Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dumbarton Memories

It's about time for another 'nostalgia post', 2014 being my 'Year of Nostalgia'. What prompted this one was a question that popped into my head when I was out for a walk recently. I wondered when was the first time I had ever walked up a slope, and who it was that first sparked my interest in climbing hills!

The answers were easily dug out my memories. My mother's sister and her husband lived in Dumbarton and as a youngster I often visited my Aunt Jenny and Uncle John there. The latter took me to the top of Dumbuck Hill, on the outskirts of the town near Milton. The photo above is of the hill as it looks now, in a lovely photo taken by Danny Kearney from the other side of the River Clyde. It didn't look like this in the past though. It rose to just over 500 feet in the fifties. Much of the hill has been quarried away since then. The shape of the hill was said to resemble a giant man lying on his back, or an elephant's head. As a wee boy, I could never see this myself!

I found a photo of the hill from 1960, showing the quarry in its early days, here.

You know you are getting old when the hill you climbed as a young boy is no longer there!

Thinking about my aunt and uncle sent me delving into the box of old family photos, always a bitter-sweet thing to do. But I did find some pics that made me smile! They are not the best quality, but I thought them worth sharing. Black and white memories!

That's my father on the left, with the cigarette. The year would be 1947 or early 1948. I'm being carried by my dad and by Uncle John, with my sister on the right! If you recognise where we are, do let me know. It could be Dumbarton, or somewhere else entirely.

This is Aunt Jenny on the left, with my mother. And that's me on the little tricycle, in the garden of my aunt and uncle's home in Geils Avenue!

I loved my bike, and I enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle. As I grew up I spent many holidays in Dumbarton. I still remember playing with my Dinky toys on paths cut out in the pebbles you can see in the foreground of this photo. Now, that must be one of my earliest memories!

My uncle's garden had a lane at the bottom, running alongside the railway line, which was on the other side of the wall made of old sleepers. I remember playing cricket in the lane with the children who lived next door. It was fun waving at the trains passing, although, when I stayed there, it took a bit of getting used to the noise, especially during the night.

This section of railway, the North British route through the town, was closed and is now a footpath and cycleway.

The car must have been our family car back then. This one I don't remember though. Do you like my sun hat? 

There was one other member of the family at Dumbarton, a little smooth haired fox terrier, called 'Gyp'. This is the only photo I have of this much loved pet. There is no doubt that the dog was the boss! Coming back to the point of this blog post, Gyp took us for regular walks, and the big adventure was climbing Dumbuck, which we did on a number of occasions.

I wondered if I could find some old photos of Dumbuck, before the quarry. I was thrilled to discover this old postcard, the photo taken from Geils Avenue. My aunt and uncle stayed just a little way up in one of the terraced houses on the right!

The houses were constructed, I believe, to provide accommodation for the workers at Babcock and Wilcox, a major employer locally in the twentieth century, see here, and here.

I remember that right on the top of Dumbuck was a small brick building which had been an observer post during WW2. Gradually it came nearer and nearer to the edge of the quarry, before it disappeared forever. I wonder if there's a photograph of it in an old album somewhere. Uncle John would tell stories of serving up on the hill, looking out for German bombers using the River Clyde to navigate up towards Clydebank.

This photo of Geils Avenue, looking west, is by Richard Webb, taken in 2009.

I remember well that Uncle John loved his garden. Roses and carnations (one of which you can see in the foreground of this pic) were his specialty, as well as blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes, which provided the fruit for the jams which Aunt Jenny made every year. I'm not sure exactly when this photo was taken, but it would have been in the early 1970s. I was amused to note that I still had a full head of hair then.

Memories, memories!

The top photo is © Danny Kearney, from the Geograph website and reused under a Creative Commons licence. Similarly the photo of Geils Avenue is © Copyright Richard Webb. Other photos are © Skip Cottage.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Annandale in Late Summer

It has been a lovely month, or rather make that, a lovely summer. The sun was shining this afternoon again, so, leaving the garden and other jobs well behind, I set out on a wee walk.

I didn't even need to get into the car, as this is my favourite local walk. Turn right out of Skip, walk down past the Bield, cross the railway at the bridge, and I'm on to what would have been the old road up to Langside. And today was just a perfect day!

It cannot be called autumn yet, but just look at the berries on this hawthorn!

This tree has seen some battles.

Think of the work that must have gone in to clearing this field of all these boulders.

It's a pleasant walk, dry underfoot this month, with the only obstacle, the Clatter Burn, now well bridged.

Looking towards the 'house on the hill'. This is Langside, which, when I say the name, always reminds me of happy times living in Battlefield, on the southside of Glasgow, which was so-called after the Battle of Langside in 1568, see here. As far as I am aware, this Langside has a much more peaceable history.

Nearing Langside, and looking north. Did I say it was a lovely day?

The path skirts Langside and just recently these signs have appeared. There's something about the 'Core Paths' project here.  Indeed if you follow the signs to Kirkhill, you will join the star attraction of the area, at Wamphray Glen.

