Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Tidal weir illuminations

I don’t usually get a chance to see the River Clyde tidal weir in the dark, so catching it at this time of year is (for me) a rare chance to see it with all its lights on.

I’m used to seeing it in daylight, and it’s interesting to have a close-up look at its detail, but I hadn’t realised it had quite so many lights attached. So many, even in ‘darkness’, it’s easy to take a hand-held shot.

There used to be a well-known (in its day) ship builder (Thomas B Seath and Co of Rutherglen) upriver of the weir. Completed vessels had to sail down the river and have their journey timed to catch high tide so that they could pass over the weir. I can’t recall the name, but I recently read of the last vessel to make this trip, the largest at some 200 feet in length, so long it almost got stuck on the weir, and took a number of attempts to get it over the weir.

But they made it.

Clyde tidal weir at night

Clyde tidal weir at night

January 5, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

2107 starts

1 January 2017 was a little odd (compared to most), as I tend to take a ‘standard walk’ on the first day of the new year, and this often entails ‘forcing’ myself to go out. I recent years the weather has either been sodden with a steady downpour (at least not usually accompanied by howling gales), or frozen, together with snow of varying depths.

This year, it was almost a warm summer day – or at least around +5° C – and almost wind free.

The walk generally ends at Daldowie Crematorium, which was a little more interesting than usual, as the access road was in pieces, nearing the finish of seemingly endless works that have been crawling along for months, to add a new slip road to the M74. Maybe it will be finished by the time of next year’s Jan 1 walk.

The foundation stone of the crematorium building seems to be getting harder to photograph – maybe the cleaners should give it some attention. Patina may be nice, but it looks as if the plaque is beginning to decay a little, so perhaps a little gentle cleaning may be in order, occasionally.

Daldowie Foundation Stone

Daldowie Foundation Stone

While I’m there, I usually can’t resist a wander down to the River Clyde, just to see if anything has happened.

A few years ago, I found a makeshift hide, but it was abandoned, and has now disappeared completely (I think the branch on the left was being used as a support).

River Clyde Daldowie Bend

River Clyde Daldowie Bend

It was also slightly unusual to be able to see where I was going, as the scene below is usually just plain white thanks to the snow cover, so navigation is by memory (or following other footprints).

Daldowie River Clyde Corner

Daldowie River Clyde Corner

With the relative ease of access this year, there was also an opportunity to take a quick look at the abandoned World War II ‘tank traps’ or road blocks. These concrete cylinders were intended to be placed on road and routes to interfered with tanks and other vehicles, had a German invasion ever taken place, and disrupt easy movement of the enemy.

After the war, they were abandoned and dumped, so can turn up in odd places, with no obvious reason for their presence.

Daldowie Clyde Tank Traps

Daldowie Clyde Tank Traps

2017 might be better than 2016…

Black cat spotted on the first day!

Black Cat Hamilton Rd

Black Cat Hamilton Rd

January 1, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | 1 Comment

Discovering the Clyde

A new project has been announced by RCAHMS – Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland – RCAHMS

It will be interesting to see what it comes up with, since I’d have thought just about everything that could be dug up about the river had been, and was published somewhere, thanks to the heritage of all the sites along its route.

But you never know what you don’t know, so hopefully it will find some gems over the next few years.

From what I’ve seen, plenty has been lost from the banks of the river over the years, both in terms of the industries which it supported, and the ‘big houses’ that once enjoyed the view along its banks. I’ve been amazed to look at old books, and learn just how many rich merchants, traders, businessmen etc had their homes there, and nearly all have been demolished over the years.

There was the shell of one at the back of Belvidere (hospital) that was known as the Doctor’s House. but this was destroyed for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, to make way for some modern houses. First, the building was stripped to be a bare stone shell which stood for a few years, then when I passed recently, that had been razed, and foundations laid for new housed on the ground. Another ‘Lasting Legacy’ of the dopey games.

Discovering the Clyde is a 5-year programme that’s designed to improve understanding of how humans have created, been affected, changed and been changed by the River Clyde. A series of projects will examine aspects of the river from its source to the sea. We invite you to use this website to discover new ways of looking at the river, and start to create new ideas about the heritage of this amazing 176km long thread of history.

What will it do?

Through fieldwork, desk-based research, and messing about in the river, the programme will stimulate a flow of ideas and information about the historic environment of the river and people’s interactions with it. It will do this through a range of projects that will research the physical historical remains; data and archive material, and through engagement with local people, people with particular interests – and anybody who wants to get involved.

Who’s taking part?

The programme will generate information for a broad range of users and interested parties; from cultural heritage managers to planners and historic environment researchers; from academics to the public. Everyone can benefit from the fascinating discoveries and stories that will be revealed as the programme unfolds.

Get involved

We need your help to complete the programme projects. Whether you live near the Clyde, have an interest in the historic environment or work for an organisation with shared objectives, we want to hear from you. Find out more about how you can get involved.

Via Discovering the Clyde

Dalmarnock Clyde

The Clyde at Dalmarnock

August 9, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Glasgow’s sunken Dalek

When I had some spare time in Glasgow a while ago, I came across some cats in murals.

At the same time, I spotted a Dalek in another mural nearby, but it was too late to get any pics.

I had to go back recently, and managed to remember to detour along the road and catch the missing pic – I think the idea of it being lost in the river is quite good.

Dalek mural

Dalek mural

It’s part of set:

Dalek mural context

Dalek mural context

June 15, 2014 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Clyde Weir on a dry day

I forgot I had collected some pics of the weir on the River Clyde next to Glasgow Green.

These were taken a few weeks ago, so I’m guessing that once the recent rain started – and forgot to stop – this scene looked a little different.

It took a moment for me to realise what had drawn my attention to the weir, as I’ve seen it quite regularly and almost don’t notice it at all in passing, but on this day I noticed that there was no water flowing over any of the gates. As far as I could recall, this was something I hadn’t noticed before, and more notable because there was not water running at all. I have noticed that while there may be no flow over the main gates, there’s often still a small run at the edges.

In engineering terms the weir is described as an underflow tidal sluice, having  three adjustable gates, each is 80 feet long and 12 feet high.

While most rivers gradually turn from fresh to salt water as they flow towards the sea, the tidal weir on the River Clyde means that the change from fresh to salt water takes place abruptly, at the line of the weir itself.

Given the comment below, I should perhaps clarify my intended point here, which is intended to draw attention to the fact that the transition from fresh to salt cannot begin until the fresh river water passes the weir, after which it mixes with the salty sea water and gradually changes from fresh to salt as it heads for the Atlantic. Above the weir the water remains fresh, since the sea water cannot travel past the weir.

I also notice what appears to be a set of steps built into the gate on the left (the end that lies against the bank on the Glasgow Green side), usually hidden by the water running over this gate.

Clyde Weir 01

Clyde Weir 01

Clyde Weir 02

Clyde Weir 02

Clyde Weir 03

Clyde Weir 03



March 23, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | 1 Comment

The flooded Clyde at Cambuslang

I’ve noticed the shallow bank of the River Clyde at Cambuslang before, but this is probably the first time I’ve been there at a time which shows the after effect of the swollen river, no doubt resulting from the recent amounts of rain we have received recently.

This particular view is seen over the edge of the road bridge next the the industrial estate, where one of the banks is very shallow, and would be interesting to see when the river is running in spate. All but the strongest trees and bushes have been washed over, and the ground is coated with silt.

It would be interesting to witness this as it happens, but the chances of this are low, as I’m just too far to walk there comfortably in the sort weather likely to produce this result, which is a pity. When it does happen, it almost double the apparent width of the river here, which would be a nice pic to catch. Maybe one day.

I saw the same evidence of the river breaking its banks behind Daldowie Crematorium, where the river is only a matter of minutes away from the gardens. I was surprised at how dry and firm the ground was, as it had clearly been overcome by the water, the soft undergrowth had been forced flat by the current, and silt still covered large areas – and was best avoided, as it was very soft.

River Clyde flood bank

River Clyde flood bank

While I was there, I noticed a sign for the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Project.

Not particularly interesting in its own right, its presence is at least worthy of comment, since I came across the Fire and Rescue Project a while ago.

Back then, given the way the entrance to the place seemed to buried at the back of the industrial area, I was thinking any service personnel sent there would be likely to get lost before the fund the way in.

Fire and Rescue sign

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Project sign


February 4, 2014 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Second CalMac hybrid ferry to be named Lochinvar

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

We previously noted the imminent arrival of hybrid ferries to the Clyde, and the completion of the first of a pair pioneered by CalMac when the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00, which marked the start of  new era. The hybrids are able to carry up to 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, and travel at 9 knots.

The second of the pair has had its name of MV Lochinvar released by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), and like Hallaig, was built at Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd in Port Glasgow and is due to be launched in May. Lochinvar’s route will service Tarbert and Portavadie.

The names of all ships in the new hybrid fleet will follow the first vessel, the MV Hallaig, and be named after Scottish literature.

Hundreds of people voted for the new name and Lochinvar received over 55% of the votes cast.

