Thursday 25 January 2024

Dumbarton Shoreline Walk. Rock Climbers. Dumbarton Rock. Little Egret.

                                                  ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN


A walk Alan and I did around the Christmas period in Dumbarton that I'm just posting now, about two to three months behind on posts at present but that always leaves a few extra in the bag in case of a lull. Before I met up with Alan again I went five years without a walking companion, except for my cousin occasionally. mainly because I gave up serious hill-walking and hill-walking clubs at the start of Covid and never went most of my friends from that time period are still totally addicted to it to the exclusion of anything else and I got fed up with that attitude as they had little time for any of my suggestions to do something different for a change. Hills or nothing else for the last 45 years. Every single weekend and holiday period. A proper life long addiction to my way of thinking and one I no longer had to the same extent. I was the mad one for wanting a change, at least now and again... Another reason for packing in or a switch was I was getting old and the hills were increasingly hard on knackered knees. My heart wasn't in it anymore.This is not a real snow person but it is a good one. Used mainly to hide an unsightly tree stump I think, Didn't want to get caught lifting up the snow person's attire to find out... so it remains a mystery...

 Anyway, this walk starts from Dumbarton's main tourist car park beside Levengrove Park down river from Dalreoch Train Station and past the distinctive three orange hi rise blocks. The walk starts here by crossing the stone bridge onto the side with the shopping street then follows the River Leven along that bank downstream until it empties into the River Clyde. As you can see it was a beautiful cloudless morning. It always is in the world I live in... unlike the weather you experience up mountains 85 percent of the time.

 Just in case there is no heaven awaiting us I like to get my thrills and paradise moments in early, down on earth first.. to save disappointment later on.  Also, I didn't want to die having just climbed hills all my life, continually and increasingly following someone else's idea of a great day out rather than my own version. Having said that a sense of purpose or a hobby is one of life's great gifts. It's just they have their own bucket lists now and I have mine. One of which is photography.

 The walk around the harbour, some of it on waste ground is always a pleasant experience and very varied.

 A modern elephant bench. Dumbarton's long history with elephants will be mentioned later on.

 The River Leven and Dumbarton Rock and Castle. The car park is just out of sight on the  right on the Dumbarton rock side, (the river twists right in this photo to run beneath it in front so to reach it it's the left hand bank in this photo that you have to walk down to reach it. This river drains all of Loch Lomond so in times of heavy rainfall/floods it can be impressive for the sheer volumes of water it discharges into the Clyde Estuary.


The remains of the old docks when Dumbarton, like most UK towns, cities, and even small villages during the industrial revolution produced products shipped worldwide. Shipbuilding, whisky distilleries, and glass making to name but three industries here for a population of around 20,000 citizens. Maybe 30,000  at it's heavy industry jobs peak. For a lot of towns and districts; Dumbarton, Paisley, Barrhead, Clydebank, the Inverclyde towns and the Ayrshire towns spring to mind, the good times of earning a regular wage in a steady reliable job from year to year is mostly a thing of the past for a lot of people and there is a lot of deprivation, alcohol abuse, drugs and unemployment in these mentioned areas. Although maybe more so in recent past decades. 

 But it's an interesting town and walk with a long history. Sunken ships here in the River Leven. Good for local fish and other sea creatures as a home.

 Which brought us round to Dumbarton Rock. One of the bouldering boulders here with rolling Renfrewshire in the distance.


The other bouldering boulders here and the main face where the hardest rock climbs are. I've been here dozens of times over the decades and never seen anyone climb any of the big E routes featured here. E being Extreme. You can just see a climber at the top of the obvious slanting crack climb, above. So he's obviously done the actual route up the crack itself.


This time a couple of climbers were attempting Chemin de Fer, ( French for Iron Path or Railroad) one of the best crack climbs in  Scotland... if you can handle E3 basalt that is... not the most friction friendly rock around. And it was in December... Cold, damp and fairly miserable on fingers and toes I'd imagine. Going by the bolt the rope is attached to high up on the cliff it seemed as if they were attempting a direct finish to the route judging by chalk marks above the climber. But that's just my guess. The only guide I have left now is a 1980s Climber's Guide to Central Scotland and Southern Scotland featuring most of the low lying outcrops in that wide area by Jerry Handren. Still a classic today. So maybe a direct finish is an actual route now... or will be one someday. Being an HVS climber as my uppermost top grade outdoors on cliffs I made it a point never to go near this overhanging face as I'd be well out of my comfort zone so well done even getting up that far. In mid December of all months. This type of hard basalt is smooth and slippy even when bone dry.



Another photo abseiling down. (Note all the metal protection gear in the crack, hence the name of the route ?...) Even if you did finish the climbs the soaking vegetation exit at the top of these routes is off-putting as well in winter. Still a lot of visible wet weeps on the rock so cold frozen fingers almost guaranteed for climbers here.


