The true source of the North Calder is the Black Loch just south of the village of High Limerigg which is approximately 700ft above sea level on the Slamannan Plateau, at the centre of the Forth/Clyde isthmus and on the watershed between the east and west coasts of Scotland.
It is a very short river, a distance of approximately 12 miles from source to the River Clyde. This gives an average drop of over 50ft for each mile of its length which is considerable for a lowland river.
All water courses in this area flow eastwards towards the Forth with the exception of the North Calder which takes that direction too but for a short distance before defying nature and turning south west.
Like all rivers she starts as but a wee burn as she meanders through the peat of the plateau and it takes her many twisted and contorted miles before she resembles what we know to be a proper river.
The North Calder enters the east end of the 345 acre Hillend Reservoir at Forestfield which stretches to Caldercruix.
The reservoir is also fed by a supply from the higher elevated reservoir known locally as The Lily Loch.
The construction of both these reservoirs were financed by the Forth & Clyde Canal Company to create a reliable and constant water supply for the Forth and Clyde Canal. The supply of course flowed along the North Calder and thence into the Monkland Canal.
As all canals loose water through evaporation and seepage, this must be replaced to maintain the correct depth and therefore the North Calder Water became a vital source of supply.
The real benefit for the Monkland Canal Company who engineered the North Calder Water flow was that they got their water supply for free from the North Calder Water.
Hillend Reservoir was constructed in 1799 and is now owned by British Waterways, the eventual successors to the Forth & Clyde Canal Company.
This was the first industrial use made of the North Calder Water. The North Calder flows out of Hillend Reservoir east of Caldercruix by way of a sluice under the dam and it is here that the river enters what the geologists call an 'incised river valley' which it remains in for the rest of its journey to the River Clyde.
There is a noticeable increase and strength of flow as she leaves Hillend Reservoir but it’s still no more than a strong burn as it loops its way west below Caldercruix “crooks of the Calder” to Plains where the Browns Burns enters and then onto Moffat Mills, Petersburn and through the heavily wooded Monkland Glen.
It is just below Gartness that it gains more volume when the Shotts burn which collects water from the Clattering Burn which flows out from Roughrigg reservoir and then enters the North Calder Water.
Roughrigg was another of the Forth and Clyde Canal Company’s Reservoirs.
Through the outskirts of Chapelhall it cuts its way through ravines towards Calderbank where it takes a sharp turn to the west and it is here that this river first made a significant contribution to the Industrial Revolution when it was used as a source for the large Ironworks on its northern bank.
A short distance downstream it is dammed (1792) and it is at this point that the water flows from it into the eastern terminus of the Monkland canal at Woodhall.
For a half a mile or so the canal has a current due to the inflow, this isn't a common sight on a canal.
Further evidence of the river's use by industry is more often noticed downstream of these points.
In 1801 a hugely important discovery was made in the riverbed of the North Calder Water near the Cairnhill estate in the south of Airdrie, when local businessman and steel making pioneer, David Mushet found Blackband Ironstone. This find was an important landmark in the resulting iron & steel industries which appeared in the area and which developed Monklands into one of Scotland's most important industrial areas.
Throughout its course as it twists through the Monklands towards the River Clyde near Daldowie the river has been used by many and varied industries over the past three centuries , and most likely long before that.
Corn mills, flax mills, Paper mills, Coal mines, Iron foundries and a host of others made use of the river's water and power.
The downside of all this was that the river became heavily polluted and as a result all aquatic life totally vanished.
Its only is only in the last fifty or so years as these industries declined and closed down, that wildlife and fish have returned to the river.
It is very pleasing to know that fish can now be found along its entire course, these include perch, tench, trout and eels.
All manner of birdlife can be found along the course of the North Calder Water as well as Wildlife such as Deer, Red foxes, Badgers, American mink amd Grey & Red squirrels
Sadly, unlike other tributaries of the Clyde no Atlantic Salmon are yet to be found in the North Calder, this it seems is due to a lack of clean headwater streams with suitable grades of gravel beds, which are required for successful spawning. It’s likely that the construction of Hillend Reservoir is the cause of this.
However, these days the North Calder Water is under threat once again, this time from modern day pollution and neglect. Now that the heavy industry has gone the river is now blighted by the manifestation of the throw away and selfish culture and society that we live into today.
Walk along any stretch of North Calder Water from its source to its confluence with the River Clyde and you are undoubtedly bound to come across dumped household waste and even discarded household items such as sofas, beds, fridges, washing machines and tvs to name but just a few.
The lack of interest by the local council and the countryside preservation groups in this natural asset is scandalous.
The disgraceful state of this Clyde tributary especially in the Monklands area needs addressed with urgent action by local Government before this burn escalates into a forgotten rancid dumping ground. Politicians need to put their self-interests to one side and deal with real issues affecting the recreational greenbelt of our region!