1000 ‘views’ – Celebrated on the Coast Path; 24th June

Today my blog reached a milestone of 1000 views and to celebrate I thought I should take a short walk on the newly opened coast path from Port Erin to the Sound and show you some of the scenery that has been out of bounds for some months. It was difficult to see why the path had been closed since the winter. The only repairs that were obvious was the creation of some new stone steps behind the biological marine station and possibly one new gate.

There were flowers  along the full length of the coast path, thrift, sea campion, lots and lots of wonderful stonecrop, the odd scilla thinking it is still spring, purple and yellow vetch, tormentil,  bird’s foot trefoil, scabious, thyme, oxalis, speedwell, herb robert, willowherb, the last three only on the kerbside not on the cliffs.. and many more. The heather is just starting to emerge and the cliffs (and the Calf of Man) will be cloaked in purple in a few weeks’ time.

As usual, I wandered slightly off the recognised path from time to time, and I enjoyed playing about in our own limestone mini, very mini canyon. There do look to have been some rockfalls at various points along the cliffs over the winter, but nothing of any significance. Early on along the path, as I ventured close to the cliff to take a photo, I incurred the wrath of sea gulls who squawked and had a collective yell at me from various heights and distances, presumably because there were nests nearby. I heard the ever present choughs, long before I saw them. It was all delightful. As I looked back towards Bradda, Manannan’s cloak was doing a pretty good interpretation of Trump’s comb-over (see photo). That was all I could think about for the next 10 minutes!!

The views at the Sound were breathtaking. The current was moving forcibly through the channel between the main land and Kitterland, the tiny island where seals reside. Beyond Kitterland is the Calf of Man, which you can visit by boat from either Port St Mary or Port Erin. There is a bird observatory that is maintained by wardens and volunteers living in fairly basic accommodation – so if you fancy a different kind of a holiday, you can stay overnight if you like.

This stretch of coastline is short. From leaving home to arriving at the Sound is a mere 3 miles and 2.5 miles back via road and today a very, very overgrown path that comes out near the back of my house. As I walked up the road, I engaged in conversation with three different sets of cows – why they always find me so interesting I don’t know. In one field there were several calves and they looked so cute.

I have included a variety of photos in this selection, so that you can see the variation in the terrain. The ascent is 440ft in total to the Sound, and surprisingly the ascent on the inland path home was 464ft . When you leave Port Erin, it is an easy path, if uphill. You have to descend to a spot that I call ‘windy gap’ as once you have clambered over the stream (not difficult) the wind can race across the small saddle between two hills. From there it is an undulating path, but until you seriously hit the limestone, the path is easy. It then becomes uneven and a bit rocky for a short distance, before levelling out into grassland.

You can get a bus back from the Sound, but be prepared for a wait. If you have lots of energy you can continue along the coast for another 3 miles to Port St Mary. That is a gorgeous stretch of coastline, with masses of flowering heather in August.

 

A snapshot of northern Crete – June 2019

In the words of Frank Sinatra “It’s nice to go trav’ling but its so much nicer, yes it’s so much nicer to come home”.

I was on a belated holiday in Crete with Titan, having had to cancel my planned journey to hopefully see the northern lights in February due to having to have what now appears to be an unnecessary operation.

I was looking forward to a rest after an exhausting six months or so. I knew it would be hot, but I was not expecting it to be so hot, or having to walk 1/4 mile to and from breakfast / reception several times a day and climb numerous steps. Yes, I know, I could have used the lifts, but you know me!  I was staying at the Royal Aldemar Mare at Hernosissos. It is a huge complex, with umpteen swimming pools, public and private; several restaurants where you can gorge yourself to death on the sumptuous foods. I particularly enjoyed the Greek salads, but there was a huge variety of hot and cold foods, some traditional Greek, others catering for a wide range of nationalities. The hotel is a marble palace and has a very attractive entrance. The bedrooms are ample, and we were greeted with a full welcoming basket of fruit, water and wine. So, all good.

The holiday was a mix of excursions and rest, and there was plenty of free time. Our guide, Maria, was a fount of information, and we learned a lot about the history and mythology of the region. We visited a nunnery on the way to the Dikti caves, Unfortunately, as with many of these tourist attractions, people are buzzing around everywhere and it is hard to get photos without tourists in them! The view from the nunnery was outstanding, although it was quite hazy the day we were there.

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Oldest part of the nunnery
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Nunnery Church
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Courtyard of Nunnery
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Nunnery museum
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View from nunnery

Just beyond the nunnery in the Lasithi plateau at Psychros is Zeus’s cave (Dikti) complete with numerous stalactites and stalagmites, and the mythological story of how Zeus ate his children to stop them overpowering his authority (the Greek equivalent of the Roman Saturn). This was quite a climb up a steady path in the soaring heat, which proved too much for many. This was followed by the descent into the cave below down and up 200 easy but occasionally slippery and wet steps, but in truth this was easier than the initial climb up to the entrance of the cave.

