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 – it 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:

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.

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