Thursday 23 January 2014

The Lost View

I wandered around the vicinity of Sauchiehall St looking for viewpoints, finally hitting upon an office block near Blythswood Square whose top floor, I reckoned, would have the best view of Glasgow School of Art. Rennie Mackintosh's masterpiece is crowded in by other buildings and hard to see properly from the street, but its secret southern skyline should be visible in its full glory from this particular building. However security wouldn't let me pass. "There's an event on up there, sorry sir," was my lot. Were they being treated to an amazing view? Not knowing maddened me.

To make up for my disappointment, I headed for a tower block at the top of Garnethill that is part of the School of Art complex. Itself an ugly building, its top floor boasts a wonderful view across Park Circus in Glasgow's West End. I'd been up years ago with a film SLR, and wanted to return with a digital camera. But where had it gone! I stood at the site, nonplussed. It had been demolished. The only way you can now get the view below is from a hot air balloon or helicopter. The stairwell I took the photo from - between the 9th and 10th floors - is now landfill.

The lost view of Park Circus: 

I will return to the Blythswood Square office block and try again. Perhaps I should contact architectural photographer Neale Smith to find out how he gets roofline access to buildings in Glasgow. I should do it soon before they demolish that building too...

Sunday 12 January 2014

Clashgour Day Trip

A hill for the new year!

Loch Tulla:

With a forecast little better than the day of the spring tide, we expected to do no more than drive to Victoria Bridge, walk in to Clashgour, spend some time with old friends, and walk back. Clashgour, Glasgow University Mountaineering Club's hut, provided many formative experiences for me, and we hoped to catch up with friends staying the night. But the weather was lovely on the drive up, snowy hills cloud free, and we knew we would climb a hill.

Looking towards Clashgour:

A glorious morning soon clouded over, but it remained mild and virtually windless. Hungry red deer stags, bellies dark with peat, loitered around a saltlick near the track, posing for photos.


At the hut we headed up towards the col between Stob Ghabhar and Stob a Coire Odhair, our hill now in cloud but still a finer day than expected.

En route to Stob a Coire Odhair:

Three hours I thought our walk would take, but thanks to hard icy snow on top and the necessity to cut steps, it took four. "I've been up this hill seven times before," I said. "This is my thirty-seventh time," said one companion!

Back down, we had a cup of tea in the old doss, looking much better after a recent refurbishment, and caught up with the friends who were staying the night. It was crowded with nine in the hut, but the record number sleeping over is a barely credible thirty-three!


My New Year Resolution to do more hills couldn't have had a better start...

Sunday 5 January 2014

Spring Tide

With a spring tide and dry weather forecast (on - the Met Office predicted rain and strong wind, but then they always give the worst case scenario), we decided on a bracing low-tide walk along my favourite local stretch of coast, from North Berwick to Aberlady.

North Berwick:

You can see how low the tide was by the boats sitting on the mud in North Berwick harbour:

This walk is always best at low tide, when some rocky parts can be avoided entirely by walking round them on sand. A stream that is crossed by a bridge at high tide is, at low springs waters edge, an area of shallow braided channels:

What a glorious day despite the Met Office forecast! Whilst west coast areas such as Cornwall or Aberystwyth were being battered by high waves, we strolled along the beach in early morning sunshine, looking out at the islands in the Forth. On the news, people had been warned off approaching the coast. One poor lad died taking pictures of the waves. The trick with a spring tide is to go not at high but at *low* tide. Our wind was an offshore wind, the waves short, the sun out.

Rocky islands in the Forth:

But on turning the corner at Eyebroughty, we suddenly caught the full power of the weather. Wind-blown sand tore at us, buffeted us, filling our teeth with grit. The rest of the way was a struggle against headwinds reaching 60mph, hoods vibrating like loose sails, the rain coming on now as well.

Beach near Eyebroughty:

I have not been on the coast in such conditions for a long time. By Aberlady Bay, loose sand screamed across the beach in great streams, whilst a furious herd of white horses went to war on the sandbar at the end of the bay. It was a wild place to be, with winds more reminiscent of a hilltop. We were glad to gain the shelter of Aberlady High St, where it was hard to reconcile the experience of such elemental forces just a mile and a half away.