The Greenock Cut

The Greenock Cut is a 14km–ish trail that follows an aqueduct that was built to serve the thirsty machinery and workers of industrial revolution era Greenock. The circular route takes in the whole of the aqueduct and skirts its feeder lochs with only the briefest of road crossings to pull you away from what feels like a wonderfully remote walk despite never being too far from or high above the urban blanket laid along the Clyde coast.
As well as the hills and coastal scenery, the whole route is an engineering marvel with less than 200 metres ascent recorded from our starting point, so lots to enjoy.
We’d been talking about doing this for ages, and now we’ve been.

The closest we’ve been is going “Oh look, there’s the visitor centre up that road…” when we’re coming back the coast road and now when we were going for real the visitor centre was the planned starting point, but as we got into Greenock a mix of local knowledge and a desire to burn as little fuel as possible sent us up the hill to Overtoun instead. There was proper parking next to some houses, handy and hopefully safe*.

*Spoiler alert, it was indeed fine.

You’re straight onto the track and round the first corner you get the views. Jeezo, why has it taken so long to get here? This is magic.
The track averages out at 160m elevation but the views are so extensive it feels so much higher. We stood and picked out some favourite places, the distinctive tops of the Arrochar Alps being easy to spot and were feeling very close.

The walking is easy and full of wee places to explore, ducts and overspills, workmen’s huts with long cold fireplaces, gates and bridges built to access the central hills which have been made an island of sorts by the aqueduct.
The heather is in full bloom in shades of pink, purple and white, yellow flowers still shine and frantic insects buzz around all of them, scooping up the last of the summer harvest.
The distance passes easily as the weather shifts from grey and windy to warm and bright with every turn as the track flows sharply left and right as it clings to its designated contour line.

We walked anticlockwise, just because. It turns out this was the right way as anyone else we saw on foot or saddle was going the other way. We liked the views this way too, walking out to sea towards Arran and Cowal.

We were starving and hid from the stronger wind on one of the stone bridges to have lunch, well dinner I suppose, because it was late when we left.

Lots of ships to spot, cargo coming and going, a ferry over there, a few yachts and the familiar silhouette of the PS Waverley lolled past as we munched away. The fastest vessel on the Clyde which rockets past our window twice a day and it looked like it was standing still.

Btw, I’ll be talking about that Haglöfs L.I.M Mimic Hood I’m wearing in a wee bit.

As you curve away from Inverkip there’s a little stone building almost buried in greenery, not unlike many along the trail, but this one has some overgrown steps down one side which obviously just had to be explored. I mean why have a red button if you’re not allowed to press it?

Walking onto the slightly shoogly gantry you can see below, a heavy gate protects what we found out later is a restored version of an aqueduct overflow management mechanism.
It’s genius in its simplicity. If the water level in the aqueduct rises to a certain point water will flow down the overflow pipe and into the large bucket which will fill and drop down, opening the cast iron sluice gate which is counterweighted by the second bucket to stop it opening too quickly. The water runs out of the sluice, the aqueduct level drops and the bucket drains through the holes drilled in it, resetting the mechanism to its normal state.
Brilliant. Who needs electricity.

Linda, its a mechanical sluice gate, not a bench… Lots to see at the Cornalees Bridge vistor centre, probably, it was all shut as we were so late in the day. We will go back though, the wee cafe look nice and here’s where you get to find out the history and technical stuff.

The aqueduct stops here as this is where the reservoirs that feed it are, so past the unexpectedly remote feeling Loch Thom is the day’s only real ascent across a pass of around 250m.
Before we tackled this unexpected technical section we sat by the loch and finished our flask and had cake.

This cake was from the wee shop in Duntocher and came from McGhees and in a box too. I’ll probably get into this stuff properly at some point, but a wee health scare earlier in the year has seen me change a lot of what I do and eat and I’ve shed a load of weight through doing well, what I should have been doing all along.
But, I’m not becoming a fitness and food fascist, the cake on that day was one of the finest of joys. But I earn my cakes properly now.

There are minor roads hidden in the hills as well as tracks and there are plenty signposts to keep you right. I’ve crisscrossed Scotland my whole life and this area is probably where I know the least and I can actually see it from my window.
Since me and Linda got together we’ve been setting that right, hardly a week goes by without is setting foot on something somewhere and so much of that has been close to home. There’s so much around us other than the Kilpatricks, it’s all adding more joy and more possibility.

