CALDERGLEN IN CRISIS, SAVE OUR PARK!
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CALDERGLEN IN CRISIS
Save Our Park!
REGAIN SAFE ACCESS IN CALDERGLEN FOR THE PUBLIC & RESTORE OUR PARK!
Calderglen is one of East Kilbride’s most valuable assets for a multitude of reasons, and it always has been since long before the New Town was built. Not only is it of significant historical importance but it is also an area of outstanding natural beauty wrote of centuries ago, and which is now facing ruination due to neglect. This is the reason it is such a well-loved and popular area used by people from all walks of life for generations due to the multiple benefits that it has, and being in short reach of the people of East Kilbride and Blantyre. Indeed, Calderglen is even a Site of Special Scientific Interest emphasizing the importance of the area for the public and academics alike.
OUR ARGUMENT !
Unfortunately, recently there have been some unforeseen changes due to in-part to the underlying geology of the area and extreme weather conditions leading to landslides, and weakening/collapse of the path structure in some areas which has been covered in newspapers. This has led to areas being so unsafe that they have had to be effectively shut off to the public via use of warning signs and fences. Unfortunately this has blocked off previously well-used routes that the public of East Kilbride and beyond have used both regularly and faithfully for many decades. The Calderwood Trail has been cut-off in two places and as this trail forms a long linear route serving access to the gorge’s length has rendered Calderwood Glen (northern part of Calderglen) practically un-visitable but to the people living to the north-east of the town. Additionally a rock-fall at the beginning of the year upon the South Trail at Torrance House, Calderglen, has been remedied with what appears to be a permanent metal fence and more fences either side. This area makes appreciation of the Glen’s gorge at Torrance readily available, and nearby, and was easily the most visited part of the gorge by runners and dog walkers, as well as tourists from outside East Kilbride.
East Kilbride is the 2nd largest town in Scotland – with a population of 74,411. This means that any available open space for people to exercise and enjoy open space and natural surroundings is even more important and should be treated as a valuable asset for all. It is very obvious there is a huge demand for this, for when the weather is nice and people have the chance to relax with their families, you can see the result; with overcrowded areas such as Torrance House and the Heritage Park, the few places East Kilbride residents have to enjoy for their scenic and natural appeal as well as open recreational space. So the demand for the area is most definitely there, and more so than many parks with lesser nearby populations to deal with. Calderglen being designated a Country Park was designated such to allow access to the countryside for the adjacent population of East Kilbride, and this was always an intention of legacy from the East Kilbride Development Corporation, who in perpetuity promised to maintain it as a public park, and in the late 20th century following long negotiations and transactions spanning near 20 years, this became a reality: Forming what we now call Calderglen Country Park.
In our modern society the things that matter most to us, and therefore warranting priority include :-
Health, safety/reducing anti -social behaviour and crime, education, increasing community spirit, equality and making best and appropriate use of tax payer’s money.
The following points that will be raised are all relevant to the above principles and the link between them and the importance of maintaining Calderglen is explained fully.
Calderglen offers many health benefits: Regular walks/jogs help with some of the most common and serious preventable illnesses in our society. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression have been shown to improve when there is access to an area for people to regularly exercise and enjoy the peacefulness of nature. Incidences of several cancers are seen to increase in populations of people who do not exercise enough. There are numerous studies including government-backed which maintain these findings. The toll these conditions take on our NHS is staggering both in acute episodes of health complications and long term care. The cost to the NHS of medication to treat these conditions is staggering – hundreds of millions of pounds.
Even studies show that children do not get enough exercise or time outdoors and childhood obesity is on the rise at a frightening rate. The benefits to our society of adequately maintaining areas which promote health for the tax paying public to exercise in cannot be emphasised enough. A change in the way we view spending/distributing our budget may well be needed to try to do everything we can to help reduce these problems and may very well save our society money in the long term and thereby provide a happier society to live in. Calderglen represents a cost-effective approach to achieve this goal as it does not require extensive amounts paid on it to restore public access as the infrastructure is already there, and can be improved upon. Nature creates for free what it would cost us millions to create artificially… All we need to have is a path through it all, and keep a path through it all.
