Railwalk: New Town to Newhaven

As ever, this one wasn’t planned. I turned out of Waverley Station one Bank Holiday Monday and decided to go for a wander around the capital. I walked up the eastern side of St. Andrew Square and looked down Dublin Street towards Fife. It’s one of my favourite views, standing at a high point looking down on city greenery and houses before the blue Forth and Fife rising high behind. This particular Monday I had no plan and decided to walk down Dublin Street, maybe towards the Botanic Gardens but instead to the Scotland Street railway tunnel. Once railways ran all across Edinburgh, the network much curtailed now. Work has been done to open up old railways as footpaths and one runs from Royal Crescent in the New Town all the way to Wardie Bay at Granton. I decided to take it, stopping first to read an information board which talked about St. Bernards, one of Edinburgh’s football teams, who used to play at a nearby ground now occupied by industrial premises. Trains ran through a tunnel from here to Waverley Station, a mile or so to the south. Today a basketball court sits in front of the gated-off tunnel, the sounds of play from the nearby adventure playground far louder than the echoes of trains that once ran.

Another tunnel ran under Canonmills, liberally daubed with graffiti and lit by narrow artificial lights and the bright sunlight at the other end. I soon came to the side of a Tesco, the path splitting there, and then near Warriston, a rugby pitch to the left and the Earl Haig poppy factory to the right, the Water of Leith wending its way under and through. Signs pointed in three directions, to cycle or walk to Goldenacre, Trinity, Newhaven and Granton one way, back to the city centre or even to Bonnington and Leith east. Bridges crossed overhead on a regular basis, the street signs giving an indication of how far I had walked. One, near Ferry Road, was long, cool and dark, a slightly eerie feel to which a photo could do no justice to convey.

The path wound round and a house stood, a wall at just the right height for a platform, the house with a canopy at the front. Someone lived there, which was cool, the palm tree giving an unreal air to the whole spectacle. Barely an hundred yards later, I reached the main road, now at the end of the Trinity Path, having covered the Warriston Path too. I could see the Forth and the gas rings at Granton, Fife beyond. I turned right towards Newhaven where I stood by the lighthouse and looked out. The railings were lined with padlocks, marking eternal love, while I reflected that nothing is ever permanent and new uses are found for the old, the long view rather than just living in the moment.


Streets of Glasgow: Cowcaddens Road

I was on the bus into Glasgow with plans percolating of what to do on a sunny May afternoon. Should I take a train or perhaps another bus? As I came into the bus station, I decided to do some Streets of Glasgow. Right behind the bus station is Cowcaddens Road, so I headed straight for it and began. Immediately on the right was the campus of Glasgow Caledonian University, one of three universities in the city, with a motto the leftie in me liked: ‘University for the Common Good’. I passed the back of the bus station, which was surprisingly overgrown with trees and grass, not at all a bad thing in the heart of the city, just a wee bit unusual. On the pavement were stickers pointing towards a new student housing development up the road. I came to the junction with West Nile Street and Port Dundas Street and proceeded across the road. A modern development carried colourful cladding, a design business based on the ground floor – Atalanta – reminded me of watching Football Italia on childhood Sunday afternoons. To my left was the back of the Herald offices and those of Tesco Bank. Tesco Bank carried frankly quite strident slogans until I realised they were promoting the Race for Life.

I came past the back of the Theatre Royal, a fine modern building with glass panels jutting out, and looked towards the Piping Centre, unusually silent. The tall flats dominated the landscape and another mighty road ran below. An underpass took me towards the end of the walk, perhaps not the most inspiring Streets walk but interesting to ponder how different this street might have looked in years past if not for town planners.

Thanks for reading. This is the sixty fifth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured in this series include Buccleuch Street, West Graham Street (which features next week), Killermont Street, Hope Street and West Nile Street.

This post is part of a series. Links to every part of the Streets of Glasgow series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page.

Loose Ends: Craigmaddie Gauge Basin

Only a few minutes after the John Frederic Bateman monument, I came to the Glasgow Corporation Water Works at Craigmaddie Gauge Basin, a fine example of civic architecture. It was a similar design to the Mugdock Gauge Basin along the way, only this one bore the name of its engineers and designers and that it was built between 1885 and 1892. The Mugdock reservoir has only been completed in 1859 but the city’s demand for water quickly exceeded supply. The new reservoir was built by John Gale, a monument to whom stands at the other end. I stood there for several moments looking at the architecture and not for the first time celebrating the genius of Victorian engineering. The crest of the city sat on the left flank and I looked through the central arch, wondering where it led.