The last run down to Overtoun brings the views straight to the north. It fills my heart so it does.

It was getting late and the skies were darkening but flashes of pale blue could still be seen and the yellowing sun shone beams through the broken cloud to make even the intrusive infrastructure of civilization look soft and maybe even pretty.

We could see the buildings at Overtoun, we were nearly there. But we were still having fun, still had energy, there was still daylight, but there was the car.
We’d been out for hours, walking and just sitting. The time had just evaporated, the best sign of how well you have spent your day.

As we reluctantly skipped down the last gravelly stretch to the edge of town, a familiar sound reached our ears, a dog barking and an incoherent ned shouting at it. The little group sat on the knoll as the sunset geared up to the west, hoods up, their carry–oot in a poly bag ready to blur the last rays of the sun before the western mist could do it for them. Urban poetry in motion.

What a magic day. What a winter trail this would be, what a great bike ride. We’ll be back, but first…

 

 

 

Two steps back

Those two steps have made me very happy. Since spending too much money on the new camera I have just been leaving it at home and taking my LX5 out to play.

It’s low res, low fi, low tech, worn, dented and takes the photies I like. I’m downloading what I see when I’m there and the lack of detail matches my own busy mind.

So now when I need a 7 second exposure to catch both harbour lights and the moon in the same shot I just go that setting, no fannying about.

This makes me happy.

Walking before I can run, metaphorically

I haven’t been out this much in years. I’ve been walking or biking almost every day for weeks and I can see and feel that it’s doing me good.
From early starts for Glen Coe to finding new paths near home with Linda it’s been a joy.

I really hope I can sustain it, I want so much to be as physically ready for winter as I can be.

1496 photies on the memory card. Better look at that too.

Industrial Metal

A wee while back I had cause to walk home from the edge of Glasgow after leaving the motor in the garage. It was a lovely day and I had the best lightweight footwear on for putting in the miles: purple Converse.

I was down by the Clyde anyway so I skirted the docks and then in time passed the new Clydebank College which has been built on a part of the ground that was once John Brown’s shipyard, the place where they built the QE2, HMS Hood, Britannia and more.
What was a place of mass employment, innovation, skill, industry, a supplier of the means to shape the world and the #1 target for German bombers is now a flat expanse of ground–up rubble. That rubble though has blossomed and the whole place is a meadow with a riot of flowers in purple, yellow and white. It’s quite beautiful.

The Titan Crane, now over 100 years old, still stands as a monument, a memorial, a tombstone to the activity that gave the town its life and purpose.
I’ve seen Clydebank sink in my life like so many other industrial Scottish towns, I hope, like Paisley seems to have done, it finds energy and enthusiasm to try again.
Whatever location and inhabitants make the headlines, there are good people everywhere. It’s just that they always seem to have the quietest voices.

Further along is another odd remainder. They could wipe away every trace of a mile wide shipyard but this 1920’s German built hydraulic press was just too much for the hungry scrap men apparently.

It’s cast iron, and it’s an incredibly complex casting too. The skill that went into making this is quite stunning when you know how they do it, and even at that I still think there’s more than a touch of magic in it. Sand, molten iron and clever hands.

I hope they leave it here. It’s a reminder and it’s a warning, where we were, where the hell are we going.

I’m not stupid, I’m not looking at this slice of history through rose tinted welding goggles. I know enough about the realities of life back then and I worked with many who served their time in the shipyards but I do mourn the loss of the knowledge and ability that lived and worked here and prosperity that could have been had for the area if, well I could go into a profit and politics spiral here, but the bottom line is humans, we just ruin it for ourselves just being us don’t we.

Ah, but here was something wonderful about seeing a ship launch.

I walked on through broken fences to where the dock has been filled in. The transatlantic cable laying ship ran from here, the road is even Cable Depot Road and at it’s junction to the main road used to stand the Boilermakers Social Club. Generations to come will wonder about these strange mystical names.

I had to detour around the Golden Jubilee hospital as their fence is tall and unbroken which was a bit of a pain, but this took me past the 1904 Dalmuir sewage works with it’s lovely old brickwork and surprising absence of nasty smells which were an all too familiar visitor to local noses not so long ago.
The old Caledonian Railway bed is accessible here with the occasional wooden sleeper or other jagged remnant of infrastructure to remind you of what once was.

