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….
It’s seventeen years since I was last walking and touring in Andalucia. This year I went to Las Alpujarras in southern Spain – a new walking territory for me. Las Alpujarras is a natural and historical region, on the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the adjacent valley. The average elevation is 1,200 metres (4,000 ft) above sea level. It extends over two provinces, Granada and Almeria. The Sierra Nevada runs west-to-east for about 80 km. and includes the highest mountain in mainland Spain, the Mulhacén at 3479 m. The mountain is covered with snow in winter. The snow-melt in the spring and summer allows the southern slopes of the Sierra to remain green and fertile throughout the year, despite the heat of the summer sun. Water emerges from innumerable springs and human intervention has channeled it to terraced plots and to the villages. We stayed in two villages and had five walking days in total with up to 400 metres of ascent and descent daily. The trip was arranged through Scot-Trek using a local guide Dan at Ibex Trex .
The highest of the three villages in the Barranco de Poqueira is Capileira at 1,436m; a good base for walking in the gorge itself or up to the Sierra Nevada. Its twisting, steep streets are dotted with many springs gushing with fresh mountain water. It offers superb views of the Poqueira Gorge and the Sierra Nevada everywhere you look. With a population of 600, it′s also the largest of the three villages in the Poqueira gorge, the others being Bubión and Pampaneira. We used the spring at our hotel for water to take on the walks.
Capileira′s remote location meant that Moorish rule arrived relatively late as did that of the Christians, who conquered the village centuries later. In the early 16th century the Catholic Monarchs ordered the construction of the village church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza, on the site of a former mosque. The original church was replaced with the current Mudéjar style building in the 18th century.
The first walk was from the hotel up to Cebadilla with lovely views down the Gorge. In the houses dotted around we could see the chimneys of a Moorish design. Unfortunately we had to cut the walk short due to heavy rain but ended up in a bar in Capileria for lunch. The hotel was warm and comfortable and there was heating to dry out our wet clothes. At dinner, we had some local dishes including a lentil stew.
The following day we travelled to Taha for a circuit of the Taha Redolent with its thousand years of Arabic History. From Las Alpuharras we had splendid views up to the snow clad peaks of the higher mountains. The walk started from Fondales and down to a Roman bridge and a chestnut mill. We walked up a ridge in sunshine although there was a cold wind. Dan provided a picnic lunch of fresh bread, cheese, pate, aioli, tomato and cucumber. We enjoyed this on a sheltered spot with good views. It was an interesting descent on a very steep winding path but we lived to tell the tale! On the way back to the village, we stopped at the famous spring that produces fizzy mineral water.
Next day we left Capileria where we had awakened to find snow in the village! We had planned to move to a lower village of Cadiar where the weather was a little warmer. We walked in the Rio Trevelez Valley up to a ridge where we met the snow line but only small patches. The descent to the river was more gradual where we had our picnic. Trevelez is the highest village in Andalucia. The following day we were in the Contraviesa Mountain Range where we descended though almond orchards and vineyards. We sampled the local wine in the hotel while sitting by a log fire in the bar. The hotel outside Cadiar was built as a village with buildings constructed in the style of the old Andalusian farmhouses. There was even a church within the compound! We were fortunate with the weather which was dry although unseasonably cold
The last walk was into the Campo from the hotel following paths and waterways to the villages of Lobras and Timaras where we stopped for the picnic lunch in warm sunshine looking over the valley and the little canals used for irrigation. Part of this walk had been on the GR7 . This runs from Tarifa near Gibraltar, across Spain, through France into Andorra and back into France to Mont Aigoual and Aire-de-Côte in the Cevennes and north to the final 250 km ending in Alsace, northern France. We finished the walk in Cadiar with the customary beer and tapas. My favourite tapasis Boquerones, fried anchovies.
No visit to Andalusia is complete without a visit to the Alhambra. I had been on a previous visit to Granada but I did go up to it and walked around the public area. The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex and was originally constructed as a small fortress on the remains of Roman fortificationsin AD 889. It was largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Emirate of Granada who built the current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace by the Sultan of Granadain 1333 . After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Andalusia is steeped in Moorish History and the designs on the wall tiles at the Alhambra are reflected in this culture. In the evening we dined at a restaurant in the Albaicin and saw the sunset lighting up the walls of the Alhambra. It was then on to a Flamenco show but not one for the tourists. There was an amazing amount of energy from the dancers. A good cultural end to the trip.
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Water of Leith History
Flowing for twenty four miles from its source in the Pentland Hills, the Water of Leith winds its way through various suburbs into the heart of Edinburgh. It is a grand name for a river in the capital city of Scotland! It was once at the centre of the city’s industrial heartland with the river providing the water power for the production of paper, flour and fabric. Today, there are pleasant walks along the river on very good path. The Glasgow HF Outdoor Club walked from Balerno to Murrayfield with Gerena as our very knowledgeable leader.
We travelled by bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow and caught a local bus from Haymarket to Balerno. The start of the walk featured a wooden sculpture with a winding metal strip. It had an area of seating perfect for a refreshment stop before the start of the walk. The walkway follows the path of the old Balerno Branch Railway to Colinton, then runs parallel to the river all the way to Leith – away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Leith famous as a port has the Royal Yacht Britannia berthed there; now a visitor attraction. However, we did not walk as far as Leith, almost thirteen miles, as it was a short winter day with limited daylight and we had a time constraint to return to Glasgow by public transport.
It was pleasant strolling alongside the river and passing through areas with unusual names such as Currie and Juniper Green. We spoke to local people along the way and some pointed across the river to a higher area where J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, lived. Designated as an Urban Wildlife Site, the wooded river banks include patches of ancient woodland and are hosts to carpets of wildflowers and dramatic trees.
Colinton is a charming and highly sought-after suburb of Edinburgh. It was a former mill town and still has a quaint village feel. Set amongst rich flora and fauna in the midst of the peaceful Colinton Dell, a pleasant stretch of greenery nestled along the Water of Leith. The picturesque, well-kept community features a number of pretty historic buildings. Robert Louis Stevenson spent the summers of his childhood at the manse when his grandfather was Parish Minister. The village is a haven for arts and crafts shops.
The Colinton Dell continues to Slateford where the Visitors’ Centre is located. The name ‘Slateford’ comes from local rock found in the area. We learned that the river is stocked with brown trout and wildlife is plentiful including heron. On the way we passed under two impressive arches, the aqueduct carrying the Union Canal and the viaduct carrying the railway. We made a wide loop around the allotments but had some road walking to reach our final destination at Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish Rugby.
There was a match on that afternoon so most of us headed for the bus back to Glasgow although Gerena invited us to go for a small refreshment in a local hostelry to round off the walk. If we had continued to Leith we would have passed the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, the Dean Village, Stockbridge and the Royal Botanical Gardens. A good excuse to go back and walk from Murrayfield to Leith. Thanks to Gerena for organising the walk.
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Thanks to Maura Buchanan for the photographs.
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 Hillwalking and Outdoors Diary