Castletown to Port Erin – 5 miles

I hadn’t intended to walk all the way home after dropping my car off at Castletown for its much-needed service but… it was a lovely day and it had been a very stressful one. Anyone involved with the GCSE and A level examination assessments will know that although the process has been simplified this year, it is far from straightforward. I am an assessor for an organisation that handles entries for private candidates, who often have little or no evidence of any assignments or coursework and we have to magic something out of nothing for them within a few weeks, and hope they can conjure up some tricks in the invigilated mocks to get the grades they deserve. That would be ok if anyone is able to understand the rules.

So, a walk seemed like a jolly good idea. I had thought of walking to the Viking ship and round the coast back to Castletown and then getting the bus home, but as I was almost at Fisher’s Hill anyway it seemed sensible just to carry on walking along the coastline all the way home. There was a surprising number of vehicles on the main road, given that we are still in full lockdown, and I passed a handful of bikers and pedestrians most suitably wearing their face-coverings even when no-one is about.

The views to the north were beautiful, although South Barrule decided to hide just as I was taking its photo. As I reached the coast, the air was a little hazy and the tide was quite well in. Usually this beach is stony with a little soft sand where the road bends to meet the sea. Today, there was a lot of seaweed banked up on the stones. The regular birds were still there waiting for their catch and there were a lot of insects which annoyingly kept finding their way undeneath my mask. It was so good to feel the sun on my face and get some air into my lungs.

On the other side of the road, the fields were very green and lush. The daffodils lining the drive to Kentraugh house looked magnificent.

I continued around Gansey point as it seemed a shame to abandon the coastline for boring roads, and this took me up to Port St Mary, from where I followed the back road home.

So, just a short blog today. It is so interesting to see the same locations at different times of day and different seasons and different weather. It never bores.

When I got home I sent a couple of photos to one of my candidates who is as equally fed up with the examination assessment as myself to cheer her up. This worked, although her reply made me realise, if I didn’t already know, that we do live in a very special place. Her words were “That looks amazing. How lucky to live somewhere so beautiful….unfortunately, we live on the outskirts of a town right in the middle of the country (uk) so no views like yours”. Let us never forget what we have on our doorstep.

Earystane Plantation Circular 6 miles

Another first! I do like firsts, especially during lockdown while much of life is dreary.

I had driven to the lane at the foot of Cronk Ny Array Laa, the furthest I would consider driving right now. I would be following recognised paths (well mostly, as you will discover) so unlikely to need to call out any of the emergency services.

I made my way across the moorland to the top of Earystane plantation. I have never walked through this terrain so I didn’t know what to expect except loads of trees. I was pleasantly surprised to find an unique landscape that could almost be called ‘the land that time forgot’. My photos don’t do it justice. It was far darker, greener, with wiggly and wriggly shaped trees appearing to drip with a variety of mosses. Of course, you have to go off piste a little to appreciate this but not far from the marked path. It was quite special.

Back on the path, there is a variety of trees, gorses and heathers with different views across to the coast. It was very muddy in places as this is often a bike route. There are alternative paths for would-be adventurers but trespassers are encouraged to keep to the main path.

Leaving the forest, you come out into daylight and a wide vista encompassing the whole of the south of the island. It almost takes you by surprise as it is so open compared with the closely planted plantation.

The next section was a walk down the hill to the road, which takes longer than you might expect. I was heading along the quiet, unspoilt lane to Cringle Reservoir with South Barrule guarding from behind. There is a footpath through fields but last time I did this, I ended up having to climb over locked gates and such like so decided to give it a miss this time.

Road walking sounds boring, but it isn’t necessarily. I had never noticed the tholtans on this road before and began to wonder who had lived in the various dwellings and why they no longer were inhabited. I noticed there had previously been a track linking some tholtans with the upper road. A curious look over a hedge provided a glimpse of a wonderful stone hearth, so this one at least must have been a splendid small dwelling.

