Glasgow Gallivanting: May 2021

Glasgow Endures: Charing Cross May 2021

Glasgow endures – it certainly does! May was another unsettling month. Scotland expected to move to a lower level of restrictions on the 17th, and indeed most of it did. Rising numbers of Covid cases in Glasgow, however, left us in Level 3 as everywhere around us dropped to Level 2. By staying the same, we actually became worse off: when everyone was Level 3 we could travel around freely. Now, we couldn’t cross into a different level. From a personal viewpoint, this was a blow. We had a week in a cottage booked in the Scottish Borders which was postponed for the third time. Fourth time lucky? Watch this space! On the plus side, we have both had our second vaccine so musn’t grumble – much.

So as law-abiding citizens who stick to the rules, what have we been up to in Glasgow? We were pleased to see the Highland cattle back in the fields by Dawsholm Park. There are more than this, but the rest were uncooperatively lurking in a corner out of reach of John’s lens. One at least had no such inhibitions and wasn’t going to let the camera get in the way of a good dinner.

I mentioned in April that we were closely watching three swans’ nests on the Forth and Clyde Canal. May brought cygnets! First, the Lochburn nest with Mama Swan and six cygnets. This nest has been empty every time I have passed since, but I spotted an adult and three cygnets on the other side of Maryhill Locks last week – could this be the same family? The following day, we both passed the same spot and John had his camera so was able to get close ups of the adorable cygnets.

When we first saw the Ruchill cygnets they were on the far bank of the canal, darting in and out of overhanging foliage and too far away for a phone zoom to be worth using. There were four or five at that time but I’ve only seen two on subsequent visits, so either the others were hidden below the canal bank or some have been lost. You might spot a creature in the gallery below which is clearly not a swan. I have never seen a cat walking along the towpath before – could this be one answer to the mystery of the missing cygnets?

The third nest is at Firhill, and this one worried me for a while because I wasn’t sure there were going to be any cygnets. The swans had obviously been disturbed, because over the month different forms of fencing appeared. We had seen the adult swans several times, but the nest was sometimes unattended, even although there were quite clearly still eggs in it a good ten days after the other nests’ eggs had all hatched. Then on Sunday I checked – they had one little cygnet and I was so happy for them! I don’t remember being so interested in obsessed by the swans before. Last year, in the first lockdown, we were avoiding the canal towpath because it was so busy, and before that we were travelling much further afield to walk. It’s another example of the changing perspectives that the pandemic has given me on my own area.

A walk in the other direction on the canal took us to Lambhill Stables, the community garden of which overlooks the route of the Antonine Wall. Say “Roman Wall” and most people will think of Hadrian – but this is also a Roman Wall, though with less extensive remains. Built in the AD 140s for Emperor Antonius Pius, it ran across Central Scotland from the Clyde to the Forth and, for a generation, was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. A new trail is being created including two giant heads, one at Lambhill and the other at Croy Hill which we will visit when we’re allowed to leave Glasgow again. The head at Lambhill, named Aurelius, had not been fully installed when we visited, but he looks impressive already.

Distance stones were placed along the wall to record each section as it was built, and there is a replica here of one which was found nearby at Summerston Farm. The original is now in the Hunterian Museum and can be seen on the information panel below.

From the canal to the river, specifically the Kelvin which has several huge sites with drainage work going on. I noticed a nice collection of children’s artwork at one of them: here are some favourites. I particularly like the rainbow with vertical stripes.

More art on fences, protest art this time, at Whiteinch Library. Glasgow’s cultural venues, including libraries, are slowly reopening. However, some appear to be threatened with permanent closure, Whiteinch being one of them. I say “appear” advisedly, because communication from the council and Glasgow Life, the organisation which runs cultural and sporting venues on its behalf, has been so appalling that it is hard to know what is going on. The local community is, quite rightly, very unhappy. I make no apology for the number of images in this gallery because I want to record them. I like the creative use of book covers, and if you look at them in any detail it might be useful to know that Susan Aitken is the Council Leader and Bridget McConnell is the Chief Executive of Glasgow Life. A numpty is a stupid or silly person.

The library sits across the road from Whiteinch Burgh Hall. It would be very sad to see it degenerate to the same state of dereliction.

I mentioned earlier, as I have done many times in the last year, how I have looked much more closely at my local area while walking around it again and again, and have tried to find ways of making it more interesting by recording details that I had previously missed, as well as Covid-specific rainbows, teddy bears, and graffiti art. Journalist Dani Garavelli recently wrote an interesting article in The Scotsman about this phenomenon and how other people have handled it. Walking back to happiness features, amongst others, Louise McVey, whose graffiti ceramics I have mentioned a couple of times, and the mystery granny who crocheted emojis and hung them on gates and railings. I really enjoyed reading it, and it gave me a few ideas.

Finally, a story about the kindness of strangers. My doorbell rang the other evening, and at the end of the path was an elegantly dressed young woman whom I did not recognise. She was clutching a bunch of white tulips and said “I’d like to give you these”. I must have looked nonplussed, so she explained that she had been given them, but she had a cat, and tulips are toxic for cats. She didn’t want to waste them so offered them to me! I’m not sure why she picked our house, but I’m glad she did – after thanking her profusely I have placed them in my kitchen window (which faces front) so that hopefully she can see them, though I still don’t know where she lives.

And finally finally – I am finishing this post off on Tuesday, 1st June and can add the happy postscript that it was announced this afternoon that Glasgow is moving down to Level 2 on Saturday. We can now gallivant a bit further and maybe this will be reflected in my end of June post. Hooray!


  1. When I click to read the information panel “Victory and Defeat,” I get a message that the page can’t be found. Likewise for the picture of the replica panel.

    I couldn’t help noticing that the book cover for Nineteen Eighty-Four bears a little speech balloon saying “We did try to warn you.” In the past year, our world has unfortunately become more Nineteen Eighty-Four-ish than at any time in my life.


  2. Such an interesting post Anabel and upbeat despite the frustrations. So glad you are finally moving down to Level 2 and hope you can soon do your postponed trip! Love the photos of the swans and cygnets 🙂 What a lovely gesture too – the tulips look very pretty on your window sill.


  3. 1) I need to visit those heads. 2) Where would we be without libraries – but how do we get them to be used more? 3) Love the tulip episode! But being a suspicious southerner, I’d be looking for an ulterior motive!


    • 1. You do need to visit those heads! They are fabulous. 2. On the whole, politicians here are fairly supportive of libraries, which I can’t say is true of the U.K. govt, many of whom have probably never needed to rely on a public library in their lives. So I was surprised when this happened in Glasgow: I think it is covid desperation and a failing of the funding model (run by a sort of arms-length charity rather than directly council funded). I wish I knew the answer to your question! 3. No harm came of the tulip episode, and I have never seen the woman again so I still don’t know who she is.


  4. Very clever use of book covers in the protest to keep the library open. Glasgow must have a very unenlightened council to propose closing libraries.