Saturday 24 February 2024

Newark Castle. Kelburn. Parklea. Ships. Shoreline Birds.

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A rainbow. For a change in the blueskyscotland universe it was a decidedly mixed day with heavy showers forecast. As neither Alan or myself fancied getting soaked up a hill we decided on a flat walk from Newark Castle (Fyfe Shore. A small car park just a half km up river from castle, yet still next to the water's edge) Although we've both been in Port Glasgow numerous times neither of us had walked from Port Glasgow up river towards Glasgow the full way. (heading for Langbank) It's a busy photograph.


This is taken from the car park with a view of Ferguson shipyard. What made this walk special was the unexpected river traffic heading up and down the River Clyde Estuary on that particular day and also the bird life. It was full high tide so all the birds that would normally be out feeding on the low tide exposed sandbanks were waiting it out in sheltered bays. It was also a very windy day which in mid winter also put us off a hill walk yet surprisingly sheltered and warm along this stretch of coastline. The sunshine coast of Inverclyde! Happily out the wind for most of it.


Chemical/ oil tanker Arsland passing us on the walk.


At the start of the walk it's a straight flat romp along this boardwalk but once this section is completed it opens out into a series of small sheltered bays.


Then a wider expanse of shoreline with playing fields and small woods.

Thought at first these ducks were Pochard due to the brown head...


But consulting my bird book they turned out to be Wigeon, a duck I've only seen once before, same as Pochard.... in 50 years of coastal, pond, and river walks. 


The small white wing bar and the jaffa orange crest on the head being the giveaway.


Further up we spotted what I thought was a large flock of sandpipers but it was hard to get a photo of them as tree branches in front were what the lens always focused on.


Turned out to be Redshanks, (I think,) a bird I've seen feeding on the sand and mud flats but always on its own, never in flocks. As I don't go to nature reserves normally and I'm not a dedicated bird watcher, only photographing them on walks, this was a good day's haul of bird life for me. You would think in 50 years of being highly attuned to capture any wildlife encountered though and the number of coastal walks I've done during that time I would have seen a wider/ better range of species.


For instance.....Teal... above.  Only spotted twice. Once near Ayr and once in the River Carron marshlands.

 Bullfinch. Spotted only once... that I can Fife.

Grey Partridge... only once... same Fife day.

Golden eye. Again only once. I know many UK birds have been in sharp decline for decades but at this rate of spotting that puts them in the same extremely rare bird category as Little Egrets. I'm excluding Green Parakeets here as I've seen and photographed them on four occasions now. Yet all the preceding species mentioned are supposed to be fairly common in the UK.


Two birds I do see a lot of near the coast are Oystercatchers and jackdaws... and again on this walk.


Timber ponds and Dumbarton Rock. In the days before steel hulled ships timber was stored here to season in salt water before it could be used in the various River Clyde shipyards, the skeletal remains of which can be seen to this day.

 The broad green sward at Parklea....

 ...and looking back at our shoreline walk.

 The Serco passing Westcliff in Dumbarton.


A rainbow up close. Although we observed various rain showers over the hills and mountains at times we stayed dry all day so a good result.


A tug escorting a large ship up river.

On the same route back we stopped off at Port Glasgow's Coronation Park where an impressive modern sculpture sits. A tribute to the shipyard workers of the past... and present.


Hammers away. If it doesn't fit always use a big heavy hammer on it. Or even better two hammers. That's my advice.



With the clouds scudding past at speed due to the wind strength you had the disconcerting illusion, standing directly under this giant, that it was the sculpture that was moving slightly and just about ready to swing it down on you. A very good sculpture for Port Glasgow and a highlight of a modest heritage trail in the town. 


On this walk you also get good views of Dumbarton Rock and Castle. And you can visit the nearby Newark Castle. A pleasant jaunt of a few hours duration.

Even though I'm not posting videos anymore... now and again a song I've not heard totally captivates me. This is one. A real classic yet I've never heard it before. This should be as well known as any Beatles song to my mind yet I've never heard it on the radio. I would have remembered it. Although it's easier to get songs on the internet many catchy but fringe modern tunes never get the same airplay on radio or TV, still dominated by previous decade classics, especially the 1960s to the 1990s, probably because they still had a proper music industry then with teams dedicated to promoting all the established acts. This is a real slow grower. Sweeping... epic... sad... but beautiful.   and I've already heard Eleanor Rigby dozens of times in every decade. I live for good new songs I haven't heard before. Miley Cyrus also does a great version of it as well but this is the far as I'm aware. 

Sunday 18 February 2024

Whitelee Windfarm and Ballageich Hill. 333 metres. 1092 feet.

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A trip completed about a month ago to visit Whitelee Wind Farm, The UK's largest onshore turbine location so worth a day out. A new destination for Alan as he was curious about it. A second visit for me, decades apart. Anyone who reads this blog already knows I love Renfrewshire and Inverclyde with a passion- as the area of land between Newton Mearns- Stewarton- Dalry- Johnstone and Paisley is completely unique in my mind. A wonderful world of blue reservoirs and small dams, green rolling farmlands and loads of small hills and ridges. A patchwork quilt of complexity... and variety. As seen below.