I clambered over concrete blocks into the old oil depot at Old Kilpatrick to take an easier path back out to the modern world with plans to pick up the canal or the riverside trail for the last few K’s home. Still surrounded by industrial history on every foot step though.
I know this sounds stupid, but when I’m doing this stuff I often have an equation in my head that I can’t solve to my own satisfaction. Back when all of today’s route was full of living industry, thousands of people worked in these places, the towns were all smaller and the population was hundreds of thousands less, so where the hell is everyone hiding in 2022? Are we just all sitting shoulder to shoulder in offices or what?

I know, the population increase is probably retired folk living longer and the actual working population might be smaller, I dunno, maybe I’m too lazy to research.
Actually no, not lazy, it’s a rabbit hole of fascination I don’t want to stick my head down and get my ears jammed for countless hours.

Anyway. That first photie is when I took Jimmy to show him the hydraulic press after my walk, I have seamlessly blended it into this incoherent account.

Also, by the time I got to the Scout Hall in Old Kilpatrick, Linda’s offer over the phone of a run home was welcomed enthusiastically. The Converse were great the miles that I’d done so far, but I think my feet might have started taking issue as the heat ramped up as I marched along.

It was a magic walk, a proper wee exploration of places I haven’t been in ages, even years in some cases and also some corners I’d never seen at all.
Given the amount of trespassing involved in it though, we’ll have to talk about specifics over a cuppa at camp.

Canned

Finished off recording the new single.

I look at myself there and my first reaction is that I’m old enough to know better, you old grey haired and bespectacled man.

Happily I’m actually young enough not to care.

It really is true, you don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing.

Excited for this one.

A walk in sunset

I miss the bluebells. They were everywhere this year and it was glorious while it lasted. I’ve never been keen on summer, it gets in the way of stuff I want to do, like big days in the hills or breathing and whatnot. But I am enjoying the green this year. Still, I could happily have had the bluebells for longer.

I do miss the darker nights, as much as I like being out and about after the sun goes down, the light nights disturb my sleep. In saying that, it’s grey and pissing down as I write this so maybe we’re done for the year and we can… Oh wait, it’s not even July yet. The horror continues.

The crags are busy now, but not as busy as last summer. Now that the pandemic is “over” folk aren’t as born again outdoorsy as they thought and have gravitated back to beer gardens and airports.

Good.

 

A walk in silence

If you’re an outdoor person and you’re on social media you likely have a lot of outdoor friends on there too. This is brilliant for comparing notes, seeking answers to questions, reliving memories and finding inspiration.
However, of late I’ve found the barrage of stunning images, joyful tales and beyond has overloaded me and things that should have brought a mist to my eyes have been a swipe past onto the next thing to swipe last. Too much of a good thing maybe?

It’s seeped into my own joy of sharing stuff despite being out and about all the time and enjoying some magic days. It’s always been like this for me though, just more so this time, the ebb and flow of enthusiasm and indeed the nature of that enthusiasm and how it manifests itself changes constantly.
I think the new camera has somehow been a part of that too, I really don’t like it at all and happy snapping has always been a part of my days out and about, I hate fiddling with the bloody thing to take a photie, it’s intrusive.

Planning, scrapping plans and then making last minute half arsed attempts at having fun due to the frankly horrific review sample supply situation (thank you Tory Bastards, Brexit Bastards, Covid Bastards and Bastard Putin) has had a big part in it too.

That’s okay though, the love of being out there is for always, maybe I just don’t bring it flowers and chocolates all the time. It has meant not posting memories for my older self… wait, I think I might actually be becoming my older self now, how long has the place been alive now? Aw, man.
So I’m going to rewind and hit a few spots that make me smile when I find them.

This being one, a lovely early summer sunset with Linda and supper. It was cold and breezy at 1000ft, but the view was warm and we were together.

Aye, this makes me smile.

Dipping a toe

…into the loch and into trail shoes. Did I mention my toe? I imagine I’ll remember vividly how running across the living room into a guitar case that I’d left there giving me no one to blame but myself stopped me dead in my tracks from enjoying the recent spell of awesome weather.