Whilst Calderglen has many other incredible potential goals, the focus of this document is restoring access and acting upon some primary concerns within the park.
Safety/Reducing Anti-Social Behaviour and Crime:
This is a very real concern when it comes to Calderglen in its current state. Thankfully, due to some expert local knowledge a very real dangerous situation was narrowly avoided when the paths collapsed at Four Oaks in Calderwood Glen early this year (2016). Anyone crossing the area affected could possibly have been badly injured or even killed if the weakened ground had suddenly given way, which it did go on to do at a later date.
As Calderglen has been so seemingly familiar for so long, many people may not be fully aware of the dangers in certain areas of the glen, and the seriousness of the situation. This may mean that people could take a chance crossing the barriers to gain access to their usual walking route putting themselves unknowingly in harm’s way.
Children are known to play in the glen, many times unsupervised, and have done so for generations. These barriers are a very real danger to the children of East Kilbride. Children, due to their age and lack of legal responsibility, and impulses cannot be expected to fully understand the safety implications of a sign, or even a temporary fence which is quite easy to get around. If anything it could even attract the curiosity of children looking to dare each other to even cross the danger or in some cases just innocently cross them in order to get from A to B, such as simply to get home quicker. Signs, fences and barriers are therefore not safe enough measures in the long term for the tax-paying public and especially not for children, for whom it is a real and current danger.
This suspicion is proven by the fact that trails have been worn into the wildflower patches around the landslip, as people are evading it purposefully and to their own risk. This is evident at all three slips. At the Four Oaks , Calderwood Slip, the still wet clay has juvenile footprints marked in it proving that children are daring to walk onto the most unstable parts. This is an urgent situation.
If the Glen and its access routes are poorly maintained and people cannot have clear access, more people will stop using the Glen, possibly resulting in the area being used for more anti-social behaviour such as underage drinking, drug use, and aggressive taunts to any passers-by. With less people using the area for positive purposes more bad behaviour could go unnoticed and unreported. This could quickly get worse if the area got a reputation for this purpose. This in turn could encourage more crime, and vandalism would therefore increase for the same reasons.
Previously occasional crime in the Glen would happen without surveillance and official presence, but this crime was limited by the ever present public visitng the Glen for the correct purposes: walking dogs, rambling, cycling, running, study etc.. Now without this public presence and difficult access, it leaves little prohibition for those with anti-social intentions to let loose and feel safe in their “unapproachable haven of vice!”.
The safety of innocent walkers who are trying to use the Glen for all the benefits that it could be used for, are put at risk by criminal behaviour due to the associations of this increased drug and alcohol use, &c. Safety in numbers is important in the Glen. Not only does an accessible and well-maintained Glen allow more people to enjoy it but it also acts as a deterrent of bad behaviour and protection for innocent walkers especially if they are alone. This is significant in the minds of those familiar with the length of the gorge. It would be difficult for South Lanarkshire Council to monitor visitor numbers to Calderglen with it having open boundaries and multiple entry points. What was once a well-visited Glen can now be walked through by one or two people for two hours+ without passing a single soul. Whether for local or tourist use, this situation due to the landslips can only be set to worsen if criminals are not discouraged from having a ‘safe haven’.
Recently some of the landslide fences were ripped out of the ground, and partly sawn-off for firewood. A plastic warning sign was smashed and had a doodle of the 'male genitals' drawn across it with permanent marker and the words “Yer Mow” , as those who wrote it obviously could not spell the slang ‘Maw’.
Wildlife crime may also rise due to the same facts as previously mentioned. Lack of people, more crime goes unreported, the reputation for crime increases therefore the crimes increase. Recently further fires have been set beneath a beautiful large old Copper Beech planted by the Maxwells of Calderwood Castle centuries ago. Stones have been forcibly removed from the ruins of their Mausoleum built c. 1790. With the progressive ruination of the designed landscape and buildings ever increasing we are now very concerned that an increased anti-social presence is further discouraging even more walkers from using the Glen. Proof that the Calderwood landslide in lowering inhibition is evidenced by the remains of alcohol bottles and mess left by a fire directly adjacent to the landslide site near the river, at a spot where such people would not have dared previously.
