Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2018

In like a lion, out like a lamb? March certainly lived up to the first part of that proverb: in fact snow has been a feature of most of it. There were plenty of snowmen/women about, but this year igloos seemed to be in fashion too. This one is in the Botanic Gardens.

Neptune’s Steps

When it wasn’t snowing, it was often raining. Neptune’s Steps is an annual swimming and climbing event which takes place on the flight of locks on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill. This year, I was determined to see some of it despite the cold, wet weather. The races went on all day but we only caught two, the last women’s heat and the first men’s semi-final, before retreating somewhere that served hot coffee.

I was quite pleased to capture the belly flop above on my phone – I didn’t realise till I looked at my photos later that I had pictured the same woman attempting the climbing wall towards the end. For her, it was the end: a few seconds later she dropped back into the water and admitted defeat.

The gallery below includes some of John’s pictures. When I looked at the results later, I realised he had a portrait of the eventual men’s winner. I bet that hot tub at the end was welcome!

Women’s history

Two follow ups to things I have written about before. Glasgow’s fourth statue to a named woman was unveiled on International Women’s Day (8th March). Mary Barbour organised rent strikes in World War One when rapacious landlords thought they could charge anything they liked while the men were away fighting. Her campaign resulted in a law being passed fixing rents at pre-war levels. My pals Beverly, Mary Alice and Louisina were well prepared for the event!

(I haven’t yet been back to take pictures of the statue without hundreds of people thronging around, but Kev over at Walking Talking has a few good ones.)

Last month, I mentioned Jessie Stephen, the Scottish Suffragette whose life and work I am celebrating throughout this anniversary year of the first women in the UK getting the vote. This month, I travelled to Edinburgh to meet Ann Henderson, who had also nominated Jessie for the Suffrage Pioneers project, and she introduced me to Sheana and Kirsteen, great-nieces of Jessie. Over lunch at Sheana’s house plans started to be made – watch this space, you have not heard the last of Jessie.

For US friends, here’s a great list I found in Forbes: A state-by-state guide to the top women’s history landmarks in America. Anyone been to any?

A wedding!

After 23 years together, our friends Jayne and Mark decided to get married. We were very honoured to be asked to be their witnesses and enjoyed the intimate ceremony at the City Chambers with just the four of us.

Afterwards, we all went to Port Appin for the weekend. Although familiar to Jayne and Mark, John and I had never been before. What a treat! Airds Hotel was perfect and the walks straight from the door were beautiful, particularly the one to Castle Stalker. We were blessed with beautiful blue skies, but don’t let that fool you – it was freezing, and it did snow the day we drove home.

Although I joked that this was the first time I’d ever been invited to the honeymoon as well as the wedding, in reality the happy couple flew off to Athens for the real honeymoon a few days later! What a great way to get married.

Aye Write!

Glasgow’s book festival, Aye, Write!, has been running this month. I went to four sessions and, well, I might have bought a few books. Oops!

Sunshine Blogger

Do you know Kim from Glover Gardens (“A multifaceted blog for multifaceted people”)? If not, pop over and have a look at her mixture of food, gardens and travel. Kim has nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award, for bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community. Many thanks, Kim! I don’t advertise myself as an award-free blog, but I don’t always have time to follow awards and challenges up and when I do I usually break the rules. This time, I hit upon the wheeze of answering Kim’s 11 questions one or two at a time over several monthly gallivants. Here’s the first two!

What advice would you give to your younger self? Assuming I could talk to the angst-ridden teenager (that’s everyone, right, not just me?) I would simply say “Don’t worry! Everything’s going to be great!”

What’s your favourite food memory, a meaningful meal that you will never forget, and why? What was so special about it? Well, at the moment Airds Hotel, mentioned above, is uppermost in my memory. Unlike many fancy hotels and restaurants, which usually only offer one vegetarian choice, often bland, I had a whole menu to choose from and everything I ate was delicious. In fact, everything everybody ate was declared  delicious and dinner was a real event on both nights. As you can see, Mark and John were most definitely relaxed afterwards.