 ....and here again, below. One of the many rolling ridges in this area reached by quiet minor roads under slightly different grey light conditions. Edging into Inverclyde but still beautiful undulating landscapes. Happily, very few parking places for visitors. A place to explore via public transport. Train ,bus, bike... or on foot. Good dairy farming country. To built a large wind-farm site here would be complete madness. You would think.


Fortunately, Whitelee is situated  in East Renfrewshire... which is a different beast altogether as the lands above Eaglesham are flat, higher and much bleaker in character. A wasteland of open moor.

 I'm not a particular fan of wind turbines in general but if you had to install 215 large turbines in one location without spoiling the surroundings too much then this is the perfect spot to achieve that.

 In the warmer months they run buses around the wind-farm park and it is popular with mountain bikers, dog-walkers, wind-farm baggers etc with endless miles of fairly flat trails to negotiate  but we, Alan and myself, contented ourselves with following just a couple of paths up to the turbines before calling it a day. To be honest once you have seen one of these monsters up close the thrill tends to dissipate somewhat if bagging the other 212 so we headed across the road to go up Ballageich Hill instead as I remembered it had good views over Glasgow.

 The Eaglesham moor road gives you an idea of the landscape of East Renfrewshire. We had to walk down here to get to our hill. 

 As soon as we were on top of it we felt immediately better, looking out over Renfrewshire again.
Bennan Loch here, above.  Although snow was absent it was bitterly cold with night frosts down to minus 8 to 10 below for over a week.


The mossy ground was frozen solid sporting a thick blanket of ice...


...and any dams up here, at almost 1000 foot of elevation and completely open and exposed, had an almost walk across cover of ice.  

 The cold clear air did produce pin sharp clarity of vision though for obtaining good views of Glasgow from our hilltop vantage point.

 A view of the Hydro, extreme left, Shawlands hi rise, (4 white blocks above cottage) and Glasgow city centre... on the middle right.

 Looking across at Ben Lomond with its cap of snow.


A remote farm on the edge of Whitelee.


Neilston Pad from Ballageich summit.


A West Glasgow view. Bottom of photo to top. Silverburn Shopping Centre. Moss Heights hi rise flats.( long white block) Scotstoun hi rise flats, Middle left edge. 


After our hill we travelled back through the Barrhead Dams district. This is an area near Newton Mearns where an old dye works used to be. Although I've cycled past here many times in previous decades I never stopped to go in so I never realized how extensive it was until now. A sort of mini industrial hub in the depths of the countryside. Alan knew all about it though.


Fairly slippy minor roads after a week of minus 8 below. Melting at the edges in limited afternoon sunshine.


More sheet ice. An abandoned site for now but given the relentless march of the ice sheet glacier that is Newton Mearns posh housing nearby it might not be long before this site gets tarted up and turned into an owner occupier smart suburban enclave instead.


Which brings us down to the Barrhead Dams, also frozen.


For the last couple of years it has looked like this with the water well down on previous levels. Fishing piers stranded a long way from any fish. The smaller lower dams are the same size they always were but this largest dam, Balgray Reservoir, is a pale shadow of its past glory. I do not know if it's surplus to requirements now but it used to look like this...


Almost large and wide enough to be an inland sea, a great delight in spring and summer, and far more impressive than any wind farm to walk around. This was what it looked like in summer 2016.



Duncarnock. Unchanged for a thousand years. Site of an ancient hill fort and tribe. A good day out. If you skip the wind farm.


Saturday 10 February 2024

Glasgow. Stockingfield Junction. Glasgow City Views. Ruchill Park. A Grail Quest.

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Another semi urban walk I did recently with hill-walking friend Alan was back along the Forth and Clyde Canal but this time to see the landscape and sculptures/ceramics at Stockingfield Junction. Campsie Hills view above. We would also visit the timber basins at Firhill/Maryhill and the Claypits re-wilding project along with Ruchill Park, all reached along the canal at various stages... and all linked by ribbons of lush greenery snaking and sneaking through the urban sprawl, above or sometimes below, the unsuspecting city.


So Stockingfield came next. An area where two canals meet at Lochburn Road in Maryhill. There's a dangerous road tunnel that goes under the canal at this point built in an age before much traffic with very inadequate narrow pavements, barely wide enough for one slim person to shuffle along. Not wide enough for a female with a pram or kid's on bikes, effectively cutting off the three communities living around it like a modern day moat. A single lane for cars squeezes between pedestrians on the narrow strip of pavement using the tunnel as well and it can be a busy bottleneck at times although a new set of traffic lights improves the situation somewhat. So a new bridge was built to replace one that was here decades ago and fell into disrepair over time.


Not got a photo of the bridge as, unlike Alan, I've been here before several times by bike or on foot. Anybody that wants to see it and the Claypits greenery can look at my other posts by typing in     Stockingfield Junction and Claypits. That should get them. Ceramic detail, above.


