Walking with Linden Stables and Lorna Fitsimmons on 19 September 2010


Clyde Bridges Walk

I’m walking with my friends Linden and Lorna, whom I’ve known for over fourteen years. Just before we’re due to meet, the rain begins to fall. As this walk is in Glasgow I almost expect the rain. We’re following the River Clyde, crossing over or passing by a remarkable total of 21 bridges, which seems a good fit with the weather too.

We start at Partick Cross, the junction of Byres Road and Dumbarton Road. Linden and Lorna bear a holiday gift, a Cornish Piskie, to travel with me on my walks and bring me luck. We head off towards Old Dumbarton Road and a gushing River Kelvin, then down Ferry Street (testimony of a previous landscape). Apparently you used to be able to walk across the river, from Govan to here, before it was deepened.

A heavily graffitied underpass beneath the motorway leads us towards the Clyde. The view on the other side of the river is a stunning industrial panorama – new and shiny highrises; empty flat lands, denuded of almost all their industrial buildings; iconic cranes on the opposite banks (Govan shipyard). At the bottom of Ferry Road, the emerging shape of the new transport museum comes into view. Zaha Hadid’s design is all different angles, shapes, perspectives and Linden is right when she says it’s like a wave, a ripple of water.

The footpath leads us past the Tall Ship, the Glenlee, a nineteenth century cargo vessel now harboured on the Clyde. Soon, we arrive at the beginning of our walk proper, the Millennium Bridge. In a few hours, we will reach the Dalmarnock Bridge, having crossed eleven bridges en route – concrete bridges, iron bridges, wooden bridges, cable bridges, cantilevered bridges, suspension bridges… It has stopped raining.

The route marker on the Millennium Bridge, beside the new BBC building (which Lorna and I both like), handily confirms we need to travel North on this first one. Bridge number 2, the Bells Bridge, comes quickly. Erected for the Garden Festival in 1988, Linden remembers being there with Greencity whilst I recall visiting my dad who was manning a Forestry Commission environment. The Bells Bridge takes us back to the south side of the river, offering a superb view of the Armadillo building and leading us past the new STV building (which we don’t much like). The ‘squinty bridge’, the Clyde Arc, takes us North again, and from here we follow the river alongside Lancefield Quay, passing under the amazing Kingston Bridge, a multi-lane traffic bridge. Lorna, who drives this way to work, points out that the pillars have all been painted with sporting scenes, signs of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games (2014). On the other side of the pillar nearest us is a huge swimming mural.

We walk down the Broomielaw, past all the new steel and glass office buildings, and the ‘square’ landscaped trees. Banners suggest this part of the city has been rebranded, to the very uncatchy IFSD – International Financial Services District. The new Tradeston footbridge, that we don’t cross, provides passage for workers travelling South to North. We spot the only working boat we will encounter on our whole walk.

George V Bridge carries us South again, with bridge number 7 shadowing it (the second Caledonian Railway Bridge, which leads to Central Station). Beside it are the enormous pillars remaining from the first Caledonian Railway Bridge (Bridge 8). Bridge 9 is the Glasgow Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford in 1899. At its North side is an abandoned ‘Ladies Waiting Room’, and nearby a monument erected by the Labour Movement in memory of those who died in Spain fighting fascism (65 from Glasgow). We’re not even half way, but a cup of tea and a wee seat beside the Clyde is welcomed.

Then it’s across the marvellous South Portland Street suspension bridge, and shared fond memories of the women’s drum band, Sheboom, who played their first gig on this bridge some twenty years ago. Turning left onto Carlton Place, Linden also remembers the Star Club – a lesbian club before my time, not a trace now left. We pass by the Sheriff Court, the seagulls tricking the worms into surfacing by thumping their feet on the soil to suggest that it’s raining. Then we’re crossing Victoria Bridge, built in 1854, with the Briggait on our left, a nineteenth century fish market, now premises for many of Glasgow’s artists and creative companies. The impressive winged sea horses continue to guard the doors.

Following the Clyde we enter Glasgow Green, passing by Bridge 12 (the City Union Railway Bridge), 13 (Albert Bridge) and 14 (Tidal Weir and Pipe Bridge).  Huge, coppiced willows line the river’s edge. A gaggle of geese rest, heads cushioned on downy feathers. Nearby, the Humane Society, founded in 1790, the oldest life-saving organisation in the world (its volunteers regularly pluck bodies from the river). Another suspension bridge (which replaced a ferry in 1855) takes us out of Glasgow Green momentarily. Turning our back on the cityscape, and looking East, we could be in bucolic countryside, the still water reflecting the images of weeping willows and wildflowers. The King’s Bridge leads us back into Glasgow Green. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m now in unfamiliar territory.

Crossing the curiously concrete Polmadie Bridge we turn in to Richmond Park, its entrance marked by a square of beautiful old trees, and a huge flock of Swans gathered near a small boating lake. At the exit of Richmond Park is Shawfield dog track. We turn left, crossing Rutherglen Bridge (number 18). The route plaque has been removed, but its absence – the outline of a circle – serves as a ghostly signal. I am somewhat disoriented by a sign welcoming us to Glasgow City. I hadn’t realised we’d left it.

It’s a long walk to the next bridge and we’re getting tired. The river on our right is still nice enough, but on our left is a huge, tall, concrete wall that we can’t see over so have no idea what lies behind it. It seems to stretch for ever and provides a handy canvas for graffiti, ranging in its originality and sectarian sentiment (Feed the Weed; U.D.A). Finally, a red iron bridge hoves into view – and then we notice the remains of an older bridge standing ahead of it (the first and second Dalmarnock Railway Bridges). And beyond these, another lovely, red, flat bridge – Dalmarnock Bridge, Bridge 21.

It’s been an amazing four hour stroll along the Clyde, passing through industrial remains, gentrified districts, parklands, scrublands, wildlands. It’s a route I’m surprised I’ve never walked before, but I’m immensely glad to have traversed it today, in the  good company of good friends.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: