Conrhenny Plantation 25th August 2019

The view

What a glorious day for a wildflower walk, away from Port Erin that was bathed in Mananan’s Cloak for most of the day. Being Bank Holiday Sunday we were a small group but this only added to the enjoyment. I have walked through Conrhenny Plantation before with the U3A but I have never stopped and stared at the vegetation or wondered at the myriad of butterflies happily darting from Buddleia bush to another. We were also fortunate to see a most amazing insect, rather like an overgrown mosquito feeding on Angelica. Just look at that tail! One of my erudite and expert friends informs me that it is an Ichneumon Parasitic Wasp. If you want to know more about this not-so-angelic-as-it-looks creature take a look at this Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxHckvpbopQ

Mosquito

Insect 2

We started out from the car park having dowsed ourselves in sun cream to protect ourselves from the unrelenting sun. Just a few metres along and we had our first encounter with wildlife, looking at the tiny but well-formed Mouseear, so named because its petals are duple and each one looks like… you guessed it, a mouse’s ear. We also saw pearlwort, another tiny flower that you would walk over time and time again without noticing it.

We made our way through puddles and streams towards the man-made ponds – wish I had worn my wellies. I didn’t even know there were ponds here, and we saw some rare species, including Cape Pondweed. The yellow lesser spearwort and blue water forget-me-nots gave even more colour to the ponds. As summer turns into autumn there are fewer flowers and more seedheads, so colour turns from yellows blues and reds into more sombre browns and dull greens.

View 3

Water Forget-Me-Not

As we continued along the edge of the ponds, we came across a host of peacock butterflies, a few painted ladies and red admiral on the Buddleia. These are the first peacock butterflies I have seen all summer. The painted ladies were not looking their best compared with a few weeks ago when they all rushed in from abroad.

Peacock Butterfly

Simon, our fount of all flower knowledge, showed us some Japanese Hogweed – sorry, Japanese Knotweed – in flower and pointed out that its bad reputation is really not deserved and if left in peace it would spread, but so much more slowly than when the demolition team try to dig it up and scatter roots and stems in all directions.

Japanese Hogweed in Flower

The views are tremendous looking out toward the sea between Douglas and Laxey, especially when the grasses, sedges and wild flowers are allowed to dictate the scene, as in the photo below where the hogweed seed heads look as tall as trees against the distant horizon.

 

Majestic Hogweed

The pendulous sedge looked very proud along the forest edge, and in another view the willowherbs were the centre of attention against their backdrop of fields and hills.

Sedge

 

Amongst all this finery, I think my favourite species of the day was the humble Spear-leaved Thistle, looking showy with its nest of furry seeds. Following close on its heels was the equally humble Horsetail with it sporophtye standing proudly erect amongst the fronds of its plant.

Spear Thistle

Horsetail

And finally to add some colour to the late warm afternoon, here is some Yellow Loosestrife, often seen in gardens.

Yellow Loosestrife

Conrhenny Plantation 2

 

 

Postcard from Port Erin, 15th August 2019

Boat2

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.

View

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

Tree on path

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.