Ulog 17: A cycle ride to the Dug CaféSeptember 6, 2018
I fell and sprained my ankle about 10 days ago, so hillwalking is out for the next week or two. I thought a cycle ride would be a good way to exercise the ankle without it having to support my entire body weight.
I used to cycle a lot – I commuted to work every day on my bike for several years. But that was a long time ago. However I recently inherited a bike – called Betsy – from a friend who tried cycling once and hated it.
So a couple of days ago, me and Betsy set off for a ride along the Forth & Clyde canal, from Glasgow to Bowling, nine miles away, where the canal ends.
We cycled alongside the River Kelvin, and then up to Maryhill Locks, where the canal crosses the Kelvin Aqueduct.
The Forth & Clyde canal and the aqueduct were constructed in the 1780s, but the canal was closed in 1963, falling into a state of dereliction. It was regenerated using National Lottery money in the early 2000s, along with the Union canal that runs from Falkirk to Edinburgh.
Birds have returned to the canal, with swans, cormorants and the odd heron frequenting the area.
The heron was being very still, and from a distance it looked like a strange statue.
Unfortunately there is a danger that the canals could fall into disrepair once more. Three lift bridges on the Forth & Clyde canal and one on the Union canal have been closed to boat traffic or restricted, due to safety issues. Campaigners are calling for more investment.
The area used to be quite unpleasant before the regeneration took place, and now it’s busy with walkers, cyclists and people fishing.
I passed the man above a few times as he cycled along, stopping now and again to do some fishing.
At Clydebank there is a monument celebrating the opening of cycle route 754. I contributed to its development, donating a small amount of money every week for years to Sustrans, the charity that developed the National Cycle Network.
I did it because I love cycling and wanted to see better cycle paths. I’ve become very disillusioned with governments and where exactly our tax money goes, and I think this kind of funding could be a way forward in the future.
I stopped to have lunch by the canal at Clydebank, not far from the busy Clyde Shopping Centre. As I ate, a man came up and asked me for money. Sadly, Clydebank, like many parts of Glasgow, has a very visible problem with drug and alcohol abuse. I once saw a woman, probably no more than 35 years old, sitting outside the doors to the shopping centre, drunkenly slugging back a bottle of wine, at 3pm.
These problems seem to have their roots in deindustrialisation to some extent. The shipbuilding industry, once of enormous importance to Glasgow and the British Empire, was centred around here, and with its decline came joblessness and poverty.
I write this because I don’t want to gloss over these issues. The canal runs through some of Greater Glasgow’s poorer areas, areas that have been ignored for years and allowed to fall into disrepair. Its regeneration has been a great thing in my opinion, giving local people a place to walk, exercise and play in places that you might have felt very uncomfortable visiting a couple of decades ago.
After my refreshment break, I cycled on. I had to cross Dumbarton Road at Dalmuir, just outside Clydebank, where the canal runs underneath the road.
Across the road, from here, you can see the Beardmore Sculpture, created by Tom McKendrick in 2010 to commemorate the Beardmore Naval Construction Works, which was in operation for less than 25 years, from 1906 to 1930. The sculpture was built from components of the dreadnought Ramillies.
Shortly afterwards, the Erskine Bridge loomed into view.
The Erskine Bridge spans the River Clyde, and when it was first opened, in 1971, it was the longest bridge of its type in the world.
The canal passes under the bridge at Old Kilpatrick.
It’s a very scenic spot, but someone had decided to throw a can of Irn Bru, “Scotland’s other national drink” in the water. Typical!
The lady at the right of this photo was cycling with her pet dog in the bike basket. They were heading for the Dug Café at Bowling.
There wasn’t much further to go now – Bowling was just 2 km away, according to the milestone.
For some reason, all the ducks seemed to be gathered at this spot.
At last, the marina at Bowling came into view. Bowling is where the Forth & Clyde canal meets the wide estuary of the River Clyde, and you can smell the sea here.
The owner of this boat had evidently retired.
Bowling is a quiet little hamlet at the foot of the Kilpatrick hills. From this standpoint you could completely forget the busy A82 dual carriageway that separates Bowling from the hills.
At last, I reached the Dug Café. I love “dugs”, but I don’t own one, so it’s nice to sit in a café that’s full of them. However, today I was to be disappointed. The only canine customer was the one being transported in the basket on the bike I’d passed earlier, but she was just having a takeaway.
I enjoyed a mocha and a slice of rocky road, and went on my way.
As it was my first lengthy cycle in quite a while, I had a few aches and pains on my way back, mostly around the sitting area! But it was a lovely day, and I thoroughly enjoyed it – apart from a comedy fall right at the end.
I was just leaving the canal at Maryhill, inching my way slowly round a very sharp bend that would take me down to the main road, when Betsy went into a slow skid, tipping me over uncontrollably.
I fell backwards into a kind of shallow pit full of nettles and thistles, where I flailed about like a beetle on its back trying to get up. There was nothing to hold onto to lever myself up – only jaggy thistles and nettles. My small backpack saved some of my skin from nettle rash and thorns.
A couple of men out jogging passed by and helped me up. The palm of my hand was full of thorns and there was a bit of bleeding, but I felt no pain – only embarrassment! The kind men clearly realised this – one of them assured me that he’d “done the same thing many times” and the other one said: “Well done you for just getting back up on your bike again!”