Postcard from Port Erin, 15th August 2019

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I shall be off island for a few days visiting my lovely daughter, Sarah, and her husband, so I thought I would send you a postcard to remind you just how beautiful our skies are here in Port Erin.

This wasn’t an intentional evening walk, but then they often aren’t with me :-).  I was forced to have an impromptu visit to Shoprite as earlier in the day I had bought a scratchcard and hey presto, I won a very welcome windfall of £100! How’s that for serendipity as it is one of those months when my cash flow is not flowing so well. I walked up to Bradda Glen Restaurant to book an evening meal for myself and two friends at the end of the month. The restaurant (set in a wonderful location overlooking the bay for those who don’t know the island) is under new management, so we absolutely must give it a try. It does look a little barren inside at the moment. It could do with some colour and character, but there were quite a few people there enjoying their meals, which is what really matters.

I walked back along the coast path. The tide was well out. It had been a warm day with a light, perhaps cool breeze, perfect for me at the moment. My doctor today informed me that it is possible I may have an autoimmune illness as well as a parathyroid problem, which together are messing about with my metabolism so I get very hot at the moment, and I have ‘sticky blood’ making everything I do very tiring. The breeze though was just lovely and cooled me down and I am always happy when I am out and about, as you well know. It’s always good to walk along the beach when the tide is almost fully out. You never quite know what creatures or shells you will come across. Tonight, there were a lot of lion’s mane jellyfish on the beach.

Walking past Spaldrick, the light was quite enticing, so I captured the bay for you.

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Then I walked along the beach out to the end of the breakwater on the southern side that you can see in this photo, and back along the prom home, a total distance of about 3-4 miles. I feel so blessed to be able to live on this island and enjoy evening walks like this from my doorstep.

And now I must check my emails from my psychology and sociology students as it A Level results day, and then pack for my weekend away. See you on the other side of the weekend.

Dhoon Glen 11th August 2019

I was expecting great things and I wasn’t disappointed. BBC’s Julia Bradbury, in her recent programme on walks on the Isle of Man, had made me aware that I still had never visited Dhoon Glen. This was the perfect opportunity to make amends. I had been on my regular wildflower quest, this time at the Ayres with Simon Smart and 15 other windswept people, and I was on my way home travelling along the coast road towards Laxey when I noticed a sign for a picnic area beside the train entrance to Dhoon Glen.

This week has seen so much heavy rain on the Isle of Man I thought there was a good chance that the waterfall would have some substance to it, but of course I didn’t know whether to expect a fairly small drop or a broad waterfall, and I had no idea whether or not it was continuous for the full length of the valley or would peter out into nothing. Such is the joy of doing new unplanned walks.

This one is an extremely short walk of less than 3/4 mile from the electric train station to the sea, but you will both descend and ascend an impressive 485 feet in that short distance. It is a mostly unrelenting climb with several steep steps, but there are a couple of patches where the terrain is more even and level and there are lots of bridges to rest on and a few seats to perch on.

Entrance to Dhoon Glen

Entrance to the Glen

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An even part of the footpath but remember to duck!

It didn’t start out as impressive. The entrance looks like any one of our numerous glens. This one was very muddy and potentially slippery in places and the ground was uneven. The stream is barely visible at the outset, but after only a few steps it begins to follow alongside the path. I had only walked a stone’s throw when the path went round a bend and into a tunnel under a bridge,  which was covered in concrete on one side with greenery growing over the top of it. It looked as if the tunnel contained at least two structures passing as former bridges and the concrete seemed to be keeping one side upright. Not promising, especially as the stream shortly went through a massive drain under another bridge. I was beginning to doubt Julia’s exuberant account of Dhoon Glen, but this would be to be short-sighted (which I am, as it happens!)

After this, I encountered a very large stone structure which had clearly housed some form of industry. There was no obvious place to take a photo of this, so you will just have to visit for yourself. It had a tall chimney and a space for a very large wheel, on a much grander scale than the one in Groudle Glen (which has now been entirely removed for renovation). The Dhoon Glen mine was only worked for a short time as it was not profitable and produced very little tin or lead.

Just around the bend from here, you start to hear and see water flowing fast and freely. The valley is extremely steep sided and it drops away very quickly. It provides tantalising glimpses of the waterfall through the trees and with each step I descended I felt I would be in for something special when I reached the base of the waterfall. And what a treat it was. The waterfall was gushing over a small but steep and deep amphitheatre and at the top it had divided itself into two, rather like hair falling down the side of a face. At the top, it struck some rocks, sending off explosive droplets of water in all directions. It was mesmorising.

