A WALK WITH FORK (a slightly longer read)

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Bunhouse to Castlebank – round and about the River Kelvin with Lyn Dunachie (of Friends of the River Kelvin, FORK)

Good Friday 10 April 2020

Good Friday -perfect weather for a walk. And as it’s the day to enjoy Hot Cross Buns, so where better to begin than Bunhouse Road.

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Starting at Bunhouse Road near Kelvin Hall

I had walked east, along Dumbarton Road to Partick Bridge.  The river here marked the boundary between the City of Glasgow and the Burgh of Partick, once two separate towns. In the Dark ages after the Vikings had sacked Dumbarton, Partick was a centre for the Kings of Strathclyde, but that’s another story. Partick became part of Glasgow in 1912.

I stood with one foot in Partick and one in Glasgow facing the University and saw another bridge, the Snow Bridge. This carried the main road from Dumbarton to Glasgow for many years.



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Snow Bridge built in 1797

The Snow Bridge was built in1797. Gates in the middle could open and snow that had been cleared from the street could be tipped into the river.  When trams replaced horse drawn vehicles, the new road was laid.  Partick Bridge was built then to straighten the road.

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Kelvin Hall

From here, I crossed to the Kelvin Hall. I remember it being Glasgow’s Exhibition Centre and Concert Hall. Each Christmas the Carnival and Circus came to the Kelvin Hall. Since 2016 it has been “an exciting new centre of cultural excellence providing access to collections, temporary displays, teaching and research, alongside a state-of-the-art Glasgow Club health and fitness centre.”  Today, because of Corvid 19, it is shut.

The car park between Bunhouse Road and the river was empty.   I had a good view of Partick Bridge.One of its spandrels is decorated with the Coat of Arms of the Burgh of Partick, showing ships, a castle and a mitre – the hat a bishop wears in church. A wheat sheaf and millstones give a clue to the name BUN house Road.

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Partick Bridge – Partick Burgh Coat of Arms

There used to be a tavern known as the “”Bun and Yill House” or bread and beer house around here. The website www.theglasgowstory.com tells us “The Bunhouse was the favourite tavern of a group of Glasgow merchants, bankers and professors. They would walk out to Partick from the city each Saturday to dine on roasted duck, sage and onion and green peas, washed down with locally-brewed ale. Their favourite dish gave the name to the drinking and social club they formed in 1810, the Duck Club of Partick.” This tavern had a garden leading down to the river where a pear tree was rented out every year to the highest bidder who could then sell the pears at a profit.  (This may be an urban myth!)

The power to grind the grain to make flour to bake the bread to feed the people of Glasgow came from the flow of water that turned the wheels in the mills in this part of the River Kelvin. Where I was standing was the spot where one of the oldest mills had been. A blackbird was singing. Two mallards were flirting, the female duck pretending to be shy, not very conspicuous in mottled brown, but bright blue flashes on her wings show up well as she fluffed up her feathers. The drake, her glamorous suiter, preened and circled showing off his fine spring colours.

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Partick Bridge – Glasgow Coat of Arms

Glasgow’s Coat of Arms on my side of the bridge was more difficult to photograph.  I had to lean round a pair of strange domed structures beside a big pipe crossing the river.

The pipe is a sewage pipe. Other domed structures around an ornate red sandstone building that faces Dumbarton Road are part of the Partick Pumping Station. This is where waste water and the contents of Glasgow’s toilets are pumped through the pipes  to a treatment centre at Dalmuir. It was built in 1904 in Scottish Renaissance style and described as: “Richly carved red sandstone shell, hygienic white-glazed brick within.”


Partick Pumping Station

The pipe is a sewage pipe. Other domed structures around an ornate red sandstone building that faces Dumbarton Road are part of the Partick Pumping Station. This is where waste water and the contents of Glasgow’s toilets are pumped through the pipes  to a treatment centre at Dalmuir. It was built in 1904 in Scottish Renaissance style and described as: “Richly carved red sandstone shell, hygienic white-glazed brick within.”

I’ve been inside on an “Open Doors” day. It was very smelly and often still is in summer. I asked the man who was showing us round if he minded the smell and he assured me you get used to it after about ten years. On my walk, it wasn’t smelly, thankfully!

Glasgow’s sewage system is in the process of being upgraded. This is taking much longer and proving more difficult than anyone expected.

Sewage Waste

After a heavy rainfall the river usually floods. The old sewage pipes can’t take all the water going down the drains at the roadsides. So, to prevent the pipes bursting, there are outlets that empty this waste water and Glasgow’s sewage into the river. Nature can usually cope with normal sewage – but some people use their toilets as waste disposers and flush away all sorts of things from wet wipes, sanitary towels to cotton buds and disposable nappies. All of these things head downstream where they cause damage to sea creatures. When the flood stops and the river lowers again, such items remain stuck to the bushes and river banks for us all to see.

I’ve not mentioned the plants. Spring is my favourite time for plants. The trees are wakening up from their winter rest and buds are bursting. Sometimes flowers appear first. Sometimes new, light leaves unfold and stretch out, ready to catch the sunlight before city traffic makes them dark and dusty.

The willows that we twisted to make wreaths at Christmas, had, just weeks ago, soft silvery catkins, We call them pussy willows because they are like kitten’s paws. Now they have burst into yellow pollen loaded flowers. At the same time wild cherry blossom is blowing in the air and scattering on the ground.

I could see, behind the big block of students’ residences, the only old mill building that still stands.

Bishop’s Mill was built in 1839 on the site of a 1664 mill which had been burned down. It worked until the 1960s and in 1987 was converted into an apartment block with twenty flats. The roof has stone wheat sheaves at each end, still there from the days when the mill ground wheat into flour.

By now, I was too near the expressway for comfort. More traffic than I’d heard for a while was speeding along.  So I turned back under the railway into Castlebank Street. Did I mention there had been a castle at Partick? The story of that, like those Vikings, will need to wait for another day.

Easter bunnies
Queues of people and of Easter Bunnies at Lidl

Returning to today’s strange times I saw  a long, long queue of people with shopping trollies spacing themselves obediently 2 metres apart,  outside Lidl.

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From this point I took a detour away from the river up a hill and over Yorkhill Park then down by the railway line. Along the way, I enjoyed the hedge of blackthorn bushes and the black buds of ash trees starting to burst into flower.

So far,  there was no sign of the dreaded Ash dieback disease that threatens to wipe out some of the most beautiful trees in Europe, but I’ve heard it has reached Glasgow. www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/tree-pests-and-diseases/key-tree-pests-and-diseases/ash-dieback/

centurion waySome time ago an excavation found some Roman artefacts on this hill:  “fragments of coarse pottery, pieces of whitish glass, two bronze finger-rings and a ‘first brass’ of Trajan.” At first, archaeologists thought there may have been a Roman fort there. More recently, they reckon that the fort was made by “natives” – perhaps even Picts from Partick? And the Roman bits and pieces maybe just fell off the back of a Pictish chariot!

However, I discovered I’d been walking along what is now called Centurion Way, so someone thinks that Romans have been here.

Now, going under the railway bridge I could just see the Tall Ship  moored where the Kelvin meets the Clyde at Riverside Museum. Across the Clyde the Govan Old Parish Church came into view  The Church is home to ancient carved stones and Viking tombs and well worth a visit on its own.

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