Littering: Possible increasing of dumping rubbish in the Glen due to the same previously mentioned facts. This has been found to be true because the trails have been littered with bottles, sweet and crisp packets, takeaway boxes, and smashed carryout bottles with their bags. Whilst litter will always be a concern in a public park, recently litter has been building up on a daily basis, even in spite of individuals taking down bags to clean up, as inspired by the community action group ‘Friends of Calderglen’.
As mentioned, there are some areas of Calderglen that have already been damaged by anti-social behaviour, such as protected trees that some individuals have attempted to burn down on different occasions, with the risk of fire spreading and damaging other areas with the threat to wildlife. Also there are some areas that are worse than others as far as littering and waste build up is concerned. Again, this is due largely to the behaviour of inconsiderate and anti-social individuals. This is a threat to wildlife and makes the area look extremely unattractive, thereby negating its designation as a 'Special Landscape Area' (2010) to be preserved and promoted for its scenic and cultural associations being situated on an urban fringe, and its designed landscape (See Scottish Natural Heritage Website re. Special (Local) Landscape Areas, and the South Lanarkshire Council Designated Landscapes Report 2010, implemented following SNH guidelines). The last thing that Calderglen needs is its situation becoming worse for the above negative influences when the drive is to promote, manage and restore the past glory of our park, and allow locals and tourists alike to reap that benefit.
The recently formed group Friends of Calderglen hope in time to help with some of these issues within their own means, and wish to make protecting and preserving Calderglen a priority through community interaction and setting up a charitable trust. Just now we can only rely upon the area’s designations as a Country Park, Special Landscape Area, yet its neglectful percentage of landscape maintenance and improvement when compared with other such similar areas in South Lanarkshire (such as Chatelherault Country Park, etc..)
Education & Culture: - History on our Doorstep!
Due to the long, varied, and illustrious history of this Glen, a well-maintained park that is accessible to adults and children alike encourages a real interest in history, natural heritage and education as a whole. Particularly, having safe access to Calderglen adjacent to such a large town allows greater appreciation of wildlife and plant life, in a way impossible to replicate in a classroom. A place as romantic and picturesque as Calderglen inspires people to follow their artistic and creative sides and explore hidden talents making for a happier society.
Calderglen has long formed the subject and inspiration for painters, poets, and photographers alike, some of national fame in history. Calderglen was the inspiration for several poems by John Struther’s, the ‘Shoemaker’s Poet’ (a good friend of Sir Walter Scott), and written about by famous Poetess Joanna Baillie for her love of swimming there, Surgeon John Hunter who sketched nature. For centuries the Castle seat of the Maxwells of Calderwood, an ancient family strongly linked with the history and development of our nation. Visited by the Royal Family who commented on its scenery, and the Dukes of Hamilton, Painted by Paul Sandby twice, the ‘Father of British Watercolour’ and therefore amidst some of the first appreciative landscape views of the Country. Described extensively by the “Scottish Father of Palaeontology” and product of the Scottish Enlightenment: Rev. David Ure, who wrote our area’s history in 1793. It was home to a Hermit now buried in the riverside, and the site of Witch hunts, Fairy Wells, and the home of ancient monks Described numerous times in countless visitor guides, guides to scenery, tourist booklets, topographical dictionaries, all in respect of the location’s incomparable beauty and charms. Torrance was the seat of the Stuarts who ruled much of East Kilbride and sold to provide their fields forhousing,yet now their beloved Pleskin Glen of Torrance is going to waste. Visited by Bonnie Prince Charlie, and burnt down by the English Army... The full list is long and exhaustive, but here we argue clearly that an incredible cultural, artistic, and historical resource has been neglected for some time, but the urgency for now lies upon restoring access to our paths and fencing being maintained. Calderglen was once referred to as "the Loveliest of Western Glens" and was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland during the early 20th century with 1500 day-trippers per Saturday.
