Shipwrecks: the next community buyout?


Community Land will be in the news for sometime, so I headed down to Wanlockhead on Sunday to meet some of the folk there who are trying to lever 14,000 acres out of the Duke of Buccleuch’s various holdings.

The village is an odd, attractive place full of character and reminiscent of slate towns in Wales, with steep, steep hillsides rearing up immediately around the homes, and industrial land-gone-green threaded through the community to form a patchwork of cottages, turf, burns and stones.

Cottages at Wanlockhead
Cottages at Wanlockhead

Wanlockhead is in the vanguard of the community land movement outside the Highlands and islands, and the team there feel they could be a template for others.

They’re hoping not to have to use any of the upcoming legislation that in certain circumstances can force landowners to sell, but that and other changes, giving communities the chance to get public bodies to hand over property, and to get land where they can put it to better sustainable use, will drive forward the community land movement, and help to bring about the urban land reform which is now on the agenda.

I was thinking of this as I wandered west from Bowling Canal basin the other night to have a look at the old harbour, where the rusting and rotting hulks of ships and boats lie amid the tumbledown harbour walls, seaweed and silt. You’ll see them if you’re on a train going west from Glasgow. As usual I just missed the golden hour for my photographs, but this is must-see for lovers of the beautiful dereliction of our industrial and commercial past.

The old harbour at Bowling
The old harbour at Bowliing

I have no idea if there is supposed to be any public access to this area but I climbed through a large hole in the steel fence that seems intended to keep us out. Looking at the map it appears the empty Clydeside space stretches quite a bit further along, and I’m keen to take another walk further along here.

But what a place this would be for a community to buy and restore … or even just to preserve in its salty, rusty, tumbledown glory, so people could wander through it and think about the people and the journeys whose memory is softly sinking into the muddy sand along with the boats they sailed.