This face is also overhanging in places so you have to cling onto the holds just to stay attached to the route all the way up. Strenuous stuff.


Anyway, we only stayed here for five minutes then moved on to see the castle itself around the front of the rock. A feature older than Cleopatra.. or Jesus....or the pyramids and the Spinx....  and apparently one with the longest recorded history of any fortress in Scotland. Dating back to the Iron Age... possibly even the Stone Age as an obvious natural defensive location. The ancient fort of the Britons that even the Vikings and the Romans knew all about. Obviously the present incarnation of this castle fortress is more recent than that. Somewhat ironic then that the last few years it always seems to be shut to visitors... although most of the repair scaffolding has been removed by now.


Next up was the shoreline walk from Dumbarton Castle to Milton direction although it does not go all the way to Milton but heads inland at the edge of Dumbarton by going under a railway line via a stooped concrete platform ( harder for anyone over six foot tall as you have to bend double or crawl along with a watery punishment if you get it wrong.) This is a nice wild stretch as you walk under these volcanic cliffs on easy flat grass paths. 



It was at this point we spotted the Little Egret, a rarity in Scotland normally but with climate change and milder Scottish winters they seem to be spreading north. 

A large bird similar to a heron they are more common in the south of England as they prefer warmer temperatures and you often see them in wildlife documentaries nesting in Australian mangrove swamps or skulking next to elephants in Africa... watching for disturbed insects or frogs displaced by big heavy feet. First time either of us has seen one though. A fairly rare occurrence up here. Must be only a handful this far north at any given time.


It was a cold raw day so hopefully it would not regret moving north for the winter. Luckily birds, given enough food for energy, can fly south again in under a week.


The back lane beside the bonding warehouses that used to be guarded by a flock of geese up until the late 1990s- early 2000s.


From there we headed back through the town itself on the history trail. Old town jail here. not much left of it but a doorway and a wall still standing.



Crown carving on the jail wall.


Elephant and castle signs are everywhere in Dumbarton as it's the town's Coat of Arms. Presumably dating to a time when tiger hunts used elephants with people on top.The original sight and idea of that must have been amazing when it was first discovered during the west's love affair with all things Indian Subcontinent. The colourful wildlife, the history, the flamboyant colours in the flowers, birds, and people. It was a popular craze... just like wild swimming is today. Elephant and castle signs are common in the UK with pubs, districts, cities, etc holding examples but maybe a natural affinity occurred here as the rock could well be the elephant beneath with the castle on top. Symbols of endurance, immovability and defensive strength. Or maybe inspired by a much earlier example of elephant power- Hannibal's extraordinary journey over The Alps into Italy to fight the Romans.

 The wonderful Dumbarton Municipal Buildings.


Peter Denny Statue. One of the most important shipbuilders at that time. Don't know if he would appreciate the gull perched on his head though.


This gull was not bothered in the slightest by our approach. "I was here first. It's my head. It's my shit on this head! See it?. That's my claim right there. I ain't budging for the likes of you pal." it seemed to say.

Not even lining it up for a group close up photo of the head, the gull, and the coat of arms bothered it.  "Their aw deid pal. I'm the only living thing here right now. And I'm no moving! This is my favourite lookout nut and it's staying ma favourite lookout nut long after you leave! I like to see what's going on in ma burgh. This is ma toon after all. No yours!"

Dumbarton Library.

A detail.

Some folk rock climb, some folk retail shop for pleasure... and some people try to help others...

A display to help sick children ended our walk. Another good day out. A walk of a few hours duration but with plenty of interest and variety.


Saturday 20 January 2024

A Lucky Dip Day. Byres Road. Kelvingrove Art Gallery. U of G New Buildings.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN


I needed a set of keys replaced at short notice so after looking online I discovered a Timpson near me at Byres Road in Glasgow. Oran Mor Church above. They cut or repair new keys for house, office, car, garage etc and also do shoe repairs. It was a busy wee shop as there's not that many shops left that do that kind of stuff. I had a quick attempt online which took ages to jump through all the hoops required plus I couldn't ask face to face questions directly about my set of keys so I got steered towards the most expensive products instead.. .and a three day wait to get them back again. After finding out the correct address I turned up in person and got a much cheaper deal face to face with the guy in the shop. It's a shame the internet and smart phones are destroying the High Street approach worldwide as this is one service where it was much better... and cheaper... in person.


I had two hours to wait to get the results so I took a gentle stroll down Byres Road from the Botanic Gardens to the Partick end, intending to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. One of Glasgow's finest buildings and art collections. Traditional period tenements line Byres Road on both sides, above. Before they were built it used to be open ground here, grass fields, and cattle byres, hence the name. The Curlers Bar, beside the underground station, harks back to that time when a popular ice rink formed every winter in a nearby pond and locals would play against each other on the ice.