My next connection could be through water or Glasgow. I knew what I had in mind, though, and it was of a decidedly more ancient vintage.

Thanks for reading. The next Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

This post is part of a series. Links to all of the Loose Ends adventures can be found on the Loose Ends page.

Saturday Saunter: Haircuts, day trips and Underland

Well, hello,

It’s Saturday Saunter time again. It is being posted a wee bit early because as this post appears, I will be on my way to work. As ever, though, it is being written on Tuesday night. It is about ten past nine and there is quite a bit of sun in the sky. It has been a beautiful, sunny evening here in Glasgow, warm even. On in the background is a certain football match which took place three years ago today (Tuesday). Anthony Stokes has just scored the first.

On the way home tonight I got a haircut. I hate getting my haircut. I don’t like people being near my head and I usually close my eyes. Same at the dentist, incidentally. I tried a new place and it was efficient, back out the door within ten minutes. My hair is fairly short anyway and now it is even shorter. Unusually, though, I left feeling absolutely great. I’m not so confident about my appearance so any positive feelings like that are to be cherished. The chair span, which was cool and suited the little boy in me. I resisted the urge to say ‘Whee’.

This is also a bank holiday weekend and I am off tomorrow and Monday. I have no immediate plans for the weekend and might go out on a bus somewhere on Monday. It might be Dumfries though I have a feeling it could be East Lothian. If it is to be my home county, I haven’t been to Prestongrange for ages or I might finally get to the Hopetoun Monument or Chesters Hill Fort, which will require an OS map and walking across some fields. Then again I might feel like sitting on a bus and end up in St. Andrews. All options would suit me fine.

I’ve been going on regular day trips for eleven years. Eleven years this weekend, actually. The first real solo day trip I took was Durham, a place I had never been to before. I had only read about it in a Bill Bryson book and decided to book train tickets for the following day. It was a balmy May Saturday and I walked from the train station up to the Cathedral, walking about that magnificent building for a couple of hours, also spending some time sitting in the pews. Afterwards I walked by the river and sat for a bit there too. At the time life was a bit interesting but that day I felt that everything was going to be all right. I’ve been back many times since and that sense doesn’t change. This weekend, wherever I go, I’ll be celebrating that day and the many benefits it has brought to my life, to give me things to talk about and write about, to open my world to new possibilities I might not have considered before.

Last weekend I started reading Underland by Robert Macfarlane, getting about 55 pages in. I plan to read it in stages, savouring Macfarlane’s prose rather than bolting it down as I do with so many books. He wrote about going caving, which made feel claustrophobic even reading it. Macfarlane is an excellent writer and he managed to scale back his words to reflect his limited physical space and broaden them out to fill all the dimensions resumed when he hit the surface again. The closest experience I’ve had to that was going to St. Andrews Castle, which has a mine and countermine dug during a siege in 1546-1547. The countermine is much more narrow and you have to stoop down into it then the mine is much more comfortable, reflecting the lack of urgency in trying to dig into the castle.

A lot of my news comes through social media. Not politics, normally, since I’ve heavily culled political accounts from my Twitter timeline. I suspect I am better off. A happy bit of news was that a book has been written about Walnut Tree Farm, home of Roger Deakin, a place of wildness and wonder in the heart of Suffolk. Roger Deakin was an incredible writer about nature and I try to read a bit of Notes From Walnut Tree Farm, a posthumously-published volume of jottings, every month. Waterlog and Wildwood are also class. Anyway, Roger’s son Rufus and the farm’s owner, Titus Rowlandson, have published a book about Life at Walnut Tree Farm and I will procure myself a copy on pay day.

Before I go, a bit of blog business. The other day I was tagged into a blogging challenge. Please, oh please, don’t do that. That is especially pertinent when it’s not about what I tend to write about. Right now I’m keeping to this format of Saturday blethers, Sunday Loose Ends and Wednesday Streets of Glasgow. Occasionally Thursday something else. I write around my life which can be quite busy so please don’t make this harder than it needs to be.

Anyway, rant over. On a more positive note, it’s Saturday and it’s the weekend. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Loose Ends is back tomorrow and it’s back in Milngavie. Streets of Glasgow is on Wednesday and it is down south again. Another north Edinburgh Railwalk will be here on Thursday. Next Saturday is the May digest. Have a very good weekend. Peace.

Street art of Glasgow

Welcome to the Thursday experiment post. Originally I was going to put out a post about a Railwalk I took through the north of Edinburgh a few weeks ago. Instead that will come out next week and I’m going with this instead.