The last bit

So if March came in like a lion, did it go out like a lamb? Well, not exactly. There was no snow, but it was certainly blowing a hoolie. On Good Friday (30th) we went for one of our favourite canal walks before climbing to a viewpoint above the old claypits at Hamiltonhill which now form a nature reserve. The whole West End was spread out before us. As we shivered, we agreed it was beautiful, and that we were thankful to be dry at least.

Easter Saturday was a little better – we took a ferry to the island of Great Cumbrae and had a lovely walk there, but that merits its own post later on.

Finally, for my Scottish Word of the Month I’ve chosen one I used in the comments on a previous post – remember the story of Miss Inglis and the dog? I suggested that Miss Inglis was a bit crabbit, i.e. grumpy or bad-tempered. I’ve been feeling a bit crabbit myself at all this March weather! Let’s hope April does better. Snow is forecast but has not yet appeared …

Glasgow Gallivanting: December 2017

Loch Lomond, Boxing Day 2017

Christmas and New Year

So here I am playing catch-up in January with my December round-up. I hope, like us, you’ve all had happy times with family and friends over the festive season. I hope also that you didn’t get too blootered (one of many Scottish synonyms for, ahem, over-refreshed).

Weather-wise, it wasn’t great here, the brightest and best of it being Boxing Day when John, Mum and I took a trip to Loch Lomond. When we arrived, Ben Lomond had its head in the clouds. By the time we left, it was clear and beautifully lit.

I had one totally unexpected gift that I want to share with you because it is so amazing. One of John’s PhD students presented him with this fabulous shawl which his mother (in China) had made for me. Apparently it took her 6 months, which I can well believe – I’m touched that she was so generous with her time for a complete stranger.

Shawl from China

In between Christmas and New Year, we had a few nights in Aberfeldy, a small town in Perthshire, which will probably make it onto the blog – eventually. In the meantime, here’s the pretty central square.

The Square, Aberfeldy

Annual Review

I took my annual look at my WordPress stats and discovered that, for the first time, page views are down on the previous year. Before I started to feel too unloved, I remembered that this was probably because in 2016 I was (mostly) posting twice a week, whereas in 2017 I was (mostly) only posting once. So I dried my tears and decided things weren’t so bad after all. The most read post in 2017 surprised me, because it isn’t particularly spectacular – Glasgow canal walks, which leads neatly into the “ones that nearly got away”. I have several posts that almost got written, and probably won’t now, one of which is a walk along the Forth and Clyde Canal in October, this time near Kirkintilloch. It was a bright, still day with wonderful reflections.

I also noticed that three of these monthly round-up posts made the top ten last year, so I shall take that as encouragement to keep on with them. In 2017, according to my Fitbit stats, my gallivanting led to me walking almost 1700 miles. I’m not sure I believe that, but it sounds impressive! If I keep it up I should have plenty to write about.

The Station Cat

Here’s a heart-warming little story. I use my local station a couple of times a week and often see the same black and white cat wandering around. Eventually, I discovered that he is so well-known that he has his own Twitter account, ScotRail has appointed him Cat Controller and the adjacent hospital, which he also patrols, has made him an Honorary Purrfessor! Apparently, his owners staff knew nothing about this alternative life until the local paper ran a feature about him. Then – cat-astrophe – the week before Christmas he went missing. Twitter went into overdrive, and eventually, almost three weeks later, he was found and returned home on January 2nd. I must say he looks rather sleek and well-fed, so I don’t think he’s been trapped in someone’s garden shed over the holidays. He maybe has another secret life – I remember a children’s book called Six Dinner Sid about a cat who conned six different families into feeding him. Hermes has probably read it.

