Helen Rose’s Outdoor Diary, Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. July 2020
We continue in lockdown here in Scotland due to the Covid 19 virus but it has given an opportunity to discover the wonderful parks in Glasgow and to write on another of my favourite local parks at Kelvingrove. Glasgow is known as the ‘Dear Green Place’ and the coat of arms of the City of Glasgow was granted by the Lord Lyon in 1866. It incorporates a number of symbols and emblems associated with the life of St Kentigern, Glasgow’s patron saint also known as St. Mungo. There’s the tree that never grew, the bird that never flew, the bell that never rang and the fish that never swam. These symbols all refer to St Mungo’s life. The coat of arms is seen on the Great Western Bridge also known as Kelvinbridge and was opened in 1891 as described in their booklet by www.ice.org.uk . Kelvingrove Park can be accessed from the bridge located in the westend near the University of Glasgow.
Accessing the park from Great Western Road follows a path where there are murals painted on a wall. My favourite is of a CalMac ferry. Caledonian MacBrayne runs ferries to most of the islands around Scotland.
The parks in Glasgow are well used by Glaswegians with such uses as Festivals and demonstrations. Much of the housing in Glasgow is tenements and flat dwellers cherish the parks as a place to enjoy the outdoors. Glasgow City Council owns the parkland and maintains it to a high standard. When I was young, we were not allowed to step on to the grass but fortunately times have now changed and people are encouraged to sit on grassy areas and recreation areas are provided for children to play. Kelvingrove has a good curved area for kids to skateboard and cycle on. There is more information on the park at www.glasgow.gov.uk/parks.
In 1852 the City purchased land forming Kelvingrove and Woodlands Estates for the sum of £99,569 to create an area which is now known as Kelvingrove Park. The Park was created for the rapidly growing West End of the city for the recreation and amusement of the citizens of Glasgow. It was one of many Victorian parks created in response to the appalling conditions created by rapid urban growth, resulting from the industrial revolution. The park was the first purpose designed and constructed park in Scotland and it rapidly became a considerable attraction. It was designed by the leading landscape designer of the time, Sir Joseph Paxton who also designed the Crystal Palace in London.
One of my early memories of the park was walking to the Stewart Memorial Fountain in the centre of the park. It was built in 1872 to commemorate the Lord Provost Stewart of Murdostoun, who was instrumental in the delivery of Glasgow’s water supply system from Loch Katrine. In 1854, cholera and typhus were a threat but clean water eradicated these diseases by providing fresh, clean drinking water. On the corner of the rim are four drinking fountains superimposed by cherubs. However, on the day I visited there was no water in the fountain! The main statue is based on themes from Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake.
The island in the centre of the pond was not part of Paxton’s original landscape built in 1885 but is designed in the shape of the Island of Cyprus which had become popular with the people in Glasgow at that time. It is a significant conservation site and contains a great variety of wildlife. We were lucky to see a duck with six small fluffy ducklings. I remember feeding the ducks on this pond with bread which would now be considered junk food!
I have written about the River Kelvin on Dawsholm Park and the Botanic Gardens. The river snakes it way around the Westend before finally flowing in to the River Clyde at Yorkhill. Its source is on the moors near the village of Barton and it flows for almost 22 miles. The Prince of Wales Bridge was built in 1895 and is a central feature of Kelvingrove Park linking the University of Glasgow to the Westend.
Kelvin Way is the road which cuts through the park. It is bounded by the University of Glasgow grounds and also by Kelvingrove Museum, both of which I will write about in future blogs. The old bandstand is situated adjacent to Kelvin Way in the park. I visited it when I was young as a regular summer feature was the afternoon concert parties with entertainers on the stage. In recent years it has become a music venue and famous entertainers appear here. The bad news is that you have to pay to attend as the Council have put up high screening all round so you cannot have a freebie going to the concert. However, you could stand or sit out in Kelvin Way which is now pedestrianised to hear the music!
Victorian Glasgow Buildings
On my walk back home I passed through the leafy inner suburb of Hyndland, part of the Westend. This is an opportunity to tell you about the Victorian housing, also common to other areas of Glasgow. In more affluent areas, tenement flats form spacious privately owned houses, some with up to six bedrooms, which continue to be desirable properties. A tenement is a type of building shared by multiple dwellings, typically with flats or apartments on each floor and with shared entrance stairway access.
The vast majority of the city as seen today dates from the 19th century. As a result, Glasgow has a heritage of Victorian architecture. In Hyndland there is a mix of tenement and terrace houses. Many of them have impressive stained glass and panelling in the communal areas and within the houses and flats. There can be further architectural features such as granite pillars at the entrances. Some of the communal areas also have lovely tiling and we refer to them as ‘wally closes’. (wally means porcelain in tiles and close is the communal entrance to a tenement).
I hoped you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. Future blogs will be Victoria Park, the University of Glasgow and Kelvingrove Museum.
Thanks to Sam for the arty biker photograph.
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