This blog is mainly about the words for me with the photos just an added bonus. The photos came as a suggestion from an early reader and so it went. Recently I had a comment on one of the Streets of Glasgow posts about the beautiful street art in the city and I decided to put together this, a post compiling some of the best examples I’ve come across. The photos below were selected in pretty much chronological order from my phone’s camera roll, beginning with a few which haven’t appeared here yet, from the Streets of Glasgow walks on West Graham Street and Great Western Road. A few of the murals in the Merchant City were by Snug and they are brilliant. There are examples of architecture and sculpture in here too. Enjoy.

A sideways glance photographs on West Graham Street
Graffiti on the side of the motorway, Great Western Road. Life is life, indeed. It put me in mind of a 1980s song.
Colourful bollards on Great Western Road. There are a few of these around this part of GWR. They might have been designed by a local school. I like them regardless.
A doorway on Sinclair Drive
Mural featuring swimmers and divers at the end of the Broomielaw for the Intercity Glasgow post. There are a few of these under the Kingston Bridge, including at the other side in Tradeston.
Mural on Ingram Street in the Merchant City with boots and mushrooms. Urban wildlife right enough.
St. Mungo being nursed by his mum, St. Enoch, from George Street
Mural promoting renewable energy on George Street, on the side of Strathclyde University
More scientific murals on the side of Strathclyde University on George Street
Yep, another scientific mural on George Street
The Glasgow Women’s Library – this is the exterior of the lift shaft of their magnificent building showing book titles and quotes from works of literature featuring women at their heart
Mural on Paisley Road West featuring the south Glasgow skyline
Mural on Copland Road, near Ibrox Subway, taken the day I walked the route of the Subway
A beautiful drawing on the corner of Jamaica Street and Clyde Street, also from the Subway walk between St. Enoch and Bridge Street
Drawing from the underpass by Cowcaddens Subway, from the Subway walk
Some city skyline detail from a mural by Firhill, Partick Thistle’s ground
Gorbals Vampire mural, which is still there as of late May 2019
One of the Billy Connolly murals in the city centre. My favourite of them, by Jack Vettriano, of Billy Connolly on Caithness cliffs
A Snug mural of St. Mungo again, this time an older man with a robin on his finger
Sculptures on Cumberland Street by Liz Peden featuring three boys trying on heels, based on an Oscar Marzaroli photograph

So, that’s a wee selection of some of the cool public art of Glasgow seen through this blog in the last couple of years. There is a lot more but the best way to find it isn’t through the Internet. It’s by exploring and getting out there. Street art can be found in every town up and down the land, from a graffiti can, paint or sculpture. Have a walk and see what you find.

This post features images from quite a few posts from the blog, including Streets of Glasgow: Sinclair DriveIntercity: GlasgowStreets of Glasgow: Ingram StreetGeorge Street muralStreets of Glasgow: George StreetLoose Ends: Glasgow Women’s LibraryStreets of Glasgow: Paisley Road WestSubway Surface: St. Enoch-Kinning ParkSubway Surface: Kinning Park-GovanSubway Surface: St. George’s Cross-St. EnochStreets of Glasgow: Firhill RoadStreets of Glasgow: Cumberland StreetStreets of Glasgow: High Street and Sir Billy.

Streets of Glasgow: Victoria Road

Victoria Road was a street I had been trying to do for Streets of Glasgow for ages. Luckily I was in the area, visiting Queen’s Park, a bookshop and also doing last week’s Sinclair Drive walk. I turned onto it and almost immediately a white convertible Merc drove past me, Bhangra music blaring from it. Not at all a bad thing. It’s better than techno. It was a warm night and the street was busy with people, in and out of shops, driving, walking. A fair few of the shops were still open even after 6pm on a public holiday. Victoria Road runs through Govanhill, leading towards the city centre, and its diverse population reflects not only in the shops lining the street, the people around, but also in the art on the lampposts, flags and elaborate, possibly embroidered banners. Only in Glasgow could I see the legend ‘Christ Died For Our Sins’ and a bank bearing a rainbow flag logo side by side.

At the southern end, the Queen’s Park gates dominated, a cycle lane lining the road for most of the way as part of the South City Way project to encourage cycling and walking in the city. As I looked back, for most of the way, I could still see right down to the park and the many people out in it enjoying the sunshine. The street was mostly lined with handsome golden buildings, some with black tower tops. Further on, the old First bus garage had been levelled and lined up for redevelopment. Houses will soon follow but in the meantime there was a decent view far across the city.

I soon reached the point where Victoria Road meets Pollokshaws Road and Eglinton Street and the walk was done, glad to have finally covered an important street in the city, especially in the sunshine.

