Final Day of 2020 – Glen Helen

We had had snow overnight and a sudden flurry of hail, causing some chaos on the roads. By the time I went out today the situation was much improved. It was a bright day with extensive views in all directions. On the way home I could clearly see Snowdonia (hello Ros!) and Anglesey (hello Ian and Valerie).

Over Foxdale to Snaefell

On reaching South Barrule I stopped along the Round Table Road to get a view of Snaefell in its winter wonderland. Then onwards and upwards, with the roads getting just very slightly slippery as I neared Glen Helen.

It is months since I have been here, so I thought it would be a good place to meet up with my friend, Jill, for a short walk before lunch at Greens in St. Johns. It was still quite cold, even though it was midday, so we wrapped up warmly to accommodate the chilly weather.

There were few people about and no-one else stopped and stared at the things we spied: the necklace-like spider’s web shimmering in the light, the russet colours of the beech and oak leaves lying on the ground; the sphagnum moss clinging for dear life to defunct tree trunks as they toppled down the hillside; some broom in flower. The colours were suprisingly bright for mid winter.

The path has recently been renovated and this is one of the better paths that is pleasant to walk on, with plenty of room for pushchairs and wheelchairs. New sturdy wooden bridges have been created which give wide views of the river, which was furiously scrambling over rocks, pebbles and collapsed trees on its way to meet the sea. At one point a new bench had been positioned looking away from the river back up the hillside – very odd, especially as there was fencing behind it to stop anyone from falling into the river!

In no time at all we were at the waterfall which was putting on a special show just for us. The water-scuplted rocks made interesting shapes. About 5ft above the level of the water was an unusual ball-shaped space, looking as if it might have contained a large boulder at some time, and which had long ago tumbled into the water. You can just make this out on the photo below. The alternative is that the waterfall may have changed its course, so that was my cue to continue upwards to investigate. I left Jill admiring the waterfall and took off up a grassy, muddy path with some slippery stones to negotiate. There were more waterfalls at the top and I concluded that it is possible that many aeons ago the waterfall would have been a lot higher and the bowl shaped sculpture could have been made by a previous waterfall, though we shall probably never know. Maybe the elves spend the winter carving out the stone for their palace in the woods.

So, from there it was the same walk back, although we did cross the river to view a throne on the other side. There is nothing to indicate its significance but that is something more for me to investigate another time.

This was a short walk of only 2.3 miles and a coupleof hundred feet of ascent on my extension, so it really is a basically flat walk that anyone can enjoy. You can walk right to the end and return on the other side and the total distance would be no more than 3 miles.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. I had planned to do a Sunrise Walk in the hills, but with potentially icy road conditions forecast, I have decided to give that a miss, but there is nothing to stop me doing the same thing up Meayll Hill, stand in the stone circle and watch the new year come in from the east.

I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Whatever it may bring, the countryside remains accessible and open to us all to renew our souls and bodies, so let’s take advantage of the natural beauty wherever we live. So far, it is the one place that coronavirus has not colonised and we can breathe.

Pre Christmas Walk – Druidale 22nd Dec 2020

I was itching to get out in the hills. It is so long since I have walked anywhere but in the south, and this time I could leave my measuring stick behind me, ignore the peat and sphagnum moss and just appreciate our wonders scenery. Instead of including photos as I go along there is a slideshow at the bottom instead today.

I picked the day when the weather would be best ( both Monday and today being rainy days) and invited my friend Janet to join me on a walk I have never done, but have often looked at from afar. We took the road up from just outside Kirk Michael and parked on the grass at the start of the walk, just before the road to the right leading to Injebreck and the cattle grid leading onto the main Snaefell uplands. You can find this easily by looking for a triangular piece of woodland, called Sartfell plantation.