It is possible to walk all the way to Cringle Reservoir along the road, but I followed the paths inside Cringle plantation which followed its southern edge. These are well defined tracks and make it more interesting than road walking, though the forest is less interesting that Earystane in these parts.

Cringle Reservoir was my lunch spot, after about 3.5 miles. There were one or two fishermen and the occasional cyclist and dog walker, but it felt empty even so. This is a lovely place to visit and a good place for a picnic with children.

From here the plan was to follow the track to the north through the forest where it meets the path to South Barrule. But I got distracted by the sound of rushing water. Why is have this fascination with streams I don’t know, but if I spot one I have to follow it and see where it goes and what it does. This one did not disappoint.

The stream appears to follow a fault line and every now and again there would be big gaps in the earth and drops creating sudden ‘waterfalls’ out of nothing. Not quite competition for Gaping Gill but interesting none the less. I was in my element, prodding the earth to make sure I was a safe to walk on it and looking into deep crevices to see what troll might be lurking in there. It was here that I came across these strange creatures swimming on the surface of the stream. I couldn’t decide whether they were water boatmen, pondskaters or some kind of larvae, but whatever they were this was their domain.

I scrambled up the bank back up to the path and it was only a short distance to the northern edge of the forest at Round Table. From here, it was a pleasant open moorland walk for a mile or so back to the car at Cronk Ny Array Laa. If I were to do this walk again, I would start by walking the half mile to the top of this hill before continuing on the walk. I would have done this had the weather been more inviting, but as it was this was the perfect walk for today.

Distance: 5.83 miles; total ascent 925ft; total descent 896ft

Port Erin, Glenn Chass, Port St Mary – 13th March 2021

Just when you think there is nothing more to say about a walk you have done many many times you get a pleasant surprise. That’s just what happened today. I have walked the back route up the golden road to Glenn Chass and Port St Mary many times, but only today did I discover something new.

It started out as usual, well almost as usual, with a minor socially-distanced stop to allow some other people to pass on the path. Then it was onwards and upwards along the golden road. It was a bright, breezy but cool day and it afforded some fine views of the valley between the Meayll Hill headland and the Bradda / Carnanes range of hills.

This path follows tracks across farmland, crossing over streamlets until you get to one of my favourite streams – yes, I know, who else has favourite streams. It flows off the moorland down through the edge of Port Erin and has a delightful bridge that you can only see if you scramble down the side of the stream. Today, there was quite a lot of water in the stream and I could hear gushing water from above, so true to form I found myself wading upstream to see what there was to see. I wasn’t really wearing suitable footwear so it was a matter of hopping from stone to stone and clinging on to vegetation in places. Just for the record, this sort of messing about is my idea of bliss! I didn’t manage to get very far, but I did see the source of the noise – a tiny waterfall cascading over some rocks. You will have to look very closely to see it!

From here it was back to the path, only to be immediately diverted by a footpath going the other way, and then a made-made track following the stream in the opposite direction. No wading this time, just a curiosity to discover what might be round the next corner. And what was round the corner? Lots of wild garlic just beginning to sprout from the undergrowth and casting a heavenly smell. And looking up through the bare canopy of trees I could hear but not see a bird equally as happy as I to be enjoying the spring day.

After my detour I followed the main track to Glenn Chass to walk down the narrow stream let that feeds into Fistard Bay. Only now, this looks completely different from previous times I have been here. It is being managed, and a new footpath has been created so it is possible to do a circular route in this uppermost part of the Glen. Not that there is a lot to see. Some of the vegetation has been cleared but this will soon grow back and I look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

The path joins the lane and continues down to the sea, looking rather different from its neighbour on the other side of the road.

From here, I followed the coast path into Port St Mary. I didn’t deviate too much this time, only stopping to go down on the beach at the point where the golf course and footpath conjoin. I had missed high tide, which was a shame given it was a blustery day. Even so, the waves were having fun crashing against the rocks and the sunlight gave cool approval as it kissed the sea.

Up to this point, I had seen barely anyone but now in the town there were more people taking the air, or taking their dog for a walk. All stopped to allow others to pass, and many were wearing face coverings. Port St Mary had a peaceful air today and splendid views to the hills behind. Note how the benches look like seagulls looking out to sea for their prey. I reached the underway, but at this point had to leave the coast path as this is only one direction now and not the right direction for me, so I climbed up the cliff in front of the apartments, walked through the church grounds to the top road so that I could take the Truggan Road back to Port Erin. I may or may not have told you this before: Truggan Road can be translated as ‘the road to the swift stream’. How poetic is that, and very fitting for my adventurous afternoon.

This was a short walk of about 4 miles and about 650 ft of elevation in total. A most enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Cregneash and the Coast – March 7, 2021

At last! I had been waiting for a sunny day in order to take some supplementary photos for a watercolour I am planning to paint. For those who don’t know, the Isle of Man went back into lockdown again almost a week ago, following some unaccounted-for cases of Covid-19. Since then, we have an unusual amount of children and families with the virus and one of my cancer clients has family members affected by the recent outbreak, making it very real. Our 3 week lockdown looks like extending over Easter, but we are a robust island and we cope well with adversity, by and large.

It does make it hard to justify going out, even if we are allowed to go out for exercise for as long as we like. I took the car up to the Cregneash quarry and walked down into the village, where I wanted a particular shot of some of the cottages. There were several cars parked in the quarry so I knew to expect to see people on my walk. I secured my mask around my neck just in case and off I went. As I went through Cregneash I saw a few units of people, singles, family groups and couples all keeping strategically away from each other, or waiting for each other to pass on narrow sections. As I went up the hill towards the coast, the horses didn’t recognise social distancing and galloped from one fence to another to say hello to all and sundry.

At the top of the lane, again there were several cars parked, some of whom no doubt belonged to residents of the cottages, but again it indicated there would be people about, and indeed there were. However, this was my next photo point. One of my painting projects is a view from here looking down toward the Chasms cafe, and I needed to know the lie of the footpath in order to extend my painting. I also needed to know where the sea and sky meet behind it, if you know what I mean. My house faces south, and if I could make a direct path through the hills from my house to the sea this would be the view I would have, so I thought it would be nice to have a bright painting of this scene at midday on my stairwell. It would make me feel alive every time I walk down the stairs. Whether I can accomplish this is an entirely different matter. I only started painting at all in lockdown 1, but four watercolours on and I am doing ok, and they are all hanging on my walls in my house right now 🙂

It wasn’t a bright day and there was a very slight haze, but the sunlight was beautiful on the old Chasms cafe and as I walked along the coast line, I noticed things I don’t normally notice, such as the lichen growing on the rocks and the wave effect on some of the bigger slabs that I would walk over time after time. The light played beautifully on the sea too and I was so glad to be out in this sensational secenery. I paused for a while and watched the sea and listened to the many birds chattering on the Sugar Loaf. Can you spot the sheep grazing on Black Head? No, not the photo with the sheep posing in the middle but the photo next to it of the steep cliff. You may need to enlarge it. How they manage to make their way down there is remarkable.

I only walked as far as Spanish Head, via Black Head, where the Calf of Man looked more like one of the Canary Isles in the haze. From here I turned back returning to Cregneash through the farmers’ fields by a very muddy farm track but not before I snapped what I thought was a Chough, but looking at the wing span I now doubt my judgement.

This was only a short walk, only about 3.5 miles and only just about 500 ft of ascent. You could spend a whole afternoon wandering around these hills and never be bored.

Update: 11th April 2021. This is the painting I have done of this area, a watercolour on board. The wrong kind of material for watercolour. I was advised to score the board before applying the paint, which unfortunately didn’t work and has made the sky almost impossible to paint or cover the scouring marks. For the moorland I used a dabbing technique applying light colours first. This is only my fourth painting, having started during lockdown. The logo is a digital watermark so is not actually on the painting.