Friday 31 May 2024

In Paradise. A May Walk down Overtoun Glen. Dumbartonshire. 2024.

                                                   ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.


Alan and I liked our recent walk up the Lang Craigs so much  that a week later we were back again. I had remembered a walk I've not done for twenty years. It could have changed completely in that time, like many others revisited post pandemic, altered drastically mere years apart in some cases, from path to no path. When I moved over to this side of the River Clyde after staying in Pollok until I was 27 I soon found I had a new set of hills to explore instead of the Brownside Braes, above Paisley. The Kilpatricks running above Dumbarton, Clydebank, Faifley, and Bearsden. Most hill-walkers race up to the highest summits, which are very good admittedly, but now I'm getting on a bit in years I really relish the lower slopes as well which are delightful in their own way, often covered in yellow gorse, white hawthorn blossom, bluebell and wild garlic carpets, Nature's lush hedonism at warmer, lower climes. Which I've always loved since the age of five....seeing dandelions, clover and daisy carpets in the grass for the first time. And spellbound ever after. My first full summer outdoors.  Maybe I don't need religion because I've always had a guardian Angel with me. The natural world.  Friends have arrived, departed..., sometimes even arrived back again :o)... but nature is always constant in my life. A lifelong love affair. This is the Milton minor road going up to Overtoun House. Even the tarmac loop, seen here, to the house and back then a short A 82 link  between then is a scenic circular walk in itself up and around this grand estate. And as it's all on minor road tarmac it is very easy to follow. As you can see here. That's three classic walks from one location.

 In May especially the estate grounds of Overtoun House are a marvel. It was predicted to be a hot day for Scotland. 24 degrees, no wind, and sightly humid so I thought a well shaded gorge walk would be ideal. Parking at the side of the house car park we this time took a path down the gorge from the ornate stone bridge. Descending on a good path down the left hand side of the burn to the eventual road below, the A82.

Basically, on a path straight down the side of this tower. Keeping to this, left hand side, of the stone bridge.

The path at the side of Overtoun House back garden. Rhoddies so some left on the estate grounds after all. Hopefully these stay put.


As you descend under the mint green canopy of mature deciduous trees you are entering my own church. The original green cathedral. First and always for me. Trees. Each individual.

 Carpets of bluebells decorate the gorge. The legs of a camera shy Ent.


The descent from Overtoun House.

Garden abundance.

The smell of wild garlic is everywhere down here as the path crosses the burn via a wooden bridge. This gorge is over 100 foot deep in places and quite spectacular. A lesser known treasure of the Kilpatricks.

The sweetly enticing allure/scent of honeysuckle gives it away. Normally grows in hedgerows, bursting out to fill the evening air in rural country lanes. Another childhood memory of evening walks around Pollok with my parents in summer and wandering up into the Barrhead Dams area, pre teen age. Honeysuckle found there outside Barrhead for the first time... My Dad happy and relaxed as well, shirt sleeved and tattooed after coming out the army, still young then with a 40 year wage slave stint ahead of him, enjoying an occasional day off from the daily grind of working life, light and sunny to 9:00 pm for a couple of precious months. Treasured due to being fairly rare events.  Goosegogs too sometimes, though I prefer them out a tin with syrup rather than gobbled raw. Gooseberries is the other name. If this is not paradise I don't know what is.

Forest dwellers. You can already enter Heaven fairly easily. Have imagination. Personally I've always been happy living with the concept of a 'Goddess Syndrome.' It works for me. Serendipity, Isis, Demeter etc....


and behold... Lemon fungi.... never seen it before....



Halfway down we found a second stream entering the first... and a tunnel. A cool shady hollow. Tranquil spot.

A cracking wee exploration followed on slippy surfaces. But good fun.


The path follows the stream all the way down to the road then a short stretch along it to Strowan's Well Road where it follows the same Gruggies burn up the other bank and back to the house. Whereas the descending path stayed in the woods most of the way on the opposite bank it breaks out higher up into open meadows with fantastic views.


Looking down on Dumbarton.


And surprises. Roe Deer.


Climbing out the gorge.


Roe Deer Close Up.

A horse paradise as well.

Swallow on a wire. Not seen any for a while so this was nice.


 A different view. This upward path takes you round some of the estate.

 Which is also lovely... and much flatter.

In Paradise. May 2024.


 A varied walk indeed.


And after all that I had to make  myself an equally colourful meal. Lamb chops and assorted veg.


A perfect day. A Scottish version of Sakura.   Sayonara.


Friday 24 May 2024

Johnstone Castle Walks and William Wallace Monument.

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When Alan and I were on a winter walk on the Gleniffer Braes, months ago now, we were intrigued to look down at a park like area, obviously open to the public, as we could see paths and dog walkers on it. This was an area of ground neither of us had ever visited before so we were determined to put that right. The photo above is of the Gleniffer Braes, under the pine plantation, where we were standing looking down... only in reverse. Now we were the ones looking up.

 Although I couldn't find that much about the area online it did confirm you could walk there so a week later, in early spring, we set off to explore it. On the Landranger OS Glasgow Map Sheet 64 Johnstone is just on the left hand edge of it so we walked from the Johnstone Castle area up through woods to Windy Hill. A good path network and various trails take a gentle uphill course going towards the Gleniffer Braes, through an area known as the bluebell woods but too early in the year to spot any.


Instead it was snowdrop time.



Some steep bits through pleasant woodland but mostly a fairly gentle ascent.  A small car park exists at Windy Hill, used by locals, but not many places for cars there. About a dozen spaces maybe.

Because it was a new area we did enjoy it, despite a damp cold day. But it would be much better later on in spring or summer with the leaf canopy out and lush undergrowth to look at.


It's mainly deciduous woodland with a few open meadow areas, seen here, but enough walking potential for a few hours.

 Mostly it was a dull day but the sun did come out now and again.

 On the way back down into Johnstone we had two extra treats in store and both of these we had been to before, though not together... and years apart.

 Johnstone Castle, once owned by the 5th Laird of Johnstone. It's now completely surrounded by a pleasant enough  modern housing estate but in the past it would have been surrounded by typical grand estate landscapes, some of which you can still make out on this walk.


When I first visited here decades ago I was amazed by this old castle ( now a private residence) completely surrounded by a council estate ( now many of them also bought presumably) and even more so by its famous visitor who stayed here briefly.


This info board explains why.


As it's nearby and on the way back we also stopped off at the Wallace Monument in Elderslie.  Street parking available at castle and monument.


Unlike the film Braveheart where Mel Gibson supposedly grew up in a highland glen village then ran with his men over dramatic mountain ranges the truth is more mundane and far less spectacular to a cinema audience. He either grew up here or in Ayrshire ( being the son of a minor knight his early history is vague before he got famous as it was never recorded... he wasn't important enough then. But this is where he grew up and most of his battles, except for Stirling ( The edge of the Scottish Highlands) were lowland battles in scenery much like this walk. No real mountains at all. In the Scottish Highlands clan chiefs still ruled their territory with an iron fist, fighting with other clans mainly and not much interested in a young upstart or problems far away.

 The carved panels are really well done.

 Close up detail.

 The empty helm... Another good walk.

Monday 20 May 2024

Wyndford Murals. Maryhill Barracks. Glasgow.

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A few months ago hill walking friend Alan and myself were doing a walk in North Glasgow along the Forth and Clyde Canal then down the River Kelvin Walkway. We passed by Maryhill Barracks, one of the entrance gates seen above and the Wyndford Estate inside. We noticed then several colourful murals some distance away but did not go into the estate itself as it would have taken us out of our way. As I've never explored Wyndford before and as Alan prefers countryside and hills to wandering around city housing estates a few weeks later I came back myself for a solo walk.


To understand this place and why a large stone wall surrounds most of the site today you need to see this link. From the late 1800s to the early 1960s several military regiments were stationed here. Only the outside perimeter wall remains with the land inside it used for social housing, built in the 1960s. 

It manages to pack a lot of residents into a fairly small area thanks to tower blocks and maisonette/tenement style flats.


Obviously the history of this area was a point of interest but of equal interest to me was the local murals, with ideas and drawings provided by local school children. These murals have been up a while, painted on local safety boards, as several of the high rise blocks are scheduled for demolition with boards placed around them to keep anyone from getting hurt.


I have to say these are some of the best murals I've seen, probably because children were involved... packed with colour and imagination.



So because they did look temporary... and I'm presuming will be taken down once the work of demolition is finished and ditched or used again somewhere... I thought I'd capture them all here for anyone interested in years to come.

 Faces mural.

 Flower mural.

 Fox mural.

 Hare and Fruit selection.

Bugs and birds.

 Oceans and Egypt.

Maybe it's precisely because it has a high wall surrounding it that psychologically put me off exploring here... is the only reason I can think of for not going in here before. I've been in far scarier/threatening housing estates with territorial gangs ruling them and wandered through them no problem and visited nearly every housing estate in the central belt over the years either through work or from personal inclination. Walked through Maryhill itself over 100 times now so it's a complete mystery why I've never entered past this wall until now. You would have thought basic human curiosity would have lured me inside. And why do you still need such a fearsome modern deterrent on top of this wall, for a housing estate, when anyone can drive or walk in 40 feet away via several open gates and access roads like the one shown in the first photo. ( probably just there to stop children or adults climbing or walking along the wall then falling off it, rather than for security reasons.)


Oscar Mural.

 Rainbow mural. Obviously younger children here.

Reptiles and Comics.

Scotland mural.

Skull mural.

Sunflower mural.

Vase mural.

World map mural. Obviously after future sea level rises have been factored in judging by the UK and Italy's width on this map.

Even though it has a fairly high density of people living within the surrounding wall thanks to high rise flats and lower level deck access types there's still green spaces within this area.

  And five minutes walk away you have pathways along the River Kelvin and various city parks within easy walking distance.


Snakes and ladders. A large example in a playground. Not seen one of these boards since the 1960s when I was around eight  years of age. Might well date from then when this estate was built.


I thought at first this place was abandoned but it still has a few folk working in it...


As I came from Anniesland and was walking back to there here's one final distance shot of the Wyndford Estate with both the high white flats and the pink ones sitting inside the surrounding high wall. Unique in the city. Probably unique in Scotland for that matter. A worthwhile trip.