The last bit

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has followed, read, commented on, or liked posts in 2017 – it’s been a pleasure to be part of such a friendly community. Special thanks this month to Karen of Profound Journey, who made me one of her Favourite Blogs and Channels of 2017. If you don’t already know her, please give her a visit now, especially if “you are a woman who has made everyone and everything else priority #1, and now, finally, you are going to put yourself on the map” – and even if that doesn’t apply to you, it’s still a good read!

So now the holidays are over, it’s back to auld claes and parritch (old clothes and porridge). All the best for 2018 everyone.

Glasgow Gallivanting: October 2017

Canal House, Speirs Wharf

It’s been a quiet month for travel, for me at least – John spent a chunk of it working in China, so I don’t suppose he feels the same. Foul weather has meant I haven’t been very far afield, but I have tramped about Glasgow in between rain storms and have a few local buildings to show you.

Speirs Wharf

A Sunday afternoon stroll with John took us down the Glasgow spur of the Forth and Clyde Canal to Port Dundas. Here, Speirs Wharf has been a residential area since the late 1980s but originated in the 19th century as the canal’s headquarters and the City of Glasgow Grain Mills and Stores. As well as Canal House (above) we found other attractive reflections on our walk.

Temple

Forth and Clyde Canal at Temple

On a gloomy Sunday while John was away, the sun suddenly broke through about 3.30pm. I set off along the canal again, but in the opposite direction. I could almost have been in the countryside until Temple Gasometers came into view.

Temple Gasworks were built in 1871 and closed in 1968, but the two large gas holders, dating from 1893 and 1900, were still being used until a few years ago.

Historic Environment Scotland recently sought views on plans to schedule the structures as Category B Listed buildings. I don’t know the result, but the local paper reported divided opinion between those who wanted them conserved and those who would flatten them. I’d be in the former camp these days, though we used to live very close to the gasometers and I hated them then. Now, I can see their beauty as part of our industrial heritage (and I don’t have to pass them every day which helps).

Also at Temple are Locks 26 and 27. The pub Lock 27, which you can see in the background of the portrait image, used to be our local. It’s still handy for a post-stroll pint but wasn’t open on this day.

Jordanhill

At Lock 27, I left the canal and headed for Jordanhill. Some of you might remember this is the University Campus I used to work at. I swore I would never go there again after my last visit a couple of years ago when it was so sad to see the semi-derelict state of it (the campus closed in 2012 and has now been sold for housing), but that’s where my footsteps took me. Nothing has changed – there is some controversy with the development and local people are protesting about the number of homes to be built with little or no improvements in infrastructure. The handsome red sandstone David Stow Building is one of three that will be kept. The other picture is not pretty, I know, but that’s the entrance I used for work every day.

I found it funny to see the bright blue library book drop still there: locked – I checked. I probably locked it myself five years ago. On the door is a notice informing users that the library closed on 1st June 2012, telling them where to take their books in future, and thanking them for their custom over the years. I know I wrote that and put it up and I’m amazed no-one has ever taken it down. I’m just glad I can laugh, it’s all bygones now. I have no regrets.

Down by the Riverside

Another reason that October has been constrained is that I have been fighting with a broken-down boiler which took 6 visits from 4 different workmen to fix, so I have spent a lot of time hanging round the house. One visit was supposed to be on the Sunday afternoon in the middle of the saga, but the engineer phoned to say that he was still waiting for parts and would come on Monday instead. So we set off down the River Kelvin Walkway and then along the Clyde.

The last time we visited this former pumping station it still showed signs of having been a restaurant (first picture below). Eighteen months later, the restaurant’s conservatory has been replaced with a glass still-house for a new whisky distillery. Exciting!

On the other side of the river, we spotted the Waverley (the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world – red funnels) and Queen Mary (the only remaining Clyde-built turbine steamer which is now being preserved as a museum ship – yellow funnels). We crossed over to have a look.

Both ships are berthed by the Glasgow Tower, a rotating structure which you are supposed to be able to ascend but which spends more time inactive than not. From its podium, we got a good view of the Glasgow Science Centre and some of the other weird buildings by this part of the river.

