The many faces of Port Erin bay – TT fortnight 2019

Over the last week or so, I have paid many visits to our glorious shoreline, some days when the tide is way way out and other days when the water laps against my toes on the edge of the beach.

I have visited places I have never been; little paths that go nowhere, or because the tide is so low right now, I have entered caves I have never entered and encountered strange natural sea creatures and vegetation I have never seen before, and wondered at the folding of the rock strata, noticing intrusions that I have never noticed before. I even trespassed into the old swimming pool to get a glance at what looked like a cave from a distance.

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And here are some strange things on the beach either side of the ordinary shags:

These are short walks, of no more than 3 miles from my doorstep, and anyone who lives in Port Erin or Port St Mary can have the same experiences every day. Here are a few more ‘hidden’ views around the bay, places I hadn’t visited before but have passed by on many an occasion:

And I just like the moody photos below, and the view of Bradda Head at high tide with the few remaining steps for the fishermen to fish from.

I have compiled a video showing the changing faces of Port Erin over this week. The sands have been just beautiful, even more so now that they are empty of visitors. The rocks at the furthest breakwater seem to have broken down more as the photo showing them was at very low tide. At the other end close to the now weary Cosy Nook, either the sand has swallowed up a lot of rocks that used to lie at this end of this end of the beach or they have been washed away by some dramatic wave. I was particularly drawn to the take the photo of the pink boat on the beach belonging to 7th wave.

There will be no blogs for a while now as I go on holiday shortly…

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Ballasalla to Crosby (almost): 9.3 miles, 597 ft ascent

What to do during TT (other than watch the racing)? Walk some of the Millenium Way of course.  At a risk of putting some of you off attempting it, the southern section is a mix of some lovely scenery, as in Silverdale Glen and some super views to the south, but a lot of road walking and, as it has been raining a lot in the last 10 days, muddy footpaths.

I met up with a friend who I had met when I hosted the Facebook U3A walking page for the Isle of Man, and we boarded the number 12a bus at Port Erin railway station which took us to Ballasalla for the start of our walk. From here, we walked down to the Ford, where a biker walked into the water, stood in the middle for a second or two, then retraced his steps to the other side! Strange…

DSC00574We followed the lovely Silverdale river past the Monk’s Bridge (above) up to the boating lake where we had a short break, then continued past the old waterworks – or more correctly, the now defunct spring water factory to the main Ballamodha Road.

This is the first stretch of road walking,  which in itself is not unattractive – it affords great views of South Barrule – but the road was relatively busy by Isle of Man standards.

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We were quite relieved when after a mile or so, we turned off the road onto the footpath, that would eventually take us to St. Marks. At one point, we went through a farm yard where a friendly dog kept yapping at us to the consternation of its owner. At the far end of the farm was a sign pinned to a barn, saying in no uncertain terms that persons should “shut and fasten the gate, or be liable to a fine of forty shillings”. We duly shut the gate, not having forty shillings on us, and continued on the path, which appeared to peter out shortly afterwards. We continued northwards across a field, before I thought this was wrong route and we retraced our steps to find a very clear sign pointing across a different field, which we had missed completely because of the angle of the sign on approaching it. Here started the mud, and many gates that were only fit for very skinny people and not people with rucksacks. The grass was long and wet which helpfully cleaned our boots intermittently. As we went over a shrubby stream, Ros saw a frog. At various points on our walk we saw a small copper butterfly, a female common blue butterfly and a number of dead birds! As we approached Crosby we did see a bird of prey but could not identify it.

On, over the grassy meadows and reedbeds, we finally reached St. Marks where we had lunch and visited the absolutely delightful church; simple and unassuming, warm and welcoming. You can even help yourself to tea and coffee, but as we had brought ample supplies for ourselves, we did not partake.

From here it was more road walking, but this time on quieter roads that barely see traffic, but do bring with them views to the north and the valley in between.  This walk makes one aware of what a watery place the Isle of Man is, with streams at the end of every few fields. There is no doubt that even walking along roads makes you aware of the local scenery in a way you wouldn’t otherwise see it.

