Friday 30 December 2022

A Frozen River Clyde Walk in December 2022.

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A few days after my walk down the frozen River Kelvin I took a second walk along the River Clyde waterfront starting with a bus ride to George Square. Glasgow City Chambers, above.


It takes a lot for the River Clyde to freeze over, usually a week or more of consistent below zero daytime temperatures coupled with a minus 5 to minus 10 week long sustained freeze up with little or no daytime thawing. As you can see here the river is almost frozen over with only a few clear openings and a young seal appeared in one of them before diving under the ice again. Being tidal the river is brackish right into the city centre so you do sometimes find seals, cormorants, ocean living fish, and other sea creatures swimming in it, even up as far as here. It was having a great time exploring,  behaving just like seals do in the arctic on wildlife programmes, only within a large city environment. As long as it was finding stuff to eat it would be happy I'd imagine. And safe from larger predators, like adult seals or killer whales, an active pod of which were spotted last year, although not frequent visitors, in the Firth of Clyde off Helensburgh.


It was iced up as far as the bank to bank high level obstruction barrage at the Saltmarket which is as far as the high tide is allowed to travel up the river as well. Hard to see the ice in this photo clearly except for the numerous gulls sitting on it.

One looking towards the city centre district.

I've noticed before that even on narrow bridges spanning the canal that ice does not form under them unless it's really cold so frost must descend vertically onto the water surface.


Although it was frosty in places out the sun it was not that icy for most of the walk and footsteps usually crunched down rather than slid forwards.


I wandered upriver as far as Glasgow Green. Cabbage palm trees, (which can stand up to frosty weather to a point. A traditional favourite hardy exotic tree found around the Clyde Coastal Resorts, planted during the UK's long gone heyday of stay at home tourists.) with The Doulton fountain and the former Templeton's Carpet Factory in the distance.

It was a bright sunny day which really brought out the carving detail of the magnificent Doulton Fountain, reputedly the largest terracotta example of its kind in the world. India here.

Halfway up.


Queen Victoria on the top plinth of the fountain. Presumably not amused.


Although the nearby former Templeton's carpet factory (now a small business centre and flats) was inspired by the  mostly white Doge's Palace in Venice  this local carpet factory is very eye-catching in its own right and has some colourful additions of its own.

I'm sure in the 1960s/1970s growing up we had a small living room carpet in front of the electric fire similar to this pattern.... about six foot by three foot in size. It also had bright red zig zags in it though....and dazzling yellow ones looking like snakes. Hey, it was the 1960s man! The TV programmes might have still been in black and white but carpets were starting to become slightly psychedelic in design.


A corner of the building.

Walking back downstream past Glasgow Green boathouse.

Another new building going up along Argyle Street in Glasgow's city centre business district.


 A couple of new waterfront murals.

Same area.


New building complex going up near Finnieston District.

Finnieston Crane and the Hydro.

Paisley Road West art murals.

Same set,  Different panels.


Radisson Red at Finnieston... looking distinctly green from this angle of light. The old circular brick built Clyde pedestrian tunnel entrance/exit here, now a restaurant, which I walked under with my father back in the 1960s when it was still open. Dark, dripping with water, and fairly creepy underground and a tunnel that seemed miles long before you came up to the surface again near Govan on the other bank of the river. I loved it. It had real Dickensian atmosphere. Constructed late 1800s in the era of the horse and cart.


Same hotel building five minutes later viewed from a front elevation... and living up to it's name. Red.


And finally two old photographs from the only other time I took a walk along a frozen River Clyde into the city centre. As I say it doesn't happen very often that it freezes over and on this occasion it was solid for a large run of days and night time temperatures dropping down to minus 10 to minus 15 every night for a week. Thick enough to almost walk on although it would be certain death for anyone falling under the ice here as the river is fairly deep.


Same date, same era. Kingston Bridge and M8 motorway. The ship moored here is the Tuxedo Princess which dates this photo to the late 1980s or to the mid 1990s as that's the length of time it was berthed in Glasgow with numerous bars, discos, and a restaurant inside. The rest of the time it was based in Tyneside, along with a sister ship, also a converted car ferry. very popular with VIP types and locals both here and at it's home river base around Newcastle and Gateshead. On this occasion the ice was thick, bank to bank, all the way down to the Renfrew/Yoker ferry which was acting as an ice breaker as it ran across the river every ten minutes or so with passengers on board, thus keeping a path open and ice free during the daylight hours.


This is it here on another occasion with the Waverley paddle streamer out in front crammed with day trippers. There used to be two old ferries here. The Renfrew Rose and the Yoker Swan, much heavier and more robust craft than the smaller specially fabricated ferry today. The old ferry could take an ambulance... as well as passengers and cyclists. The modern ferry might not be around much longer though as a bridge is being constructed soon at this point so now is the time to take a trip on the ferry before it is gone forever. The last working ferry on the Upper Clyde. Happy new year.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Siberia on The Kelvin. Life Below Zero in Glasgow. December 2022.

