.

 I can't see the point of these individual chairs either when you've already got two benches for sitting on behind them. True these chairs look more comfortable but my council scheme instinct/intelligence informs me that they might not last very long. No houses nearby to safeguard their welfare. Poor little chairs. Victims in waiting. Someone rescue them before it's too late and the bad people come and hurt them.

I do get this though. This should last for decades to come. All you really need here is a few pleasant paths, like this one, running through a beautiful green area: nothing to vandalize, and a few ordinary tried and tested bolted in place park benches scattered here and there for a rest and a view. Nothing else, nothing too costly... save a bundle of money for other things, like local public facilities/ infrastructure perhaps, more worthwhile in the district that will be more useful and last longer. I think the locals would be happy with that. I would be.


As the fabled bridge (in North Bridge) connecting this district to the city centre over the M8 Motorway wasn't open to the public yet we had no choice but to retrace our steps back past the Wave Park ( a water sports and kayak centre) and then down through the various city districts to Anderston train station for the journey home.


A long and varied walk but a very interesting one. Passing Cowcaddens district here. So named because in previous centuries any cattle gathered in from the surrounding countryside heading for city slaughter used to be rested on the grassy slopes of Cow-lairs first (later a park)  then brought down, refreshed and unstressed the next morning to be killed and butchered without fuss. Tired, frightened, hungry, highly stressed animals apparently tainted the meat which you could taste.  


Unstressed, fairly tired but happy, we padded down through Cow-caddens district, just like the livestock of old, and made our way home. The long walk had ended.

Thursday 11 August 2022

Gartnavel Hospital. Binghams Pond. Botanics. Maryhill. Claypits. Partick Thistle. The Long Walk. Part one.

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Gartnavel Hospital. Glasgow. Once you get to a certain age hospital visits become routine and I've bagged a fair collection of hospitals now. First with elderly parents and now myself. The top floors often have spectacular views over the city. Day or night. Like Heaven... only with more horizontal citizens, longer corridors, cleaner windows, and less medicational benefits I'd imagine. Gartnavel Hospital I like as I've not been detained in it yet for any length of time ( one can only hope that continues)  and I've always managed to escape back out again each time..... and it has an attractive local feature right beside it in the shape of Binghams Pond. A pleasant place to shuffle around in your pajamas and not too taxing.



This is it here with the hospital behind. Many decades ago it was a fashionable boating pond and larger than it is now but fashions change and the current pond, once bare sided, is now filled with vegetation and water fowl.

Two coots. Binghams Pond.

 Swan on nest. As it's hardly rained here for the past two months many city ponds are almost dry and the birds are leaving to find bigger bodies of water and compete for dwindling food stocks. We might be in a human made crisis but so are they at the moment. No magic money trees for them either. What will help, especially in a drought, is people leaving out some ground level water in a dish for birds, foxes etc and one in a more overgrown secluded shaded spot in the garden for hedgehogs, foxes, frogs, newts etc as I'd imagine they would be glad of it with normal sources of moisture rapidly running out. Found a large toad sitting within an empty paint tin in a neighbours garden just because it had some collected rain water still in it and it could crawl into it and rest submerged in the shade during the day. This kind of weather must hit all wild life really hard. We'll be lucky in 50 years time to have any left.


As it was a lovely day and it was only a routine check up for various minor problems I invited my friend Anne to join me as I had a cunning plan. Walking round the circular pond a church on a distant hill, seen above, is an obvious landmark feature and neither of us had been up to it..... so we did manage it this time.

Turned out to be perfectly ok but not as special as we'd hoped but things seen from a distance are often like that as your imagination as to what it might be is sometimes not as mundane as the reality. The plus side of coming up here though was it was a district neither of us had visited before. Kelvindale and Kelvinside. It's a well established upmarket area constructed during the Victorian expansion of the city and neither of us know anyone posh enough to live here. We had skirted the edges but not passed through the middle.


 We were heading to the Botanic Gardens, and normally we would take a bus there but on this occasion we were exploring a district that could give Bristol or Bath a run for their money with elegant streets and terraces. Victorian and Edwardian splendour at its finest. A quiet back street here.

