Ballabeg to Castletown 10th Sept 2020

Sometimes the simplest things can surprise you and make your day. This walk is only 4 and 1/2 miles, with a maximum ascent of about 250ft, so you might think nothing to write about. How wrong can you be?

It started with a journey on the steam train to Ballabeg, where I was the only one to disembark. Visitors beware – if you intend to get off at an unscheduled stop you need to tell the guard when you embark. I followed the road for a short distance towards the coast road and then turned off onto a delightfully overgrown and muddy path, where the tiny stream beside it would criss cross its way in front of you just to keep you on your guard. They were lots of speckled wood butterflies fitting in and out on this short path. It comes out on the coast road, where I turned left.

One of the joys of walking is making new discoveries. They do not need to be momentous, just reminders that life doesn’t stand still. As I walked along the main road to the farm I noticed a sign saying ‘sensitive verge’. I would never have seen this travelling at speed in a car, and now I shall look out for the wildflowers in spring and summer and watch how it develops.

I crossed the road at the farm, where I got another surprise. There was a lady looking out of the window; only on second glance, she was a cardboard cut-out. A short distance further down the lane that leads to Chapel Hill and I got another surprise. On the left was a plaque inviting me to sit down on the seat and enjoy the view. Of course, I must obey. It turned out to be a ‘talking bench’ and our very own ‘national treasure’ Charles Guard told me about the view in front of me and some of the history of buildings in the vicinity.

I then visited Chapel Hill, somewhere I have visited often. The Viking Ship burial site is looking rather unkempt but as usual the views are terrific and the light was dancing on the sea in the distance, giving it quite a magical feel. This is a place best visited with a guide who can tell you about the aeons of history of this site, from Bronze Age to Iron Age to Christianity and the defensive benefits of this location.

Back to the lane and past Balladoole House, which Charles had reliably informed me was built in 1714 and has Queen Anne architecture. Maybe Manx Heritage will add a tour of this house to their events sometime in the future.

Soon enough I was at the coastline, joining it at Pooil Vaaish Farm. The tide was reasonably well out, but this section is perhaps not a place to linger. There are many wonderful spots as you enter Scarlett, with its interesting geology and flora. I was in my element here. As the tide was sort of ‘out’ I was able to mess about among the rocks. I am not good at knowing one rock from another, but these were definitely old lava flows. The rock was very grippy and safe to walk on, and you could see the gas holes in the some of the rocks. Also there were no fossils, which can be readily found just a little further round past the lime kilns and the visitor centre, where the rocks are limestone.

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I have walked this walk many a time, but none more enjoyable than the one today, and what a lot of variety. If you are a visitor I would recommend either getting the bus to Fisher’s Hill, and ask the driver to drop you off at the corner, or get the steam train to Ballabeg. The walk I have described takes you to the centre of Castletown where you can get a bus back to either Port Erin or Ballabeg. Just make sure you get the right bus as one goes along the coast and another inland to Ballabeg and Colby. You could get the train, but the last train in the afternoon is relatively early unless its a special week like TT.

Distance: 4.6 miles, but less if you stick to the paths.

Total ascent 259ft (mainly clambering over rocks!); total descent 220ft

A great walk for all ages. Children as well as those in their second or third childhood will enjoy the walk along the coast in particular.

 

Cregneash and Coast 9th Sept 2020

Being just one and a half miles cross country to Cregneash from Port Erin makes this a pleasant afternoon stroll, or an evening stroll if you have limited time.

There are countless routes to this quaint old village, which is always worth a visit at any time of year. I didn’t set out with a plan, other than to get some exercise, so I began by walking up Truggan Road, up the farm track to the Howe. The quickest way from here, but also the most boring, is to continue along the road, but I headed off in a westerly direction onto the moorland. This path is muddy at the best of times, but I did see some interesting flowers and quite a lot of sphagnum moss. I continued along the eastern side of Meayll Hill and joined the road at the quarry car park at Cregneash. If you are a visitor, there is a bus stop here that can take you down to the Sound or back to Port St Mary or Port Erin.

Cregneash from the back lane

I stopped at the Cregneash cafe for a light lunch before making up my mind what to do next. With all the logistical problems caused by COVID-19 their opening hours are limited to 11am – 4pm Wednesday to Saturday only. What would normally be a busy, vibrant village cafe was today very quiet, with only a couple of visitors. It shows what a difference it makes when the coaches usually bring visitors to the area. The cafe has been redecorated with comfortable sofas as well as tables, and the food was very good, if limited to sandwiches, fantastic cakes and soup. I do urge residents and Guernsey visitors to pay it a visit and you will be able to have some easy walks to the coast from there, too.

Cregneash Tea Rooms

I took a path that I have been meaning to try for a long time. It starts in the midst of the village beside a field of Loaghtan goats, who were bickering furiously and locking horns. This is a well made track going around the back of the hills to emerge at the coast just before Black Head. However, I took a very narrow track uphill and westwards, slightly overgrown with prickly gorse and heather (wear proper walking gear) which took me to my highest point of the day at Cronk Mooar. I then followed the coast path south to Spanish Head and traversed across the cliff to Black Head before returning to the standard path. The path descends to meet the end of the track I had begun on, and from there it is a steady climb up to the Chasms. There are two other tracks that you can take if you want to return to Cregneash, so it is easy to do a variety of circular walks of about 3 miles starting from Cregneash car park.

Once at the Chasms I chose the lower route which involves mostly descent, initially through the moor and grassland, and then through the sheep-strewn fields, all the way to Fistard and Glenn Chass. This is a level walk on good paths. The sea was like a mill pond today and with still air it was very peaceful and quiet.

Most often I would continue on the cliffs to Port St Mary but today I chose to continue up the narrow lane at Fistard. There are some pretty stone cottages in this part of the village. On reaching the bend in the road, I forked left and took a well disguised path beside and behind a modern house, that leads to the top end of the golf course. Checking I wasn’t in anyone’s aim of direction I followed the path along the top of the golf course that leads to the final high point of the day, where there is a mast and views to the whole of the centre of the island. Walking down from here the path was slightly overgrown and uneven, but absolutely full of wildlife. There were speckled wood butterflies in abundance and a host of other flying insects amongst the greenery. This walk made me aware of the need for unruly vegetation with a mind of its own. There is no doubt that I saw the most wildlife and wild flowers in these areas.

The path comes out at the top of Truggan Road. I had never noticed the information sign accompanying the road sign explaining the significance of the name. It derives from the Manx word ‘Strooan’, which means stream, and apparently it used to have another descriptive word meaning ‘swift’ alongside strooan so the name of the road means “the road leading to the swift stream”, that being the stream that flows down Meayll Hill and divides into two- one flow going into Breagle Glen, and the other flowing through farmland beside the Ballahane housing estate; both of course join the stream beside the railway leading to Athol Glen and ultimately Port Erin beach.

A lovely afternoon walk, that can be taken in a number of different stages to suit your time and abilities, with a tea stop and buses (usually!).

Distance: Truggan Road, Port Erin to Cregneash via the moor – 1.87 miles; Total ascent 407ft; Total descent 89ft

Distance: Cregneash to Port Erin via Spanish Head, Black Head, the Chasms, and Port St Mary – 4.91 miles; total ascent 535ft; total descent 863ft

Skies over Black Head