 

DSC00611As we came closer to Crosby we could hear the buzz of the motor bikes and saw what we thought was a TV helicopter following the racing. On this stretch of road, Ros found an abandoned egg shell. It was almost the size of a hen’s egg, was buff coloured and very slightly speckled, as you can see in the photograph. If anyone can identify this, please add a comment to this blog.

Unfortunately, I have had a problem with my Achilles tendon for the last month – I know, nothing stops me walking until I am forced to face the problem – and as we reached Marown old church, where we were due to turn right to go to Glen Vine, I was forced to take a break. At the same time, who should come out of the church but a friend from choir who happens to live just down the road from me! What a happy coincidence. Ros and I had a half second discussion and decided we should ask if he was going back to Port Erin. And, of course, he was. My poor ankle was so very grateful. We had been intending to walk another 4-5 miles along the railway track back to Douglas, but my foot clearly thought otherwise. Someone up there was obviously watching over me today, as I can be my own worst enemy.

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This opportune event allowed said friend and I to catch up and Ros and I passed a very pleasant 20 minutes sitting comfortably in his car listening to stories and finding out what is happening elsewhere. He dropped us off at our respective houses and continued on his way to Shoprite. And I, for once, did as I was told and bathed by ankle in ice cold water. So, probably no more walks for a bit – sad face – and a holiday in Crete – happy face – but I do have a short but interesting walk to write up from walking around and inside the cliffs of Port Erin this last week, so another blog to follow shortly.

Circular walk from South Barrule 11.75 miles, 2,200 ft of ascent – 28th May 2019

This was a fairly tough route, or at least it felt so by the end of it. It would have been easier had I walked it a different way round, but I ended with the majority of the climb towards the end of the walk – never a good idea!

I parked the car on the western edge of the Barrule plantation and followed the well trodden footpath downhill to the Glen Rushen river. Usually, this is a quiet route, but today there were several bikers also enjoying the route… but spoiling my peace. However, the countryside is there for everyone, as vouched for by my own TT guests who seem to be absolutely enthralled by our lovely island.

There are wonderful views in all directions, but perhaps my favourite view on the way down the hill was of this old delapidated farm house, protected by hawthorn trees. In the garden was a swing and I could almost hear the children playing and the grownups going about their daily duties looking after the sheep.

The further I went down the valley, the more interesting it became in some ways. I noticed old quarry workings beside the river that I hadn’t seen before, and a flock of long-tailed tits were twittering and flitting about in the trees. I stopped briefly by the Glen Maye waterfall, which was shrouded in sunlit mist and admired the vines dangling down into the river.

I was well protected from the wind at this point, something I became well aware of as I reached the beach at Glen Maye after 4.5 miles. This was to be my first lunch stop, but I can tell you, it was quite a short one! The white horses were more visible than they appear on the photos.

I climbed to the top of the low cliff onto the southern coastal path, which at this point is very short, as very soon afterwards the footpath follows the full length of the main Dalby road and there is no choice but to follow it. However, the views make it worthwhile.

I walked down to Niarbyl – toilet stops and a cafe here if you want them –  had a quick look the the Tail of the Rocks, then followed the cliffs to Traie Vane where there is a quaint waterfall gushing into the sea. The locals call this Whitesand Bay , so named not because of any white sands but the very white pebbles on the beach. As I descended to the beach I was struck by the height of the reeds growing on the verge of the cliff. This beach is less frequented than others but it does have its own appeal.

What goes down has to go up, at least if you are parked at over 1000ft, so I ventured back along the cliffs. The coastpath is not entirely clear here. The map shows it going inland and indeed I did come across a stile, but there was also a fairly well worn path continuing along the edge of the cliff, which looked far more interesting, so I continued round and eventually joined the actual coastpath at a junction with a track. There is no reason to go inland; this path is absolutely fine.

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I was aware of what was not far around the corner, having often walked this route the other way round. I knew the path would wind its way downhill again, then I would cross a small stream and have a relentless plod uphill to the top of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa. For me, the first part was much harder than the seemingly steeper and rockier part towards the top of the Cronk. Low down it is just a steepish grassy slope, but I was quite breathless at times on this section, so just took my time. Of course, I had already walked over 8 miles and my fitness is not as good as it usually is, so I shouldn’t be surprised at this.