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The month of November just passed in 2022 was a mild month with above average temperatures but the first two weeks of December 2022 more than made up for that. When the dominant weather front drifts down from the Arctic North or blows in from the East freezing temperatures occur over the UK


Binghams Pond. Glasgow. After about a week of sub zero temperatures, even during the daylight hours and a sustained ten days of minus 5 to minus 10 degrees at night... even in outlying city districts... I decided to take a few walks to see how the local wildlife was doing.


Most of the large pond beside Gartnavel Hospital remained solid ice but the swans and geese circling all night, being the heavier birds here, managed to keep this part of the pond open. I think the smaller birds, like ducks and gulls, would struggle to keep it ice free on their own.


Even the day I was out the temperature was around minus 5 and foggy with frost covering the outlying pavements all day without the sun to burn it off. It was enjoyable though- something different.



Next came the Botanic Gardens which I passed through to reach the River Kelvin.


It too was frozen solid in both directions. Downstream view.

Upstream view. The day before, the temperature, even in the city, was predicted to reach minus 10 degrees so it was the morning after that very cold night I decided on a walk. Further downstream a large weir and several rapids turned the ice back to running water again but on the gentle slow stretches like this one it could freeze over from bank to bank.

 Still misty and very chilly down here within the Kelvin Gorge walkway.


Inn Deep, Bars and Restaurant under the arches below Kelvinbridge.


Dog and human mural.

 Kelvingrove Park came next with an intrepid cyclist panting up an impressive incline to reach the summit of the park.

 December in Kelvingrove Park looking across at the lights of the University of Glasgow. Dark by 4:00pm in Glasgow at this time of year. Especially on a foggy day like this one.


The River Kelvin Walkway below the tumbling weir. Liquid surface again.


University of Glasgow next.

 The entrance gates on University Avenue.

 Deus Ex Machina... as they say in Rome.


An atmospheric and misty River Kevin gorge with the Glasgow University tower lit up.


Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum from the University Tower.



 Kelvin Hall.

 Partick at night.

 Heading along Dumbarton Road in Partick to get a bus back.

 No sign here of frost on these pavements thanks to busy traffic, numerous shop windows, and loads of pedestrians throughout the day and night. Always a populous place this.


Dumbarton Road shops and soon my bus homeward arrived. An enjoyable day out. Merry Christmas everybody.... and best wishes.

Sunday 11 December 2022

Abyssinia. The Bothy Trip.

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As I've not been out walking on the hills much the last few years ( the reasons which I'll probably explain in a future post after January) I fancied an overnight trip into a bothy for a change and my hill-walking club friend John kindly obliged as he was keen as well. As he was driving up after work on the Friday night we wanted a fairly short car journey then short walk in so Abyssinia, sitting in the shadow of the Arrochar Alps, fitted the bill nicely. As you can see in the photograph above the weather that weekend was pretty grim. Low mist over the mountains, heavy drizzle at first, then turning to steady heavy rain for the next 24 hours. After an hour's drive we arrived at Butterbridge in the dark to find the car park there missing in action, covered in a sea of mud, numerous traffic cones and tape blocking it off with ongoing works to stabilize the road and falling hillsides around this area, which has been a problem for many years now due to increased rainfall on steep bare slopes. Years of on/ off road closures from successive landslides.

 The bothy was only an hour's walk in up a decent land rover track, seen above, and was one neither of us had been in before as it was only re-constructed from a derelict farm building within the last decade or so. The reason for the unusual name is probably war related, the original tenant perhaps serving in the first or second World War in a desert region, with camels, as I seem to recall being told a story along those lines from an old guy in one of my first hill-walking clubs 40 odd years ago. All the daylight photos here by the way were taken during the walk out as it was pitch black when we arrived and during the walk in.

When we arrived at Butterbridge we parked in a muddy lay-by constructed of traffic cones with the rain and wind battering down then had to get out the warm cosy car to put on boots, waterproof jackets and waterproof trousers then sort out the rucksacks in the dark, howling wind, and driving rain with head torches. This reminded us, as 50 plus bothy veterans ( number of bothies we've each visited as well as our age) of countless other trips in the dark in pouring rain, sleet, and snow when you have to wonder why you are doing this and is it all worth it.

It also reminded me of my book Autohighography, and the first chapter in it Dog House, about a long ago bothy encounter and walk in with similar grim conditions. (First three chapters free to read down the right hand side bar of this blog. £1 for the book( plug, plug,) a hopefully humorous semi biographical Christmas stocking filler... also an unusual love story... so it's not all about climbing mountains but also generic outdoor club life and various relationships)



First sight of Abyssinia bothy on the walk in up Glen Kinglas through the mist and rain. In the bothy list guide it mentions that the stream you have to cross to reach the bothy may be impassible in spate but it would have to be a really serious downpour for that to occur as it was raining fairly heavily for our crossing but was only knee deep, if fast flowing. In the dark we could hear the rushing water rather than see it but we managed to wade across it without incident.


This was it in daylight on the Saturday, walking out to the road, and it's considerably lower than the walk in on the Friday night despite constant overnight rainfall that turned local streams and waterfalls into roaring torrents. Unfortunately it was raining so heavily and so miserably by then, and my camera lens kept steaming up, that I did not take many photographs of the waterfalls, impressive though they were. I also had wet feet for the walk out, keeping my last pair of dry socks for the car journey back.