The last bit

I came across this piece of street art near Glasgow University. It’s by an artist new to me, Pink Bear Rebel, who focuses, I’ve read, on anti-Trump protests and rebelling against the ‘meaningless of life’. I’ll be on the look-out for more.

And the boiler? Well, as of last Tuesday we have heat – just as well, because overnight frosts have returned. It also gives me this month’s Scottish words lesson because it’s been a sair fecht to deal with (sore/hard fight; something problematic).

I hope your October has NOT been a sair fecht!

Glasgow canal walks

Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill Locks
Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill Locks
The Forth and Clyde Canal runs very close to our house and we love it for a Sunday afternoon stroll. We have three choices – east, west or the spur that runs into the city centre. I’ve already written about the spur (here) so this post will cover the east and west walks we took in November. Now, you will probably guess that the photograph above does not show Glasgow in November! That was in June, but it’s the only time I’ve ever seen boats going through any of the canal locks so I wanted to include it.

Let’s walk east first. We join the canal at Maryhill where there used to be interesting, if not infamous, buildings above its banks such as the Glasgow Magdalene Institution for the Repression of Vice and Reformation of Penitent Females. Yes, really! Shockingly, this only closed in the late 1950s after a number of inmates escaped, leading to an investigation into their (mis)treatment. Today, the site is covered in houses with a golf course on the other bank, so nothing very picturesque. The camera only comes out when we reach Lambhill Stables.

The Stables were built around 1830 when horses pulling barges were the main means of moving goods along the canal. Today they have been restored as a community facility with a café, heritage displays and a garden. The Stables are closed on Sundays, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. First, there is the memorial to the Cadder Pit Disaster of 1913.

A stroll round the garden results in some unexpected sightings. A robot in Lambhill!

Through a gap in the hedge at the back there are good views towards Possil Loch and the Campsie Fells.

Back on the canal towpath, we walk a little further then turn into Possil Marsh and Loch nature reserve – though there is so much marsh that we don’t actually see the loch again, as the track can only go round the very edge of the site. We do see, through another hedge gap, the splendid entrance (James Sellars, 1881) to Lambhill Cemetery and the plaque to commemorate the Possil High Meteorite which fell nearby in 1804. (This photo is a cheat, taken from an earlier walk. I couldn’t make the writing on the plaque legible, even in close-up, so I thought you might as well have a long view with the bonus of John).

It gets dark very early in winter, and the sun was setting as we walked back home.

A couple of weekends later, we set off west to walk another section of canal. Once again, it’s quite built up but there are times when you can pretend you are in the country. Not when you see a Saltire-painted tarpaulin and Nessie on the opposite bank though! And a curious cat who probably has as little idea about what is going on as we do.

It’s also easy to link up a canal walk with the River Kelvin Walkway. Here’s one we did in October, taking in the Botanic Gardens and its Arboretum.

Finally, you never know what you might come across on the canal. One of my volunteer “jobs” is leading walks from Maryhill Health Centre (aimed, for example, at people giving up smoking or finishing physiotherapy) and sometimes we have pop-up artists. Below, you can see members of the delightful Joyous Choir living up to their name and a small ceilidh band. Shortly after this picture was taken we danced The Gay Gordons up and down the towpath which prompted a certain amount of curious windae-hingin’ (hanging out of windows) on the adjacent Maryhill Road. It was fun!

This post seems to have got out of hand and strayed away from the original east-west walk! I kept thinking of more to add. Expect more rag-bag posts in the New Year as I clear out photos and ideas that didn’t get used in 2016. Linking this one to Jo’s Monday Walks. Her latest is about Roker Beach and Park where I spent many happy hours as a child.

The Antonine Wall

Say “Roman Wall” and most people will think of Hadrian – but did you know there was also an Antonine Wall? Built in the AD 140s for Emperor Antonius Pius, it runs across Central Scotland from the Clyde to the Forth and, for a generation, was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire.

Recently, we did a circular walk (find it on the Walk Highlands site) which took in parts of the wall, including two hill forts, and the Forth and Clyde canal. We parked in Auchinstarry Quarry, near Kilsyth, which is now a park popular with climbers, and set off along the canal.

At Twechar, we crossed the canal and climbed Bar Hill with clear remains of a Roman Fort, including its bath-house.

Climbing further, we reached the white trig point on Castle Hill which is the site of an even earlier Iron Age fort. From here, you can see the wall and its ditch very clearly.

After descending, we crossed a road and started climbing again – this time Croy Hill. There was a fort here too, but it’s not so obvious. If you click on the second picture to enlarge, you can see in the distance the rock walls of Auchinstarry Quarry on the right and Auchinstarry Canal Basin on the left.

Finally, we descended back to the canal. As we approached the Basin, several barges were on view – including one (top right) for sale! I think I’ll pass. When we arrived back at our car, the climbers were still scaling the walls. I’ll pass on that too.

I’m attaching this post to Jo’s Monday Walks so why not visit her to see what everyone else has been up to? 

Finally, I have very intermittent Internet access at the moment which is awkward with the A to Z Challenge about to start! I’ll do my best to reply to comments and read / comment on other blogs but apologies in advance if I don’t. I’ll catch up soon.

A weekend with kelpies and old books

Another lovely weekend in Central Scotland meant I could cross off two more items on my summer “must visit” list. The Kelpies are the latest large-scale public art installations by sculptor Andy Scott. Sitting next to the Forth and Clyde Canal in Helix Park, Falkirk, the two horses’ heads tower over 26 metres high – they’re not just art, they represent a massive engineering achievement too. If you’re wondering what a kelpie is, it’s a mythical water-being inhabiting the lochs and pools of Scotland which usually appears as a horse, but is able to adopt human form. Scott modelled his sculptures on two real-life Clydesdales in honour of the horses which used to pull the barges along the canal, so they might be mythical, but they’re also very real.

We chose to take a tour which meant we were able to go inside one of the heads (Duke, the one looking down, the other is Baron) and learn more about how they were made. They have 928 plates which took 130 days to construct on site using over 300 tons of steel. Awesome!

A word of warning about Helix Park itself – the facilities are awful. We got there just after 11am and were able to park, but from then on there was a constant queue of cars looking unsuccessfully for spaces. The advice given is to use overflow parking at the Falkirk Stadium, but that’s at least a 20 minute walk from the Kelpies, so if you’ve booked a tour you might well miss it – and if there’s a football match there, presumably you can’t use it anyway. The café is also about 15 minutes away, and when we got there just after 1pm they had no lunch left, just crisps and snacks. This is a fairly new attraction, so maybe they will get their act together soon, and I guess it’s good news in one way if more people than they expected turn up. A Visitor Centre is under construction and I assume it will have extra catering, but they need to sort the parking problems too.

Saturday was our last chance to catch Dunblane’s Leighton Library – it’s only open during the summer and we don’t have another weekend free before it closes at the end of September. This is the oldest purpose-built private library in Scotland, opening in 1687 as the result of a bequest by Robert Leighton. He had been Bishop of Dunblane from 1661 to 1670 and wanted to leave his books for the benefit of the clergy of the diocese. His own collection of around 1400 volumes eventually grew to over 4000 – all are held on the first floor, with the lower storey originally being living quarters for the librarian. From 1734 to about 1840 it functioned as a lending library, until the growth of public libraries rendered it obsolete. Despite the worthy nature of most of the tomes, the most borrowed book was a novel – Zeluco (1789) by Scottish author John Moore, which relates the vicious deeds of the eponymous anti-hero, the evil Italian nobleman Zeluco. Another novel, The cottagers of Glenburnie by Stirling author Elizabeth Hamilton, was so popular that it went missing. Now why does that sound a familiar tale? It happened regularly in every library I’ve ever worked in, that’s why!