Thanks for reading. This is the sixty fourth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets covered in this series so far include Cathcart Road, Gorbals Street, Cumberland Street, Sinclair Drive and Battlefield Road.

This post is part of a series. Links to every part of the Streets of Glasgow series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page.

Loose Ends: John Frederic Bateman monument

Edinburgh gave way to Milngavie. As I stood by Mugdock Reservoir, I realised that the monument to engineer John Frederic Bateman, a plaque on a slab, linked just fine to the cairn on Calton Hill, a monument by another name. Bateman was given the task of sorting out Glasgow’s water supply, a task ever more urgent as the city grew in the 19th century. 26 miles of aqueducts and tunnels link Loch Katrine with Mugdock, quite a project. It was opened in 1859 by Queen Victoria. I was there on a beautiful sunny day and the monument didn’t attract too many glances. The surroundings are beautiful, right enough. Mugdock has since been joined by Craigmaddie Reservoir, established barely two decades later as the city grew still more.

Craigmaddie Reservoir

Quite a few links could result from the monument, back to Glasgow or through water. In the end the next connection came just a few minutes later, in a burst of civic style.

Thanks for reading. The next Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

This post is part of a series. Links to all of the Loose Ends adventures can be found on the Loose Ends page.


Saturday Saunter: Cumbrae, ferries and hay fever

Good morning,

Saturday again. As this is posted, I will probably be out and about somewhere. I am in the midst of a long weekend and tomorrow I will be going to Edinburgh for the last game of the season as Hibs play Aberdeen. It is Tuesday night as I start this post and as of yet, I don’t have any plans for the weekend beyond the football.

Last Sunday involved a walk around the island of Cumbrae. It was a beautiful sunny day and I ended up very red as a consequence. The walk was brilliant, relaxing and varied. Every few hundred yards the view changed, from Largs up the Clyde to Bute, Arran, Little Cumbrae and back to Largs again. My feet were lowpin’ by the end, mind. Walking is wonderful for clearing the mind and despite Cumbrae being ten minutes from the Scottish mainland, it could have been a lot further. There was only the occasional car for most of the route. More often we were passed by cyclists and even walkers, which is a novelty for a person who walks as fast as I do. We were also passed by quite a few yachts and even paddleboards. The eastern side of Cumbrae is home to the National Watersports Centre, funded by sportscotland, and it operates various courses to teach folk how to sail. I’m told they’re great. The folk on the water certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. The land was just fine for me, though.

Going on a ferry feels like going on holiday, regardless of the distance. The trip down to Cumbrae gave me notions to go on other ferries in the west, not least the run across to Rothesay from Wemyss Bay. I like Bute and the view to Mount Stuart from Cumbrae was very tempting. I’m not bothered about going into Mount Stuart again – I’m not a big stately home kind of guy – though the grounds are gorgeous and I would like to explore more of the island while I’m at it. A turn across to Arran would be good too as I would finally like to get to Lochranza Castle, maybe even go around the island as so far I haven’t ventured beyond Brodick. This might be a quest for my football-less Saturdays in the coming weeks.

Wednesday night now and I’m starting again with the aid of caramel digestive biscuits. It’s been quite warm here the last couple of days and I’ve been working so enjoying the sunshine hasn’t been possible. That’s probably fine since my sunburn has cooled, I have epic hay fever and I don’t massively like the sun anyway. The hay fever hits this time of year and it is grass and tree pollen this weather. All the fresh cut grass and seeds, they just make my eyes and nose go. This has been a runny nose day, which is especially mortifying in a public-facing job. Plus the heat which as a pale east coast person is making me generally a hot, sticky mess. To be fair I’m that in most weathers, except less hot.

I am considering a trip to Dumfries this weekend. I’ve only ever done the bus down there once and it broke down, somewhere on the outskirts of Dumfries. I remember standing by the side of the road waiting for the replacement bus to rock up. The journey down was quite pleasant, only stopping at Hamilton, Lesmahagow and Moffat, as memory serves. Lesmahagow is a splendid name for a town. Also on that road is the Forest of Ae, which has the shortest place name in the country. Come to think of it, I may try and visit Ecclefechan, the birthplace of Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle. Ecclefechan is an interesting name and ‘eccle’ is ecclesiastical, meaning religious, and ‘fechan’ suggests it may have been the place of the church of Fechan. Wikipedia suggests that may be a good assumption though it may just be the place of the small church in Brythonic. More than likely it would be a trip to Dumfries and a wander to explore that town. I don’t know it very well, which I can’t say about a lot of places in Scotland anymore.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with the theme body image, a very topical subject. Tonight I read that the National Museum of Scotland has a new exhibition opening next week called Body Beautiful discussing bringing diversity into fashion, with all sorts of bodies represented. It opens on Thursday 23rd May and it’s free. I am overdue a trip to NMS so I will try and have a look in the next few weeks.