 You know you are in a posh area when the street names are not metal plates stuck on lampposts or attached to buildings but carved individually and ornately on giant blocks of stone. A street name as a work of art. With what looks like a cornucopia, which I suppose is the Victorian version of a magic money tree... or at least a branch of one.


Elegant terrace near Great Western Road. 


It was a district with more than a few impressive mansions although these days, minus servants to clean all the rooms, larger buildings are often subdivided into flats, nursing homes, and similar establishments.


Built at a time when Glasgow was expanding and the West End was 'the' place to build a stylish house, away from the smoke, grime, and belching chimneys of the city centre and the east end districts. Most Industrial Revolution northern European cities have a posh west end and a deprived east end entirely due to the prevailing wind, where common sense places all the evil smelling factories and chimney stacks downwind and the better off areas upwind of any pollution.

 Variety is the spice of life however so we were soon in the hothouses of the Botanic Gardens. Beehive Ginger here, above. Having visited it before on several occasions we were just passing through. I had considered exploring the abandoned underground railway tunnels here for a few km but they were soundly meshed up with impenetrable entrances... so no joy. Although we both had torches, just in case, I think Anne was secretly relieved by that. As was I. It was too nice a day to be underground.


Glasgow's leafy West End. The wild River Kelvin.


Bridge into the Botanic Gardens over the River Kelvin.

Palm tree trunk. Botanic Gardens Hothouse.


Happy monkey. I'd half expected the tunnels to be blocked off so plan B was just to visit some new areas we hadn't explored before and weave a walk of great variety through different districts.


Passing through North Kelvin District.


And then down Maryhill Road.


To arrive at Partick Thistle F.C.

 Old entry gate prices.


Mural Wall. Former Player.

 Club Crest. The Scottish Thistle.


I was surprised to see it replicated on some of the period tenements around the ground. A nice feature.


As far as I know Rangers and Celtic don't have that.


The nearby Queens Cross Church. Although Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a world renowned Scottish architect, for me personally few of his buildings have an exterior 'wow' factor. Some of them are plain ugly to my eyes although they might be nice inside. This is a good example of that. When I visited Hill House in Helensburgh the outside of that building and the surrounding garden felt similarly sterile and unappealing and I was more drawn to the surrounding properties on the opposite side of the road. His wife Margaret is more to my taste and her elaborate Celtic goddess designs apparently influenced Gustav Klimt, as you can see if you look at her work then how much his earlier painting style evolved into his celebrated 'gold period' ( The Kiss etc) after he had viewed her exhibits and conjured up his own colour filled squared and rectangled interpretation of it.' 


Probably nicer inside, like all his buildings, but on this occasion we were on an outdoor quest for visual excellence and had a schedule to keep....


...To The Claypits. When they were building the Forth and Clyde canal and other canals across the UK they needed to scoop out pudding clay to waterproof and coat the dry canal bed and any basins where boats could rest up. Hundred year old waste ground and several abandoned hollows have been transformed into a modest park and nature facility in the last few years. These things do not come cheap though and one million plus pounds is a rough guess on my part from brief online research/curious digging. It may be even more. An alternative but equally truthful block message might read. "Humanity may possibly end up killing all wildlife." Same number of words.

 Seeing it during the height of summer the wild flowers were out in force here and they were much cheaper to install, either as planted seeds or natural wind sown introductions. Lupins.

Sloping wheel chair and disabled ramps zig zag up to the Forth and Clyde canal tow path and there is a new pedestrian bridge over to the other side that wasn't there before. The Claypits area has been extensively landscaped with several trails and a good viewing platform over this side of the city. We did see several wheelchair users/mobility scooter folk around as they would find it hard to access this area previously. 

June at its finest. A promised land of honey and sunlight.

University of Glasgow from the Claypits viewpoint.  With pigeon.

Park Circus Towers. With human.

St George's Cross and Garnethill District in Glasgow.

And the walk was only getting started.  " Shall we continue?"  I asked my fair lady.

"Lead on Gov'nor." She replied. " Tuppence a bag round these parts for my charms and company."

" That's a real bargain."  I agreed.