The toe is black, the sky is grey and my mood is, I dunno, multicolored probably. May is going to be quite the month on this old place, just got to get to next week when mountain Mayday #1 arrives.

Whispers to self, don’t screw it up… don’t screw it up… don’t screw it up…

Hardware Headache

The new camera is taking a while to get my head around. Everything I take is out of focus, which is my job description, not the camera’s. May is full of stuff and I really hope I can get this thing to do what i want it to before I put in the miles and stick pegs in the ground with no decent photies to show for it.

Back to the manual it is. Page 113…

Seventy Nine

I would never have known it was there. It was mother’s birthday dinner, we were having a lovely time but I had to slip outside for some cool air as the kitchen was like sauna.

It was cool and grey and I sighed and sat in a garden chair, leaned back and looked up. Well, all the good weather was just there in a wee oasis in the sky.

Lovely.

Also, that’s not my fringe, it’s a bush.

 

37 116

Since my up close train encounter at Bridge of Orchy a couple of weeks back I’ve been seeing vintage diesel locomotives everywhere.

I say seeing, but hearing then glimpsing is probably more accurate. The west coast main line might run past my window but the sound is mostly blocked until it’s right there in front on me. Been missing all sorts of 50s and 60s wonders.

Still, got this bugger just in time as it growled through the station and past the workshop. 1962 and still going strong, there’s a little bit of hope for us all.

 

If you have ghosts, you have everything

Linda was finished for the day, I was nearly finished for the day. Lunch we said, the where was the thing, let’s go and see some snow? So flasks were filled, our fridges were examined for useful content and we threw together a lunch of sorts so we only needed some sweeties from the garage on the way.
The road was as quiet as you can get in the afternoon but the big surprise was that the falls of Falloch car park only had one other car in it. There’s something you won’t likely see again this side of November.

We were ready to go so it was packs onto shoulders and a dash across the road to try and find something a wee bit special on the north side of the glen, the Clach na Briton.

It’s 15 years since I was last up here when there was a team handed sprint up the lochside after work to find the stone when we’d all been inspired by Tom Weir’s enthusiastic description of it in an episode of Weir’s Way.
That’s long enough for the hillside to feel brand new again and as soon as we crossed under the railway we were definitely exploring with a vague “It’s kinda that way I think…” as a route guide.

Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhchraig feel very close here once you gain a bit of height, close and very tempting. Later on we kinda cursed ourselves for not packing more food for more miles but that’s okay, there’ll be other days.
The grass can be hard going, it’s basically fuzz covered footballs underfoot everywhere and as soon as you take you eye from the next step up to the scenery you’re sideways or down.

It was lovely though. A bit windy but not so cold, broken cloud over blue sky and an already low sun beaming light and shade in equal measure. Perfect for being out.

It wasn’t long before the smooth grassy skyline was interrupted by a very obvious pointy thing, our pin point navigation has led us straight here. Clach na Brritaaaaaaannnn as Tom had said. With grins wide and maybe a wee bit of excitement we picked up the pace to get there and throw down our packs for lunch, or dinner, it was getting on.

It’s an impressive place, so much history must have been witnessed by the stones over the centuries but so few hard facts are known about it.
Clach na Briton, stone of the Britons, so called as it’s said to have marked the meating of three ancient Scottish kingdoms, Dalriada, the Picts and the Scots.

Its age, which is unknown, might have blended it into the landscape but this is at least partly the work of many ancient hands. There’s a wide rocky base, piles of huge stones on top and the giant spearhead dragged onto the top.

Maybe they found an outcrop which is the visible on part on the downhill side to give them a start, but whatever, their hard work has endured.

There are matching named stone mounds to the west, perhaps marking a very definite border. Ah, if only the Romans had came here as visitors and not invaders we might have some written records. All we have is 500 year old words on a battle fought here near the Minvircc, the stones’ old name.

We sat in the sun, it was warm while the cool but gentle breeze had us pulling in our down jackets. We are our pieces, drank from our flasks and then just sat. I’m very much for just being when I’m in the hills, the drive to achieve goals and reach summits is long gone and I’m so glad Linda is the same, so we just sat.

Actually we reclined, heads back onto the grass by the rocks, knees relaxed, sun on our faces, eyes closed, no chat, happy just to be.

