Foxdale circular – 22nd June 2021

This is the most peaceful walk I have done so far on this island. It was helped by it being a balmy day, but the nature of this walk took me by surprise.

I hadn’t walked on any one of the 6 miles of track or path, other than a very brief section on the road from St Johns to the mines. Every step was an exploration of something new, seeing the hills and fields I see every day but from a new perspective.

I parked at South Barrule plantation and walked the same quarter of a mile I had done in a previous walk to Stoney Mountain, but this time when I reached the plantation I turned left which would take me around the northern perimeter of the Stoney Mountain plantation. It is bit untidy at the start, and you go through what appears to be someone’s garden, but then it becomes a clear uninterrupted path. In fact, this is described as a green route. It is a real mix of terrain, from a grassy path, to a pebbly path, to a stoney path, to what appears to be a stream in places. It is level walking and an easy path. From here you do get wonderful views of the hills above the Peel / Douglas valley.

There is a choice of route once you finish the first mile. I turned left, walking down a peaceful lane. The wild flowers, grasses, horses and donkeys seem to own this section of countryside, and although not far from any ‘main’ road, I couldn’t hear any traffic and only occasionally glimpsed any vehicles. This road terminates on the Braiid to Foxdale Road, where the new mansion has been built. I walked easterly along the road for a very short distance, before taking the footpath to the left.

This led around the westerly edge of the Kionslieau Reservoir. I have never been here before and it’s wonderful, well worth a visit, if just to admire the view. The path has been very well maintained with a boardwalk over wetter parts. Unexpectedly, I came across more orchids beside the path. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should as my granddaughter video called me, along with my son, and somehow I managed to mix up the dials on my camera and got myself in a tizz as I couldn’t get it off panoramic view and didn’t know (and still don’t know) how to use it. I really should have stopped for longer, it was so very peaceful.

This path comes out on a minor road, or I thought was a minor road, except that I had to keep stopping for cars. It was a very pretty lane with meadow buttercups festooning the tall banks on either side. When this road turned to Foxdale I continued along the top, which gave me a good view of the observatory. Judging by the number of hens on the road, this part of the road does not get as much traffic. Just past the hens is a footpath going down the hill into Lower Foxdale. Be careful if you go this route as the footpath is to the right of the wide manmade track, but the sign is in the ditch, so you could easily miss it and have to retrace your steps to the top as I did!

This is actually a very splendid path, obviously not much used as it was quite overgrown in places. It did make me think that we really do not need to leave spaces between plants in our gardens. This was heaving with plants, butterflies and all sorts of insects. I enjoyed walking down here and I was glad I had my stick so that I could beat myself a path at times. It is not long before you do hear the hum of traffic and the path finishes on the main St John’s road.

I turned left, slightly uphill until I met the minor road to the right which leads to… absolutely nowhere. It crosses the disused railway line, which again looked very attractive in its spring attire. This is a bit of a hike uphill but it’s not difficult. Another time, I might walk back along the railway line for a short distance and then take the path up Glen Dhoo. This would be more interesting than road walking and also cuts off a bit of distance. I had never heard of Glen Dhoo, but I when crossed it at the top it looked quite a nice glen. But, taking the route I went, at the T junction I turned left and followed the road to the ford at Gleneedle and turned immediately left. This is shown as a dead end, but the dead end is a good mile away. It is a steady climb up to the top of Dawlish Ard, and from there it is a really pleasant walk contouring around the lower part of South Barrule, with view to die for. It is an easy, grassy path, and you follow this all the way back finishing in South Barrule plantation, where it is a short walk back to the car.

I really enjoyed my birthday walk. It will stay long in my memory.

Orchid Walk 20th June – Close Sartfield

We are spoiled with so many prolific wildflowers on this island, but none more so than in June at the Manx Wildlife Trust’s Close Sartfield Nature Reserve. Apparently, it has been estimated that there are at least 100,000 orchids on this reserve, a figure I can well believe from what I saw yesterday – or was that just one field? Um, I’m not sure now. Either way, it’s a heck of a lot.

This reserve is in the north of the island, located in fields behind the Curraghs Wildlife Park, so you could easily combine this short walk with a visit to our local animal park. In both locations you may be lucky enough to spot the itinerant wallabies, who can now be seen lolloping around most of the countryside at some time or other. Much as they are appealing I believe they can also be a nuisance, as was explained to us by Tricia Sayle who manages the reserves. Whenever they spot a nice piece of grass they will find a way to reach it by grubbing up fences, which then make it possible for sheep to escape much to the consternation of the farmers. Apparently, the wallabies are too lazy to jump over fences! But much as with Covid -19, we have to learn to live with them.As it happens we didn’t see any today. We were pleasantly surprised to have a warm sunny day, given that the forecast had been for dull or even rainy weather. As it was, sunhats were in order.

Immediately on arriving at the reserve we were delighted to see so many orchids tossing about in the light wind, protected by grasses only just slightly taller than themselves. Tricia explained that all the fields have manx names to reflect their previous occupation or describing the nature of the fields; and how it had taken much painstaking work to remove the gorse that seems unwilling to give up its habitat. In places, we could see where a birch woodland had been allowed to develop and how very quickly it establishes itself if left very much to its own devices.

There are often six species of orchid to be seen but I think we only saw four. Tricia explained that although they often look the same, there are subtle differences in the structure of the leaf, and how many have hydridised. These hybrids tend to stand tall and erect, being proud of themselves. I guess in time, without management, the whole field would eventually be taken over by the hybrids. But that’s why Tricia and her Midweek Muckers are there regularly tending the reserve, to make sure all flowers have the maximum opportunity to fulfil their potential.

