Fifteen Miles on the John Muir Way

Fifteen Miles on the John Muir Way
[North Berwick to Dunbar]


Routemarker – the John Muir Way

In the shadow of Berwick Law we set our easterly course
A happy band of ramblers, eyes fixed on the road ahead
Steady is the pace, chat comes easy, spirits high
As we tread this walkway opened to commemorate
The 100th Anniversary of the death of John Muir

Our first objective is to reach East Linton and the Preston Mill
An ancient structure , still preserved, for grinding grain to flour
Powered by a waterwheel fed by the speeding flow in the lade
An energy efficient method – so long as the rainfall does not fail!


Preston Mill

Enlightened and refreshed by our visit to the mill
We continue our rural ramble, encouraged by brightening skies
Through open country our journey takes us inexorably toward the sea
But not before meandering through fields of wheat bordered by woodland

Among the joys of walking with friends is the chance to
Tune in to the natural world around. The birdsong,
The flowers and trees of infinite variety, the differing landscape
And times of animated conversation or moments of silence and solitude
To wonder at creation and breathe it in to our jaded souls

We eventually enter the John Muir Country Park at Belhaven Bay
This extensive sandy inlet changes with the tides’ ebb and flow
And as our eyes are drawn outwards from the shore line
We catch a view of the steep volcanic sides of the Bass Rock
Featured in works of fiction, including Catriona by R L Stevenson


The Bass Rock

And so our steady progress continues, our faces weathered
By the changing conditions, the cobwebs of the city blown away
Our hearts inspired by the heady mixture of fresh air
And recognition of the beauty of life, we press on gratefully

As we near the town of Dunbar we skirt a verdant golf course
Then the coastal path reveals vistas below of the rocky shoreline
Notwithstanding our weariness, we have to descend
And then ascend several stone stairways which brought back childhood memories
Of scenes in some of the adventures of the intrepid Rupert Bear

At last, like pilgrims on a journey, we reach our final destination
Weary but contented. Happy to have completed the distance
Happy to have communed with nature, happy to have been in
Each others’ company. Grateful to share in  John Muir’s legacy

Ken Fisher

 


Dunbar

200 Years of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens

200 Years of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

Congratulations to this old friend
Providing such pleasure and satisfaction
For two centuries you have been our pride and joy
Playground and classroom for successive generations

Thanks to those whose foresight became our legacy
Benefactors and botanists who nurtured this grandiose project
The City Fathers in their own time too
Who promoted the development of the gardens

History tells of the sub-terranean railway line
And the old bandstand at the crown of the hill
In more recent times the Kelvin Walkway
Arboretum and Bard in the Botanics

In the wide pathways and greensward
Now liberated from restrictions of an earlier age
Children of all ages cavort quite uninhibited
While others meander along riverside walks

Surely the crowning glory of this renowned parkland
The glasshouses, Kibble and Main Range
Custodians of exotic plant species
Promoter of science and art together

Past venue for political diatribes to sway our views
And religious rallies to stir the heart and save the soul
Meeting point for horticultural aficionados
And platforms for booksellers and plant societies

Couples newly wed parade quite unabashed
Along the main pathway’s wide expanse
As photographers like the paparazzi
Seek the image that will surely flatter

And tiny tots with their attentive guardians
Flex youthful muscles while learning how to balance
In the play areas especially designed for them
A kindergarten for growing minds and bodies

Behind the scenes at the Botanics
Much serious work is undertaken
While visitors refresh themselves in cafes
The cultivation of the plants is centre stage

So thanks to those who had the vision and the will
To establish this treasure trove in our green space
We salute those pioneers and innovators
And pledge to do our part to honour their generous legacy

Ken Fisher

Scotland’s National Museum

Scotland’s National Museum
[Thoughts prompted by a recent visit]

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Perhaps it is the ancient rivalry between Scotland’s two major cities
Or just some kind of inertia which has kept Glaswegians from visiting
The National Museum of Scotland – situated in the capital
But having discovered it recently, I assure you this is a treasure
Without equal – including the Kelvingrove compendium

In Edinburgh you will find the story of life from pre-historic times
Trace the evolution of creatures through to development of human societies
The origins of culture and art, the inventiveness of homo sapiens
In science, technology, engineering, communication, and space exploration
Man’s fight against disease, and his conquests against his fellow men

The whole realm of natural history is on display from primitive life
To Dolly the sheep and the latest revelations in genetics
And in the human sphere the history of fashion is traced in its glory and triviality
Then on a higher plane the world of ideas, of philosophy, religion and literature
Indeed this museum seeks to encapsulate the story of our world and beyond

But perhaps one of the most interesting things to consider is
The enormous contribution that native Scots (and others educated here)
Have made to the advancement of culture, health, physical science, human endeavour,
And the limitless quest for understanding. Thus we remember the names Stevenson,
Scott, Watt, Smith, Simpson, Livingston, Hume, Burns, Carlyle and so many others
Who sought to shed light and truth in each successive age

Ken Fisher

 

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Kelvin’s Banks

Kelvin’s Banks

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The River Kelvin plays second fiddle to the Clyde
[And if you think the Cart is bigger, then it’s third]
By drawing water from the city’s northern fringes
Channeling it through valleys, beneath so many bridges

The Kelvin with the Canal may be seen to flirt
As they each progress, as rivals in concert
At Maryhill the Forth & Clyde leaps straight across
Using the aqueduct to show who’s boss!

