Thursday, 23 December 2010

22 December River Ayr – Annbank to Ayr – A Photographic Essay

To describe the route of today’s walk would be an exercise in repetition for we have done it so often, the last time in glorious summer sunshine (16 June). Today the conditions couldn’t have been more different from then. The freezing winter continues with clear skies, very low overnight temperatures and midday ones that still refuse to rise to the zero. Today was no exception. When we gathered in Annbank at nine-thirty it was around the minus six mark and the snow that fell a fortnight ago still lay powdery in the fields and crunched and squeaked underfoot. The morning had all the ingredients for making another superb winter day.
This was another day made for the camera so in this report words will be few and photographs many.
We took the direct route from Annbank towards Auchincruive squeaking snow under the boots and thoroughly enjoying the winter woodland. When we reached the river the cameras came out – for the first time today but not the last – for the light on the icy water was tempting for the photographers. Shots were made downstream to show the ice; shots were made upstream to capture the light of the rising sun on the water; shots were made across the river to the snow fringed trees on the other bank. Funnily enough while all this artistic activity was going on, the rest stood around and waited. Now there’s a new thing for the Ooters!
Auchincruive House (now Oswald Hall) caught the rays of the low sun and glowed with a warm light above the shaded cold-blue river. More shots and more waiting. Have we suddenly remembered the ‘compassion’ of the spring? Or is it just Christmas. We will see.
Great, long icicles hung from the arches of Oswald’s Brig. More photos.
All this camera work and the strain of waiting fairly used up the energy resources so taking a turn over Oswald’s Brig we came to the Burns-Wallace monument for coffee. Why here? Because we always stop here. So There! We think Johnny must have some sort of problem for, for the second week running, he produced his hip flask and dispensed the warming brew. Long may his problem last.
Despite the cold, we spent some time over coffee (and whisky) for this is a short walk and we had plenty of time. But we dragged ourselves to our feet eventually and set off downriver again. Apart from the buzzard perched on a telegraph pole, next section produced very little of interest and we were at the SSPCA kennels before our next photo stop. The heron was spotted hunched up on a branch fifty yards over the field. At that distance and with its head hunched into its shoulders, it was difficult to say for certain what it was so Paul stopped for a picture. True to form now, the leading bunch walked on.
We caught up with the leading bunch just round the corner. Robert had spotted a natural ice sculpture where a burst pie had sprayed the hedge and was busy photographing when we arrived. We waited for him to finish then we all moved off together.
The river was chock full of ice slabs and a brief halt was made on the bypass bridge to shoot it. Then we walked over to the ‘Steppies’
There was no place to enjoy lunch here so we walked down the left bank of the river until we found a bench and a log to sit on.
It was during this stop that Paul heard and then saw the woodpecker on the other side of the river. So he says for when the rest looked, all we saw was a bird flying off a branch. It might have been a woodpecker. We will give Paul the benefit of any doubt even though he didn’t get a picture this time.
Davie was for taking the ‘short way’ to the bus stop but Robert and Jimmy were for over the footbridge into Craigie Park. Following Davie’s example of last week, they immediately swung down and over the bridge. The rest followed.
Craigie Park was shut. The building of the new university building necessitated a closing off of the riverside pathway and we were diverted up round Craigie House., a first for all but Jimmy who told us something of its history (Och, no’ mair history? –Ed). Anyway, the diversion took us through the park, on to Craigie Road and back to the river at the dam. We could now walk down the north bank of the river, pass Turner’s Brig, cross the Auld Brig (Mair bridges? – Ed) and through the town to the bus station.
This was a very familiar walk made special by the conditions, a day enjoyed by all.
The bus carried us back to Annbank where a convivial FRT was taken in the Tap O’ The Brae.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Yet more Annbank-Ayr pictures

One or two more Annbank pictures

Annbank to Ayr, 22nd Dec.

