I was awoken by the sound of cows mooing this morning – which is a little strange given that I live on a housing estate. Little was I to know that cows would feature prominently in my activities today. Or maybe I was hallucinating having had so little sleep thanks to Homestay guest, who after a night of liquid indulgence and jollities had thought fit to walk some complete strangers home up to Bradda and then take a rest on the way back to listen to the waves crashing on the beach from a wall at Spaldrick. He was so relaxed, recumbent on his hammock wall, that he fell peacefully asleep there until the early hours, unknowingly perched precariously next to the significant drop leading down to the beach. My text message at 1.37am appears to have woken him up, so he drowsily got himself together and staggered back to his lodgings where he indulged in a couple of slices of toast and jam at 2am and regaled me with his stories until 3am.
So, the morning started slowly as neither of us had any get up and go, though go he eventually did to Jurby. I had planned out a short walk for myself. It was a dull damp day with nothing to commend it, so I opted for a low level country route. It started promisingly with an unexpected trip on the steam train to Ballabeg. This did add on an extra 1/2 mile but that didn’t bother me as I was only doing a short walk, but you could get the bus to Ballabeg and get off at the corner.
Walking up the road out of Ballabeg I had spotted what looked like a tiny circular road on the map which looked interesting and it would get me off the ‘main road’. I followed this track for about half a mile before it then gave up the ghost and did not continue on where it was shown on the map. Being the explorer that I am, I thought if I hop over this fence and walk to the edge of the field then I should be able to join another footpath. It was quite misty so no-one would see me, except the minute I got in the field a herd of cows came over to say ‘hello’. Having convinced them that I was not of any interest to them they trotted off into the mist. I was now in a large field and unable to see a thing, so I got my compass out to at least make sure I was going in the right direction. When I got to the edge of the field there was no exit and the many cows reappeared and were keen to enquire as to what my business was in their field. It was daunting having 15 or so cows staring eyeball to eyeball with me and I did not feel inclined to test their humour by taking any photos of them. It was a case of who could stare the other out for longest. Eventually they got bored and went off, so I made a fairly hasty retreat as soon as I knew I was incognito in the mist. I climbed back over the fence and retraced my steps all the way back to the road. Interestingly, the Garmin map showing my route does not show the path that is on the 1:25000 so the latters appears to be out of date.
It was now raining quite hard and I followed the road until I met the footpath/track I had been trying to locate earlier. This is not an interesting path, but I did see my cows again, this time from the safety of being the other side of the hedge. In fact, this is a very boring path, but it does have its moment. At a farmyard, there were dozens of squawking ducks and geese which came as quite a surprise.
The footpath here was shown to deviate from the main track at this point, but it looked so overgrown that I thought it wasn’t going to be possible to continue. But the map showed the footbridge and this being the way, I tried again and ignored the wild boar in the enclosure. I found a very very rickety stile completely overgrown leading into the ancient woodland. How ancient it is I don’t know, but it wasn’t one full of conifers. This became my lunch stop out of the rain. Coming out of the boggy woodland I was surprised and delighted by the river winding its way through the enchanted trees. I could imagine this being a place for story-telling and fairies.
Crossing the bridge led to another fence /stile to climb over that was even more unstable than the last one – the gate didn’t open and the wooden structure swayed as I stood on it. I was now on the track up to the Grenaby / Ballabeg road. I turned right and walked a short distance to the marked footpath on the left that would take me to Billown. This was waymarked but not easy walking as the turf had been dug up by the cows’ hooves, and yes, you guessed it, some more cows thought I was the most interesting thing they had seen today and started to move rapidly towards me. This time, though, I was one step ahead of them and stood on top of the stile to take their mugshots.
I couldn’t find the exit path from this field, that thankfully had no wildlife in it, so I opened a gate rather than climbed over it (there’s a novelty) and another, and walked through Upper Billown farm. I followed the track, but being tired and dim from the last evening’s festivities I took a wrong path. It didn’t take me long to discover my error and I was soon back on track and eventually joined the Ballmodha Straight for a very short distance before turning left by the milestone onto the track that would take me to Ballasalla. And of course, a dog had to come out to greet me very noisily at a farm, and more cows followed my every step before my day was done.
Not a great walk; not one I shall do again in a hurry, but it did have its moments, especially the enchanted forest where the Silverburn really begins its epic venture to the sea. If you were to do it in a straight line, without unnecessary detours, it would probably be about 7 miles altogether.
Tomorrow, I am on duty at the Scarlett Visitor Centre so no danger of any intimidating cows there!