At Kelvindale the river once powered the paper mill
At North Woodside, flint grinding oft quite shrill
Thus the River ensured both work and play
Labour and green spaces to this very day

Esteemed thinkers reflected by this river’s banks
In the University or other famed think-tanks
Lord Kelvin, physicist whose renown is universal
And other learned academics with ideas rational

Bordering this river we find an acclaimed garden botanic
Leafy walkways nurturing tyrsts e’er so romantic
A haven for cyclists and walkers with their dogs
Jostle with health fanatics determined to enjoy their jog

So thanks for the Kelvin with its banks and verdant parks
Its bridges, its churches and other famed land-marks
As the water flows downstream to join up with the Clyde
Lovers of this watercourse can assuredly take pride

Ken Fisher

Advent-ure

Adventure [To mark the moving, on the first Sunday in Advent,  of Hillhead Baptist Church, Glasgow to temporary accommodation in a West End Hotel]

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This is the tale of our church that is now on the move
From the building which for years was the home that we loved
But time has come to embark on a venture
Which perhaps for many will prove an adventure

For long we have waited the signal to go
And with anticipation our hearts were aglow
At last it would seem the conditions are right
The congregation together will join in the flight

But we are not flying far, thank goodness for that
Just a few hundred yards to the Welcome mat
Of a local hotel with doors open wide
Happy to let us gather inside

On this first Sunday in the Advent Season
I think we will find there is every good reason
To look forward in joyful anticipation
Like the Shepherds of old, full of expectation

So let’s join the Adventure with no hesitation
No doubts in our hearts or prevarication
No matter the changes we’re sure we will cope
For trusting in God we truly have hope

As we depart from the Tryst and take to the road
To the place we have chosen as our temporary abode
This adventure is sure to bring us success
As by faith’s road we onward progress

Ken Fisher

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Let the Train Take the Strain

Let the Train Take the Strain

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Recently I found myself on a variety of trains for a prolonged
Rail journey through various European countries
It’s amazing how many organisations are now in the
Rail transport business.

Apart from UK providers like Virgin Trains (however did he chose that name?)
We have Eurostar, SNCF, Deutsche Bahn, Thales, Rail Jet to name but a few
There are Pendolino trains and ICE (Intercity Express) and Alstom high speed
In fact the options are almost infinite and no-one can complain of lack of choice
And I haven’t even mentioned the Orient Express!

But there is something romantic about travel by train, something
worth preserving despite the other options available to the traveller

So here is a little rhyme to capture that mood

Check the Departure Board to confirm the time
On the right platform, next to our line
Search for our coach number, in the right class
Seated passengers gaze back through the glass

Mount the steep ladder to enter the coach
Hoping that no-one has our space encroached
Remember we have booked a nice reserved seat
So we should not with others have to compete

Why is our seat number always at the wrong end?
As up the passage we haltingly wend
At last we have found it – it must be still free
A window seat with a view fills us with glee

Our luggage loaded neatly up onto the rack
The siren sounds, we feel movement of wheels on the track
We are off on our journey no matter where
And soon we forget all of our dull cares

Not long in our progress we feel need to refresh
And tasty snacks and drinks our pangs soon repress
Free newspapers are issued by one of their staff
Of course we get them ‘cause we travel first class!

As the miles disappear under the wheels
And the country and townscape to us are revealed
We thunder through stations as if out of control
Determined to reach our great journey’s goal

Eventually we arrive at the terminal station
In brief hours we have traversed across the nation
All this without effort if one travels by train
Cast aside all our woes – let the rails take the strain

Ken Fisher

 

Austrian Delights

Austrian Delights

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Salzburg from the Hohensalzburg Fortress

As one who has never visited these parts before, Austria
provided an endless cascade of new images, new sensations,
new experiences, new stimulus to the eye, and for the ear.
Altogether a challenge to all the senses, a delight to the spirit

The nation nurtured the talents of Mozart and more than one Strauss
And two Gustavs each lived in a Viennese house
Mahler the composer and Klimt who painted ‘The Kiss’
Found in that city all they might wish

And we must not forget or sublimate to avoid
The great musings of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud
The Emperor Franz Joseph was a significant figure
But the Viennese disliked being ruled with such rigour

Not withstanding the importance of this capital city
To neglect all the rest would be rather a pity
The banks of the Danube yield treasures in store
In the Wachau valley Melk and Krems will help the wine pour

Without doubt a visit to Salzburg will bring great delight
Mozart was born there, its baroque buildings a wonderful sight
Stroll through its Mirabell Gardens, or to its high fortress ascend
From every invasion its walls could defend

But there is so much more to enjoy in this magical land
The lyrics of ‘The Sound of Music’ are always at hand
In that enchanting tale which the world captivated
It seems the real charm of Austria is encapsulated

Ken Fisher

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The Kiss – Gustav Klimt

The Isle of Arran

The Isle of Arran

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Beauty and grandeur set in the silver sea
The Isle of Arran, in the Firth of Clyde
The Brodick Ferry lands us safely on its shores
Opening the gate to this world of charms

From the lofty peak of Goat Fell’s rocky summit
Down steep sided slopes through its many glens
To the shoreline’s sandy beaches and buzzing towns
Or seek spiritual renewal at the Holy Island

The rural paths for walkers and for climbers
Testing terrain for energetic cyclists
Golf courses in excess and every other sport
Accommodated within this isle’s circumference

Brodick Castle showcases the life aristocratic
While seaside pubs and shops cater for us plebs
But none feel excluded in this land of infinite variety
Which for centuries has welcomed all who come

So thanks to the residents of Brodick, Lamlash and Whiting Bay
The ‘northerners’ at Lochranza and their other ferry
And the denizens of Pirnmill, Machrie and Blackwaterfoot
Who face across the Sound of Kilbrannan to distant Kintyre

To all the sights and sounds of this majestic isle
We beckon those who have not yet here ventured
Come and discover all that Arran offers to your soul
And let your heart be captivated in its spell

Ken Fisher