Last walk of 2010

The last walk of 2010 will be the Ness Glen circle, starting at the Promised Land in Dalmellington.
Coming from Ayr, the road into Craigengillan estate is the second on the right as you come into Dalmellington. The one after the Straiton road.
It is possible to park at the gatehouse beside the Muck Water or on the left hand side of the main road at Craigmark Burntonians Park.
Meet there at 9.30 am for a 4 hour walk.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

15 December Glasgow Bridges and Christmas Curry

Alan, Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Robert, Ronnie & Rex (part time)

It was said today by one of our founder members, ‘It’s amazing how quickly traditions get established’, and to prove his point he cited a few of ours. But the one that brought on the statement was our traditional visit to Glasgow for our Christmas curry. Today was the appointed day and the appointed meeting place was Ian’s house in Kilmarnock with the intention of car sharing into the city.
Now, Ian’s hospitality is beginning to rival that of our long-standing Irvine member and today he excelled even himself by providing us with glasses of mulled wine and mince pies served in a nice wee silver dish. Though there appeared to be something engraved on the dish, none of us was quite able to make out what it said and no-one had the gumption/stupidity to ask Ian. No doubt we will be told. And told. And told. And..........
The night had seen another keen frost and the morning dawned bitingly cold but with a clear sky that promised a perfect winter day. Yet, as we sat in Ian’s drinking his wine and eating his pies, we watched as the cloud gathered and a fog descended on the town. It would seem that our hopes for the perfect day would be dashed. However, we had booked the restaurant, so Glasgow it would have to be. We thanked Ian for his hospitality and set off with something less than enthusiasm. Our hopes were raised again when we climbed onto the Fenwick Moor and out of the fog into the sun once more. Then they were dashed again for, from the heights above Newton Mearns, we could see a great bank of clag hang in the city, indeed fill the whole valley as far as we could see.
Traditions may well have been established but today we were to break with a small one of ours; instead of our usual canal walk prior to the curry, we would do the Glasgow Bridges Walk (, one that somebody had read about though none of us had actually done. That’s why three cars deposited ten Ooters in the frost covered car park of Glasgow Science Centre instead of our usual place by the Botanic Gardens. (Missing were Peter, Christmas shopping in Prague, and Rex, still recuperating) And the weather? Somehow the clag had burned off in the time it took us to drive from Newton Mearns to the Science Centre and we were left with a calm, frosty, sunny, perfect winter day. Oh how the righteous are blest.
Much to Ronnie’s disappointment, no weather girls came or went as we passed by the BBC studios on our way to the Millennium Bridge, the first of our Glasgow Bridges. The snow of last week lay as ice on the pavements but the sub-zero temperatures of the night overlaid this with a thick, white frost which provided ample traction and the walking was easy. We stopped for a few seconds on the Millennium Bridge to look at the river, a river that flowed perfectly calm in the still air reflecting both banks as though in a mirror. This is where the cameras came out. They were to stay out for the rest of the day for it was a day made for photography. We look forward to seeing the results:-

But we didn’t hang about too long on that bridge for the itchy feet brigade were already making their way off the other end where they turned east on the north bank, east towards Bell’s Bridge. At this particular bridge came a classic Ooters moment. Allan, who still hasn’t quite grasped the concept of a walking group and who had been asked to arrange things for today, had thought of taking the bus to Dalmarnock and walking back. Jimmy and Malcolm even brought their bus passes on his advice. However, Davie, who walks everywhere every day, had different ideas; we should walk the entire distance. Are we not the Ooters? Are we not tough and experienced walkers? Are we so old and doddery that we need buses? Davie’s eloquent speech won the day, helped by the fact that he was already ten yards onto the bridge and was heading for the other side of the river again. We followed Davie. Allan, mumbling quietly to himself, followed us.
The pavements on the south side of the river were white with the frozen snow and frost. It felt like Christmas. The river now reflected the Finnieston Crane lit by the low December sun, then the SECC, the Armadillo.

Cameras clicked constantly as we walked this section to the next bridge, officially known as the Clyde Arc but popularly called the Squinty Bridge. This bridge carries traffic, more traffic than we are used to on our outings and care had to be taken in case one of our auld dodders forgot himself and walked onto the road, It also carried us back to the north side of the river where we were to stay for a while now.

We crossed the IFSD Tradeston footbridge known as the Zigzag Bridge, and back over George V Bridge.
There are two bridges across the Clyde that necessity dictates that we go under rather than over. These are the Kingston Bridge carrying the M8 and the Caledonian Railway Bridge carrying all the lines into Central Station. The walkway took us under both. The second Caledonian Railway Bridge, the one still standing, hung with icicles that caught the sun reflecting from the river.

While another photo opportunity was taken by the artists, the philistines walked on and by the time the artists caught up Johnny was busy dispensing antifreeze of his own concoction – one part Famous Grouse and three parts Balvennie – from a hip flask that none of us knew he had. Despite the ban on public consumption, we all imbibed. See us. See ASBOs. Thanks anyway, J.