Dunblane Museum is also worth a look – it too only opens summer hours and was closed on our last visit in December. For more on the town and its year-round attractions, such as the Cathedral, see my previous post Scottish snapshots: Dunblane.

A Glasgow canal walk

Glasgow's canals guideThe Forth and Clyde Canal, which runs sea-to-sea between the two rivers, has passed through Glasgow since the eighteenth century, though it ceased to be navigable in 1963. However, the multi-million Millennium Link Project saw it reopen in 2000/2001. Inspired by the Maryhill Walking Trails and Glasgow’s Canals Unlocked booklets, we set off on Sunday to walk from home to the end of the spur leading into the city centre. There is still some dereliction alongside the banks, but there is also green space and some (for Glasgow) quite exotic-looking new housing. The booklets helped us imagine how the canal would have been in years gone by, with a multitude of industries using its waters: iron, lead, rubber, oil, glass and timber were all produced here.

Maryhill walks guide

We joined the canal at the nearest point to our house at Kelvindale. The photos will guide you along the same route that we took.

Soon after joining the canal, we reached our first aqueduct. The rest crossed roads, but this one straddled the Kelvin. The disused piers in the river once carried railway lines across it.

River Kelvin from the aqueduct
River Kelvin from the aqueduct

Next, we reached Maryhill Locks –

Maryhill Locks
Maryhill Locks

– and not long after that, we left the towpath temporarily to visit Maryhill Burgh Halls for a delicious lunch at the Clean Plates Café. When opened in 1878, the halls had 20 stained glass panels depicting the trades then carried out in Maryhill, and eleven of the panels are now back on display. The walks booklets point out where the scenes from the stained glass might have taken place. More modern is this panel showing the different trades’ badges.

Maryhill Trades
Maryhill Trades

Back on the canal, we soon reached Murano Street Student Village, site of a former glassworks. Apparently, Maryhill was once called the Venice of Glasgow on the grounds that it had a canal and a glassworks named after the famous Murano works. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but we’d already passed the Mondrian Flats which looked very European to me, so I was beginning to wonder if we really were still in Glasgow.

Mondrian Flats
Mondrian Flats

We took another detour at Firhill up a steep path to the flag pole atop Ruchill Park. From here, Glasgow University dominated the view. Nearby, the 165-foot high water tower (1892) is almost all that now remains of Ruchill Infectious Diseases Hospital.

Glasgow University from Ruchill Park
Glasgow University from Ruchill Park
Ruchill Watertower
Ruchill Water Tower

Continuing along the banks, the University remained prominent and we met several swans.

Glasgow University from the canal
Glasgow University from the canal
One swan!
One swan!
Two swans!
Two swans!

We passed Firhill, home of Glasgow’s other football club (i.e. the one that’s not Celtic or Rangers), Partick Thistle, commonly known as the Jags.

The Jags!
The Jags!

The picturesque Applecross Workshops are probably the oldest remaining buildings on any canal in Scotland.

Applecross Workshops
Applecross Workshops

Spiers Wharf, formerly mills and a sugar refinery, was converted into flats in the 1990s. The blue painted shop front is Ocho where we stopped for a coffee.

Spiers Wharf
Spiers Wharf
Spiers Wharf
Ocho at Spiers Wharf

Just after this, the canal spur ends in a huge construction site which will soon be Pinkston Paddlesports Centre. After having a look at that, we retraced our steps to Spiers Wharf and took the path down to Cowcaddens from where we could get the Subway home. The underpass here is decorated with 50 Phoenix Flowers, called after the former Phoenix Park which was destroyed to create the M8 motorway above.

Phoenix Flowers
Phoenix Flowers

Before leaving Cowcaddens, we took some photographs of Dundas Court, formerly Dundas Vale College and before that the Normal School for the Training of Teachers (1837), a precursor of Jordanhill College where I worked for over 20 years. It’s now offices.

Dundas Court
Dundas Court

An urban walk can be just as enjoyable as a country walk – I feel I learned a lot about my home city on this one.