John managed to keep his socks and boots dry by changing into plastic footwear for the stream crossing whereas I just waded over, knowing I had spare dry socks left in my rucksack for the next day. It was also raining heavily, very dark, and I couldn't be bothered faffing around in bare feet.

 Twin waterspouts.


The bothy was finally reached around 8:00pm on Friday night. A much easier walk in than the one two bothies ago and a couple of years back when I crashed unexpectedly through ice in the dark into a waist deep swamp then had a trackless void to negotiate into that other bothy as my torch was damaged down to glow worm brightness when it was submerged under the water. Lesson learned I now carry two torches, two fresh batteries, and a compass and OS map as that solo wander/ navigation in almost total darkness over unseen half frozen bog ridden terrain in a true mountain waterlogged vastness is not one I'm keen to repeat any time soon.



Although it doesn't look it in this photo we had a pleasant evening in the bothy, cooking a meal then settling down in front of a wood burning stove with a couple of candles. As experienced bothy veterans we always carry in firelighters, kindling, logs, or coal... plus a few candles for extra lighting as this means a cheery night instead of a cold, dark, miserable one. Incidentally, Hollywood A lister Scarlett Johansson found herself in a similar local bothy to this one, about a dozen miles away, when filming Under The Skin. Other local Scottish highlights she visited included a petrol station in Wishaw, the glitzy charms of Port Glasgow ( Scotland's Las Vegas) a frozen remote beach, and Celtic Park... all under the cover of darkness... in winter. Yet of the trilogy of films partly shot in Glasgow that year (2011) Cloud Atlas and World War Z being the others... Under the Skin is easily the most interesting, underrated, and strangest. Worth a watch if it's on TV.

The bothy stove. It may be economical but I'm not really a fan of bothy stoves as I much prefer a traditional open fireplace in bothies and a coal fire. A bothy without a source of heat in it is a cheerless  stone fridge in winter but some stoves I've seen in bothies do not allow you to open the front except for putting wood in. This one did stay open as apart from heat you really need that focal point to stare into to enjoy a good evening. It's what bothy life is all about. This was pleasant but in a coal fire, impurities in the coal and shifting embers always create an ever changing tapestry of different small visions throughout the night- dragons, dogs, strange sinister tiny humans... everything in the coals... that I'm sure inspired and nurtured our primitive ancestors imagination, 'the race collective memory' as I've speculated before on previous bothy trips. It is an early form of television, a focal point for any group or individual, that apart from keeping tribes/humans warm and safe from night-time predators was/would be a major backdrop part of any story telling evenings and shared cultural identity. Something we lost when we changed to electric or gas fires after the clean air acts in the late 1950s and 1960s. I remember my family sitting around many a coal fire and candles during power strikes and as a child and teenager which was something of an adventure then so it's always remained a treat for me. Even in the later Broons annual books some calamity or other used to regularly occur in that fictional household so that they had to revert to that bygone age of coal fires and candles, (without smart phones, electric light or central heating,) as fondly remembered by certain age groups or as mythic-ally re-imagined /faithfully recreated by current millennials and others in much the same way as the 1960s musical era is revered even now by post 1960s generations that didn't experience it first hand but sometimes craved to do so... and be there.


Wood doesn't have that visual kaleidoscope to the same extent as coal but it was still a good night in a decent bothy and John provided musical entertainment in the form of a smart phone juke box collection of artists I was unfamiliar with. Highlight was the Irish modern folk band Lankum, which I looked up later. Never heard them before but I liked them. Didn't think they sounded anything like the Pogues- more like The Velvet Underground John Cale era or Scottish band Arab Strap in that they used slow drones, viola and fiddle/violin to great effect as a complement to storytelling ballads. Dark themes that suited a dark bothy... warmed and lit by stove and candles alone. Flickering shadows and dainty little bothy mice huddled quietly around the edges of the glow...  heating up... but listening also.


We were lucky it was a mild night in late November instead of the current - 10 deep freeze conditions of early December as the stove greedily burned up wood fast even with the front closed up yet didn't put out much in the way of heat into the room. John was ok in the sleeping platform next door, well away from any fire but I stayed beside the stove all night as I only had a three season £30 sleeping bag with me. My four season very expensive bag having at last succumbed two years ago to frequent use/ abuse getting in and out of it house telly watching on the sofa to save big heating bills arriving. With a burst zip and £100 plus to buy a new four season winter bag I've not got around to that yet. It cost over £100 in 1980 for a good 4 season winter sleeping bag so hate to think what price they are now. Anyway, another enjoyable bothy trip.


The journey back near Arrochar village. Typical grim West Highland weather in early winter. When I got back, inspired by my bothy night, I bought a large bag of tea lights for £1 so I now have two candles per evening watching telly with the lights off... any fire risk lessened by placing them on a large metal tray in plain sight at all times. No coal fire but nearly as good as a bothy.

And I know a candle song.