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Falkirk Coat of Arms

May 2013

The Forth and Clyde Canal and Bonnybridge.

Map - X349 - FALKIRK, CUMBERNAULD & LIVINGSTONE - Linlithgow, Bathgate & Kilsyth.

Distance - 4.5 miles Strenuousity - 2.

Falkirk Coat of Arms

Just been watching the Dambusters, the 70th-anniversary flypast on the news, that is, and not part of a £3 DVD box set from a garden centre.

The Dam Busters

It gets you thinking about those 'ghost planes', you know, low-flying Lancaster Bombers that force drivers off the road in the Northern Peak District?

Attention seekers, sorry witnesses, report these silent phenomena but there's never any evidence of an assumed crash and there's more information  here.

Then there's your 'ghost station' but not supernatural these, just abandoned London Tube stations.

Ghost Station

Hidden, street-level entrances and the occasional glimpse of an unused, underground platform beget their spooky description.

There's more, and you think this is badly laid out, information  here.

And then, of course, there's your 'ghost junction'.

You know, you're happily cruising northbound on the M9 past junction 5 with the intention of leaving at J6 but before you know it you’re passing J7 and have to take the M876 south-west to leave at J1 to get on the A883 back east to Falkirk?

M9

There's no more information here as the phrase appears to have just been coined. This after some considerable research to conclude there's no actual northbound J6 exit on the M9.

This actual and literal diversion was the result of having a few hours to kill to avoid some rain in Glasgow. This thing had been seen signposted before and enough was known of the  Falkirk Wheel to give it the courtesy of a passing look.

The Falkirk Wheel

Details won't be dwelt on other than it makes boats go up and down and there are far better  Dibnah-esque descriptions out there. Falkirk is also where good friend  Malcolm Middleton grew up.

By good friend, it's meant that I once told him after a few pints in the  Cluny that some of his songs were quite good.

This meagre four-and-a-half miler takes you west along the Forth and Clyde Canal towpath, cuts south to some Roman ruins before emerging eastbound from woodland at the Falkirk Wheel.

If you avoid the café and the boat trip, it used to be a rare, free day out but parking is now included. Some historic comeuppance, however, having forked out for a pair of soggy scones at the, otherwise impressive, Wheelhouse Restaurant[1] and bar on the way in.

Forget about the fee that now applies and fold your OS X349 accordingly for there's mechanical madness nearby.

FALKIRK, CUMBERNAULD & LIVINGSTONE - Linlithgow, Bathgate & Kilsyth

[1] Recently reopened and rebranded as the Boardwalk Restaurant and looks to be part of the Cawley Hotels chain. Cawley Hotels? What? You not got as far as Gartocharn yet?

From the north car park[1], head to the canal via the information board and the ramp. Don't cross the canal, that glinting metallic structure is just a teaser for later. At least it would be if there was ever any glinting being done in this part of the world[2].

Falkirk Wheel - Information Board Falkirk Wheel - Forth and Clyde Canal Towpath

Follow the canal towpath west. There's likely to be plenty of traffic along here, joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, cycling dogs but not much happening water-wise.

[1] If you've parked in the other one, make your way to the canal and cross over the bridge. You might want to wear a bag on your head to avoid spoilers.
[2] Doesn't it seem to rain a lot around here?

After just over a mile, there's a boarded-up hospital[1] visible through the shrubbery.

Near Falkirk Wheel - Boarded-up hospital

Given the reputation of the regional diet, it's assumed to have relocated and not closed due to lack of business.

Just after some houses start, ignore the path down and continue with nothing else to report along this stretch.

[1] There was in 2013. It's houses now, probably[2].
[2] Definitely in 2017.

Nothing much at all happening along here... WHOA! Where did this fella come from?

Near Falkirk Wheel - Ardea cinerea

Today was the first outing for a new camera with a bit of zoom on it. This one was plain lucky, the other thirty-five blurry efforts just drank the batteries.

Eyes back on the towpath and continue to where the canal kinks left and some steps on the right take you down to the main road to Bonnybridge.

Near Falkirk Wheel - Near Bonnybridge Near Falkirk Wheel - Downtown Bonnybridge

You should emerge with a petrol station on your right and a social club opposite. Turn left to follow the road into downtown Bonnybridge.