The name comes from an excerpt of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion written in 1808. The stanzas telling the story of “young Lochinvar” particularly caught the public imagination and were widely published in anthologies, and learned as a recitation piece by many school children.

Via New hybrid ferry named MV Lochinvar after Sir Walter Scott poem | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Sir Walter Scott, “Young Lochinvar”

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I found the River Clyde’s On/Off Switch (not)

I try to avoid mentioning the weather, as it makes an easy target, but the past week or so has just been miserable, and made all the more so by the pleasant weather that preceded it.

I find it almost hard to believe that it was only a matter of days ago I was happily wandering about in bright sunlight under almost cloudless skies, and wandering into places not seen for some time. It wasn’t even particularly cold, even when the wind blew.

Now, I just look at the assorted variations and combinations of rain, sleet, and snow bouncing off my windows, and the fierce and freezing north-easterly wind gusts which are driving them. It seems to be wet all the time, or when the temperature drops a little more, there always seem to be snowflakes floating around – when the wind lets them settle. I don’t even feel like stepping out of doors if I have to, let alone go and explore some interesting location on foot.

I like to wander through the gardens at Daldowie Crematorium, as this give easy access to the wilder parts of the banks of the River Clyde, not accessed by the walkway or cycle route that encroaches on most of this space. While I don’t want to generalise, and the vast majority of cyclist met there just amble along and smile or say “Hello” or “Hi”, there seems to be a small core that think the route is theirs by right, and anyone walking on it has no right to be there, and they speed along like some sort of ‘silent death’, not even deigning to ring their bells as they pass as fast and as close to walkers as they can, with a scowl on their face if they have lost pace. They need to waken up to the damage they are doing to the attitude many form against cyclists in general.

So, there I was wandering along the river at the big bend near the Rotten Calder. It’s some time since I took this route, and the area was then buried in snow, so it was interesting to see it in the clear once again, notably with much clearance work underway, improving visibility and making it look even better.

Heading towards the river, I caught the toe of my shoe in some loose turf, and when I looked down, was surprised to see that this chance trip had actually uncovered some sort of artefact – at first glance, a yellow box with a button in the middle, which I would have taken to be some sort of switch… had I been in my more usual working environment of the electrical engineering department of some factory or other:

The yellow box

The yellow box

Before I got down for a closer look, being an electrical engineer, I was already looking around automatically to see what might possibly need a switch, but I already knew there was nothing anywhere nearby that such a thing might have belonged to, so I knew my first thought had to be wrong.

A closer look revealed the truth, and the artefact is a Raised Head Ground Marker. This is the head of a steel spike that can be up to 500 mm long, driven into the ground to provide a fixed reference point for surveying instruments, assisted by the concentric rings which can be seen in the grey plastic cap:

Clyde ground mark

Clyde ground mark

So, no switch, no wires, just a spike:

Ground mark

Ground mark

Still… it was fun to think that it just might have been the mythical switch that turned the River Clyde on and off.

March 26, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scotland pioneers hybrid ferries, but could it go for battery as well?

I hadn’t realised it was just over a year to the day that I had first noticed and written about the pioneering hybrid ferries had commissioned, and were to be built in our very own Scottish shipyards – Fergusons Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow to be exact.

I won’t repeat the story behind these new ferries and their operation (you may read the original post here: The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real where links are given to the manufacturers description of the concept and its operation) , other than to say the two vessels are described as the world’s first sea-going roll-on roll-off vehicle and passenger diesel-electric hybrid ferries.

The first of the two hybrid ferries was completed recently, and the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00. The vessel is almost 150 feet long, and can accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars, or two heavy goods vehicles.

The launch was recorded by someone lucky enough to work at the yard, and get a privileged position:

See also: ‘Hybrid’ CalMac ferry launched from Port Glasgow

Completion for delivery into service with CalMac is expected to be completed during early 2013, with the new ferry expected to come into service on the route between Skye and Raasay next summer, following fitting out, testing and certification. Trial are expected to take place in April/May, with the handover taking place in May.

Hallaig has its own page on the excellent Ships Of CalMac web site.

So, since we appear to have a reasonably well thought out and Scottish-made hybrid ferry (and another in the pipeline) ready to go into service, why did I refer to battery operation in the title?

Battery ferries

While Scotland has its ‘world first’ as its first hybrid car ferry gets set to enter operation…

I have recently come across another ‘world first’ in the form of the first car ferry powered by a purely electric drive system, as reported by Siemens on January 9, 2013.