It was bright and sunny initially, though a little chilly. We followed the green lane gently upwards. Sartfell at 454 m is immediately to the left but there is no direct footpath to the top and there are signs discouraging people from going off the track, though I suspect this is mainly for the benefit of the bikers and possibly horse-riders who are allowed to use these green lanes. We continued north on the path skirting Slieau Freoaghane (488m). There is a choice of paths at this point and I wanted to go slightly westward so that we would get a view of the western slopes of the island, so we took the left fork temporarily to the saddle between the said previous hill and Slieau Dhoo (424m). We were not disappointed. The views down the valley to Kirk Michael were lovely and the hills around had satisfyingly geometric green slopes.

We retraced our steps a little to continue on the eastern side of the hills up to where the green road meets the ‘main’ Druidale Road that leads down to Ballaugh. Along the whole of this path we had had wonderful views of Snaefell and its neighbouring hills, with North Barrule tipping its head up so we could see it in the distance. The green road is not particularly pleasant to walk on being heavily rutted by the motorbikes, but there is room to walk on grassy ledges most of the time. There were quite a few puddles to negotiate as well.

This was our midpoint at the head of the Tholt -e- Will plantation and there were excellent views down to the Sulby reservoir and at one point we could see the Ayers lighthouse far away in the north. We now turned south to walk along the road all the way back to the car. Usually I don’t like road walking but at this time of year when it has been so very wet it’s a good idea and in any case cars were few and far between and it is a most attractive road to walk along.

As we walked back and looked across to our left, we reflected on the fact that are no footpaths across most of the land we could see. A few sheep would venture over on to the moorland, and there are very very few buildings, so the area is quite unspoilt.

This walk was just under 7 miles, with about 810ft of ascent. However, it is easy walking with no really steep gradients and if you need to take a break at any point you can simply say you are admiring the view.

The slideshow starts with a view the hills of South Barrule and Cronk ny Array from the car park then a mix of locations on the walk itself.

My next planned walk in a very early morning (7am) walk to herald the New Year on January 1st!

More peat surveying Dec 2020

To be more accurate I should perhaps write ‘less’ peat surveying as the peat was disappointingly thin on the ground – excuse the pun. I am getting to know every inch of South Barrule, sometimes very personally! This time I was on the western flank where the path leads up to the top from the Cringle Plantation.

I had planned my waypoints following contours to ease the number of ups and downs and scrambling over rocks, heather, gorse, and falling down gullies. In windy weather measuring the peat can be quite a chore, so a boring grey day seemed a good choice.. until I got there. There had been some quite heavy rain the previous few days and the terrain was slippery, whether it was grass or stone, and being on uneven ground only made the matter worse. Having the measuring pole is quite a blessing as it acts like a walking stick and enables me to move faster over the moorland and prevent falls.

There is little to say about the 17 waypoints I measured, as there were very few prods with depths of over 30 cm, and very little sphagnum moss, except in secluded areas. It seems to like plateaus or areas where there are natural springs and gullies, so as this section of South Barrule is mostly a continuous slope there was little of interest by way of peat and sphagnum moss. However, I did find a toadstool and I observed an unusual plant ( unusual to me anyway) and the deer grass looked absolutely splendid in its autumn colours. Towards the end of the session I came across an area abundant with sphagnum moss and this was a very bright and cheerful green lying on a springy bed of turf.

At my coffee stop I sat and admired the view down the Glen Rushen Valley, one of my favourite sights, and as I was at ground level I took advantage of the grasses blowing at head height to get some different photos of this area. As you will see from the slideshow there is a lot of tufty grass or heathers and gorse blocking the way for the mosses to grow.

I called in at the Manx Wildlife Trust office to discuss the recording of waypoints and Sarah told me that South Barrule had previously been an area with deep rich peat, but with the mining, quarrying and peat cutting, those days seem to be long gone.

But I live in hope that the remaining 50 or so waypoints I have to measure above Round Table will provide something of value, but either way I am in my element out in the hills, just me and my trusty pole.

I have a few more ‘normal’ walks in the pipeline during the Christmas period, including a Coast to Cairns at the top of Snaefell and a very very early morning walk on New Year’s Day to watch the sunrise. Watch out for these posts, and meanwhile have a lovely and safe Christmas wherever you are.