Category: Landscape

Britain from Above

Britain from Above is a fantastic website full of aerial photographs from 1919-1953, with an option for registered users to add additional information to the images. You can even add the photos from the site to a free blog.

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Strathclyde Park is massive. Covering land between Bothwell, Bellshill, Hamilton and Motherwell, it can be tough to figure out where exactly you are. As usual in this part of the world, the history of the place is pretty much ignored, but there’s plenty of interesting material around.

This afternoon was one of the first decent days in weeks – yesterday the weather couldn’t decide between hailstones, snow and blue skies so it attacked with all three – so we decided on a wee dauner round a part of the park we hadn’t been to before, mostly in the South Calder Glen.

There’s Roman antiquities all over the place round here, although they’re mostly invisible. The car park lies east of Bothwellhaugh Fort, we walk along the line of the Roman road (now called Watling Street) and we’ll circle back round eventually to the bath-house at the bottom of the hill. More of that later.

South Calder Glen is lovely with sandstone cliffs and winding paths, but as we walked upstream the path was mostly on the top of the cliffs so there wasn’t much to see. Except maybe the viaduct, which remained invisible to me until I almost tripped over it, much to the hilarity of everyone else. I was just too busy checking out the many lumps and bumps in the landscape. You’ve heard of not seeing the wood for the trees, but I’ve never heard of not seeing the 100 foot tall viaduct for the trees.

Further upstream the path descends to the riverbank and you can see a waterfall in the distance, which turns to be a dam or a weir. The derelict walls beside it belonged to Holm Forge – about which I can find remarkably little, except that they manufactured spades and shovels. The woods beside the Forge naturally became known as Forge Woods, and the subsequent housing estate was named Forgewood.

We crossed the South Calder at Holm Forge Bridge, an ugly beast, and headed back downstream, momentaily stunned by the aerobatics of a trio of ducks who landed in perfect formation on the river. Looking at Scotland’s Places later, I noticed an antiquity marked ‘Wallace’s Cave‘ just after the viaduct. RCAHMS says this is a mistake: there is no cave here, but the Ancient Family of Cleland describes it. We certainly didn’t notice anything, but then if you can’t see a flippin’ great viaduct in your way, a sandstone cave isn’t likely to jump out at you.

The path follows the riverbank before heading uphill and meeting Bellshill Golf Course. Nearby was located Orbiston House, and you can still see the walled garden, the doocot and the icehouse. The river loops back on itself here so there’s a bit more hiking before you cross again, most of it downhill until you reach the Roman Bridge and the bath-house.

The bath-house belonging to Bothwellhaugh Fort was discovered when Strathclyde Loch was being created, and it was subsequently moved from its original location to protect it.

The Hunterian Museum has a beautiful little bit of roof tile complete with a dog’s pawprint from the bath-house. The sort of artefact that everyone smiles at, especially people who wouldn’t smile at the word artefact (which is I suppose, most people). The tile was the Pop Up Museum’s Curator’s Choice for January 2012 (which reminded me of it)

If you look on old maps of this area, a road is marked as Roman, the current Watling Street. The continuation of this road leads back up to the car park from the bath-house. Is it still Roman? It’s certainly an old road, but how old remains a mystery.

The final tired stroll uphill was accompanied by silly stories of runaway Roman soldiers mixing up their words and calling Celts,  kilts and vice versa, complete with a dog that kept running across the potter’s handiwork.

It’s taken a long time to get out for the first time this year. Hopefully the weather will hold on another weekend soon 🙂


According to Janet and Colin Bord,

… there are  numerous examples of river names which contain or were derived from Celtic deity names … The Clyde comes from Clota, the ‘Divine Washer’. (Scottish tales of a hag washing the bloody clothes of those shortly to die, called ‘The Washer at the Ford’, may be a memory of this goddess.)

Janet and Colin Bord, Sacred waters, Paladin 1985, p14 

The Virtue Well

I was reading a book called Myth and magic by Joyce Miller (Goblinshead, 2000) when the author threw in the comment about the chalybeatic (or mineral salts)  Virtue Well at Airdrie being used as a healing well in the 18th century by the well to do, before Harrogate became the place to be seen. The poor continued to use it into the 19th century, not having anywhere else to turn to.

Image from National Library of Scotland

A quick search brought up Virtue Well View in Glenmavis, which suggested it wasn’t far away. ScotlandsPlaces provided a more precise location and added the information that the well was filled in in 1856, and that all that remains is a slight hollow (although the map above also shows a mill dam which I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere).

The excellent Monklands Memories site provided more information about the surrounding area including the fact that the Virtue Well sat beside Virtuewell Burn as it ran through Virtuewell Glen, so you think people would know the name, and yet, nobody I know from Airdrie has ever heard of it, including folks from Glenmavis.

It’s a shame when local knowledge like this gets lost, which is why it’s brilliant that Northburn Community Park is being set up by The Penny Project. This group of volunteers aim to develop the land for the benefit of wildlife and the local community and part of that is finding and telling the stories of what went on here, from Maggie Ramsay the Witch to old railways to Gallows Hill.

And hopefully they can keep their project going despite the financial cuts all over the place, because this work is a real investment for the future.

Clyde Panorama

Just discovered a wonderful little website aiming to show a panorama of the whole of the Clyde from its source right through to the Firth.

Its called Panorama of the Clyde, and only a few pieces have been included so far.You can join a mailing list for updates.

My only minor issues are that that you never really know where you are at any given point, and there’s no control over the panorama, but since it’s still a work in progress, I’m sure that will be fixed later. It’s a wonderful idea.