Working together with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, Siemens announced development of the world’s first electrically powered car ferry, known as ZeroCat. Larger than Hallaig, their 80-metre (260 foot) vessel can accommodate up to 360 passengers and 120 cars, so is not only fully electric, but in a different class, given its ability to carry so many passengers.

Battery ferry

ZeroCat battery ferry – Siemens press picture

Due to enter service in 2015, ZeroCat will serve the route between Lavik and Oppedal, across the Sognefjord. The electrically powered ferry was developed in response to a competition organized by Norway’s Ministry of Transport, and won by shipping company Norled, which was also granted a license to operate the route until 2025 as part of its prize.

Instead of the 2,000-hp diesel engine which powers the current ferry and consumes on average more than 264,000 gallons (over 1 million litres) of diesel each year, and emits around 570 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 15 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NO),  ZeroCat uses an 800 kW, 11 tonne battery to drives two screws. Although the battery is heavy, the completed vessel weighs only half that of a conventional catamaran ferry, as its twin hulls are fabricated in aluminium. The hulls also use a particularly slim design which increases their efficiency, and Siemens estimates that the new ferry will need only 400 kW to cruise at 10 knots.

One  critical requirements the design was required to satisfy was the need to fully charge the batteries in only 10 minutes – the time taken to turn the ferry around at each terminal. This power demand rendered conventional charging methods unsuitable, since neither port was supplied by a large enough electrical grid to deliver the required charging current.

Instead, each terminal is equipped with a high-capacity battery installation, able to be charged slowly while the ferry is en route. This means they are then ready to provide a quick “dump charge” in the 10 minute period during which the ferry is docked while it loads and unloads it cargo of passengers and cars.

Such a system would seem to be one which could be used to advantage in Scotland, where a number of short routes exist, and the ferry terminals are only a short distance apart. For example, Rhubodach/Colintraive, and Largs/Cumbrae come to mind in my own area.

These journeys are much shorter, and of lesser capacity than that given in the Norwegian example, simplifying the demands on the batteries, motors, and charging systems. The turnaround times are also somewhat longer here, allowing more relaxed charging criteria. Given the shorter routes, it should also be possible to relax the full charge requirement too, and allow such ferries to operate without having to receive a full charge at every docking.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone in this business now (I used to, long ago, and even worked on some ferries – no, not in the galley, but in a technical capacity), so have no idea if anything like this is even being considered for future vessels operating in Scottish waters.

February 5, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real

While it would unkind to say that I actually doubted the rumours that I first detected regarding ‘battery operated ferries’ coming to the Clyde, the stories did come as a surprise, meaning that whoever was going to undertake this venture (there were no real details given) had to be ready to try something new.

It wasn’t long before the story broke formally, and the news came of two hybrid RoRo (roll-on roll-off) diesel-electric ferries, described as a world first for such sea-going vessels.

While the principle of using diesel (or other) powered generators to power electric propulsion units (eliminating the need for a direct connection of a drive-shaft between the engine and the propeller), combining this with rechargeable batteries which will supply a minimum of 20% of energy consumed was new.

I’m afraid I find little that ever makes me agree with those I refer to as ‘professional CalMac bashers’, and the fact that CalMac went with this proposal is, to me, yet another reason to turn a deaf ear towards them.

In operation, the ferries can be powered from the generators, or the batteries, which are kept topped up by the generators, and will be charged overnight, while the vessels are moored. Although the overnight charging will be carried out using mains electricity, it is hoped that energy from local wind, wave or solar systems will be used to charge the batteries as such facilities become available near the moorings.

Scottish build

Even more remarkable is the fact that the innovative project will also be undertaken on the Clyde – the ferries will be built by Ferguson Shipbuilders, which will be working along with Glasgow-based ship design specialists SeaTec, and electrical specialists Tec-Source. The project is supported by a Scottish government loan, with an additional funding of £450,000 provided from the European Regional Development Fund.

Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited is now part of the Ferguson Group, and is a shipyard located in Port Glasgow. Unfortunately,  it is currently notable as being the last remaining shipbuilder on the lower Clyde, and the only builder of merchant ships on the river, where it has long been a builder of RoRo ferries.

The contract is worth £22 million, and the media carried news of the first steel being cut on January 30, 2012s, with the first ferries of the ferries set to enter service in early 2013.

The 900 tonne ferries are designed t0 accommodate 150 passengers and 23 cars, and for short routes, including the link between Skye and Raasay.

Some background links to save you the effort of digging:

Hybrid Ferries Project | CMAL | Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.3MB)

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.9MB)

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mad plan for floating village and road on the Clyde

Clyde floating village with catCorrect me if I am wrong, but even after the hugely successful Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988 closed its doors, the promised developments that we were supposed to see on the vacated land took not years, but decades to materialise, and the land lay derelict and barren for most of that time. At one point, even the once popular Bell’s Bridge was closed, and fencing barred any attempt to use it.

