On a very wet and extremely grey looking day in September 2020, I chose to explore the old ships graveyard at Newshot Island, near Erskine. With Scotland just coming out of her first lockdown caused by Covid, I was excited to be out exploring once again and I was determined not to let a little rain spoil it for me!
Although situated just 300m from a housing estate, it’s not the easiest place to get to, at least, the main group of wrecks isn’t. Whether walking through the field or along the coast, either way, you need to walk through some rather gloopy and deep mud and it’s not for the faint of heart. To be upfront, I wouldn’t recommend anyone visiting the wrecks. Now I’ve been and seen how dangerous it can be walking through all that mud, my advice would be to visit from afar, use binoculars or a long lens. As well as the danger of the tide, you’ve got the possibility of getting stuck in the mud, stop too long or stand in the wrong area and you will sink.
These day’s, Newshot isn’t really an island, the channel that separated it from the mainland has silted up and it’s now hard to see it as the island it once was. There are no structures on the island, although the old OS maps show one small stone building near the middle. It has a long history but the part I was interested in was the shipwrecks.
Ship or boat? I’ve never really been sure what the correct terminology is. Some of the vessels I’d probably refer to as boats as they are small, flat bottomed and made of wood, however, there is a larger wreck made of metal and as well as some schooners too, so there’s a mixture of both. Either way, whatever they should be called, they make an interesting site to see and superb subject matter for photography.
Some of you may already know the history of this site, others may be asking what the story is, so let me tell you the little I know, for anything more, I’m sure Google can fill in the blanks.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Clyde was widened, deepened, it even had a wall built to speed up the flow, all in the hope of opening up the channel for trade and shipbuilding. Transporting goods from Port Glasgow was proving too slow and expensive and there were limits to how many ships could be docked at any one time. Merchants, especially the tobacco merchants were pushing for Glasgow to deepen the Clyde so they could float larger vessels further down to Glasgow itself and they got their way. It was a task that would take a very long time and a huge amount of money but one that made Glasgow the pre-eminent shipbuilding capital of the UK and helped it to grow to be the mammoth city we see today.
The remaining wrecks, about 20 or so in number, are what’s left of the fleet of hundreds used to dredge the Clyde. Most of the vessels are known as mud punts, small flat bottomed boats loaded with mud dredged from the floor of the Clyde, however, there is also one, far more interesting vessel, much larger and made of metal with a strange square cut out of the rear.
This beauty is a diving bell barge, one of the oldest still surviving and the first one ever used on the Clyde. Surviving may be a slight stretch, it’s slowly disappearing into the mud and being made of metal it’s rusting away too, however, considering it was built in 1852 and it’s been sitting in the mud for over 100 years, it’s done okay.
It’s a really interesting site to see, as are the schooners further along the shore. The schooners are made of wood and they suffered fire damage in the early 1900s. Still smouldering, they were towed here and abandoned. Only the lower part of the hull is now visible but you can see the metal struts that show the original deck height.
Although I don’t think I’d chance another visit, it was a fantastic experience and I’m glad I took the time to explore, even though I was soaked through by the time I returned to the car, thank goodness my camera and lens are weather sealed!
Keep in mind, without venturing onto the mud, you can still visit a couple of the wrecks by following the path South-east from the car park on Kilpatrick Drive. Head along past the old Park Quay and down onto the stony beach. There are paths to walk through the tree’s too but it’s not a very long walk, should you wish to stretch it out, head back up towards the car park and keep going North-west towards the Erskine Bridge Hotel.
If you’ve managed to get this far, thank you for taking the time to read it, I hope you enjoyed the history and the images equally as much.
If you’d like to see a few more images not posted here, head over to my Facebook page, VTLS Photography
As always, the images shared on this post are my own and solely my property. They should not be taken, used or shared without my consent. All images have been taken with either my Pentax KP with the Pentax HD 55-300mm ED WR lens or my Huawei P30 Pro phone.