The Bowline as part of Bowling Harbour Regeneration

The iconic and previously derelict, 125-year-old Category B Listed railway viaduct at Bowling Harbour in West Dunbartonshire has been transformed into a linear park and active travel connection as part of the wider regeneration of Bowling Harbour by Scottish Canals. 

The problem

1. Bowling Harbour is an important destination for boaters, cyclists, walkers and other visitors and local residents, being located on the Forth and Clyde Canal, and being the gateway to the Firth of Clyde. The harbour and the railway viaduct that crosses it had fallen into disrepair since both the canal and the railway were closed and were not contributing socially, economically or ecological to the local area.  

2.The canal network was reopened in 2000 but the the Railway Viaduct and rail line that spans the canal remained closed and was dangerous, derelict and unused.

3.The long distance National Cycle Route 7 (NCR7) connecting Glasgow to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park used to include a dangerous road crossing at the village of Bowling.  

A solution was required to further assist with the ongoing regeneration of the harbour area, to restore and reopen the viaduct and to improve the active travel connections on NCR7.

The Solution

Masterplan First

In 2014, a masterplan for the regeneration of the area was developed in conjunction between Scottish Canals (the client and the custodians of the Scotland’s Canal network), West Dunbartonshire Council, the local community, and other stakeholders which aimed to realise the potential of the area. A key feature of the regeneration masterplan was the new vision for the category B Listed Bowling Viaduct structure – transforming the historic railway line into a new linear park and active travel connection, and the conversion of former railway arches into new business space. In 2017, following the refurbishment of the viaduct arches and the creation of commercial units funding was received to commence work on the transformation of the derelict railway line.

The Bowline 

The design of the 700m long route is comprised of several distinct character areas that correspond to the surrounding landscape context and the three viaduct sections that span the Forth and Clyde Canal, the North Clyde rail line and the A814. 

The linear park contains accessible viewing platforms that open up views across the harbour, blocks of woodland planting, a hierarchy of paths for walking and cycling; and boardwalks and stepping stones for children to ‘explore’. Materials compliment the industrial character of the structure including; precast concrete, cast iron and powder coated steel.

A key factor of the design was to ensure that equal access for all users was achieved and includes an all-abilities access ramp as part of this.  This ramp has been designed for full cycle, wheelchair and pedestrian access, thus maximising the opportunities for all visitors to the Bowling to access the viaduct and the wonderful panoramic views across the Firth of Clyde. 

Planting complements and further emphasises the design through a framework of woodland planting out of which the viaduct structures emerge, and colourful carpets of ground cover capable of growing within the thin soil depths on the bridges. Blocks of birch trees evoke the period of dereliction which saw self-seeding of pioneer species, as nature began to re-emerge on the site.

Lighting at the Bowline has been designed to enhance the newly restored Swing Bridge and Road Bridge historic girder bridge structures with integrated dynamic colour change LED feature lighting and provide appropriate functional illumination of the route. All lighting designed for the Bowline project has been carefully considered in terms of lighting intensity, colour and environmental impact, especially glare and spill light controls.

Interpretive graphics and bespoke way finding totems have been sensitively integrated into the overall landscape design.

Sustainability has been a key component of all material specification, consideration and detailing. The project has introduced new native planting and landscaping across the site and includes the planting of over 1000 new native trees. Furthermore an experimental project for using canal dredgings as a source of topsoil is being undertaken as part of the project. The dredgings have been spread adjacent to the new woodland sections of the cycle path and seeded with grass seed mixes. These will be studied to determine their suitability to be used in future in place of topsoil on subsequent Scottish Canal projects.  Normally dredged material is classified as waste and disposed as landfill or dumped at sea.  The experimental use of this material saves on the disposal and transport costs of this material.

Active travellers on NCR7 can now take full advantage of the harbour’s regeneration. The investment in Bowling Harbour will not only promote tourism, help tackle health inequalities and fight climate change by promoting carbon neutral travel, but act as a catalyst for further investment around the area.

Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect

Project location: The Bowline, Bowling Harbour, Bowling, West Dumbartonshire, Scotland

Design year: 2016 – 2019

Year Built: 2020 – 2021

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