Tuesday, 28 July 2020

when life gives you lemons go climb a hill fort


The morning is overcast grey and cool. I am planning the day’s walk. Deciding is sometimes difficult but itʼs always fun pouring over old maps and websties. Weʼll see. Breakfast on. Thatʼll help me decide. Pasta and eggs for some good fuel. Full tank for whatever comes under foot. Now tea - part of any good day. Yes, tea. Yes, yes, tea.

Mount Florida station. A wasp, its yellow and black abdomen, looks good along the blue of the ticket office paint scheme - happy accident. Languid from the cold it grips on hoping for an Indian summer or maybe even death. I donʼt know. In the ticket booth the man chained to the desk is knotted to his phone out of tiredness or something worse. I buy my ticket with little to no conversation. Grunt. Grunt. Aye.

Some gorges are made from shifting ice caps - long gone floods and gigantic rivers. Some are man made like train lines and routes. They both have similar topographic and geographic similarities the difference lies in the train tracks and the plants on the embankments. I wait in this gorge looking headlong and forlorn for the next ice age. Well at least a Mammoth.

On the train the announcements are blurred by an overenthusiastic driver and a past its best speaker. It sounds like the last cry of an Irish elk caught in some ditch in West Meath. The young people wear shirts that match their hair colour which are equal parts stupid and cool. Healthy soft and over fed. They whisper - which is always better than shouting like the train driver. One of them has a tote bag that reads ʻfighting animal testingʼ. I wonder if the driver of the train had almond milk with his porridge this morning? Two sixty. Ta, now.

Muirend, Williamwood, Whitecraigs, Patterton, Nielston. The landscape half digested by golf courses and the ill chosen architecture of housing developments. I hope all you fuckers get indigestion. Beautiful and violent in its ideology. A sentiment suited to innuendos in the shape and hue of brown envelopes. Genital and genitive indifference. Viaducts. Aqueducts. Rail bridges. Water for the towns - man made reservoirs. Bringing beasts, water and people to and from the city. So it is. The train picks up speed between Patterton and the last stop Nielston. 

Off the train. My feet sure. Sure that itʼs concrete. Clear cool air - you could spread it on toast. Cut grass. Cow shit. Soft morning. The sound of Saturday morning being played just out of view. Pass the fucking ball and all that. Time. Time. Luck up. Look up. Man on. You fucking...... Poems of the turf. Leave the station. Left down Kirkton Road. Good name. Good job town planners. Pass the Neilston Bowling club which is one part Bolshevik ode and another part Northern English working manʼs club. 

Further on a field on the other side of the road houses the stone from which Nielston derives its name - according to a leaflet from East Renfrewshire Council. The stone was erected in commemoration for an officer that died close by. Jackdaws and rooks overhead. Grass wet with dew and ghosts. I push on up through and into the Levern Valley. And on. Hedgerows. Hawthorns - red and green. Landscape becomes weird and old very quickly. Farms sitting on top of farms that sit on top of farms and so. Probably the bases of the earliest farmers in this part of the world. Hill forts, old stuff juts from hills and fields mixing with the pylons and the skeletons of modern farming - agricultural equipment and mowed fields. someone fires a gun behind one of the hills. In the corner of my eye I notice something fall from the sky. The gun repeatedly sounds until I get out of hearing distance.

The country road curves and rises through beech portals - old, real old, some dead standing covered in porcelain fungus busy winning the war. Soft drizzle. Wind picks up. Leave the country road at the Springfield Road junction into a field. So long concrete and tarmac. Cross the field. The grass long and wet. Real wet. My boots remind me they are three years old and have been round the clock at least once. The field narrows towards a gate between two patches of woods. From here Duncarnock fort above Glanderston is visible. A couple of swans take off so loudly they drown out the sound of lowing cows from the nearby farms.

Follow the dam around. The banks covered with yarrow, knapweed, thistles and private fishing signs. Ladybirds exclusively feeding and resting on the yarrow which is being fed on by aphids. A hedgerow of very old gnarly weather worn hawthorn leads me to the foot of the fort. 

When life gives you lemons climb something - hill forts are good. Duncarnock fort is situated on quite a tall natural out crop so its going to get the blood and lungs working. Ghosts as rocks jut here and there all the way up. I rush up not wanting to stall the steep ascent. And breath. A trig point, beautiful modern monolith in its own rite, sits like a little crown and that seems as good of a point as any to rest and take notes and some photographs. For a moment the clouds start to shift I look up quickly and get a blast of vertigo I touch the ground and close my eyes and all is well again. 

The thought of coming back down in sunshine is a short lived fantasy. Circle round the remains of the fort. A clear lip around it gives one the sense of the walls. The middle is like a crater of sorts taking over by a micro bog like area - rushes, bilberry, sour grass and the usual acidic loving plants. A soft stillness up here. The sounds of the not so distant M77 a soft bee drone, pylon hum, trickling water, wind through tall grass and the sound of birds protecting their nests.

On the way back down the rain god remembers his job. At times like this I become aware of my glasses. Heavy drizzle. Head right at the dam this time coming back to Neilston in a loop. In a field facing the reservoir a young bullock is staring me down. He has only one eye and the markings on his face are in the shape of South America. Iʼve a feeling weʼll meet again if he doesnʼt become a hamburger. Hedgerows subtle along this stretch with splashes of purples in harebells, scabious and the darker tones of blackberries. Paused by ditches full of tall willow herb going to seed. The flame passes to the next candle. The walls around the farms, fields and roads is built with the salvaged stone from the fort. Common practice in rural areas everywhere I have been and the leading reason why hill forts, castles and similar buildings are in the state that they are in.

Along Johnny Blueʼs well Road. A moment to look at the well that is full of sunflower offerings. Story goes that Johnny was a local print worker. On his way home he would wash the blue ink off himself at this well. Speaking of blues the fields facing the well have been cut in the last few days and the swallows, that were late arriving this year, are also late leaving and are getting a good feed before the impending cross continent journey. I join them for a moment in their feast - they scarfing insects, me stuffing handfuls of perfectly ripe blackberries in my pie hole. A fellow walker passes by we comment on the weather -what else can we talk about? It doesnʼt know what itʼs doing, I unwillingly agree. Of course the weather knows what itʼs doing. But I didnʼt want to dry snitch the weather god - snitches get stitches and all that. Not far from the town now so I put my hood back up and plough on.

Quick fuel up in the co-op. Nielston has a wonderful main street full of old buildings too wet to fully appreciate today. Make my way to the train station. The train waiting for me - it leaves in five minutes. Perfect. I take my seat and adjust my gear. A man is whistling - I hope he stops or gets off at the next stop before I set the weather gang on him. The train leaves. His whistling is now out of time too. He stops as more people get on at Patterton - he doesnʼt like a big crowd. The old ladyʼs perfume takes the seat next to me. And home.

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