Sunday, 28 July 2013

New Lanark to Rosebank

My weekend companions. Susan, and
Stuart & Elinor Goldsmith at New Lanark
The previous day we had explored New Lanark pretty thoroughly. It’s a fascinating place, and a fascinating story. The original cotton mill was founded by a successful local businessman, David Dale, in 1784. (I hadn’t realised that cotton milling started this early.) In 1799 he was bought out for £60,000 by 28-year old Robert Owen, who had learned his trade in Manchester, where he managed a large mill. Owen also married Dale’s daughter, who over the next few years bore him seven children.

There followed an extraordinary period of some 25 years, when Owen put into effect his vision of how such enterprises should be run. He built a school for the children, who were educated for nothing to the age of ten, and could stay on until they were 12 if they wished to do so and their families didn’t need their income. He provided training for workers, leisure facilities, a shop which charged less than normal prices. He was considered tough but fair.

A view from the roof garden at New Lanark.
One of the mills, and workers' tenements.
As New Lanark became famous Owen started to try to paint on a wide canvass, and published his thoughts in a first book in 1813, and extensively thereafter. His ideas led indirectly to the first trade unions and to the cooperative movement. And he attempted to get child labour banned, or at least controlled. Here he was frustrated by his contemporaries, and the Act was heavily diluted before it became law.

By 1828 he had become seriously disillusioned, and after selling the mill went to America where he attempted (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) to replicate the experiment in Indiana. By that time his wife and both his daughters had died, but his four sons went with him to the US. They had distinguished careers, and one was one of the founders of the Smithsonian. Although Owen himself returned to Britain from time to time he was no longer involved in New Lanark, and spent most of his time on the other side of the Atlantic. America’s gain was Scotland’s loss. The mill continued to operate into the middle of the 20th century, but increasingly became a shadow of its former success. By the end of WWII it was essentially derelict.

Enough of this. I fully intend to read up more on Owen, New Lanark, and the early cotton industry. Even though we spent the best part of the day exploring the site, with only a brief diversion up to the Falls, I felt that I had only just started to cover everything I would like to have explored. Not for nothing is New Lanark a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After two nights at the Hotel (good, but with room for improvement was the consensus view) it was time for Stuart, Elinor and myself to walk the ten miles or so to the Popinjay Hotel at Rosebank. Susan went on ahead by taxi, as she didn’t feel up to the walk, which involved a fair bit of climbing.

Not for the first time, or the last, waymarking was deplorable. Nor was the map helpful: the scale is just too small to show sufficient detail where contours are impossible to read through the green signifying woodland. So we made a lengthy false start, walking down as well defined path to find ourselves at a sewage tank facing a cliff with no way on. So we retraced our steps, enquired about the route at the Youth Hostel, and then found ourselves having to make a steep ascent to get round the cliffs we had encountered before. It was not an auspicious start.

Thereafter the route, at least, was straightforward. The path was not. The descent after bypassing the cliff was steep, and the path seriously eroded by the recent rain. At least it was no longer as heavy as it had been overnight. There was then another long ascent, with the path zigzagging uphill in a series of hairpin bends, before another descent to cross the bridge into the unattractive town of Kirkfieldbank, where we had to walk along the busy A72 for the best part of a mile. Then it was back across the river by a footpath over the weir that feeds the power station further downstream – another case of power being generated by a surprisingly modest head of water.

At least the next stretch was reasonable. It ran along the edge of a series of fields, with a wooded bank between the path and the river beneath. This continued for a couple of kilometres before continuing through the appropriately named Big Wood. This signalled the point where metaphorically we walked out of the OS Sheet 335 and on to Sheet 343. Here we encountered a strange nzarrow gauge railway, and an extensive campsite, before reaching the bridge to the village of Crossford – the blue tankard promising us our destination for lunch.

It was not the finest of establishments. We were the only customers. No food was on offer: despite the woman of the house obviously being around, there was insufficient entrepreneurship to rule up something. After all, they were in a monopoly position. So we had drinks, crisps and nuts – the total bill coming to just over a tenner, which was probably the sum total of their Sunday lunchtime takings. The publican seemed more interested in the Hungarian Grand Prix on the television than us, although we did find the four second pit stops quite astonishing. However, he did manage to tell us a little about the next stretch, including the fact that we would pass the “most expensive house ever built” at £10 million. I don’t think he can have been aware of what some recent houses in London and the South East have cost.

The second half of our walk resumed back over the bridge, initially following the Clyde, and actually staying with the river beyond the point where the map shows no path, where I had expected an extensive inland – and uphill – diversion. The most notable event here was that the sole of Stuart’s left boot came unstuck. He didn’t seem to notice, but I saw the sole flapping backwards behind the heel. His initial response was to walk with a goose-stepping gait, but this was obviously rather uncomfortable, and a better solution involved undoing the upper part of his bootlace and tying it around the front of the boot.

Some uphill bits. Elinor and Stuart lead the way.
Eventually we were obliged to make an inland diversion. It was shorter than I’d feared, but it still involved a couple of moderate climbs behind the supposed £10 million house before regaining the river. It was at this point that Stuart’s right boot followed the left by having the sole become detached. Once again I was the one who noticed it, but at least Stuart now knew how to provide a temporary fix.

Stuart and Elinor
The last stretch was an easy walk along the river, frustratingly directly opposite the Popinjay hotel on the far bank. So we had to walk a kilometre downstream before there was a bridge, and then walk the same kilometre back upstream along the A72 to Rosebank.

There we met Susan, and after our showers had a pleasant drink in the garden now that the rain had stopped. The hotel was an extraordinary building: a real rabbit warren without an obvious right angel anywhere. Dinner (reasonable), bridge, and then with thunder and lightning raging outside the power failed just before 10:00 p.m. It didn’t some back on until 4:30 in the morning, so with everything roaring into life again when the electricity was restored it wasn’t the most restful of nights.

Stuart and me
Rain throughout, though never heavy. 14 to 18C. 16.5k including initial mistakes; River Clyde Walkway; maximum only 141m when crossing hilly stretches away from the river. 240m ascents, 320m descents. Mostly on metalled paths, though perhaps 30% along grassy tracks below fields and through woods, and a final stretch by road.

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