 So, heading north again, and towards home.

Part of me says, "How sad." The other part of me says, "Firewood!"

The tree in the distance is something of a shrine for me. It's on a shorter walk, 'round the block' as it were, and I've photographed it many times.

If I have a favourite tree, then this is it - an old beech which stands alone on the side of a back road. Soon, the leaves will change colour, and fall, as the seasons march on.

I thought that perhaps the leaves had begun to drop already, but this is beech mast lying on the road. The chaffinches love it.

Just look at these rose hips! I am sure I caught on the radio that Debbie Harry was drinking rose hip tea with honey when Blondie performed at the recent concert in Hyde Park. The benefits are here.

(See 'Atomic', live in Hyde Park 2014, here, and performed at the Glasgow Apollo in 1979, here. Now, where have these thirty-five years gone?)

All safely gathered in!

Continuing in nature study mode, just look at this fungus growing at the base of a beech tree that was blown down last winter.

And that's me nearing home. I am SO lucky to live here in Annandale ... especially on days like today.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On the water

My rail excursion on the Bure Valley Railway, see here, had the option of a short cruise on the Broads from Wroxham. Not really my thing, I thought, but it turned out to be a most enjoyable ninety minutes or so, thanks to an informative commentary on board the 'Queen of the Broads', above.

There was an opportunity to see how the other half live - I did like these thatched cottages.

Some older boats too on were display. Reminded me of the adventures of the children in Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows and Amazons' books, two of which were set on the Norfolk Broads. One of these, 'Coot Club', is/was my second favourite Ransome book!*

And, since I mentioned the book, here are some coots we passed!

Not all the local wildlife took the invasion of their territory so calmly!

Entering Wroxham Broad. 

The Norfolk Broads Sailing Club is on Wroxham Broad, see here.

One shoreline of Salhouse Broad. Spot the wildlife!

On the River Bure.

Lots of families out enjoying the water. Many in fancy hired boats, but this one, Tahiti, caught my eye.

It was all very leisurely! As a holiday should be these days.

* What is/was my favourite ? 'We didn't mean to go to sea'!

Photos © Skip Cottage.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Bure Valley Railway

My day trip on the Bure Valley Railway began at Aylsham. It's a fifteen inch narrow gauge line between the market town of Aylsham and Wroxham, an eighteen mile round trip.

I arrived in time for the first train of the day, and was entertained to the sight of No 9, 'Mark Timothy', see here, being turned round.

There was time too for a chat with the two volunteer drivers on my trip to Wroxham. I was much taken by the friendliness of all the staff and volunteers on the BVR. Full marks!

Here is No 8, 'John of Gaunt', see here, getting a polish before its day's work on the line.

The East Norfolk Railway opened its branch line between Aylsham and Wroxham in 1880. Passenger traffic stopped in 1952, and the line closed completely in 1982. The narrow guage railway was laid along the old track bed, and opened in 1990.

It passes through pleasant countryside - it took me a little while to figure out that these were fields of sugar beet!

The line is single track with passing loops at Brampton, Hautbois and Coltishall.

Arrival at Wroxham.

I spent a few hours in Wroxham, and had a trip on the water (of which more later), and it was again No 9 to be the engine for my return to Aylsham later in the day.

What a lovely wee locomotive! The more narrow guage railways I visit, the more of a fan I become. I'm about to board for the good forty-five minute nine mile shoogle back to Aylsham.

Here's No 8, 'John of Gaunt', heading for Wroxham.

This was a great day out!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Steam in Norfolk

This was the sight that greeted me when I arrived at Holt Station for the first day of the North Norfolk Railway's steam gala weekend. It was the first day of my short holiday in Norfolk, and it had started off really well. I rode the 'Poppy Line' to Sheringham behind 'Black Prince'.

9F 2-10-0, No 92203 Black Prince, is on extended loan to the North Norfolk Railway, and played a big part in the steam gala.

It wasn't so long ago!

Here's 4MT 2-6-0, No 76084, running round at Sheringham.

Sheringham station before the crowds arrived!

Black 5 No 44767 ready to run back to Holt.

And here's the locomotive steaming away from Weybourne station

A comfortable set of carmine and cream coaches.

I spotted this in the gardens beside the station at Weybourne. I came over all nostalgic, remembering 'Watch with Mother' in the 1950s. Bill and Ben, and Weed, were great favourites, see here

What a beauty! A recent addition to the NNR's stable, this is one of the only two Thomson B1 locomotives in preservation. Read its history here.

A 'double-headed' arrival at Weybourne.

Mayflower at Holt.

Running round at Holt.

The driver of visiting locomotive, No 7820 Dinmore Manor, has time for a snack at Sheringham! Read about this locomotive at this website.

I was really impressed with the friendliness of all the staff and volunteers at the NNR. They certainly worked hard over the three days of the gala.

More to come from my Norfolk holiday!

Photos © Skip Cottage