It continues in a series of small cascades  and the path dodges over well constructed bridges before the stream has its final fling off the rocks as it reaches the beach.

 

On the beach I was struck by the size of the slabs of rock forming the cliffs on the northern side. You could imagine them creating their own waterfall in torrential rain. There is an alternative path on the southern side of the Glen, but this would avoid the waterfall, so I took the same path up, watching a pair of grey wagtails hopping up and down the stream in front of me. As I reached the waterfall (called Big Girl) I stopped and stared to imprint the impression of the waterfall on my memory for ever.

We may moan about the weather, too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, but it is this very variation that brings such moments of joy – and Dhoon Glen today was exactly that.

Glen Maye Waterfall in full spate – July 28th 2019

The weather was absolutely vile. I had travelled through fog, lashings of rain and huge puddles on the road to honour my rendezvous with Wildflowers of the Isle of Man, against my better judgment it has to be said. I did wonder if anyone would turn up at Glen Maye, but in fact there were about half a dozen of us mad folks, some in shorts, some with umbrellas, but all just plain mad.

I hadn’t intended to write this walk up as it was simply a potter around the glen looking at the wild flowers, but the waterfall was majestic. The rain had done, was doing it proud, so I took some photos to show how splendid it can be in the pouring rain 🙂

Enjoy from the warmth and cosiness of your living room:

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Molly Quirk Glen & Groudle Glen – 27th July. Approx 7 miles.

This walk began rather inauspiciously as I took a recognised short cut to the start of Molly Quirk Glen and promptly slid banana-skin like down the wet and slippery path ending up on my backside. Being accustomed to such actions I know not to brace myself with my hands  so I only have a few scratches on my hands and my wrists remain intact!

It was all rather excellent after that. Molly Quirk Glen (currently under repair but mostly completed) is an unspoilt and pretty glen, with good footpaths. It has a quietness that makes it special. It eventually merges into Groudle Glen. You can tell when you are nearing the join as you can hear traffic on the high road and I was lucky enough to see the Ramsey tram going over the viaduct as I passed underneath. Groudle Glen is entirely manufactured, created by Richard Maltby Broadbent in 1893, making the most of a very small natural canyon.

Images of Molly Quirk Glen

Beyond this, entering Groudle Glen ‘proper’ this has a different feel, and different geology too. There are some small waterfalls and some big slabs of slate bordering the stream. The Mill wheel is under repair and the building has been removed and is surrounded by scaffolding. The paths are really good, and although if you start from the high road and walk down to the Glen it is a little steep, it is accessible for most people, and if you parked down at the beach you would be able to take a wheelchair along part of it and pay a visit to the Groudle Glen Wizard!

The main features of Groudle Glen

A glen is a glen is a glen so the photos look pretty much the same, though it was noticeable that this glen has a lot of beech trees, many of which had massive roots and some had toppled and been allowed to stay lodged over the stream.

I reached the pebble beach just as it began to rain. The rocks and cliffs form very unusual shapes as if standing on end. I followed the coast path up to the Seal Rocks cafe, where the tiny steam train line ends. This would be about 2.5 miles from the start of Molly Quirk Glen if you don’t do any detours. There is a cafe here that sells drinks and sandwiches, but only when the train is running. This miniature railway was originally opened in 1896 to take people to view the attractions in the water zoo which included seals and polar bears, but is now just a pleasant trip for adults and children alike. The views from here are lovely and on a nice day it would be a nice spot to stop for a picnic. You can just make out the cafe in one of the photos.

It is not possible to walk along the coast past this point. Rather than walk back exactly the same way, I followed the redirected coast path and walked up to a quiet road and walked along the top of the hill, turning left at the main road. There was another entrance into Groudle Glen so I ventured inside partly to get out of the rain and wandered happily about for a while before retracing my steps on the road to Groudle Glen tram station.

At this point, I descended back into Groudle Glen near to the viaduct. I was amazed how much extra water there was on my return visit. On the outward stretch I had watched a fish trying to get over an obstacle and failing, whereas it would have had no trouble now. The rain brought out all the scents of the flowers, especially the Meadowsweet as brushed past them on the path.