Heraklion, the capital of the island, is quite a nice place. The quaint and narrow streets are fun to walk around and there are a few interesting things to see. On my day off I walked the Venetian Walls of Heraklion, saw the Bello fountain, a 13th Century Byzantine church now converted to accommodation, the interesting St Matthew’s church and various statues; perhaps my favourite place there was the Venetian Fortress which has recently been renovated and now houses a fine museum, containing enormous  canons and canon balls amongst other things. I also visited the Natural History museum with the aim of finding out more about the geology of the island, only they were more interested in life size dinosaurs and earthquakes. There was a section of live animals, mostly snakes, lizards and frogs too.

The photos above show the city walls of Heraklion and the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, who was born in Heraklion in 1885. He wrote Zorba the Greek and more infamously also wrote the Last Temptation of Christ, which describes Jesus as having conflicts between his religious duties and desire for human life and love. This caused his downfall and excommunication and he was not able to be buried in a cemetery inside the city walls; instead his grave lies in the Tower of Martinengo on the walls themselves and bears a wooden cross. The inscription reads: I hope for nothing; I fear for nothing; I am free”.

In the photo top right, you can see that the walls have an inner sanctum. I don’t know the original purpose of these, but this one has been transformed into an outdoor theatre. Another photo appear to show spiky seed heads of a flower on a stalk. This is far from what it actually is, which is many white garden snails glued to the flower stem. I found these all over the vegetation on the top of the walls along with the ubiquitous painted lady butterflies.

One of the most interesting ancient monuments I have ever visited was the Minoan Palace of Knossos just outside Heraklion. This was far larger than I was expecting and has been extensively excavated and is very well maintained. Our tour guide was simply outstanding on this trip and her enthusiasm gripped us all. Being informed of the history really helped to bring this alive. The area was first occupied in 7000BC but the Minoans developed this site much later than this in the Bronze age around 2000BC before it was abandoned somewhere between 1300 and 1100 BC. It has been described as Europe’s oldest city.

One of the main archaeologists who uncovered most of the finds was Arthur Evans in the early 20th century. The photos above show the original courtyard; the round stone supported the tree trunks that formed the pillars of the Minoan palace – these of course, have decayed. There is a lot of rebuilding and renovation but it does not detract from its appeal. Some of the stone pots on display were massive, easily 5 ft tall. Imagine the skills needed to create these pots and the power required to move them. They have handles top and bottom through which rope was strung to enable them to be rolled, though I suspect they were placed on carts to get them to their original  and final destinations. The Palace was highly decorated with frescos; the original frescos are in the Archaelogical Museum in Herklion (well worth a visit). It is also the site for the tale of the labyrinth and Theseus of minotaur fame.

We also visited the very pretty Chania on the north western edge of Crete, but this was so so busy and hot I couldn’t bear it. We started walking through an indoor market – need I say more?

I walked around the Turkish section and the Venetian section but was not overly enamoured by this town, though on reflection I did see some nice sights. On balance I preferred Rethymnon about an hour away from Chania. This was quieter with less of an ego than Chania 🙂 Here they have upgraded the traditional donkey ride to horse and cart. We were lucky to be invited to see how filo pastry is made, apparently the best in Greece.

And finally, Spinalonga, a former leper colony now made famous by Victoria Hislops’ novel “The Island”. It does in fact have a longer history than this, due to its strategic location guarding the entrance to the bay of Elounda. I suspect most of us enjoyed this  because of the very refreshing boat ride on a small private boat, with the light wind gusting around us providing relief from the incessant heat 🙂 It was heaving with people and this tiny island could barely cope with the influx of visitors. The photo lower left shows the building where the lepers lived.

The images below are mostly of Agios Nikolaus. The two with mountains as their backdrop are Elounda. The lake is at Agios Nikolaus; it was previously separated from the sea, but it has now been made into a small marina mostly for the local fisherman to leave their boats in safety. This was a small and calm town closer to Heraklion than Elounda.  On the edge of the harbour and located within a huge car park (!) is the bronze sculpture of the bull with Europa on his back. The sculpture designed by Nikos Koundouros and created by Nikos and Pantelis Sotiriades, tells the story of how Zeus, in love with the princess he called Europa, changed into a white bull; she jumped onto his back playfully but he whisked her away to Crete despite her tears 😦 .  They are said to have landed at Matala on the southern coast (where there are sandstone caves, the entrances now lifted high by the rising earth), where the bull became human form, resulting in 3 children with Europa called Minos, Rhadamantus and Sarpida.

Elounda it is a very expensive area, not surprising given how beautiful the area is.

Back at the hotel, it has its own private beach, and it was wonderful to sit out there in the dying sun with the waves lapping against the sandy gravelly beach. There are sandy beaches further down, but it is not a wide expanse of beach,  but enough to dip your toes into if you want to, or swim if you like that sort of thing. I met some lovely people and the other guests at my hotel made me very welcome. Even so, I am glad to be back to the peacefulness and cool airs of the lovely Ellan Vannin, my home.

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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