After the rain, the sun 19/01/20

What is more uplifting than watching the sun set on hills and coast? I was travelling back from Peel, a journey that usually only takes 25 minutes, but I was so mesmerised by the colours and shapes on the skyline it took me over an hour to get home. Here are some of the photos taken with my mobile, often from the car. The hills across the water are the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland, the distant cliffs and hills are from Niarbyl to the Sound, Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, and the pinker sky on other photos is mostly over South Barrule.

 

A Shapely Walk Around Douglas and Summerhill Glen- 4 miles

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The natural entrance to Summerhill Glen

Douglas is a surprisingly attractive town to walk around as long as you turn a blind eye to the less appealing aspects of its make-up and areas that look lost and forlorn or where some car park or development has emerged from nowhere and taken away all the character of the area. The Isle of Man does itself no favours by not caring enough about its heritage and there are too many derelict buildings or hideous erections that should never have seen the light of day, not even in an architect’s mind let alone in practice. It is too quick to destroy what history it has, as in the pending doom of the lone 18th century cottage which is being demolished to make way for a new ”by-pass” in Ballasalla, only approved by short-sighted politicians because Dandara promised to fund it as long as they could build xxx number of houses at the same time. But I digress…

You might say Douglas is much like any town. But look up, out, about and around the many old buildings  of the later 19th and early 20th centuries and you will see interesting shapes and objects that will surprise you. Roadnames with fingers pointing you in the right direction, canopies over shops that look as if they belong in Tunbridge Wells Pantiles area, attractive iron railings separating the Edwardian properties, squares of parkland and a crescent of housing reminiscent of Bath (though not as grand). Lots and lots of substantial Edwardian properties built to last, reminding us of the Isle of Man’s heyday when B &B’s sprung up in abundance to cater for the wild tourism that would swarm in on the ferry in the summer months.

I had been to the dentist on Woodburn Square and instead of walking back to the bus stop I went in the opposite direction, down roads I have never walked before, around the back of Nobles Park to the top of Summerhill Glen. The house styles are very varied and many are attractive with double fronts or bay windows, a row of chocolate box houses, one with a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden and sometimes very unusual houses. There were two houses side by side with windows in the upper elevations that looked as if they belonged in the 16th century as their small windows protruded out above the main house. There are many established trees in this area and it feels quite luxurious in places. There must have been a large country seat where Laureston Manor remains, now afflicted by the ever terminal illness of living apartments, but it still has its grounds and other houses have been built around the edge of its land, so the pathwork of land still retains its rich flavour.

I reached an area where most of the roads bear the name Victoria or similar, signs of anticipated grandeur and nobility – Victoria Road, Victoria Crescent, Victoria Avenue, Dukes Road, Upper Duke’s Road, Palace Road, Castle Hill – you get my drift, and here the roads are at the top of the wonderful cliff that skirts the whole of Douglas Bay and from where if you could only see through the trees there must be a wonderful view of the Bay. There are several very large buildings around here, many now converted for business use, again indicating that Douglas has at times been very wealthy.

All this was unexpected. This was not a planned trip but an idle walk through Douglas to get some fresh air with the idea of walking in daylight down Summerhill Glen. My first visit to this Glen was just two week’s ago when my son Matthew stayed with me for Christmas and we went to enjoy the illuminations which we did thoroughly enjoy in spite of the rain.

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Reaching the top of the Glen I followed the path down to discover a second more interesting path that enters the glen from the other side of the stream. I know most people are very happy with the modernisation of the paths in the glens but for me wide tarmac paths lose all the natural feel and magic of walking down a forested glen, so I was very happy to wander along the section that had not been tarmacked and watch the water meandering its way across the flat and boggy terrain, creating new rivulets here and there as it jumped over minor hazards on their way to join the main stream.

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The glen itself is very natural at the top and I found several interesting shapes in the stream and in the vegetation that sparked my interest. The stream is pretty with minor waterfalls along its ever downward and slightly winding trajectory. In the centre there is a flat area with wooden seats neatly positioned to enjoy the display the children (and adults) have created. It is not possible to follow the stream all the way to the sea as it goes underground whilst still quite elevated, but when I reached the shore to see where it finally entered the sea, I could hear a rush of water where it comes out behind the houses on Strathallan Crescent.

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The tide was out so I walked out into the bay and again I looked up at the lovely aforementioned cliffs and noticed houses half way up holding tightly on to the side of the cliffs, a pink house I had never noticed before with a curtain of trees behind it. Looking in the other direction out to sea, I walked out as far as the sand would allow me and came across boulders and seaweed that were as tall as me. I walked the mile or so back into town, and if you wished you could make a full circle of this walk.

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So, if you come to Douglas, take a bit of time to venture into those parts you don’t usually go and I’m sure you will find hidden treasures.

Below:  A slideshow of some shapes in Summerhill Glen

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I regret to say I did not take photos of the interesting properties I saw, but I will retrace those steps another time when I am armed with my camera and not just my mobile phone.

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Port Soderick to Douglas along Marine Drive – 2nd November 2019

DSC02192This week saw the last of the steam train journeys until next spring, so what better way to go into Douglas than to hop aboard at Port Erin and disembark at Port Soderick to walk the 5 miles into Douglas.

DSC02177Here is the Kissack, no 13, waiting to leave Port Sorderick.  As I walked down the lane I encountered a convivial lady sportingly cleaning up the road for vehicles as all the drains were blocked by the autumn leaves and the excessive rainfall of recent days, leaving great puddles. That’s what I call neighbourliness.

I walked through the glen which was a little on the muddy side. I never known the Crogga stream to be so loud as it made its way downhill and then softened as it gained the lower reaches, just every now and again bubbling over the rocks.

Reaching Port Soderick Bay, I never cease to amazed how this area was once a bustling pleasure beach, with all kinds of attractions and businesses – outdoor games, a camera obscura, Thomas the ‘novelty card’ printer, roundabouts and such time as well as  the now defunct and removed Falcon Cliff lift that enable to tourists to have a leisurely (if ugly) route to the top of marine drive, where they could get the horse tram all the way to Douglas. It seems like another world. I do remember the hotel which was always good for a coffee but that has also long since gone. They are always talks of renovating this area. If so, maybe they could reintroduce the story of the Enchanted Isle off Port Soderick, which was sunk beneath the seas by the magician Finn McCool along with its inhabitants which were turned to granite pillars; the island rises out of the sea every seven years for just 30 minutes, when the inhabitants will be restored to life if they can place a Bible on the island in that time.

I followed the muddy path alongside the road to the top of the hill where I took the cover photo. These hills are steeper and higher than they look here at about 300 ft high. They are mostly the typical Manx group of rocks comprising mudstone, siltstones and sandstones of the Lonan formation. They form the standard thin and craggy beds of slate that were distorted by the uplift of mountain formation in the Silurian and Devonian period, and in places these are very dramatic. At Keristal, close to Port Soderick,  and towards Douglas you will find large slabs of paler sandstone giving a softer landscape.

In places the rocks are quite architechtural, as here, close to Douglas Head gate house.

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Marine Drive was constructed and the tramway opened in 1896 and was not the wide roadway as it appears today. In places an overhanging iron roadway was made to get around some of the tricky rocks and this section was suitably named ‘Horses Leap’. However, it was all dismantled between 1947 and 1949 partly due to rock falls. It was converted into a roadway in 1956 and over time it became a walkers’ paradise and the central section closed to vehicles. It is easy to see why when you walk the route.

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Having had only coastal views and wonderful skies, including an enticing rainbow as I reached the Whing (the steepest and most contorted of the rocks), it is all over too soon and soon the path starts sloping making its descent into Douglas. Looking at the clouds over the mountains I had time my walk just right.

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A very pleasant walk of 5 miles and about 733 ft of ascent, but it is very easy after the intial ascent and just little ups and downs along the way.

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Loweswater – 12th October 2019

Time to put Loweswater on the map. Hurrah – at last, I made it out with the group, my one and only walk not on my tod. What’s more the weather was fine, even a little sunny, so off we went on our ‘school’ trip to Buttermere and Loweswater.

Our first stop was Buttermere, where we did some sightseeing. Our first port of call was the village church of St.James, set above the village and facing Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. This unassuming church is charming in its simplicity and has some original features such as an antique organ dating from 1820 and a stone tablet dedicated to Alfred Wainwright positioned just below a window with views to his favourite mountain, Haystacks. From here, we had a short meander to Buttermere lake, before remounting our bus to take us to Loweswater, where our leader recounted the infamous story of the Maid of Buttermere and the Fish Inn. I will leave you to look that up yourself.

The view of Haystacks from the church

This area is slightly off the beaten track with Crummockwater and Buttermere glacial lakes and valley taking pride of place in this section of the Lakes. But it is not a lake or an area to be dismissed easily. Indeed it is featured in an article by the Guardian describing the top 20 lakes in Europe, and beer lovers and those fond of antiquities will enjoy the natural homeliness of the Kirkstile Inn and its Loweswater Gold brew.

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The walk starts from this point. Loweswater is slightly higher than Crummockwater at 128m but is only a shallow lake of about 10 metres compared with Crummockwater with depths of 40 metres and Buttermere 20 metres, and it is dammed by terminal moraine at its southeasterly point, where its waters sneak through a small rivulet into Crummockwater. The Loweswater fells of Darling Fell and Low Fell (423 metres) are dissected by a stream feeding into Loweswater from Sourfoot Fell. It is easy to imagine how this ridge continues across to the Isle of Man as these lesser hills bear resemblance to the Snaefell range. As with most of the central fells, this area mostly comprises sedimentary slates of sandstone, grits and mudstones, as does Snaefell.

The Loweswater Fells

We followed the lake footpath to the west of the lake, through Holme Wood and up to Hudson Place, which looks like a farm building and which had its own coat of arms dating to 1741 according to the plaque above the front door. Research shows that it was granted to John Wilkinson in 1910. It is a grade 2 listed building and was a yeoman’s farmhouse.

Hudson Place – courtesy of geograph.org.uk

The path then veers to the left and around the lower northerly edge of Burnbank Fell before climbing and contouring south, reaching the grand height of approximately 300 metres as we passed over the stream. From here, we followed a wall beside the top of the wood, spotting a small anonymous tarn in the distance, which I was not able to capture on film and which we named High Nook Tarn. As we descended we retraced our steps back to the Kirkstile Inn, where we imbibed the traditional Loweswater Gold as people have been doing since Tudor times, though perhaps a different form of liquor in those days, while we awaited our transport.

The Loweswater Fells above, and looking towards Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike below. Photo 3 Grasmoor to the right and Whiteside to the left. The bottom photo shows Melbreak above Crummockwater.

Distance: 7 miles: Ascent 1100 ft.

We then went back to collect the other parties and had a most amusing journey as the bus driver complained endlessly about the lack of driving skills of the tourists on these very narrow roads, and the slow journey enabled me to get this final photo of Melbreak to the right and the Saddle to the left with Scale Force in the dip as the sun began to set.

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My final day in the Lakes (13th October] was spent in the Keswick area – in the pouring rain and soggy fields of the river valley. Here are my last photos to say goodbye to the Lakes for now.

Easedale Tarn – 11th 0ctober 2019

Today, I went on an adventure. I walked into Keswick and caught the 555 bus to Grasmere. I wandered aimlessly through Grasmere looking for the tourist information only to discover there wasn’t one! Then I took a path that leads around the northern edge of Grasmere to Allan Bank, a NT house, walking through the meadows to join the Easedale Road that unsurprisingly will take me to Easedale Tarn or Helm Crag, if only I could decide which I wanted to do.

I found myself turning naturally off the road into the fields beside the river and the decision was made. In the distance you can see a waterfall that lures you on. The views of the range to the south of Hellvelyn are spectacular and softer than the craggy nature of the rocks immediately in front of me, mostly due to the effect of the flows of water from glaciers over 11000 years ago as they are all comprised of the same type of rock. Helm Crag (photo 2) is a favourite with many, but it would be too far to include this on my journey today.

The Easedale path following Sourmilk Ghyll is very straightforward and has clearly been upgraded over the years. Having said that, it is not a fast walk. On the lower reaches over marshy land slates have been laid out in a vertical fashion so that you have to watch where you put your feet.

As you begin your ascent the path changes to stone steps made to look like a natural hillside path. In other places, higher up, stones have been strategically and well positioned to enable walkers to make their way through the deeper boggier areas and these are very effective. Just don’t expect to rush up as if it is a stone and soil path, even on the flat. There is one bonus to having to watch every step – you become aware of all the fossils hidden in the stones, which implies these particular rocks were shipped in from other areas of the Lake District as this area all falls within the volcanic granite, lava and ashes. The Windermere area contains slate, sandstones and siltstones, and that is only a stone’s throw away, and the Penrith rocks are limestone.

The waterfall looked magnificent, cutting its way through the craggy rocks. We have had so much rain this autumn that even the smaller waterfalls look and sound happy. The colours of the bracken against the slate rocks was striking too.

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As you look up towards the first waterfall you could be forgiven for expecting the water to be flowing directly from Easedale Tarn, but instead you reach a plateau of small glacial humps, up to the next lesser waterfall. This viewpoint affords and extensive view of the valley.

They view between the waterfalls

A few steps more and you arrive at the stepping stones at the easterly edge of the tarn, allowing one to do a circular route and return to Grasmere via a different route – but not today. The stones were covered in a foot of water that was rushing out of the tarn and even the foolhardy did not succeed to cross. Instead, it is possible to walk around the tarn to return to this very point in the other side, so on I went. It should be easier to cross the minor tributaries flowing into the tarn in the westerly side. Or so I thought, but sadly I could not find a suitable crossing point. It was quite blustery so I reached the foot of Eagle crag where the streams from Codale Tarn filter into the tarn and had my lunch out of the wind. Slightly to the north is the pinnacle of Belles Knott, keeping guard over the tarn.

The crags on the northerly edge of the tarn as seen in the first photo above and the seconds below are Tarn Crag (the steep headwall of the former glacier), Greathead Crag, Stenners Crag, and immediately above the stepping stones, Cockley Crag. Tarn Crag of volcanic lapilli-tuff and volcaniclasic sandstones would have been the top end of the glacier, and the terrain around the stepping stones are hummocky moraine. If you are walking up there, you might see some mounds of craggy rocks on the one side and a smooth surface on the other. These are known as ‘Roche’s Moutonnée’. Every now and again you come across erratics left by the glaciers as in the photo below:

The tarn itself is a result of a small corrie glacier. It is 480 metres (1570 ft) long, 300 metres (980 ft wide) and 280 metres (910 ft) above sea level.

Returning to the valley the light became softer and the river became gentler and I returned to another kind of world.

I finished the day with a bus trip using my explorer ticket, doing a round trip from Keswick to Buttermere via the Honister Pass.

Distance: 6.39 miles; Ascent: 892 ft.