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 ūüôā

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.

 

Secrets of the Isle of Man – 7th July 2019

We are so blessed. The sun has been shining, the bees are buzzing and the butterflies are flitting all around. The countryside and gardens alike have been full of colour, though some flowers are looking slightly jaded by the lack of rain – yes, really, a lack of rain. The painted lady butterflies are looking decidely ‘washed out’, especially compared with the same species on Crete, but the fritillaries that I saw today as I wandered lonely as a cloud around Bradda Head made up for their drabness by wearing bright orange and standing out against the foliage.

I was on my way to start my tour of the Secret Gardens of Port Erin. Not quite so many to visit this year, one or two near Bradda Head and a couple at the opposite end of the bay on St Mary’s Road, with the main cluster being in the centre of Port Erin. I enjoyed some more than others, perhaps the most memorable ones being the garden with the most wonderful view of the bay, and by contrast, the garden brim full of roses and every inch clearly tended with love.¬† I got lots of ideas and tips, such as growing climbing beans in the greenhouse, learnt when to set seeds and when were the best months for growth on the Isle of Man.

This afternoon, I had another walk with Friends of Manx National Heritage to look at the Round Mounds being excavated in another ‘secret ‘location. We were invited to take photographs for personal use but not for sharing, presumably to avoid looters!! However, as I drove home it was quite obvious where the dig is, as there was a great mound of earth and a digger clearly atop one of the mounds. Nonetheless I shall not share photos but just tell you about it.

The island contains over 160 round mounds, an amazing number given the smallness of the island. This tour began with a short walk uphill to where we could see three mounds in close proximity to each other, two covered with earth and grass, and the third beyond was more disturbed Рit being a hive of activity, with people in ditches, people scraping earth, others with theodolites, and everyone getting excited at their discoveries. This is an ongoing excavation, now in its third year, and finds are constantly emerging from the Bronze Age site from about 4000 years ago. It has mostly lain undisturbed for all this time. There are human burials here, about 5 discovered so far, not necessarily complete, and various cremated bone fragments which were found strewn along the top of the mound. There are circular pits which contained urns of various sizes containing the bodies. One body was found in a crouching position with the head facing north and the body east (if I remember correctly).  No beads, no jewellery, nothing fancy. The archaeologists have found many shards of flint, axe-heads, sharpening stones and just today while we were visiting they unearthed the most ancient bread board you can imagine; this was a piece of stone that was used for cutting/ slicing / pounding and the marks were still visible on the stone. The flint is something of an anomaly. Whereas all the stone found within the trenches is local e.g. slate & quartz, there is no flint on the island, so this indicates that this was imported or picked up off the beach. It is still early days in this excavation and why it is here in this particular location is unknown, or why it is there at all. It was pointed out that the sea was not necessarily the barrier to travel that we often think it is, and sea travel was often easier than travelling over land, and of course, Scotland and Ireland can be clearly seen from this location. The Isle of Man would have been a good stopping off point for many a weary traveller or businessman.  The archaeologists are confident that they will get funding next year to continue their quest and to find some answers to all of the unknowns.

If you are interested in this project you can find out more here: https://roundmounds.wordpress.com/about-the-project/

So, secrets and flowers over, once Wimbledon is over I shall be back to my normal 5-12 mile walks, and I aim to do some new ones during July and August, so watch this space.

A Walk on the Wildflower Side – Saturday 29th June 2019; Niarbyl

As I drove over the hills to Niarbyl I was engulfed in the wonderfully cosy mist of Mananan’s cloak, as you can see in the feature photo. By the time we started our walk¬† ten minutes later this had most dissipated. Such are the joys of island living.

Some walks are long; some walks are short; and other walks like this are very short with interest. My next post will be a similar walk ‘with interest’ as it is our Flower Festival this week and Port Erin Secret Gardens this coming weekend.

I have joined a group called Manxwildflowers.com led by the very knowledgeable Simon Smart. This was my first outing with them. We parked at Niarbyl and the total distance we walked was to White Beach and back, just a stone’s throw along the cliff, but what wonderful flowers and natural features we saw along the way.¬† So first of all, to set the scene. Here is Niarbyl and its wonderful coastline:

We hadn’t even left the car park before Simon introduced us to the Common Toadflax, common in the Uk but not so common here on the Isle of Man.

Common Toadflax
Common Toadflax

Not far away, we came across hybrid orchids looking proudly out over the sea. It is that time of year and the meadows are ablaze with various shades of pink and purple orchids, not least at the Curraghs in the north of the island.

In all, I took 23 photographs of different wild flowers and made notes on many others. I will not bore you by showing you every single one individually, but just pick out those I found interesting and put the rest in a slideshow at the bottom.

The Wild Carrot has a distinguishing feature in its green bract  beneath its white canopy and the sea radish that you will see everywhere on the island does taste of radish. The seedheads were delicious. I would have never known these were edible. And all around the island the thyme is flowering. Today I saw lots and lots of painted lady butterflies lurking around the thyme at the Sound.

And here is the beautiful purple bindweed which was lying close to the shore by the waterfall on White Beach, and¬† just a little further on was the ubiquitous Pennywort, which is not the most exciting plant to look at but you will see it growing out of rocks and walls everywhere at this time of year. I didn’t take photographs of stonecrop this time, but it is plentiful right now and is stunning to see en masse.

Common Bindweed
Common Bindweed
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Pennywort

So to end, here is a slideshow of the best of the rest:

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