As previously mentioned, Calderglen is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, this is in the northern section of the park for its geology representing a significant section through the rocks of the Scottish Carboniferous, with numerous fossil horizons visible on the banks. This area may even be extended in the future to include remarkable rock formations famed in books published nearly 200 years ago. Calderglen has proven to have a richer recorded biodiversity than Falls of Clyde and Cathkin Marsh as there have been over 1600 recorded species so far. The area is also home to numerous BAP Priority species, and stands of ancient prized types of woodland, and several scarce or arguably rare species. There is now an endeavour to have the ‘Calderglen Flora and Fauna’ dataset registered and maintained officially through the NBN as a publicly accessible dataset encompassing the glen and its surrounding area.
The benefits that Calderglen offers to education in the sciences, history, nature and art are therefore of utmost-importance and can prove to inspire people to learn from all ages and walks of life. The best thing about this, as described before, is that the infrastructure is already there, it only needs some Tender love and care.
As a community, we spend a lot of money on schools and education but seem at times to have forgotten the reason for doing this. Calderglen gives us a reminder why education is important. Just a fraction of the money we spend on education in schools could be so well put to use maintaining Calderglen. Without inspiration behind education it is much more difficult to learn.
Sense of Pride in the Community
When many people are able to use Calderglen safely, there are regular walkers and joggers, therefore allowing the opportunity for people to meet and talk. Community groups such as Friends of Calderglen or Friends of the Calder can have a focus. Calderglen is a common denominator to the vast public of Kilbride, so much so that when the affectionate term “The Glen” is used, it can only be for one dear place! Relationships can be built there and strengthened, and ideas realised. This is all ultimately good for the community. Also the community has something it can take pride in and look after, and impress guests, again making for a happier more fulfilled society.
In the rat-race of everyday life we eat, sleep, and work, but then there is leisure and appreciation and understanding of the world around us. One of the factors that separates us from most other creatures is our ability for this enriching understanding and appreciation. Whilst taxes must go on critical needs like health and roads, and schools, we expect that some money being spent to give everyone something to appreciate where they live is money well spent. Especially if such a place is the picturesque Calderglen gorge.
Calderglen provides a means to exercise and enjoy nature that is not dependent on how much someone earns or their means to travel. It is not just a delight for the wealthiest few in society. It is available to everyone in social equality. This is very important in a society that is more often ruled by money and a sense of modern class divides. With the wealthiest people being able to buy things that someone else may not be able to afford, we feel Calderglen is a reminder for society that we are all equals as human beings even if someone has a better job than someone else, or can drive to a more distant park but another cannot. That is an important reminder of equality in this society.
Regardless of money people can afford to go there because it is free, regardless of mobility people can go there because it is not too far from East Kilbride for people requiring help, bus, or unable to walk far. Regardless of age people can take something away from their experience at Calderglen, and regardless of intellect people can appreciate the place as they wish. We all have our public green places in common.
Appropriate Use of Tax Payer’s Money:
Due to the location of Calderglen, it is a very valuable area as it is easily accessible to the public due to its close proximity to houses. This is ideally so as being a long linear park the river follows the eastern fringe of East Kilbride town. This benefits the public in the thousands of adjacent homes, as many people are able to access the area without the need for driving or public transport use, so this opens the area up to some people who would have previously found travel to an area such as this in a different location too difficult, see the previous point.
With the present situation in Calderglen and some areas effectively being closed-off, it is denying the rights of the public in this area to access their country park, which is something we pay for to be maintained. Likewise, relating back to safety, as Calderglen is a tourist attraction which invites the public, including families to use it, it can be interpreted as “inviting to one’s doom”, if fencing was not to be maintained, the cost of which we pay and is a liability of South Lanarkshire Council if an injury did occur due to faulty barriers in an area promoting public curiosity. There are various precedents to this in law cases. We pay South Lanarkshire Council Tax to have our parks maintained, repaired, forest-managed, enhanced, fenced, however Calderglen pales into comparison to other areas which have more publicity generated by printed leaflets, better maintained fences, better promoting of nature in the park itself, far better and more numerous trails, etc, etc..
