Around St. Johns: 5th July 2020, 6 miles

It was a toss-up between evensong at Peel Cathedral or a walk in God’s countryside and this afternoon the natural world won, which in a way is as it should be as it all belongs to God (if one believes in a divine being). What better way to spend an afternoon than surrounded by rolling green hills, listening to birdsong, watching butterflies and following the different trails made by man and nature.

This is a walk involving four different disused railway tracks, some road walking, some green tracks and some amenities, so a walk that can be done by anyone who can manage 6 miles. It can be shortened at various junctures, making it 3 or 5 miles if you want a shorter distance.

I parked by the old bridge at St Johns and walked along the road towards Patrick having a nose in people’s gardens and noticing the little things that you miss when you drive, such as the riverbanks being quite deep in places and a second stream joining the main river. There are two bridges close together and at the second one the path is clearly marked to cross the bridge and follow the river on its north side. The fields were magnificent colours, with wild flowers and grasses in abundance, seemingly very natural.

After about 10 minutes walking, you leave the river and join the Heritage Trail, which is the old railway track from Douglas to Peel. I walked the full distance of this years ago and I won’t be doing it again. With good intentions the path has been relaid to allow cyclists and wheelchairs and others needing level ground to enjoy the walk through this valley, but it doesn’t work for me. Having been walking on soft turf in the meadows, my feet really noticed the hard clinker on the wide open path with no character. I want to like it, and plenty of people were strolling down the track so it must work for a lot of people. For me, I couldn’t wait to get off the track, although my plan was to walk back along it to St. Johns.

A little further on from where this photo was taken I spotted a gate on a bank beside an old tree and a signpost to the left and I realised that this was the start of the disused railway line going to Kirk Michael. On the spur of the moment, I decided to take this track and see where it led me. This was so different. It is a normal soil track just the width of the former railway line with bushes either side. Yes, it was uneven in places and wet and muddy in others but I felt closer to nature on this track. I came off the track at the railway bridge, visible some distance away by its marker trees.

There is a little bit of road walking on Poortown Road, but I turned off right down a mostly disused lane just before the quarry. I have driven along this road in the past and I remembered there is ford, whicb lead to some excitement in my mind. Although a tarmac road, it has a quiet feel as if it is intrinsic to the farming life in this part of the island, with grass growing a full 2ft in the centre of the lane. The ford turned out to be less dramatic than I remembered as there is disappointingly a substantial bridge for pedestrians. There was some water in the ford and I could imagine in the depths of winter this might become impassable to ordinary vehicles.

From here, I took the minor road that leads to Tynwald Mills, past some lovely houses with stately gardens, giving an idea of what I might see in the Arboretum just up the road. This area has a warm feel about it. The trees look cared for, if managed, and I always enjoy the roads around St. Johns. I called in at the aforesaid arboretum, which now has many boardwalks, which don’t detract too much from the overall effect. This is a nice place for a picnic and you can get up to the church from here, which I did. Preparations were being made for today’s Tynwald Day, which due to coronavirus, is reduced to a shadow of its usual self and the pomp and pageantry and the fair will be missing this year.

I walked up to the Ballacraine crossroads, down to the railway track on the other side of St Johns. There is a new sleeping policeman where the track crosses the road, which is very attractive, with the swirling emblems reminiscent of Gaelic designs. At this point, the rains had started and my only complaint was that this crossing was a little slippery in the rain. It needs to be roughened up a bit, but I do think it looks rather classy.

At this point, I was expecting to walk along the railway line back to the car, but as I reached the bridge I saw a path on the left leading up to the top. Why I have never seen this path before, I don’t know, but it leads to another old railway line that used to run up Slieau Whallian, and joins up with another railway track that used to go to Foxdale. This was a very attractive way to get back to the car, as it meant I could go through the Garey Ny Cloie gardens on the opposite side of the road, albeit in the rain.

All in all, this was a very pleasant afternoon. Our island has such variety, there is something for everyone and for every mood.

Best of the rest: