The West End of Glasgow is not known as a mecca for hillwalking – although there are a few steep inclines within its boundaries . However a fair population of folk living in the West End have a passion for the outdoors and many of our city dwellers nurse ambitions about conquering the Munros.
Few are more committed than Helen Rose, who shares her hillwalking experiences in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere….
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary
Every two weeks I am out walking with the Wednesday Wanderers, a part of the Bearsden and Milngavie Ramblers. Usually we are out in the country but recently we did an urban walk to look at the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail. Their website: www.glasgowcitycentrestrategy.com/project/city-centre-murals is well worth a visit as it gives information on the murals and a short video. The Mural Trail features a diverse range of arts set within one easy walking area. The huge range of artwork on display has something to suit all tastes – conservative to radical, quirky to bizarre. The murals have been produced on buildings, vacant shop units, and on hoardings around vacant land. The first art work was produced in 2008 and this portfolio of completed works has expanded since. We only toured the City Centre and walked a distance of five miles. There are also murals further out and many depict the sports in the Commonwealth Games that were held in Glasgow in 2014.
Spearheaded by the City Centre Regeneration team within Glasgow City Council as part of its City Centre Strategy, local artists are encouraged to get involved in the project to help generate local art activity. The artworks have more recently become unique pieces of art in their own right and have generated positive public and business feedback while creating a striking area feature that enhances the city Centre environment. Some of the artworks are temporary and are installed to alleviate against the economic downturn and environmental degradation. Glasgow is proud of its local artists and their inspirational, colourful, installations. There is a printed booklet available in Public Buildings but they disappear quickly so popular is this trail.
As usual, we met at a coffee shop, this time in Argyle Street which is one of the main shopping areas in the City Centre and during the tour we saw around 18 murals. I had two favourites and I will highlight these during our virtual walk around the trail. The first mural we saw was Hip Hop Marionettes on a gable end wall near George Square. This was on brick so had a different textual look to it. The artist Rogue-One took his inspiration from a Beastie Boys cover and Run DMC picture. I was amazed at these murals given their size, with some over 50 feet high and working with spray can paint from scaffolding.
We walked along George Street past the Wonder Wall at Strathclyde University. This mural includes many scientific achievements including the Dansken Equatorial Telescope once used to teach nautical Astronomy. We continued along to High Street to see the St. Mungo mural painted by Smug, one of my favourites. It was originally untitled but called St. Mungo after the patron saint of Glasgow Mungo’s four religious miracles represented in the city’s coat of arms.
We continued through the old part of the city seeing various smaller murals and reached the River Clyde where there is a mural by Rogue-One and Ejek called Clutha at the side of the Clutha Vaults. On 29 November 2013, a police helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults, crewed by a civilian pilot and two police officers. Ten people died as a result of the accident: all three who were on board the helicopter, six on the ground, and another person who died two weeks later. The Clutha Vaults remained closed until July 2015. The mural pays homage to the history of the area, as well as celebrating a variety of personalities who visited this iconic location, famous for its atmosphere and live music.
Glasgow School of Art.
Along the Clyde Walkway and into town where we saw the Jack Vettriano mural of Sir Billy Connolly titled Dr. Connolly, I Presume. Crossing Argyle Street, we came to another of my favourite murals, Honey I shrunk the Kids, I’m Sorry! by Smug. A huge piece of photo-realistic street art decorating a gable end. The walk continued along Argyle Street and up to Charing Cross where there were murals on the over motorway walkway parapets very near to the Art School at Garnethill The Glasgow School of Art is famous for its alumni including Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Guess the Musician?
The last mural was on a lane near Sauchiehall Street called The Musician. We could not guess who the musician was despite many guesses from the group. It is a very cheeky self-portrait by Rogue One aka Bobby McNamara drawing upon the influences of the local live music scene, and helping add some colour and creativity to the city’s resurgent lanes. This is only a taste of the murals on offer to view and they will change with city redevelopment. It was a fascinating tour as often you would not notice this art work when in town. Congratulations to Glasgow City Council for the initiative in creating an outdoor art gallery. Once again, thanks again to the Gang of Four for organising the walk.
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We (a friend and I) were in Hampshire to bring in the New Year. Hampshire is a county on the south coast of England on the English Channel notable for housing the birthplaces of the Royal Navy British Army, and the Royal Air Force. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK’s armed services, it is known as the Senior Service. From the late 17th century until the mid-20th century, the United Kingdom was the greatest economic and Imperial Power in the world and this dominance was principally achieved through the strength of the Royal Navy. We visited Southampton to spend time with family and also visited Portsmouth.
Southampton is on the Solent part of the English Channel. It is the largest city in Hampshire, located 75 miles south-west of London and 19 miles from Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest. It lies at the northernmost point of Southampton Water at the confluence of the Rivers Test and Itchen, with the River Hamble joining to the south of the urban area. The city walls include God’s House Tower built in 1417 – the first purpose-built artillery fortification in England.
Most of the city walls are still standing and inside them we visited Bugle Street which has a family connection. Running south from St. Michael’s Square to the Town Quay, Bugle Street, has also been known as Bull Street, is one of the oldest streets in the walled town. The name derives from the Latin Buculus, a young bull, and by transference also indicated its horn, or bugle, originally made from such a horn. The oldest house was built in the 16th century and altered in the 18th century had been known as Golden Dolphin Cottage.
Further up the street is the Tudor House Museum. The timber-framed building facing St Michael’s Square was built in the late 15th Century, with King John’s Palace, an adjacent Norman house accessible from Tudor House Garden, dating back a further 300 years. Unfortunately, it was closed the day we were there. There was a lot more to see with the Merchants’ House and the links to the Titanic. After leaving Southampton on 10 April 1912, the Titanic called at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland before heading west to New York. On 14 April, four days into the crossing and about 375 miles south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. ship’s time. One third of the people, including the musicians, who died when the ship sank were from Southampton. Hampshire has much maritime history given the location on the southern coast.
The visit to the Mary Rose in Portsmouth Naval Dockyard was fascinating; you could spend days at the exhibition and still not take in all of the history. Mary Rose is located in the Dockyard with other interesting Maritime Vessels including the HMS Victory. HMS Victory is best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar. The Victory currently has a dual role as the Flagship of the First Sea Lord and as a living museum to the Georgian Navy. The Battle of Trafalgar was fought in the Napoleonic Wars with Admiral Nelson in command against the French and Spanish.
The highlight for us was the visit to the Mary Rose. The Mary Rose is a Tudor ship, built in 1510 and in service for 34 years. She sank in 1545 and was discovered in 1971. Raised in 1982 and now in the final stages of conservation, she takes her place in a stunning and unique museum. There are various theories on why she sank and one is that she was overloaded with heavy cannons and was turning at the time. When Henry VIII became king in 1509 he only had a handful of warships at his disposal – usually, in times of war, merchant vessels would be loaded with guns and used. However, with threats both from the Scots to the north and the French to the south, Henry knew he needed a standing navy, available at a moment’s notice. Thus, he got to work building his ‘Army by Sea’, starting with two carracks, the Peter Pomegranate and her larger sister ship, the Mary Rose. The Mary Rose was likely named after the Virgin Mary, who was also known at the time as “The Mystic Rose”
Only the half of the ship buried in the mud which preserved it was recovered and has been reconstructed indoors. It is viewed from three gallery levels and the artefacts on display explain life on board the ship and the different crew members. Over 19,000 artefacts were recovered and many are used in displays. There is a lot of information and there is plenty of interactive activity to entertain and educate children. A great day out and a valuable piece of history.
We spent Hogmanay in Southampton and at midnight opened the front door to let the old year out and the new one in. There were lots of fireworks going on and we were invited a few doors down to the Romanian’s house where we toasted in the New Year with țuică. It is prepared from early October until early December (after winemaking is complete) from plums. The process must generally be finished before Christmas, so as not to leave unfinished business for the next year.
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In early autumn The walking club organised a low level walking weekend to Windermere in the English Lake District. Established in 1951,the English Lake District is England’s largest National Park and home to thriving communities such as Bowness-on-Windermere. The Lake District is also known as Lakeland and is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) and its associations with the early 19th century writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. It is located entirely within the county of Cumbria, and all the land in England higher than 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level lies within the National Park. It also contains the deepest and longest bodies of water in England, respectively Wast Water and Windermere.
We were based in Windermere, which was easily reached by train from Glasgow, and stayed in a very comfortable hotel. As low level walkers, we have reached the stage in life where we no longer stay in bunkhouses and hostels! I have climbed the higher fells in the Lakes although the only one I still want to do is Scafell and its neighbour Scafell Pike. They will have to wait for another time. As the Lakes are a mountainous area, there tends to be a lot of rain. The weekend we were there was one of the wettest I have ever experienced. We planned to walk from Windermere to Ambleside but the very wet weather made things difficult. Windermere town lies about half a mile (1 km) away from the lake. Although the town Windermere does not touch the lake (it took the name of the lake when the railway line was built in 1847 and the station was called “Windermere”).
We set off in the rain to climb to Orrest Head – optimistic the weather would clear. Windermere to Orrest Head was Wainwright’s introduction to the Lake District. On a clear day, the ratio of views to effort put in probably cannot be beaten. Wainwright said of Orrest “Orrest Head for many of us, is ‘where we came in’ – our first ascent in Lakeland, our first sight of mountains in tumultuous array across glittering waters, our awakening to beauty. Could not put it better myself! Alfred Wainwright (17 January 1907 – 20 January 1991) was a British Fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator. His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells published between 1955 and 1966 and consisting entirely of reproductions of his manuscript, has become the standard reference work to 214 of the fells of the English Lakeland District. A bit like the Munro Book in Scotland.
The walk from the hotel up to the top of Orrest Head was a gentle climb but it was misty and we could see the lake but not the mountains. We descended on the far side and continued walking in the countryside but it still rained. We could hear the sirens from the road near the lake and we discovered later that the main road in to Windermere had been closed due to flooding. We were walking on country roads which had very deep puddles we could not avoid and very soon we nearly all had wet feet as the water went over the tops of our boots. It felt unpleasant and a decision was made to go back to Windermere by a circular route rather than continuing to Ambleside and take the bus back to Windermere. Despite being very wet, I enjoyed being in the fresh air. Perhaps I could have avoided the wet feet by wearing gaiters over my boots. My own fault for not bringing them with me! We had a lovely evening in the hotel that night with an entertainer and as a group most of us were up dancing and singing along. We walkers know how to enjoy ourselves!
On the second day we took the bus down to Bowness to catch the boat north to Ambleside. At the quay we were greeted by a flock of swans and ducks looking for food. They even stuck their beaks in our rucksacks. They were obviously very used to people and not at all afraid. It was still misty and raining and although the commentary on the boat mentioned the islands on the lake we were passing, we could not see them for the mist! When we reached Ambleside we transferred to a smaller wooden boat to take us over to Wray Castle on the west side of the lake. The house was built in 1840 for a retired Liverpudlian surgeon, James Dawson, who built it along with the neighbouring Wray Church using his wife’s fortune. The house has an association with another key player in Beatrix Potter, who spent a summer holiday there when she was 16 in 1882. From the castle we walked along the shore of the lake to Ferry House to catch the boat back to Bowness and had the weather been drier we would have walked the two miles up to the hilltop home of Beatrix Potter. Bowness is a delightful little town with a myriad of tourist shops and good cafes.
Although the weekend was unusually wet, we enjoyed the trip as a group. Thanks as ever to Stephen for organising the weekend.
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Thanks to Eleanor Watson for the photos.
Helen Rose Outdoors Diary
I’d never visited Northern Germany so decided to take a cruise from Rosyth. Cruises combine a holiday relaxing on board with waking up every morning without effort in a new placee. Perfect for the lazy traveller! The cruise was for one week. We left Rosyth on the ship and passed under the Queensferry Crossing, the latest addition to Scotland’s famous Forth Bridges. The 1.7 miles (2.7km) structure is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world and also by far the largest to feature cables which cross mid-span. This innovative design provides extra strength and stiffness, allowing the towers and the deck to be more slender and elegant.
After a day on the North Sea our first port of call was Heligoland; an archipelago in the south eastern corner of the North Sea – the only German islands not in the immediate vicinity of Germany. The islands were previously in the possession of Denmark and Britain. They are the only German islands with a sea stack (Lange Anna). They claim to have richer air with iodine and oxygen than anywhere else in Germany. We took a tender from the ship to the port and walked up the well-marked paths along the top of the red sandstone rock cliffs. On the way we passed bomb craters now growing with grass where grey moorland sheep were grazing. The area was badly bombed during WW2 due to its strategic location and is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest artificial non-nuclear single explosive detonation. The little town looked very Danish with the coloured houses. Heligoland is duty-free which attracts a lot of visitors.
We continued up the River Elbe which is a wide river leading to Hamburg. Leaving the dock we were immediately in the new Harbour City where the old warehouses are being transformed into bijoux residences and the entire area is being regenerated. The former warehouses now provide opportunities for the service industry. I was particularly impressed by the coffee museum coffee house where we could watch the coffee being roasted and see how the bags of coffee beans were brought in to the warehouse. Also, in this area is the new opera house, Elbphilharmonie, where there are long elevators to a high point in the building providing views across the city. In the centre of the city is a manmade Lake Auβenalster surrounded by modern white housing and parks. The town hall (Rathaus) is also a prize with its elaborately decorated façade. Hamburg dates back 700 years to the Hanseatic League.
Further on the tour we drove down the Reeperbahn which is famous for the Beatles’ emergance in clubs there. Most appropriate for me having visited Liverpool earlier in the year. We then visited St. Michael’s church for a Bach organ recital. It is the largest Baroque church in Northern Germany and has three organs, one of which is reputed to be the largest in the world. This church has excellent acoustics with its high naves. Walking around the harbour area there is good outdoor sculpture within the gardens. Many of the oldest buildings in Hamburg were lost in WW2 and only a few streets have been preserved.
We travelled along the Elbe and then turned in to the River Weser where we docked at Bremen. Bremen is a newish town but with a UNESCO World Heritage listed statue of Knight Roland dating back to 1404 in its central Market Square. The old centre is small enough to take in on a walking tour. The Renaissance/Gothic style town hall with its magnificent façade is one of the finest civic buildings in Germany. It is the only European town hall built in the late Middle Ages that has not been destroyed or altered, managing to survive in its original form over the centuries. Unfortunately, we could not have a tour of the interior where model ships hang from the ceiling to honour the maritime history.
The other attraction was the iconic bronze sculpture of the Bremen Town Musicians based on the Grimm’s fairy tale animals. We walked from the Market Square to the Böttcherstraβe, where we were greeted at the entrance by the Bringer of Light wall sculpture. Beyond this was the Glockenspiel House where 30 bells of Meissen China ring three times a day. We were lucky enough to hear them. It was on to the Schnoor Quarter, the oldest part of Bremen with its pretty little timber houses.
We sailed up the North Sea back to Rosyth in lovely, calm, sunny weather, unusual for this area as the Captain reminded us! A very enjoyable trip full of history and beautiful architecture.
Coming attraction; Windermere.
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The Bearsden and Milngavie Ramblers arrange annual walking holidays abroad and this year we had a special treat Peter and Helena otganised an extended trip to the Czech Republic to Šumava Region in the west of Bohemia, near the Bavarian Border in Germany. We had six days walking with a choice of walks and, just to be tourists, two days of trips to towns. Over and above we had a trip to a very lovely town of Pisek on our way from Prague to Šumava and on our return to Pilsen, the home of Pilsner lager where we visited the Brewery Museum and lunched in the Urquell Brewery vaults ,which has specialised in bottom-fermented beer since 1842. There was so much to see and describe that I will limit it to describing three walks and two towns visited.
We were based at the very comfortable Hotel Horizont near the village of Špičácké Sedlo. The view from the window was of rolling hills covered in trees. The area has walking and cross country skiing in the winter. It is a spa resort with good facilities to relax in. On the third walking day we travelled by bus to Dreisessel which is in Bavaria, Germany. After coffee at the lodge, we started the walk on a good path. All the trees were bare stumps as there had been extensive damage to the pine trees by the bark beetle. The area looked very desolate but we had the advantage of open views as this had previously been forest. One side of the path was the Czech Republic and the other side was Germany. At the end of the border ridge path we came to the monument marking the convergence of three borders of Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. There were convenient picnic benches for lunch and for looking out over the three countries.
The second walk, later in the week, was to the Großer Arber, German for Great Arber. This is the highest peak of the Bavarian/Bohemian Forest mountain range, with an elevation of 1,455.5 metres (4,775 ft). Although geographically belonging to the larger Bohemian Forest range, it is often referred to as “King of the Bavarian Forest”. We took the gondola up to the restaurant near the top and had coffee and cake while we looked out at the rain and wind. As usual, the weather can be unpredictable in the mountains and we struggled up the path to reach the cross designating the top. On the descent we passed a little church dedicated to some German climbers. The descent took us to Großer Arbersee, the lake on the valley floor. There was a convenient German Bar selling delicious Apple Strudel and coffee – providing us with refreshment before a walk around the lake. We saw the beaver lodges at the side of the lake, a feat of chewing though tree branches to build a dam to provide still, deep water to protect against predators, and to float food and building material.
We had an all day excursion to Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Southern Bohemia. Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th to the 17th centuries; the town’s structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The centre of the old town is within a horseshoe bend of the river, with the old neighborhood and castle on the other side of the Vitava River. The castle is unusually large for a town of its size. Within the Czech Republic it is second in size only to the castle complex in Prague. Inside its grounds are a large rococo garden with fountains, an extensive bridge over a deep gap in the rock upon which the castle is built, and the castle itself, which in turn consists of many defined parts dating from different periods. We had a tour of the castle and a walk in the garden. The Egon Schiele Gallery http://www.schieleartcentrum.cz/en/ in the town was interesting, an artist known for his notoriety and imprisonment but he was accomplished as a landscape and townscape painter. A lovely day ended by sitting by the river for coffee.
Our second day trip was to Regensburg, an UNESCO World Heritage site in Bavaria, Germany. Regensburg on the Danube River is known for its well-preserved medieval core. The 12th century Stone Bridge, a 310m long icon with 16 arches crosses the river to the old town. Unfortunately, work was being carried out on the old bridge so we could not see it clearly. The 13th century St Peter’s Regensburg Cathedral, a twin-spired Gothic landmark, is home to the Regensburger Domspatzen (Cathedral Sparrows) choir. We had a city tour tracing the city back from before Roman times and through its medieval history. We passed an old house where Goethe, the German writer and statesman from the 18th and 19th centuries is reputed to have stayed. On the way back to Šumava we stopped off on the outskirts of Regensburg at Walhalla, a Parthenon replica honouring illustrious Germans. Walhalla is named for the Valhalla of Norse Paganism. It was conceived in 1807 by Crown Prince Ludwig in order to support the gathering momentum for the unification of the many German states. Following his accession to the throne of Bavaria, construction took place between 1830 and 1842. It is an impressive sight from the motorway on top of a hill.
On the last day we took a very unusual single chairlift to Pancíř. It took a lot of persuasion by Helena for me to travel up on this chairlift. As usual, we had a coffee at the top before joining the E6 (a long distance route from Finland to Turkey), down through the forest to the hotel. There were ample opportunities to look at the variety of wild mushrooms as we had Norwegian, German and Czech walkers who were all knowledgeable about mushroom picking. It was a wonderful trip and many thanks to Peter and Helena for organising it with so much to see in both countries and lots of interesting walks. A lovely hotel with some evening entertainment and dancing. Perfect.
Coming attractions; North Germany and Windermere
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Helen Rose Hillwalking and Outdoors Diary