We feel that East Kilbride is being neglected, as many feel it has been in various other areas of requirement in the town. In respect of our Calderglen Park we feel that our data and points confidently argue that our park has been left to rot, ruin, become vastly overgrown, welcome thugs and ‘Neds’, and fall into a cultural black hole, whereas other parks such as Chetelherault are paraded as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Lanarkshire, evidently with ample spending to cater for the carefully trimmed grass, rustic fencing, fencing in all the right areas, information boards, parterres, maintained mature trees, well-drained paths. Similar comparisons can be made between Calderglen and other river parks to.
This is wrong as that is partially why the public pay their Council tax, therefore there is a pressing obligation (on several counts) for Calderglen to be made safe and accessible as soon as possible. In other areas, the public have access and ability to appreciate their local parks.
I hope that all the above points help to highlight the importance of Calderglen and the pressing need for it to be made safe and accessible to the public as soon as possible.
This is an area that we, as a society should take pride in and possibly the importance of the area should be reflected in the amount of money that is spent on it. Maybe even a new way of thinking about what is healthy and matters to society should be adopted and council priorities reconsidered.
To simplify matters we feel that the following list requires urgent addressing:
1. URGENT : First and foremost, re-establishing access to the nature trail network by stabilising the ground and re-erecting posts, drainage, fences, steps, ground fill, &c at the damaged sites at Four Oaks in Calderwood and another near the Former Claremont High School Site south of Inch Murin/Marnock in St Leonards. On the same level of importance, the path at Torrance needs cleared of boulders, mud, and fallen trees, and repaired and surfaced where appropriate. Rock falls in the Calciferous sandstones of Calderglen are remote events usually triggered by the wearing away of the underlying shales.
The Torrance overhang is not different and we believe in the many months the site is now stable and the shales wholly sit beneath the overlying sandstone to provide remaining support. Any dislodged rocks balancing on the edge can be displaced from their position to prevent them falling at a later date. If in any doubt a geological survey could be performed (if not already done so) Evidence of past rock falls are self-evident throughout the Glen and other similar places, yet paths were still driven through them and have been enjoyed since time immemorial. Until recently Calderglen maintained the ‘South Trail’ passing under cliff ranges as it does. The Country Park can do so again. We also ask that the few areas of obvious drainage issues have their drains cleared or replaced as negotiating past them just now can bring people close to steep drops.
2. To re-erect fencing at obvious dangerous points above drops or very steep slopes throughout the gorge. One of the most dangerous parts of Calderglen which has claimed lives for centuries is the Trough Linn waterfall. Small, ferocious and bound by deep circular eddies, a 19 foot plunge pool, and sharp rocks in path of the rapid torrent it could prove fatal if somebody fell in from the trail. Despite this the wood and metal fencing is all but gone and collapsed, and people may easily lean over and fall in whilst trying to catch a glimpse of the hidden waterfall. Similar concerns exist on the brink of the cliff east of the Inch Keith path entrance, and adjacent to the site of Calderwood Castle where a gap in the hedge gives way to 70-80 foot drop. This was the site of at least 2 child deaths and various near-misses requiring fireman assistance.
3. To discourage an anti-social presence and safeguard several historic mature trees which add greatly to the character of Calderglen from further damage (Cement and/or brick fills to cavities by surgeons to prevent more undermining fires).
4. Relinquish the choking impact lack of forestation is having on our gorge, thereby allowing our richer ground-plant biodiversity to re-establish and open up former viewpoints, thereby removing the present lack of viewpoints which make the Glen barely resemble its former glory. Nearly none of the spectacular cliff-faces and waterfalls are visible or visible from the best advantage and many picturesque features are all but invisible.
5. Re-establish access to Calderglen from the Nithsdale path access in Calderwood, and thereby allowing people to access the park, and to be able to appreciate the former Rear Drive to Calderwood Castle present at that point, and forming the miry path itself. All drainage channels have become in-filled.
We the undersigned agree with this petition and ask you, South Lanarkshire Council, to act.
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