I debated whether to take a different path when I reached Eary Cushlin, but that would have involved another downhill section followed by more uphill – and road walking, so I accepted that it was better just to continue uphill to the top and then have a leisurely and flat warm-down walk across the moor back to the car. What I hadn’t realised at the time, was that I would be climbing 1300′ in 3/4 mile, although of course I was half way there by now. At Eary Cushlin the vegetation changes and you lose the green grassy pastures and it turns to purple heather and heathland and rocky paths. The views from the top are breathtaking:

And finally, the flat walk across the moor:

I shall upload the route in due course. This was a delightful walk, full of variety and a few surprises. If you are not used to walking, you can vary the route and shorten it, but why not take a few hours out and stop at various points and enjoy the wonderful Isle of Man scenery in all its glory.

Meanwhile, I shall continue to try and do one walk per week that is between 10-15 miles, and meanwhile keep up the 10,000 steps per day (5 miles for me) as often as possible.

Maps:

7 miles to Traie Vane;  1 mile+ Traie Vane along coast;    .58 m Around Gob Y Ushty;   2.58m Final section to Cronk & back

 

Bradda Head Evening Walk – 5 miles, 600ft of ascent; 26th May 2019

It was a beautiful evening after a wet and windy start to the day. Not ideal for my TT visitor, but he was content to potter around the village by which time it had brightened up, and it remained that way until it got dark.

Having had a tiring day watching the first day of Roland Garros, knitting, doing a spot of work but basically being idle, my conscience got the better of me and I strode out into the evening sunshine – not armed with camera tonight, just the mobile.

I walked from home along roads towards Ballafesson, then turned out off onto the Rowany golf club (no golfers in sight), walking beside the greens as far as Bradda East when I took the path to the back road, which afford wonderful views over sleepy Port Erin.

I veered off this road after about 1 km onto Tower Road beside a spectacular wisteria showing off to passers-by, which unsurprisingly turns into a dirt track and eventually leads to the Milner Tower. However, I removed myself from this path and followed a different one north which takes you across open grassland to the little knoll called? nothing at all on my 1:50,000 map, which is quite surprising as it has a distinctive cairn on the top. It was here I took the 360 degree video. Unfortunately, my wordpress plan does not allow me to upload videos, but I plan to put it on my FB “My Isle of Man Walks page.

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I then walked towards Milner Tower, intending to climb its steps to the top but I could hear teenagers larking about so not wanting my peace to be disturbed I continued on my path. I thought how proud and majestic the tower looked tonight, with the light glinting off its turret.

As I walked down the grassy bank, I was aware how few wild flowers I had seen. On the level ground at the top there is very little grass or soil, mostly worn away by the feet of walkers  and mine workers over many years; the thrift could barely keep a foothold there, but as I got closer to the cliffs edges I came across a host of wild flowers, including burnet rose, sea campion, stonecrop, scabious (the first scabious I have seen this year), bird’s foil trefoil, tormentil and many others.

 

I followed the usual coast path along its meandering way, past Bradda Glen restaurant, around the old swimming pool, back to Port Erin and Home. A delightful evening, where I barely saw a soul until I reached Port Erin. As I reached Spaldrick, I dared to look back and captured this slightly unusual photo of Milner Tower with the sun beginning to set behind it.

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I have plans for two long walks, one from Colby and another from St.Marks. I just need time to do them now!

Castletown to Douglas via the coast and Kewaigue (13 miles, 809ft ascent, 786ft descent) – 19th May 2019

I promised you a long walk, though I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this long. That’s the problem with coastal walks with their intricate winding route snuggling the coastline. The cliffs are fairly low compared with the western side of the island but provide interesting views along its full length so worth doing the full distance at least once!

I got off the bus at Janet’s corner in Castletown – so named as Janet used to own the long-gone shop on the corner, past Bowling Green Road (no sign of a bowling green either) as I made my way to the shore.

