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Raintown, Raingarden, Rainscape.

December 21st, 2021

When did swimming outside become “wild swimming”? Things we have always done outside are gentrified by new titles and commodified by purchases of dry-robes and wetsuit shoes. I recently swam at the White Loch with some neighbours on a warm evening and felt elated for days afterwards from the cold and that smell of fresh alive water. I am not wild -  this is a natural and life affirming thing for anyone to do – to swim outside and to play in water. But we have removed the ability for many people to access or enjoy these simple things and this is both shameful and dangerous – witness the surge in drownings last summer when it was hot and inexperienced swimmers struggled in the cold waters of our lochs and rivers. People living in Scotland should be at one with water because it is fundamental to our landscapes and therefore our lives.


How do you achieve this in an inner city? We have so much water in Glasgow, we cannot tame the leaks and bulges, the springs that burst from hilltops, the puddles in the potholes: because of Raintown downpours, the grass here will always tend towards sensual wetland and bog. Indeed, the city exists within the context of a sub-temperate rainforest, evidenced by the rich ecosystems of our gutters and downpipes. But we are still escaping a Victorian inheritance of culverted burns, drained lochs and canalised rivers. There is a burn under our Southside Primary School, another right under our house. Street names betray the watery past – Bogton Avenue, Bath Street, Water Street, Camlachie (wild duck hollow), Goosedubbs Lane – where the provost’s geese gathered in the puddles or dubs.


I have been reading about Gothenburg and their creative celebrations of rain for the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city. Glasgow is seeking new water management approaches through the Avenues projects, but really this is an engineer led initiative. Glasgow’s watery landscape could be brought to vivid life through a radically playful approach. At erz we build puddleponds and playful rills into our school designs, mud kitchens and wetlands in our nurseries and schools projects, with willow and alders soaking up the groundwater. We could be doing similar playful things in our public realm –


  • why not a waterfall down Buchanan Street ending in a cascade at the riverside?
  • a seasonal paddling pond/ice rink in George Square?
  • an Argyll Street canal with a catwalk/towpath for showing off your fashion purchases seeing yourself reflected gloriously in the water?


All those carparks could be bounded by wet woodlands, the Molindinar daylighted in its ravine, frog-filled wetland gardens on Glasgow Green and bathing pools with sociable café decks on the edge of the Clyde. A massive water slide would draw tourists to Kelvingrove Park, and architect designed bathing huts next to big sandy riverside beaches would be let to local families where the White Cart cuts through the Southside at Linn Park.


This is doable and affordable stuff in the context of a massive spend on climate change mitigation. We can use the rainwaters for positive purposes, instead of spending millions on attenuation tanks and sewers. Not just rain-gardens but rain-landscapes.


Happy Christmas, stay safe and well and bring on the rain.

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