The natural entrance to Summerhill Glen
Douglas is a surprisingly attractive town to walk around as long as you turn a blind eye to the less appealing aspects of its make-up and areas that look lost and forlorn or where some car park or development has emerged from nowhere and taken away all the character of the area. The Isle of Man does itself no favours by not caring enough about its heritage and there are too many derelict buildings or hideous erections that should never have seen the light of day, not even in an architect’s mind let alone in practice. It is too quick to destroy what history it has, as in the pending doom of the lone 18th century cottage which is being demolished to make way for a new ”by-pass” in Ballasalla, only approved by short-sighted politicians because Dandara promised to fund it as long as they could build xxx number of houses at the same time. But I digress…
You might say Douglas is much like any town. But look up, out, about and around the many old buildings of the later 19th and early 20th centuries and you will see interesting shapes and objects that will surprise you. Roadnames with fingers pointing you in the right direction, canopies over shops that look as if they belong in Tunbridge Wells Pantiles area, attractive iron railings separating the Edwardian properties, squares of parkland and a crescent of housing reminiscent of Bath (though not as grand). Lots and lots of substantial Edwardian properties built to last, reminding us of the Isle of Man’s heyday when B &B’s sprung up in abundance to cater for the wild tourism that would swarm in on the ferry in the summer months.
I had been to the dentist on Woodburn Square and instead of walking back to the bus stop I went in the opposite direction, down roads I have never walked before, around the back of Nobles Park to the top of Summerhill Glen. The house styles are very varied and many are attractive with double fronts or bay windows, a row of chocolate box houses, one with a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden and sometimes very unusual houses. There were two houses side by side with windows in the upper elevations that looked as if they belonged in the 16th century as their small windows protruded out above the main house. There are many established trees in this area and it feels quite luxurious in places. There must have been a large country seat where Laureston Manor remains, now afflicted by the ever terminal illness of living apartments, but it still has its grounds and other houses have been built around the edge of its land, so the pathwork of land still retains its rich flavour.
I reached an area where most of the roads bear the name Victoria or similar, signs of anticipated grandeur and nobility – Victoria Road, Victoria Crescent, Victoria Avenue, Dukes Road, Upper Duke’s Road, Palace Road, Castle Hill – you get my drift, and here the roads are at the top of the wonderful cliff that skirts the whole of Douglas Bay and from where if you could only see through the trees there must be a wonderful view of the Bay. There are several very large buildings around here, many now converted for business use, again indicating that Douglas has at times been very wealthy.
All this was unexpected. This was not a planned trip but an idle walk through Douglas to get some fresh air with the idea of walking in daylight down Summerhill Glen. My first visit to this Glen was just two week’s ago when my son Matthew stayed with me for Christmas and we went to enjoy the illuminations which we did thoroughly enjoy in spite of the rain.
Reaching the top of the Glen I followed the path down to discover a second more interesting path that enters the glen from the other side of the stream. I know most people are very happy with the modernisation of the paths in the glens but for me wide tarmac paths lose all the natural feel and magic of walking down a forested glen, so I was very happy to wander along the section that had not been tarmacked and watch the water meandering its way across the flat and boggy terrain, creating new rivulets here and there as it jumped over minor hazards on their way to join the main stream.
The glen itself is very natural at the top and I found several interesting shapes in the stream and in the vegetation that sparked my interest. The stream is pretty with minor waterfalls along its ever downward and slightly winding trajectory. In the centre there is a flat area with wooden seats neatly positioned to enjoy the display the children (and adults) have created. It is not possible to follow the stream all the way to the sea as it goes underground whilst still quite elevated, but when I reached the shore to see where it finally entered the sea, I could hear a rush of water where it comes out behind the houses on Strathallan Crescent.
The tide was out so I walked out into the bay and again I looked up at the lovely aforementioned cliffs and noticed houses half way up holding tightly on to the side of the cliffs, a pink house I had never noticed before with a curtain of trees behind it. Looking in the other direction out to sea, I walked out as far as the sand would allow me and came across boulders and seaweed that were as tall as me. I walked the mile or so back into town, and if you wished you could make a full circle of this walk.
So, if you come to Douglas, take a bit of time to venture into those parts you don’t usually go and I’m sure you will find hidden treasures.
Below: A slideshow of some shapes in Summerhill Glen
I regret to say I did not take photos of the interesting properties I saw, but I will retrace those steps another time when I am armed with my camera and not just my mobile phone.