I had no choice but the follow the same route back beside the stream, but there was an upper path, which afforded slightly different views and kept me reasonably dry.

The total distance was just under 7 miles, with 511ft of ascent and 508ft of descent. It is a very very easy walk and very nice for a quiet afternoon stroll. One for all ages.

Groudle Glen

 

 

Dalby Mountain and Kerrow-Dhoo Plantation – 25th July 4 miles

It was a lovely afternoon for a bog exploration. I was out with Manx Wildlife Trust on Dalby Mountain, the only peat bog owned by MWT near Eary Cushlin. I have been here before and knew what to expect: bouncing bogs, heathers, bog cotton, bog asphodel and rushes from which lights were made in times gone by. The orchids were over, but the heathers were abundant as well as deer grass and the wonderful tiny sundew hiding in the spagnum moss.

After this I had planned a short walk as I had never been into the Kerrow-Dhoo plantation. It was hot day by Isle of Man standards and a woodland walk would be refreshing. I was not disappointed. My walk downhill mostly meandered beside a steep and enclosed valley with enticing views through the trees to the upland hills. There was just a wiff of breeze to cool the air and the tall trees masked the sunlight. The path was easy to follow and delightful. However, a word of warning: this may be only a short walk of 1.5 miles, 589 ft downhill, but it is very steep in places necessitating some grabbing on to branches or roots at times. I wasn’t wearing the best footwear but it is all manageable. And of course, what goes down must go up again to return to the car. The ascent was 663 ft in 1.65 miles.

Having had glimpses of the stream I was following I was thrilled when the path crossed over it from one hillside to another, and even with my trainers on I could not resist scrambling up the stream a bit to see what it was like around the bend and beyond the overhanging trees. Once on the other hillside it is not far until Barrane, a tiny hamlet tucked out of sight just south of Dalby, a place where you feel no-one notices or cares as time goes by.

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It was here that I found myself in someone’s back garden as the footpath seemed to want me to go that way. At that point two dogs started barking and a man called out “Who goes there? Fee Fi Fo Fum….” – no, not really,  but he came to see what was going on and showed me where the path really went! And then offered me a cup of tea in his lovely cottage – don’t ever let it be said that Manx people are not friendly.

DSC01542Thru keyholeI had intended to take a different path – the one shown on the OS map – to return back through the plantation, but Tim persuaded me that I should go the coast route, which I did for a short time but I then returned to the main track and watching the butterflies perusing the brambles I made my way back to the car. There are some wonderful views on this section of the walk but be prepared for the uphill! It doesn’t go on for long, but you will notice it.

The final photos are of Cronk My Arrey Laa and South Barrule, along with one of the entrances into the plantation.

Maps:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound as you don’t normally see it – 24th July 2019 – 6 miles

It started out so well. Wall to wall sunshine, not quite as blisteringly hot as the UK but lovely none the same, with a very slight breeze. I wore a light t-shirt and walking trousers and armed with sun lotion and an assortment of refreshments I set out on my evening walk.

As I reached the old breakwater in Port Erin where the men were fishing, I noticed some wispy clouds stretched out over the sea and a little mist fluffing in and out intermittently over Milner Tower.

I set out on the coast path behind the marine biological station above which some bright orange tortoiseshell butterflies were poking their noses into the limestone wall, dipping in and out the length of the wall.

Up and over the short climb taking me level with Nigel Mansell’s former property, I stopped to watch the misty clouds building up over the ocean, as the sunlight became dimmed and disappeared only to reappear seconds later.

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Looking back, I could see the cotton wool clouds coating Bradda and closer to hand some dark grey clouds were looming to the west. As the wind gathered, I wondered if it might rain given the thunder and lightening forecast for the UK. I was feeling very weary today; my legs were heavy and every step a difficult plod – don’t ask me why – and I considered whether to call it a very short walk and return home, but as you know I rarely give in so on I went, but not before I spent a good few minutes watching a young seagull insistently complain to its mum that all was not well with the world.

Shortly after this I was engulfed in cloud, which presented a very mystical appearance on the land reminiscent of many a Jane Austen novel. I could have been anywhere as the sea and the cliffs were no longer visible; it was like walking on a path in the Derbyshire Peak District or across the North York Moors in the autumn. The colours were wonderful, the purple of the heather and the yellow of the wood sage blended perfectly with the light grey background.

 

As I neared our ‘Valley of the Rocks” I could hear an awful racket going on but could not see a thing. Climbing the stile I saw the cause of all the fracas –  a flock of sheep yelling at each other. They soon moved as I scampered down the path and they took flight over the hill.

Reaching the Sound was a strange encounter as not only could I not see The Calf Of Man, neither could I even see Kitterlands. I could barely even see the visitor centre. It was as if I had never been here before. It was remarkably peaceful and beautiful. And then out of the mist came a ghostly boat with a pinpoint light atop that never quite came into focus. Closer to the shore, a sole seal displayed for me as I ate my refreshments. I was glad I had brought a fleece and a waterproof – it was chilly sitting there.

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So back home along the road to Cregneash  provided less interest. I met a lone foreign traveller walking down to the Sound and as I bade him farewell I wished the sun would break through the clouds for him as I feared he might not relish the view when he arrived otherwise.

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An interesting evening. I wonder if I will ever see the Sound quite like that every again?

A Walk Looking for the Unusual in the Usual – Ballachurry July 18, 2019

Chris Packham’s (@ChrisGPackham) talk on Wednesday evening about ‘connectivity’ was very thought-provoking; he told his story through photographs, simultaneously giving tips on how to take more interesting snaps, showing how just one speck of the wrong colour or a bird falling asleep at the wrong time can destroy a photograph (in his opinion); I now know about bokeh and how to achieve out of focus effects by using sunlight, drops of dew, reflections, or creating artificial backgrounds, though if you don’t mind I won’t follow his example and go and sit in an old-fashioned sewage plant in Gambia or lie up to my arms in sxxx!. Never one for boringness, he encouraged us to be amateur photographers and look for the unusual in the usual, an idea I have taken to heart. I only have a small camera but let’s see what I can do.

He told a story of deforestation and its effects on society through the eyes of a child who became an adult, whose former life of oneness with the environment was forever taken away by the profiteering lure of palm oil. He explained how we are all connected to one another, whether we like it or not and however distant /remote /alien some lives are to ours, telling us that we are all reliant not just on one another but on each and every uninteresting bug and beetle that we share out planet with, not just those animals glamourised for advertising purposes. He encouraged everyone to speak up to protect our world, so that one voice becomes an audible and persistent din in government heads all over the world.

I was inspired, and I was expecting this next blog to be entitled “A Walk Around My Garden”, finding out what really exists under the soil and within that curling leaf or flower head. Instead, I took a walk yesterday afternoon to Ballachurry Nature Reserve to try and take some shots of nature from a different angle. As usual, I was bitten by various little friends who like my blood (what’s new?) but it did make me think what is the essence of this particular nature reserve and could I appreciate it in a different way.  I continued then up to Mount Gawne nursery and on to Croit Y Caley, where there is a sign saying to take care as ‘cats cross the road’. I strode toward Kentraugh House in order to visit the other nature reserve which was heavily overgrown – I could barely get in there –  and continue my quest of taking more absorbing photographs.  Content with my stack of photos, I walked towards Shore Road, and I could hear wasps or bees in the Kentraugh estate but however much I jumped up and down I could not see over the wall. Reaching the coast road, I enjoyed a happy moment or two watching the rabbits on the low cliff and as I descended to the Shore Hotel, I spent even more happy moments watching a black headed gull hovering over the edge of the waves and dipping suddenly and sporadically to get a small fish that had been driven in by the tide. It did this several times, moving along the coast in regular fashion, virtually following alongside me. I then walked round to Port St Mary and back to Four Roads, hoping that the threatening rain would stay away until I reached home. I went across the fields back to Port Erin, a total distance of 7 miles.

I have attached a few of the photos, trying to pick out some of the most interesting for you to enjoy. Some are ordinary and some are my attempt at the less ordinary, with a limited degree of success – but we all have to start somewhere. Some are out of focus, but I like these as much as the in-focus ones!

I hope the next blog will be a good, long walk. I have in mind to walk from Port Erin to Peel over the coastal footpath, a distance of about 14 miles with a lot of ascent and descent. This will take a bit of planning but look out for this one – it will be good!!

Ps. 21/7/19

  1. The bug in the centre photo on the 3rd row is most likely to be a ‘tiger cranefly’, and it is the first time it has been recorded at Ballachurry.
  2.  I think the bird that was hovering and diving was probably a Little Tern and not a blackheaded gull as these actions are typical of their behaviour probing for fish and shrimps.