What a lovely way to reach 3000 views on my blog, if I do. Today contained a first walk and a frequent walk. Starting with the frequent: My friend and I met up for a short walk and as she needed to pop in the Scarlett Visitor Centre to check she had enough paint for the floor – don’t ask! We decided to park up by the quarry and then walk around Scarlett to the point where Janet and I had finished the other day. This accomplished we carried on, back past the quarry to Pooil Vaaish Farm. From from here we turned right along a designated footpath which followed the Dumb river – so called, we believe, because it makes not even a tiny noise, over the fields and back to the edge of Castletown. These little streams are one of the wonders of the Isle of Man. The edges of every one are bordered with a myriad of wild flowers and ramblers to adorn every season and to entrance all kinds of insects and living creatures which keeps the world in buzzing order. I won’t bore you with any more of this walk as it is one I have regaled on many a day. Suffice that I include a map at the bottom.
The real highlight of the day, or should I say, evening, was a very short 2.7 mile walk organised by the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society (www.manxantiquarians.com), who proudly announced that this one of the first gatherings on the island since the abandonment of lockdown. They were in reality beaten to first place by the Ornithological Society who had a outing in the southern seas (of the Isle of Man, not the Pacific) the evening before but if you don’t tell them, I won’t. The walk was guided by a local with impeccable knowledge relating to the parcels of land over which we were to tread, and we learned a great deal about the farming history of this small and narrow valley that opens out to reveal the treasures of the hills beyond.
We met at Abbeylands, which is really a district rather than a single place and depending on where you place your foot you may be in Onchan or Braddan. I learnt some new words today:
a) quarterlands – a unit of farmland between 40-150 acres, contains our best arable farmland. There are about 770 quarterlands on the IOM and have ancient boundaries that pre-date historical records.
b) treens – these comprise 4 quarterlands
c) intracks – parcels of land that are licensed to a specific person on what would previously have been considered common land. A rent then becomes payable to the landlord. These are usually sandwiched between the lower owned land and the open moorland.
We were bundled into cars to our starting point just up the road. From then on we followed a recognised footpath until we turned off into a field to go on the western side of Slieau Ree and view Joe’s Lewin’s Tower, or at least what remains of it, which isn’t much – just a spiral ramp and a couple of feet of vertical stone. He is reputed to be an eccentric who built this for the fun of it, or to be close to God. Either way, it does have fantastic views towards Douglas and the Baldwin valley… and the sky! Another document records this as originally a limestone kiln. You can choose which you prefer to believe. Both are quite possible, as this valley housed the Ohio mine for lead, silver, copper and zinc. (Sadly 8 miners were killed in a gas explosion here).
From there we crossed more forbidden territory – the advantage of having a local guide, and after a short but fairly steep climb we reached the Deemster’s Cairn or White Man. This is a stone monument built with quartz blocks strategically placed in the wall. It is surmised (we like legends over here) that the Deemster was returning from Ramsey to Castletown via the adjacent packhorse route on the other side of the wall and succumbed to inclement weather and died on that very spot. From here, the views in all directions are spectacular, with the mound of Carraghan to the north west, Snaefell to the right and Beinn-y-Phott in between.
A little further along is another dodgy rock monument that is supposed to resemble a horse, but we were advised that it looks more like a bedstead and we didn’t visit it. Our guide pointed out the farms and their local history. To think that one hundred years ago there were several hundred people living in this valley, and living it up to such an extent that the police had to come and break up a party in a pub! Today, there is just a handful of farms and b and b’s lining the western side of the Baldwin valley. A nice spot for a holiday!
We descended on springy grass fields to the River Baldwin, dodging as many midges as we could. Just before this point we reached an old farmstead called Arderry, which began with the Quine family in the 1500s and was later divided up and the southern Ohio residence (where Joe Lewin’s tower is) was given to the Creers and the main dwelling and outhouses at Arderry remained in the family. It was originally leased to the tenants by Rushen Abbey and they used to pay a tithe to support the Nunnery in Douglas. The remains of Arderry which has streamlets flowing either side of the residence that would have provided a good fresh water source is only yards from the lowest point in this walk where there is a small ford to negotiate over the mighty River Baldwin, but given its proximity to the source of the water and our recent lack of rain I doubt that it often causes problems to traverse it. It was just after this point that I left the walkers where they would pick their cars and I followed the road all the way back to Abbeylands.
As the light dimmed, the sun cast wonderful streaks of light across the sky and I was blessed with an amazing array of sunsets all the way home. What a wonderful evening out, one that has made me want to explore that area in more detail.