Do you fancy going for a walk? It’s such a lovely afternoon, and the weather probably won’t hold. We can go up the hill and through the woods to see all the autumn colours in the sunshine. It’s not difficult underfoot, but you’d be as well to wear a decent pair of walking shoes as it might be a bit muddy.
We’ll set off from the house. This path wasn’t here when I was growing up; this was all private land and fenced off. When I went out for walks with school friends as a teenager we used to walk through the town and along the river front, or up the road into Glen Fruin if the weather was good; but it was always walking on the roads.
We’ll go through the woods, on what people seem to call ‘the dog walkers’ path’ and it’s true, I rarely see anyone else like me, walking without a canine companion. We have to cross the road quickly here, be careful as it’s the main route into town and it can be busy. We’ll do a quick detour to have a look over the reservoir. If you’re unlucky, I’ll tell you that the water is purified through peat, or at least it used to be, and when I was young, in the one year when there wasn’t much rain over the summer and the water level dropped, the water was brown when it came out of the tap.
Then we’ll head back down and through the kissing gate onto the path that leads through the woods to the back of Hill House, the house designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s owned by the National Trust for Scotland now that he’s popular again, and they’ve had to build a car park for all the people who come to visit. Stop me from boring you about the history of the house; I did a project about it at school….
On the way we’ll look up over the moor to where all the electricity cables stride across the land into town. I’ll point out the red berries on the rowan trees and tell you a story of the whole family having to go berry picking one year when my father was having a go at making his own wine; I can’t remember how the rowanberry wine turned out, but the enthusiasm soon passed…..The wind will rustle through the trees and each gust will dislodge a flurry of leaves which will dance along the path in front of us, and it will sound as if we’re being pursued by a troupe of skipping faeries.
From there, it’s back into the woods up the hill to where the vista over the Clyde opens out and we’ll look across to the other side to the old dock area at Greenock, which today will be glinting in the sun. I’ll point out the ship wreck in the middle of the river and tell you that it was a Greek sugar vessel which ran aground in the Great Storm in 1974, and which was too expensive to salvage so that it’s been there ever since. I’ll reminisce that it must have been the summer after the storm that the Radio One Road Show came to the town, as I remember going down to Kidston Park to see it; the DJ said something about how sweet the river water was because of all the sugar in it and I thought he was a complete idiot.
Then we’ll head downhill again, across the burn, and past the remains of a brick construction of some sort. If you ask me what it was, I’ll shrug and say there are lots of mysterious bits and pieces around these hills, lots are something to do with the military, but this might be railway related as the West Highland Line is just over there. I may tell you about summer evenings when I was 11 or 12, of going with my friend to stand as close as we could to the line and wait for the express train, holding our faces up to feel the rush of air as it went by, and waving to the people inside imaging ourselves to be extra characters in The Railway Children.
Soon we’ll be back onto the tarmac roads. You’ll wonder why we’re walking in the road and not on the pavement, and I’ll laugh and point out that the pavement will peter out in front of the next house, and everyone walks in the road in this part of town; you might even call it a local custom.
When we get back to Sinclair Street we’ll turn left and go back up the hill before turning right at the paper shop. You’ll laugh at its name, and I’ll tell you it just means ‘a small drink’. The aroma of frying bacon will tempt us inside even though we’ve had a perfectly good breakfast and lunch. The Loch Lomond seaplane will fly past overhead and we’ll stare up at its distinctive silhouette and vow to have a go in it one day soon.
We’ll have been out for just over an hour, and our cheeks will be tingling from the cool air when we go back inside, and we’ll both be ready for a cup of tea.