Ceramic tribute.


A lovely item. My favourite so far hereabouts.

Next we left the canal briefly to cut down through the quiet back streets of Maryhill to reach the River Kelvin just north of the Botanic Gardens. Here the Penguins live. 

No one knows why...

Sometimes there's more of them... on this occasion far less... What parent could deny a crying three year old with outstretched sticky fingers.... ? Little paws with suction tips and tears aplenty....... to weep on command... to obtain the objects they desire.

Hard Hearted Me! That's Who!!! Stop ******** stealing them three year olds!!! Bad Mummy! Bad Daddy! There should be a lot more photos here of cute penguins but they've all been ********* swiped by infants. Not the vast collection I was expecting for our arrival...that I've seen here at other times previously. Bah Humbug.



********** little bread-snappers!  Never mind. Undaunted we made our way back up to the Forth and Clyde Canal. An underwhelming detour this time.

Passing Kelvinbridge Parish Church here.

And this beautiful, and unexpected Army Reserve Centre.


Back on the canal near Partick Thistle Football Stadium.


And the frozen timber ponds at Firhill. Some parts of the canal, in the sun, were water, others like here in the shade all day stayed frozen.

 New flats at Firhill. Like most people in my situation and income bracket, there's not a lot of spare cash for trips abroad at the moment. Probably like 50 percent of the population in the UK coming from a similar housing scheme/ estate background as mine I would imagine. (or the inclination for flying abroad nowadays if I'm honest due to certain non serious but irritating health issues) Although everyone sees other posts on the internet from various friends about fantastic places they visit every year (Thanks Alice!) and what a larger income might bring you I try to make the best of what I have got on my doorstep instead. No complaints from me as I feel I've already led a very charmed and fortunate life... much more freedom and movement than my parents generation ever had by being a 1960s child and therefore largely avoiding the 9 to 5 40 year career necessary to get the big money for someone like me in the first place. (Not bright. Average intelligence. Low drive to get on in business. Body swerve big promotions that would cut down any spare time away with friends. Secret mission statement. ) Although I gave 100 percent in any job I had I lived for weekends and holidays and had no real interest or ambition to climb any corporate ladders. So I happily led an unconventional lifestyle to get what I wanted out of my time here on this good flat Earth. I had plenty of ambitions... just not for work advancement :). Money has never been abundant or a big incentive either but I gained a huge amount of freedom as a result. For instance.... I was far more travelled and adventurous before I started on here with the blog 15 years ago. Got most of my abroad trips in early while I was still backpacking fit, with good knees. For decades I was a walking God! Home and abroad. This is my static end of life era/period you are viewing now. You all totally missed my best stuff... all the missing years and mountains climbed before the internet arrived. Wah! Sniff sniff.....My hasty youth....  The females... or lack of them......First Munros... then...then.... etc etc as detailed in my book Autohighography. Plug plug. Only ten more shopping months til Christmas. Get it early :o)


One advantage of being static however, as people found during covid, is that you really get to know an area well. Having worked in every part of Glasgow over many decades I know most districts fairly well. Street by individual street in many cases. And a cascade of people. In my head a visual memory of each Scottish city and town and what they looked like during the 1960s to the 2000s any time I visited. For work and pleasure. Jobs I enjoyed as it got me into places I'd never get into by myself. Hell, I'd have paid them for the experience half the time. Often very exciting jobs in the big council estates. Memorable times. A Grail Quest. Even doing this blog so many things I have  photographed in urban areas have now disappeared, been transformed, or altered dramatically, in just the last five years. One of the great benefits of a big city is constant change. I still have a love for that around me. Stockingfield Junction here, above, looking north over the city.


Same place.



 And here. Vintage car sculpture.


Next up on our city tour we ascended two different hill tops for the views over the gleaming metropolis below. Claypits Nature Reserve on the canal near  Firhill district just down from Stockingfield and then Ruchill Park, again reached from the canal via this bridge. Locked at night probably. Student zone. Charing Cross district above from Claypits hilltop.



The wooden bridge linking canal to Ruchill Park.



University of Glasgow. Gallery of Modern Art and Library.( The tall grey building.)  From Claypits.

 University of Glasgow Tower. The old section.


Wyndford hi rise flats.


Port Dundas with folk walking along the Forth and Clyde Canal. Both hills good viewpoints.


Glasgow from Ruchill. New hospital at Govan on far right.

 Park Circus Towers from Claypits.

 Maryhill District.

Cowcaddens from Ruchill Park flagpole. A stunning view.

Said flagpole.

 Winter berries for the birds. Ruchill Park.



It's not a bad life if you can see the beauty and magic of the world around you wherever you happen to live and beauty visits me every single day.... and that normally makes me .....      ......delighted.  

 The River Kelvin.

So wherever you are in life... the secret is to make the best of what you have got. Which I try to do. And a new walk for Alan. I think he liked it.... even though he's not that keen on urban walks normally.