I though I heard voices, or was it a radio? There’s a fence line close by, it could be someone working. I sat up and looked and with a field of view hundreds of metres in scope, there was nothing. Ach, I put my head back down. I could still hear, something though.

Linda was soon fidgeting, “What’s up, I’m trying to sleep…” I murmured. Hmm, the singing had distracted her too. I sat up and looked again, I stood up, climbed the rock to see nothing, no-one at all. It was quiet too now I was up. The breeze had dipped and the air was drifting by rather than blowing, it wasn’t wind whistling through the rocks I was sure. I put an ear to the ground, it’ll be water inning below the surface, snowmelt heading to the river… nothing but my own heartbeat.

We looked at each other with no answers to share and lay back down to watch the clouds slip by as lazy as we were ourselves.

The singing was still there too. No instruments, it was layered voices, mostly female, light and melodic but melancholy too mixed with sweet. We lay there and listened and the song remained until we sat up to go when the light dimmed a little more.

We talked about it, we still do weeks later. I still have no explanation. I am all about science and dinosaurs, but my mind is always open. Once on Ben Macdui I had an experience that still lives with me. I think this might be another.

Whatever it was, it was welcoming, that I know.

We left cheerful with a spring in our step and no desire to head back, we were heading up the glen.

Now Linda is the love of my life, where my heart has found its home, but dear god she can’t walk ten feet outdoors without decking it.

The terrain was tough, and when you’re four foot eleven the obstacle clearance options aren’t great so I’m not mocking here at all. Just gently enjoying it with a generous side salad of concern.

Fionn Gleann is fantastic and it’s a first time visit for both of us. The terrain does improve higher up on the rocky knolls we headed over and it was a lot of fun just exploring.

There are broken walls high up, shielings and a cottage by the looks of it, but here we had to plan a way back. Bummer really, we had headtorches but no food left, the will to keep exploring was strong,we just hadn’t planned for it.

We descended to the deep gorge which was an unexpected gem. Black rocks and tumbling water with unfamiliar views of familiar places.

We sat by the water as it rushed and gurgled over our quickly dipped and removed bare feet then finished our flasks as the sun dropped out of sight.

A wonderful spot, an absolute joy that I had never even known existed.

Oh, get off that beaten track.

The evening light was beautiful as the brown winter slopes glowed orange as we walked down the hideous hydro scheme road on the other side of the glen.

Our knees we’re glad of the assistance after the trials of the walk in, but it’s still s blight on this lovely place

The bigger hills looked magic, so close but just a little far. We’d had such a good day we were happy enough to have them as our wallpaper.

We cut off the road and headed for the cattle creep above the hydro house as it got dark. We found it but the bastards who did the hydro scheme have wired it up so you can’t slip through. This left us with some choices, none if which I was happy having to take Linda into.

We couldn’t cross the river, the gorge here is very deep indeed, and we weren’t reascending to look for a safe crossing point either, so the railway line it was. If I’d been solo I’d have walked the railway line back across the river to the ascent route, but a quick shin across the tracks was safer. We also had to climb four fences to do this.

I was livid. The cattle creep is still on the map. How the hell did they get away with this?

Once over the A82 were onto a stretch of the old road hidden in the trees with its crumbling stone arched bridge and tarmac. Nature is taking it back.

We followed this back to the car park with banter flowing and talk of what hot food we were getting on the way home.

It’s a day full of joy that even the railway crossing couldn’t info, a wee day that had everything. And thinking back to the singing by the stones if you have ghosts, you really do have everything.

 

Congregating in Paisley

It’s always a little odd going to Paisley as I spent almost every day of my early working life there, years of it in fact. Once the local authority revamp came in and a wholesale change of personnel in change of maintenance with it, with us unwilling to bribe our way into keeping the work we’d been doing to a high standard for many years I was suddenly never ever in Paisley again for years.

I’ve picked up a few customers there since so I’ve still seen the town evolve and it really does try pull itself up with continual remodeling and also a string of fantastic events over the past few years.
It’s a town that had everything it was built on taken away and I wish it well as it keeps trying to rebuild and find its place again.