The tide was in, and the bay full brimmed with water, such a contrast to Wednesday, when the tide was out, way out…  I followed the road, past King William’s College and the infamous Hango Hill to Derbyhaven. As I followed the coast path north, there were plovers galore and what I think are sanderlings searching the shoreline for scraps of food. They were oystercatchers, shags and ducks too. I passed Two Six, a cafe so named because of its proximity to runway 26 I believe and skirted around the relatively new land extension to the airport, which now juts out into the sea.

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Once past this the walk starts properly and the path gradually ascend to the top of the low cliffs that affords views of Santon Gorge. There is no direct access to this which makes it even more appealing. Passing by an old fort and through pastureland I descended to the river, which never disappoints. The greenness here strikes me every time I visit and it is remarkably peaceful. As I descended the path,  I was surrounded by hawthorns in bright-white flower, looking and smelling stunning. You can just see them at the top of this photo.

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I crossed over the river and made my way back up the cliffs on the other side and continued onwards until I got to Port Grennaugh. I realised I had misjudged the distance at this point as I had already walked six miles and I was barely half way! Just beyond this bay I stopped on the cliffs for lunch and was treated to a display of dancing by some small heath and common blue butterflies. It was really quite warm by this points. A wall brown led the way on the next section and stonechats sang to me as I walked along. I have made a short video of most of the natural life I encountered during the whole of the route that I attach below the photo of Port Grenaugh beach.

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It was interesting to me how the vegetation changed from the start of the coast path to the final few miles. Suddenly there was sea campion, squill and thrift which I hadn’t encountered before Port Grenaugh. I must check my geology map. On this section there are one or two undulating sections, some with steps down and up. The path goes round numerous tiny coves. It reminded me of section of the South West Coast Path, which I did with one of my sons, Matthew, over 20 years ago! Going south to north, I encountered the steepest section between 8-9 miles in. It is a relatively short section but I was tired at this point so took my time over it.

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Unfortunately and annoyingly, it is not possible to walk all the way to Port Soderick along the coast. The Raad ny Foillan goes inland just as it reaches its highest point and follows roads for 2.5 miles, The first part is a quiet lane but then you have to follow the Old Castletown Road to Port Soderick. I decided not to drop down into the glen and continue along Marine Drive to Douglas as I was there only a week ago, so turned onto the track leading through the meadows to Kewaigue. This path involves a ford and a glimpse of the real ‘Fairy Bridge’ which is tucked away off the path.

Almost at the end of my walk, I followed middle river which looked so lovely, with the water gleaming surrounded by wonderful vegetation. I have trod this path in winter when you can see the shoddy warehouses on the other side, but with the trees in full leaf, these were completely hidden today. I finally reached the golf clubhouse, and walking behind it found myself  beside the NSC where I got the bus home. It is possible to follow the river all the way back to the harbour at Douglas, only another mile, but 13+ miles was quite sufficient for me for one day!! A lovely day, but one that is probably better walked the other way round, so that you finish with the flat section!

If you want a shorter route – and who wouldn’t? – you can park at Port Grenaugh and do a 4 mile walk or get the steam train / car to Santon and do a 4-6 mile walk. You can park at Port Soderick, which is good if you want to walk along Marine Drive to Douglas, but not good for walking south.

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Nature Walk including Colby and Glen Chass – 5.65 miles, 432 ft of ascent

I make no apologies for describing today’s walk as a nature ramble. That was what I set out to do. I haven’t visited my haven so far this year and the orange tips won’t be around much longer. I always draw such warmth from my hidden nature reserve – hidden to all but locals walking their dogs, walkers and children escaping from their parents. It is not shown on a map and as far as I know, it doesn’t have a name – and long may it stay that way and let nature run wild.

I took the bus to Colby, then took the path beside the Colby river. There is so much to see in this first third of a mile. They were butterflies flitting, but above all numerous wild flowers abutting the water course, oblivious to the fact that there are houses on the other side of the river.

 

Above: The start of the walk from Colby.

Below: Nature in all its glory in the first mile of the walk

 

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Crossing the railway line, I interrupted the sheep’s pleasure and seemed to cause some dismay as a few of them started coughing violently. This is pasture land where sheep share the territory with birds rather than wild flowers. I soon cross back over the river and enter into my little paradise. It isn’t much to look at, but if you listen you can hear the birds chirping to each other trees, and if you stop and stare, you can watch the butterflies chattering with their companion as they move incessantly on the path. The plants in flower offer their shade and their nectar to the local inhabitants and everything is in harmony.

Passing out of the nature reserve I make my way along the road to the Shore Inn. I debated with myself whether to stop and have a cider but decided against it, and instead I sat on the beach, drank my water and ate an odd selection of banana, raw carrot, cucumber and a very small chocolate bar. The birds surrounding me were mainly herring gulls and blackbacked gulls, with a few oystercatchers at the sea edge and a solitary shag perched on a rock. The tide is way out, further than I have ever seen it. It is almost that time of year when the intrepid venture out into Douglas Bay and slip and slide their way to the Tower of Refuge.

I walked around the coast to Port St Mary, along the Underway and out towards the outer harbour before turning westwards towards Fistard. Here I had a choice of direction and not having walked along Glenn Chass stream since I moved here five years ago, I took this route uphill. It didn’t disappoint. The bluebells are still out and are vibrant dark blue. There are still smattering of wild garlic too. As that conjures smells, I am reminded that as I went round Gansey Point. the meadowsweet was in full bloom and the scent was quite overpowering.

Above: The meadowsweet at Gansey Point; the extended beach at Chapel Bay; different types of footprints;  stranded boats at Port St. Mary.

From Glen Chass I followed one of the higher paths across meadows back towards Port Erin. I am particularly pleased with the photograph I took of the Milner Tower on Bradda Head standing on top of a stile just before I descended down the Golden Road, which right now is blue from head to toe.

The final stretch: photos of the gorgeous Glenn Chass,

and home…. altogether, I saw at least 5 of our 19 species of butterfly: red admiral, wall brown, green-veined white, orange tip and speckled wood.

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A most enjoyable three hours. My next walk is planned for Sunday or Monday, when I hope to walk from Douglas to Castletown.

 

 

Catching Up – 15th May 2019

I may not have added to my blog lately, but I have been out walking. A couple of weeks ago I walked from Port Erin, along the coast to Fleshwick, up and over the Carnanes and then back via Sulby. It was a glorious walk but I have been struggling to upload my photos, and as any regular reader of my blogs will know my iphone consistently runs out of battery when I am out walking, so that walk is not recorded here. 😦

I have finally bought a camera, the Sony RX100 M3, and I have been out and about trying to figure out how to take photos with it. Initially, my photos were huge files but I think I have overcome that. Now, I am trying to work out how to get the exposure right and the colour of nearby objects.

On Saturday, I went along to Marine Drive in Douglas – these were the extra big files, but I have found a way to reduce them, thankfully, so I can include some here.

Yesterday, I pottered down to the bay, trying out the zoom lens and the amended file size. Perhaps a slight improvement. In the evening, I was lucky enough to spot a large white butterfly on my apple tree, which had presumably just emerged from its chrysalis as it stayed there for a good few hours sunning itself in the warm evening sun. Apparently, when they first emerge, butterflies are unable to fly as their bodies dry out to become strong enough to make their initial flight. It had gone by the time I got up this morning.

On my outing on Saturday I had met a traveller from England who was visiting the island for the first time and we arranged to meet up for a walk before he returned to England. So today, we walked from Derbyhaven, along the coast, contouring around the west side of the golf course up to Langness, passing by Dreswick Point and ‘Jeremy Clarkson’s lighthouse’, past the Herring Tower, veering round the eastern edge of the golf course to drop in for a cup of tea at No. 19. My guest very politely waited at various junctures on the route whilst I took more photographs. It was very pleasant showing the island to a stranger, who also turned out to be a very nice companion for afternoon.

The wild flowers were spectacular, as were the highland cattle. I was not quite so successful at capturing the birds. I did think the knots? looked rather good hustled together on the rock but my photo does not do them or the heron justice. I shall keep practising!

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Ps. The birds on the rocks may be sanderlings or plovers, but definitely not knots which have a red underside. Shame I couldn’t see them better.