The spirit worked its magic, warming from the inside out and putting a spring in the step as we walked on.
Only the pillars of the first Caledonian Railway Bridge remain but these had their own interest. Yet it wasn’t until we were on our next bridge that we noticed. Around the pillars engraved in English and Greek was the legend ‘All greatness stands firm in the storm’. Such was the greatness of this bridge that it had to be replaced. Sic transit Gloria mundi.
The bridge we were on was Glasgow Bridge. ‘I’ve always known this as Jamaica Bridge’, said Jimmy. Ian, a native of the dear green place, agreed. Yet here it was in big bold lettering ‘Glasgow Bridge’. We crossed Glasgow Bridge and turned on to the Georgian fronted Carlton Place with all its law offices. Fifty metres later we were leaving Carlton Place to take the Portland Street suspension bridge to the north bank again.

Quay Gardens, as this section of the north bank is now known, was icy and white with frost. Yet we passed more people on this bit than on any other, all managing the slippery conditions admirably, as we did. A black painted derrick affair stood on the other side of the path from the river and speculation was made as to their purpose. The general consensus was that it once held a lifeboat that could be launched in case of mishap on the river.
At the end of Quay Gardens we climbed a flight of steps and crossed the river again by Victoria Bridge towards the Gorbals. At the Sheriff Court we crossed the road and came to the Glasgow Mosque. The sun was at an angle to shine through the glass dome and make it glow. Another photo opportunity was taken. Some wondered what the light would be like inside the mosque and fancied a visit but others were for pushing on, so, on we went without a visit. The path ahead was blocked as some construction work was carried out so we were diverted through and round the Glasgow Nautical College to find our next bridge, Albert Bridge.
Albert Bridge took us to the corner of Glasgow Green. Now we were to leave the river for a while and take the paths through the Green to the People’s Palace. A superb masonry arch stands at this end of the Green, the McLennan Arch. ‘It used to stand somewhere else’ said Ian but he couldn’t remember where*. It did though provide another photo opportunity.

We walked through the snow covered park past the Collins Fountain and the Nelson Monument to the People's Palace and the Winter Gardens. It was now approaching noon and long past coffee time. We had coffee and scones, or carrot cake, or millionaire shortbread or even bacon roll in the Winter Gardens. He who knows said that the rest of the walk to Dalmarnock was dreich and suggested we make our way back. Feeling that enough was enough for the day, we agreed. So we started the return journey but not before taking time to stoke up our socialist fire with a visit to the People’s Palace Museum.
We kept to the north side of the river for the return journey. A slight thaw had been working as we sat for coffee and the sun had gone now so the cameras were put away and we just walked on, blethering in our usual way. The ice was slippier on Quay Gardens but not too slippy and all made it safely along. Approaching the end of Victoria Bridge a familiar personage was spotted. Rex had come to join us for our Curry. Eleven of us then walked along the north bank of the river to the Millennium Bridge and the Science Centre car park.
This had been a different but very enjoyable walk but our day was not yet finished.

A quick change of clothing was followed by a drive to the Paisley Road and the Ashoka at the Mill for our Christmas Curry. It was a good job we had booked or we would never have got in to the restaurant. The place was empty apart from us and we feel that if we hadn’t booked, the guys behind the counter would have closed up and gone home. However the food and the service were excellent. And the company was pretty good as well. Sometime through the meal Johnny and Robert took off their fleeces to reveal their new T-shirts. Black they were, with some sort of logo on the chest. While most of us read the logo and laughed, Jimmy and Davie couldn’t quite bring themselves to do the same. Crabbit auld buggers.

*Research by the scribe has uncovered this information: The McLennan Arch was originally the centrepiece of the magnificent frontage of Robert and James Adam’s Assembly Rooms on Ingram Street (1792). When the Assembly Rooms were demolished to enable extension of the General Post Office Bailie James McLennan arranged for it to be reconstructed at the end of Monteith Row near Greendyke Street (1894).
It remained there until 1922 when it was moved to another site on the Green opposite Charlotte Street. Foundation problems caused it to tilt with the result that it was moved for a fourth time in 1991 to form a central, classical structure featuring Apollo and the three Graces in the civic space at Saltmarket opposite the Judiciary Building.
The Arch is one of the few extant pieces of Adam architecture in the city.