Sticking with the mental health theme, this morning I saw a clip on Twitter which resonated with me. It included, of all people, Prince William, the Earl of Strathearn as he is known in Scotland, talking with some insight about being bereaved at a young age and how people should talk about their pain and grief. I am no fan of the Royals so it’s unusual for me to praise their work. All power to Prince William for speaking so openly and honestly about what is a horrifically difficult thing to talk about. Here’s the link to the Tweet, which is taken from a BBC documentary to be broadcast tomorrow.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow’s post is back to Loose Ends, which is by water this time. Wednesday’s Streets of Glasgow is in the city and there is a post on Thursday, which is a walk in Edinburgh. Have a read at this week’s posts, particularly Streets of Glasgow on Sinclair Drive. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you end up doing.

Thanks for reading. As a bit of blog admin, for each of my series I will now be putting a link to the series page at the bottom of every post to keep up the continuity and link to other posts. In that spirit, other Saturday Saunter posts can be found on the Saturday Saunter page.


The end of the football season

I plan a lot of my life around the football season. Whenever the fixtures come out, I stop everything and take out my diary and the work diary and plan what annual leave I need to take, what swaps to negotiate. The TV schedules often require some adjustment too, usually a lot of cursing at another early start to get to Edinburgh by lunchtime. The season comes to an end on Sunday as Hibs play Aberdeen at Easter Road. Traditionally I celebrate the end of the season by going for a long walk somewhere after the game. Last season, it was a scorching summer’s day and after Hibs sensationally drew 5-5 against The Rangers, I ended up out at Aberlady Bay lazing on a beach. I’ll take myself for a chippy at the very least this time.

Aberlady Bay

After Sunday, I have two whole months without football. I’m a club before country person so I don’t really care about the national team’s games, only taking a polite interest when a Hibs player is involved. I usually feel a bit at a loss, without a major part of my routine.

Belhaven Bay

Then I plan day trips. That’s often the best part of any adventure. Last year included Culross, St. Andrews, Abbotsford and Dunbar. This year is going to involve quite a few end-of-the-line places, those where trains terminate and others which I’ve only visited to watch football. Argyll is a contender. Maybe I’ll finally visit New Lanark. I haven’t been to Doune Castle for a while. I might take a trip up to the Mearns or into deepest Fife to Kellie Castle. Even braving Englandshire to Northumberland or a place I’ve longed to visit, the Derwent Pencil Museum down in Keswick. My favourite building, Durham Cathedral, is overdue a visit too.

Dunnottar Castle
Durham Cathedral

In short, the historian in me loves the summertime. A lot of out-of-the-road places are only open in the summer months. Plus I get to satisfy those urges that have built up over the football season, those places I’ve maybe passed but made a mental note to go back to. Over the summer, until July, the League Cup and pre-season friendlies, I’ll hopefully cover quite a bit of ground; a lot of it will probably be written about here. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

Streets of Glasgow: Sinclair Drive

Streets of Glasgow is one of these things I tend to do on the spur of the moment. I was in the area on a warm Friday evening and decided to cover Sinclair Drive, a street I know very well, for this series. I walked down Grange Road from Queen’s Park, looking beyond the building work at the old Victoria Infirmary to Langside Library sitting on the corner. Langside is one of the nicest libraries around with good people. The building is red sandstone, built in 1915. It was the first library in Glasgow where readers could go up to the shelves and pick up their own books. Before you took your request up to a counter and the librarian would fetch it for you. Langside is brilliant, a place with character. I walked past the closed library and looked across the street at the wonderfully-named Blether cafe, an orange VW van parked nearby.

The street was classically Glaswegian, lined with tenements for the most part. One of the houses had a clock hanging off it, the door black and looking like it would fold in two. Another had a brown door and a decorative canopy above it. Not for the first time, I walked and looked up and down the lanes which seemed to stretch for miles behind the side streets, cars parked and folk walking. The old-worldy feel was diluted by the minor traffic jam with cars and buses trying to take the same narrow stretch of street at the same time.

I came to the end, stopping just before the bridge over the Cart. Sinclair Drive manages to be quiet and bustly at the same time, buses coming along now and then to shake up the place. It was good to be back, thinking of past times but not forgetting the present, enjoying the sunshine and contemplating future walks in the hereabouts.

Thanks for reading. This is the sixty third Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Battlefield Road has also featured in this series.

This post is part of a series. Links to every part of the Streets of Glasgow series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page.