In light of this, what is in the minds of those proposing and promoting a £30 million floating leisure village in the Canting Basin which once formed the water feature within the festival?

So far, I’ve seen four stories about this project, and the alarming aspect is that they appear to start out by describing it in terms such as “Glasgow is set to become…” (as if it is a done deal), move into a more accurate description of “proposals”, and then finish up with references to “If this (planning permission) is granted, and private finance for the deal can be found”.

Talk about DoubleSpeak. Planning permission and finance not even in place, yet the media is speaking as if the development is practically underway.

The village is supposed to lie astride a floating U-shaped road that would cross the basin and contain a mix of office buildings, studio flats, and town houses complete with private moorings.

It also comes with the standard collection of buzzwords to make it socially acceptable:

The firm claims that up to 450 jobs could be created in transforming Canting Basin into a “spectacular floating community” with “shops, offices, houses, restaurants, a marina and a roof-top concert arena”.

The developers have even suggested a that if planning permission and private finance was in place, work could begin in 2012, and be completed by 2015.

The proposal has been designed by a Glasgow based firm of architects in conjunction with another firm of London architects which specialises in water based projects – and seems to have the backing of Scottish Enterprise, which has already nominated a preferred bidder for the project.

In the news

The four media links I spotted can be found here:

Floating village at Canting Basin, River Clyde: plans for marina, shops & restaurants

BBC News – Floating village plan unveiled for River Clyde

Scottish Enterprise Media Centre – Glasgow to build world’s first floating leisure village

A touch of Dubai glamour for Clyde – Herald Scotland | News | Home News

As you can see from the titles, they already seem to have largelydecided this is happening, even though they report no planning permission or finance yet in place.

I guess I get what I deserve, as I have been complaining elsewhere about the lack of Scottish awards for major contracts, starting with the mess of the Holyrood fiasco a few years ago, through the Museum of Transport (not a fiasco, but not a Scottish architect), a landmark to mark the Scottish English boundary, and even the dump due to be built at Dounreay to hold waste from the decommissioning process. They’ve all been outsourced.

In the past

While I’d dearly love to see something as imaginative as a floating village on the Clyde appear and succeed, the past record of all such things is that they fail to appear, or if they do, are a pale imitation of their original proposal.

Worse still, they go the way of the Anderson Centre which once existed (and that is an accurate description) only a few metres away, which never worked, never gained popularity and was deserted most of the time, even though it was on the edge of Glasgow City centre. It just became more and more run down, those who had taken up residence didn’t like it and moved out, leaving the place derelict for years. It just ran down and down, became a dive for down and outs, addicts, and ‘interesting’ ladies, and was eventually demolished to make way for something less interesting, but functional.

I wish I could get paid to come up with ideas like this though – without having to also deliver the final build – I could be rich.

More likely I’ll injure myself as I split my sides laughing at the thought of a ‘roof-top concert arena’ being thought viable in Scotland – if the proposers had half a brain between them, not only would it make them dangerous, it would have had that proposal worded to suggest a glass roofed venue that offered views of the surrounding area and the river, and could be used year round, not only a few days.

Green and car free

Another amusing phrase that can be found in the Scottish Enterprise document is:

The plans for a green, car-free environment, which could have its recycled refuse collected by barge, will accommodate shops, a hotel, restaurants and an 80 berth marina with a unique yacht club concept which would be open to the public. There are also plans for a further 150 berths for the residents and occupiers of the development and for visitors by boat.

I rather doubt anyone that can afford to be berthing a boat there, and either living or working there (not as service staff) will not have at least one car, or more, and while the area might be created ‘car-free’, I doubt that means the residents and visitors won’t be abandoning their cars in the surrounding area.

Scottish climate

I wonder if they have considered the Scottish climate?

Even with climate change, it has been known to be wet enough to destroy the best planned building, and the idea of permanently damp floating houses seems doomed without costly maintenance over the years, becoming increasingly expensive to maintain as time goes on.

I’d dearly love one of Scotland’s art deco houses to call my own, but having looked at a few, can understand how they are a serious commitment for the owners, with recurring maintenance costs to keep their flat roofs and structures waterproof, or to lose the period character of the house, but save a small fortune by having the flat roof replaced with an ordinary pitched and tiled version.

If the development goes ahead, I’d advise any buyers to look at the build spec, and see what the projected life of the floating building is intended to be.

January 15, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

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