Colloquially speaking, Northern and Scottish folk will use the word bonny to mean attractive. Similarly, some of them young 'uns have been heard to use the word bad to also mean the exact opposite.

Bear left at the roundabout chuckling at 'For Eyes' the Opticians hee-hee-hee and 'The Coffee-Teria' ha-ha-ha. Somebody really should make a note of these and publish them perhaps in an amusing novelty book, of sorts, at Christmas ho-ho-ho!

At the garage and just before the road rises to cross the canal, take the Pend.

Bonnybridge - Bridge Street Bonnybridge - The 'Pend' Bonnybridge - Plaque above the 'Pend'

The plaque above commemorates a group of badly-armed, radical weavers who took on the government over poor working conditions back in 1820. There was a suspected infiltrator meaning it didn't  pend well for them.

By the way, it's just another word for a tunnel here in these parts.

Emerge onto Bonnyside Road and follow it up through new builds and ugly, rural industry to cross a bridge over the railway line.

Bonnyside Road - Railway bridge Bonnyside Road - Over the bridge

Just over the bridge, take the metal gate on the left just before the main entrance to the house.

You could just continue on the road to what's left of  Rough Castle but...

The track beyond the gate looked more interesting and, you never know, there might be like some wildlife or something down here?...

Hello! Here a deer here. Four of them were grazing but soon scarpered on approach. It's suspected the wind had just switched because this fella hung around long enough to nearly drain what was left of the batteries.

Near Bonnybridge - Cervus elaphus Track near Bonnybridge

Carry on and look out for where the track turns right for there's history to be had up there.

These lumpy doings are what's left of Rough Castle and the Antonine Wall. No? Never heard of it, neither. You might well ask who put this here and it's only polite to tell, the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, no less!

Near Falkirk Wheel - The Antonine Wall

Started some twenty years after Hadrian had his trowel out, this lesser-known effort was the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire.

Stretching coast to coast from Edinburgh to Glasgow, not much remains other than these grassy foundations and its twenty years of relative ineffectiveness account for only minor World Heritage Site status.

Some imagination is required of the then and now, most of the main material was turf! Grass walls?

About as much use as a eunuch, on the way to an orgy, smoking a fag, on a motorbike who fancies a pot of tea but only has some chocolate to hand etc.

There's a good, oooh, half an hour's worth here and these defensive pits once harboured sharpened stakes for your unsuspecting Caledonian marauder.

Near Falkirk Wheel - Antonine Wall - Defensive Pits Near Falkirk Wheel - Antonine Wall Woodland

Exhausted or nonplussed with the history lesson on a plaque, there's a small stretch of woodland to negotiate as you move on and evidence of the wall disappears behind you.

Nothing too much to worry about, you'd have to be a complete idiot to lose your bearings in here.

The path goes man-made as you catch a glimpse of, is that a? No, it can't be? Of course, it's a concrete aqueduct and it's being looked down from atop a tunnel here.

Falkirk Wheel Aqueduct Falkirk Wheel Aqueduct

The Union and The Forth and Clyde canals used to be linked about a mile east of here by eleven of your traditional wooden locks. Industrial downturn and trains on the level led to a decline in use and ultimately, closure in the 1930s. There was an issue with a 1990s proposal to restore the link... it now had people living on it!

No problem, extend the Union Canal west to here and build a new link north to rejoin the Forth and Clyde. But that'll mean a newly carved tunnel taking care to catalogue any buried Antonine antiquities? Ambitious!

At some point during the planning process, somebody must have piped up... 'You see that 115-foot drop?' Don't worry, simply construct an originally-engineered, rotating, metallic mechanism to bridge the vertical gap.

What's that? You've done the diagrams and you know this thing is working out at only 79 foot? Relax man, just stick a couple of locks along the new aqueduct to lower them barges and line them up, right in position. Preposterous!

Falkirk Wheel Aqueduct The Falkirk Wheel

Finally, the Falkirk Wheel. It can carry up to eight boats at a time and takes less than six minutes up and down. Watching from the sidelines, it didn't spill a drop.

It's a short hop over the canal and railway back to the car park. Crackers!

Fauna Saw...

What Number Behaviour  
Deer 4 Scarpery.
Grey Heron 1 Big and bloomin' hairy.