The photies here are from a recent light show that saw the history of the planet projected onto Paisley Abbey. It was an absolute joy to witness as the animations lit up the abbey in precise detail, even picking out the window frames while other installation around the area featured other animations and videos of people telling the story of what we were watching.
Despite being outside on a cold night it managed to be immersive and captivating for the three of us. I even stopped talking about how I’d worked in every building in sight for the whole show. The girls must have been pleased.

A live choir sang while we watched plants and animals evolve until we finished on a current note with digital information flowing across the stonework. In the middle of it all a projection as bright as day turned the abbey into an ancient Egyptian temple.

Brilliant to see. It times of such worry when we are being governed by self serving arseholes in Westminster, a Russian madman wants to eat the world and we’ll burning our furniture for heat next winter if we haven’t already eaten it, it’s good to know that we can create some wonder and beauty and also that we will turn out in big numbers to enjoy it.

Hydrostatic Head

The pandemic has made the fun things of life a little tricky and our little overnighters all over the country all but stopped dead. So it was with a mix of excitement and maybe apprehension we hit the road to the Pitlochry Hydro. Amazingly it was late when we left because I had to go to work, so rather than a leisurely wander up with the hope of dropping by to see friends it was as much of a mad dash as the average speed cameras on the A9 would allow.

But we got there in the end and the Hydro is actually pretty nice, clean and warm inside with friendly staff and the food later on was great. Although the bar tender couldn’t catch his amazement in time when I wanted a pink gin cocktail the same as Linda’s after dinner when I should maybe have been ordering something more er, manly?
Before that though we walked into town and had a little poke around as the shops and cafes hurriedly pulled down their shutters as we approached. Hey, it’s Scotland I’m used to that, I remember with fondness and amusement the fallout I had with Visit Scotland when I suggested their new slogan should either be “Welcome to Scotland, bring a packed lunch” or “Welcome to Scotland, ye’ll have had yer tea?”.
However we found lights on, coffee machine steaming, cakes on display and a warm welcome at Mackenzies, the last cafe standing in the town. And of course it’s run by a Yorshireman. Good lad, and thanks for sending us into the woods to look for the waterfall next day.

The woods were under a very grey sky and rain was threatening but the dampness seem to brighten the colours of everything, dead or alive and it was a very pleasant want to the rather impressive Black Spout waterfall. It’s really, scary high. So it was with some relief I got Linda away from the edge and we found some endless snowdrops spouting by the burn which she didn’t fall into either. Which is probably a shame, the photies would have been magic.

We had intended to climb Schiehallion but the weather was minging and I have never seen a view from the top, never mind Linda never having climbed it so we’ve save that for another time and decided on some general exploring. The road and trees make any journey around here a joy so we headed west in vaguely homeward direction.
We had cuppas and pastries so we weren’t intending to go too far at first so the cuppas were still warm and I pulled up into a little forest car park which I’d never noticed before, Allean Forest it said.

One of the best accidental decisions ever. The signs said there was stuff hidden in the woods, trails to follow and things to see. Off we went. In jeans and Converse.
It was mainly good forest roads so the going was good and I’ve rarely been somewhere this accessible but yet so quiet. We came upon the pictish homestead first, a large stone circle that used to be roofed when occupied and latterly they think used for storage or housing animals. The trail goes up and on through the trees which swayed, creaked and swished as a strong wind tried to get to us but they trees didn’t let it. I think it gets to nearly 400m before it snakes down again and takes you too another abandoned settlement, this time it was occupied in living memory despite the rather medieval look and feel of the place.
We explored fully and it was fascinating. A little group of building where workers lived, families grew up and now there’s nothing but stones, not even real memories to find and absorb. The main building has been re-roofed to give you a flavour of living conditions. Hmm, maybe we’ll just visit rather than move in.

 

 

The two historic sites we saw here are very well maintained with good access and not a single sign of litter or vandalism. It’s joy to witness.
We found a mysterious sculpture in the woofs at a viewpoint, that lets you view the tops of other trees. Is majestic Schiehallion lurking in that grey? We never know.
The rain started spitting, that wind was getting its way, so the weather took a two pronged attack. Back at the motor, we shot along to the cafe at Kinloch Rannoch for hot soup and a view down the loch. Still lots of grey, but lively nonetheless.

From hear to home were roads familiar but wet though happily quiet. The mountains stayed hidden the whole trip but that’s okay, it made us look elsewhere and that was the best thing that could have happened.