Entry for 3 March 2010:
After a long and welcome sleep, I finally get out for a longish run last Saturday morning. With all the cold weather we’ve been getting, it isn’t surprising that the canal was still pretty iced over. (Coldest winter in 30 years, said the newspaper headline last week, while displaying a photo from 1955, of people sledging across the ice on Loch Lomond to deliver the mail.) The swans live along the canal all year, so I am more amused than startled when I come up behind a couple of them, carefully striding along the ice with a curious back and forth wading motion, as they tranverse the sippery surface from one patch of ice-free water to the next, about 50 yards distant.
After returning home, I pull out our 25 Walks Around Glasgow book to identify a suitable destination for the day, which is rapidly disappearing underneath the Saturday morning dallying over break, paper, shower etc. Strathclyde Country Park looks doable, however, so we print off directions and information and are off.
Strathclyde Country Park is not the prettiest of the regional council parks in the Glasgow area, centring as it does around the large artificial Strathclyde Loch and primarily featuring a medium-size “theme park”. (I can’t tell exactly what the theme is, unless maybe it’s pirate ships.) This, however, is not our destination; instead, I have my heart set on a walk up the Calder Water.
But before that, we want to take in the ruins of the Roman bathhouse, which turns out to located next to the mouth of the Calder Water where it flows into the loch. The Roman bathhouse is a bit bigger than our local one in Bearsden, with two levels of warm room (tepidarium). Unfortunately, it is no longer sitting on its original site, having been moved up a bit to escape the rising waters of the loch when the latter was created. Nevertheless, the foundations and walls have been carefully reassembled and are quite evident. We happily roam over the site taking photos and imagining the Roman soldiers scraping off the mud from a day’s march south from the Antonine Wall in Glasgow, working their way up through the levels of heat to hottest (calidarium) before returning to jump into the cold plunge bath at the end.
I suddenly remember visiting the hotbaths at the Tassajara Hot Springs, south of Carmel Valley, as a child: My dad is initiating me into the ritual of the hot baths, and I am nervously easing myself into the bubbling, smelly hot water at his urging. He tells me to imagine all the toxins coming out through my pores into the water. After soaking a bit, he leads me to the cold plunge bath, telling me that this is necessary in order “close your pores” so as not to get chilled we emerge into the fresh air again. I’m even more wary of this than the hot bath, but I grit my teeth and jump in after him. It’s quite a shock, but afterwards I have a sense of triumph, and feel a bit more grown-up.
After several false starts and the discovery that my Glasgow walks book is out of date (the cute arched 19th century “Roman Bridge” has been closed, presumably for health and safety reasons), we eventually locate the path. At the beginning it runs at some distance from the Calder Water, along the edge of Motherwell, past football pitches (i.e., soccer fields) and housing estates, but eventually the path veers off into the forest, and we gradually descend toward the Calder Water gorge. Before long, we come upon the enormous stone arches of a great viaduct spanning the gorge: This is the Orbiston Viaduct, over which the West Coast line passes on it way south from Glasgow. I have ridden over this viaduct many, many times, and when I happened to look out the window when we crossed it, shortly before reaching Motherwell, I always thought we were crossing the River Clyde rather than the Calder Water. Another connection made!
We take lots of photos of the viaduct, which is relatively easy to see with the trees still bare at this time of year. Then we continue up the Calder Water, finally descending to a path that runs right next to it. There is a roaring in the distance, and then we arrive at a large weir, where the water plunges dramatically. Above and below the weir, the water is quite calm, almost tranquil, but not here.
Walking further, we pass a man, with a dog, fishing on the other side of the river. Then the path bends away from the river and ascends, until we reach a pedestrian bridge that takes us over to the other side of the river, and we follow the path back down from whence we came, as the sun sinks lower in the west. Along the way pass the man and dog again; the man is digging for earthworms or grubs, then we pass under the Orbiston Viaduct again, red sandstone cliffs on either side and follow the path up to the cliffs. We also pass a clump of older men, with a large collection of bottles of various kinds of alcohol, standing around drinking. Diane is surprised and disturbed by this scene, but it is very familiar to me from runs along the canal in Glasgow, where there is usually a similar collection of sad, seedy-looking people hanging out near Ruchill. After we pass by, she remarks,“But they are so old! I thought it was just kids that did that.” “They’ve probably been drinking since they were kids,” I observe.
After this, we follow the path through the park and finally down to the main road and the parking lot. There is still enough light left for a trip to See Woo, the enormous big box Asian grocery where we buy 20 lbs of California sushi rice, a little bit of home to cook in our rice maker. It’s been another lovely Saturday Adventure, all the more welcome because I’ve been travelling so much lately that we’ve missed out on quite a few. For me, such days are a little bit of heaven, a blessing, part of the ever-growing web of our experience of Scotland.