So far.. so familiar... Yorkhill District here and student flats.

Then the shock of the new happened. I'd completely forgotten the new buildings rising up, phoenix like, from the ashes of the now gone Western Infirmary, leaving a large gap site. As I've not been down this way for at least six months I didn't realise it would be at such an advanced stage. The next set of photos are all buildings for the University of Glasgow.


The ARC building and new plaza, just completed.

Different view.

 This area also has a mural fence, probably to make the place seem more finished as parts of this district still have several gaps with other buildings planned to fit into them by the looks of it. The featured buildings look almost ready for students but nobody around on this occasion.


Red Bird. Might be a Cardinal... a North American bird if it is. 


A busy design. I like it.


Two Icons.

Mushroom house.


School of Health and Wellbeing.. apparently. I didn't need to go in however as I got a mental lift just from the shock of the new buildings. One of the many reasons I like living in a big city is the changes that occur in it year by year. Entire districts transformed, almost overnight.


And amazingly I liked all the new buildings. With three separate universities in the heart of the city and a college as large as a university (City of Glasgow College) you could safety say 'the dear green place' is a university hot spot with thousands of student apartments all over the place.

In my own school days, with my rough council estate background, unless you were very clever ( and I was distinctly average) no-one ever considered you as university material in the slightest. Getting a trade was a big step up for the likes of me unless you, your teacher, or aspirational parents suggested a university placement instead but it certainly wasn't the must have essential option on your CV  it is today. But maybe that might change again in the future. There was no need for a university education back then either for ordinary folk as people still had good jobs and could earn a decent living without one in heavy industry, or numerous factories/shipyards/steel works etc... pre Margaret Thatcher that is... and no one had ever heard of zero hours contracts. You normally worked from 8 or 9am to 5pm Mon to Fri with most weekends free. And a reliable wage packet with the same amount in it at the end of every week. A much simpler life back then in many ways, although it could still be hard or boring depending on the work involved.


New buildings on University Avenue.


I thought this was a red building at first... from a distance...


Only to find out it was covered in suspended panels. A neat and elegant idea.


And I finally arrived at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Famous suspended heads.



I just took a few photos of things that caught my attention out of probably thousands of exhibits. Don't know if you can do so but never spotted any signs up saying it was not allowed. Glasgow and Edinburgh are two very different cities with their own unique attractions but entrance fees are one thing that separates them. I put £2 in the honesty box here. Many of Glasgow's attractions are the same. A voluntary or suggested donation into a box. Many of Edinburgh's best attractions are £20 per person or more to get in. Edinburgh Castle £15 to £22, although that is good value nowadays.  £38 for family ticket of two adults and two kids so if you see a few paid attractions in one day it can mount up. By comparison Glasgow is a cheap but friendly date.


Most of the time anyway. Demon Mask.

 I took this photo of a leopard seal, a fierce polar predator, as I remembered a story about Ernest Shackleton's ill fated Antarctic expedition, when trapped, stranded, and starving on the ice they dressed the smallest man in the company like a penguin in black gear then had him waddle about on the ice beside open water. Leopard seals are around 8 to 9 feet long and love eating penguins so the ruse worked as a large bold adult  flung itself out of the ocean straight at him... whereupon the rest of the crew, hidden out of sight, raced forward and clubbed and stabbed it to death before it could escape... or get its sharp teeth into the fake penguin/ very relieved small man. One of the things that saved them from starvation, allowing them to march into the history books later on.

Kelvingrove interior. A magnificent building. Inside and out.

 Ancient Egyptian artifact.

 Dog and owner presumably...


A detail of a panel. Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, a fine artist in her own right and wife of that tall chair guy I'd rather not mention. He gets all the credit, usually.



Museum interior.


Ancient walking fish. Note the extra limbs.

Stags fighting...

And on the floor below.. a wee wild haggis. With heather being a foot tall this wee fella can scuttle around in it, almost invisible, which is why I've only ever seen a few in the wild. Just a blur really and a tail. As it's very tasty to eat it is understandably timid and shy of humans.

Kelvin Hall in the sunshine.


University of Glasgow. Gallery of Modern Art and Library.  

Kelvingrove Art Gallery from the outside. My head stuffed full of culture and learning I wandered back up to get my keys. They worked fine again. I never missed a university education though or a health and wellbeing certificate. My old mum was my teacher and adviser. " The world's yer apple Son! Go out and peel aff aw the layers to find your fortune... or a pearl inside."

She was a font of wisdom in matters of the heart as well. " Never trust a women Son. They are slippery creatures and you are too gullible for them. Women are like spiders! They will easily trap the likes of you in their web of lies then proceed to eat you alive , bit by tiny bit... until you vanish completely."

So I took that advice to heart... as she should know. She was a woman after all...................... I think.

Well....It was a long time ago.