Rouken Glen Park. December 2020
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary
As the Covid 19 virus continues to affect our communities, we are still restricted in travel and advised not to go far from home. I have another local park to write about just when you thought I had finished parks in and around Glasgow! There are still more to come over the winter.
Rouken Glen is 143 acres and is located south of Glasgow just over the city boundary and surrounded by comfortable residential areas. The park is now in East Renfrewshire but was originally gifted to the people of Glasgow in 1906. It was named the UK’s Best Park of 2016 against stiff competition from other parks in the UK. I walked it with a friend who knows the park well and she introduced me to its delights. It is many years since I had last visited the park and I remember the Butterfly Kingdom from about 40 years ago.
History of the Park
Rouken Glen Park is steeped in history, dating back to 1530 the time of King James V, who gifted the land to the 1st Earl of Montgomery as a present by royal charter for services rendered. At that time the area was known as Birkenshaw, meaning Birch wood. Rouken Glen Park got its name from a meal mill within the estate known as the Rokandmyll. In 1829 Duguld Bannatyne, the post master of Glasgow, owned the park. The Crum family took over ownership of the estate in 1852. Walter Crum, a wealthy industrialist from Thornliebank nearby, bought the estate from a Glasgow merchant John Slater. It was during this period the walled garden was planned and constructed. Alexander Crum was mostly responsible for planning and planting the beautiful mature tree species found throughout the park today. Birkenshaw Cottage was used as a holiday cottage by Madeleine Smith who was brought to trial for the murder of Pierre Emile L’Angelier her French lover in 1857.
In 1904 the Crum family sold Rouken Glen to Cameron Corbett MP later to become Lord Rowallan. After owning the park for only two years, Cameron Corbett gifted Rouken Glen to the people of Glasgow to use as a place of leisure and enjoyment. The park was handed over on 26th of May 1906. The Mayor of Lyon was among the dignitaries present at the ceremony. During World War 2, Rouken Glen was closed to the public and taken over by the Army REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). At this time, the park had a lot of damage done to it as heavy vehicles left their mark on the infrastructure. The mansion house fell into such a state of disrepair it was demolished in the 1960s.
Such a fascinating history – see more information
The Boathouse and Pond
We started at the gate near the pond which was built as a water storage dam and had a walk around the pond to admire the water lilies and the wildlife of ducks and swans. The swans had a good brood of six cygnets but we were rather concerned for their safety as they seemed to be pecking at some plastic. I am sorry that some people have no respect for wildlife and discard rubbish indiscriminately. Some of the swans I have seen this year in parks and the canal have not had many surviving cygnets. Due to the Covid there have been a lot more people out and about and even more litter around. Anyway, I must step down from my soapbox!
At the end of the walk we visited the lovely Boathouse for an Ice Cream and sat by the pond to eat it. I have had coffee and lunch here on winter walks with the Wednesday Wanderers and it is delightful. The ambience in the Boathouse is great and care has been taken in the decoration to capture the nautical theme.
The Capelrig Burn was also known as the Auldhouse or Eastwood Burna and flows through the centre of the park. In the glen (a narrow valley in Scotland), the burn (stream) cuts through and exposes most of the rocks. This includes the sandstones, limestones and coals of Giffnock and Eastwood and the lavas of the Mearns. A century ago this was a well-known walking area for geologists.
We continued our walk to the waterfalls which could be seen as a wall of water not far from the pond. There are a series of waterfalls and we saw the best one later in the walk cascading on to the rocks below. Over the years, visitors have speculated on whether these water features are human made or natural but it is likely to be somewhere in between. The falls were diverted and expanded more than two hundred years ago to be used as a power source by Victorian textile workers. The largest waterfall height was doubled to form a better reservoir. Despite the industrial history these waterfalls are beautiful to look at today.
Woodlands and Dye Works
The woodland walks in the park were lovely with varied trees and running alongside the burn. The industrial history of the park can be seen in the remnants of the textile works including exposed wooden boards and beams. The ground is marshy here and the Council have invested in putting in boardwalks along with information boards. There is also a lot of information on the hidden aspects of the park
In the 1780s an array of valuable and exotic dyes from around the world including American Bark, Ground Brazil, Senegal Gum and Sugar of Leadgrass were used in the dye works. There were various buildings, including a water powered wash house and by 1813, a steam engine to power machinery and a boiler for heating and drying were added. Most of this history became apparent in 2016 when the Glen path was restored with a multi pound investment from East Renfrewshire Council and the National Lottery funding
A fascinating park and well worth a visit.
Coming attractions; North Calder Heritage Trail, Doughnut Hill and Callendar Crags at the Kilpatrick Hils and the Blantyre Circuit.
This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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