Tuesday, 16 July 2019

On Saturday 29th June, eight Biggar Ramblers, led by Lynn Weir, set off to explore the twenty-two bridges (which carry vehicles, pedestrians or trains) across the River Clyde from the Millennium Bridge (completed in 2002) at the Science Centre to the Dalmarnock Bridge (completed in 1891) approximately five miles up river. An added bonus was the sight of two of the “Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail” statues.
The walk started off in a quite urbanised area, through the International Financial Services District of Glasgow and past the City Centre before entering the parklands of Glasgow Green where the surroundings changed and almost became a rural walk alongside the Clyde. You could easily forget you were still within the boundaries of the City of Glasgow. Despite being billed as a city walk much wildlife was encountered with a heron, cormorant and greylag goose being spotted. Wild flowers were also in abundance but it was noted that the invasive, but pretty, Himalayan Balsam and extensive areas of Giant Hogweed was also presence.
A pleasant walk was had and we managed to get back to the train station before the thunderstorm that had been grumbling away all day finally made an appearance.
The oldest bridge we encountered was 166 years old, the newest one only four years old, however many of the bridges have been rebuilt over the years with the Victoria Bridge (completed in 1854) being built on the site of the first recorded timber bridge across the Clyde in Glasgow – this was believed to have existed in 1285 as it was mentioned in Henry the Minstrel’s epic poem on Sir William Wallace.

The Glasgow’s Clyde bridges use a variety of materials, timber, stone, cast iron, wrought iron, steel reinforced concrete and stressed concrete and almost all bridge types are represented – beam, beam and slab (with solid girders, lattice girders or box girders), the arch, the tied bowstring arch, the suspension bridge, the cable stayed bridge and the balanced cantilever. Some famous names have also been involved in the construction of some of the bridges predecessors, namely Thomas Telford, James Watt and Robert Stevenson (grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson)
The walk of 20th March required a change of plan owing to the road closure. It was therefore decided to go on the Queen's Jubilee Walk at Coalburn, following the road used by the now defunct Dalquhandy Open Cast Mine, which opened in the late 1980's and became the biggest mine in Europe by the early 1990s. Deer were noticed early in the walk and then Wallace's Cave was pointed out. We eventually reached 3R Energy premises where discarded timber is converted to electricity and sold to the grid. We then walked along a newly mown path heading for Weston. Pam pointed out the cinnabar moth with it,s lovely orange colouring. Lunch was taken next to the Poniel Burn where the distinct call of the cuckoo was heard. The Greenshields Graveyard was well tended and then a lovely garden pond was encountered with lots of beautiful pink and white water lilies. The huge Dewar's whiskey bond was noted before reaching the main road and following it past a herd of Alpacas and back to Coalburn. The weather was kind with some drizzle and the walk covered six mies. Cairn Lodge, with its farm shop, provided lovely coffee and cake for the nine waters who had taken part in the walk.

Biggar Ramblers at Striding Arches.
The striding arches at Cairnhead, Moniaive are a group of 4 sandstone arches, each 7 metres wide.  They were constructed by artist and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy with one in the valley built into an old byre and the other three on the surrounding hilltops.  It was an objective of Brian Henry to lead Biggar Ramblers on a circuit of all 4 arches and 3 years of planning came to fruition on 16th June.  Five walkers set off from an isolated location in the valley and walked 1½ miles to the Byre Arch.  Seeing the arch which has one base inside the Byre and the other base outside led the group to wonder how it was built.  After a coffee stop at the Byre the group continued along the valley turning up beside a burn and then through firebreaks to come out onto Little Dibbin Hill.  A fox was seen quickly departing the open ground for the safety of the forest.  Continuing upwards to ascend Benbrack the next arch was reached during heavy rain.  The route then continued on the Southern Upland Way for nearly 2 miles and continued to the ascent of Colt Hill and the third arch.  After Colt Hill a decision had to be made depending on the extent of fallen trees that has blocked this route during the planning stages.  The way was still definitely blocked and the group detoured back into the forest and the road rejoining the hills after adding ¾ mile onto the day.  It was then just over a mile to the 4th and final arch on Bail Hill.  It was from this point that it is possible to see all 4 arches albeit the arch at the Byre is actually on the opposite side of the building.  Descent from the arch was through a firebreak in the forest and the descent was 900 feet from the arch to the valley floor.  When the group came to the end of the firebreak and with 200 feet still to go the car could be seen but it was surrounded by  herd of cows!