It is a short, flat walk of about a mile if you include a visit to the hide. In the summer, the gates are unlocked and the paths are open, but out of season you cannot walk around the reserve other than to go to the hide. It is a lovely way to spend a quiet few minutes in the countryside. The best time to view the orchids is probably mid-June. How grand the display is depends to a large extent on the weather during the winter and spring, and this year has certainly produced a bumper crop.

I haven’t been out ‘proper walking’ for a while as my health isn’t what I should like it to be, but we are sorting that out and hopefully once I am back from England – I am going to see my children who I haven’t seen for more than 18 months and see my new grandchild who is now 7 months old, who is coming to visit from El Salvador (with his dad of course) -, I shall be back to my old self, clambering up hills and finding hidden nooks and crannies that keep me amused for hours. But you never know, I may manage something tomorrow to celebrate my birthday – or I may indulge in box sets, wine and a healthy meal instead. Who knows, but I will be back soon 🙂

Niarbyl Short Walk – 9th June 2021

It’s hard to believe how the weather can vary within such a few miles. As you will see from these photos, it was pleasant weather at Niarbyl (if very windy), but only a two minutes drive from there and I was shrouded in thick mist all the way back to Port Erin.

This was an unplanned short walk. I had been for a massage at Peel. Having such very painful legs and feet, I judged it was time to take myself in hand, and indeed I immediately felt the benefit of my treatment. My massage was followed by a quick walk round Peel, including a look at sofas in Paradise and Gell and a coffee on Peel beach. It seemed too early to go home and I intended to stop at Niarbyl and take a look at its tremendous views.

Of course, it was too much of a draw to simply look at the views, so I took the cliff path round to White Sands Beach, almost getting blown off my feet as I walked around the headland. It was very very blowy, but even so very enjoyable. It is barely half a mile’s walk to this lovely bay, but there are some ups and downs and some steps so not entirely flat, so not a walk if you don’t like steps. I always enjoy spending time on this mostly pebbly beach, and the wind was whipping up the sea nicely, creating white horses buffing up against the rocks. I was amused to think that the large rock with the seagull perusing the shoreline looks aptly rather like a seal.

Where the path goes uphill there is a sweet waterfall. I did clamber up the rocks to see the fall higher up, but the photo was disappointing. You can tell it is often windy here as the trees lean in towards the rocks, as if they struggling to keep themselves upright. It isn’t long before you reach the top of the cliff. Make sure you keep to the coastal footpath as there is a private path to the left, now marked private. It is possible to continue walking around the coastpath, but the actual path then takes you over fields to join the track from Cronk Ny Array Laa to Dolby.

I followed it left down to the tiny hamlet that has its own glen. There is a ford here, but the footpath neatly avoids this. From here, simply follow the now tarmaced road to Dalby and back down the drag to Niarbyl itself. There is a cafe here, and there are amazing views to the south from here on a good day.

This was a very short walk, just over 2 miles, so perfect for an evening stroll or to work off the excesses of a Sunday lunch, and of course you could extend it quite easily by continuing on the coast path further to the south and meeting the path at Eary Cushlin, making a 6 mile walk.

26 Peaks Challenge, Day 2 plus – Lhargee Ruy, Colden, Slieau Maggle

I had a plan – a good ridge walk, with a couple of detours onto the nearby hills, and this is largely what I did, with a bonus of it being a very pleasant circular walk involving Colden and Slieau Maggle.

I parked behind a convoy of cars at the Sartfell plantation. It was gone 10am when I started, and those walkers had long gone. I followed the path that snakes behind Slieau Maggle and largely around Colden’s tummy , to complete the section I had not done on Sunday. This took me to Lhargee Ruy and Sunday’s furthest point, Slieau Ruy. As you walk this section you get tremendous views to the west. It was a reasonably clear day so I could see some distance. It is so good for the soul. The photo below shows Cronk Ny Array Laa, South Barrule, Slieau Whallian, Beary Beg and Beary Mountain.

Having detoured Slieau Maggle, there is a choice of paths; a nondescript path leading southeastwards for those wishing to make their way to the Colden plantation and Injebreck, or continue on the main route for a very short distance and then turn left to take you around the haunches of Colden. This is a really easy route to walk, on a well made path. There are no clearly visible paths up Colden itself (or Slieau Maggle) from this direction although if you don’t mind walking over heather and gorse there is nothing to stop you heading straight up to the top. But this was not on my agenda just yet.

I had chosen this route so that I would not have the sun in my eyes, and at the same time I would enjoy extensive views to the south and west. Colden on the left blocks the views to the big hills, and I would be able to enjoy these on the return route later on.

After about 15 mins you will find that the path starts to climb, and you begin to leave Colden behind. There is a not so helpful signpost pointing to a path leading down the hill in the direction of Little London. Continue straight on and up and you reach a couple of small cairns indicting you are almost at Lhargee Ree. So far I have failed to find anything interesting to tell you about these hills. All I could find on a google search was how to pronounce Lhargee Ruy!

Just beyond this point the path from Crosby feeds in from the left at a gate and kissing gate. This is a walk I did with Ken a couple of years ago. The next section is a delight to walk along. A largely level grassy or peaty path that only becomes a little more demanding when you start the final climb up to Slieau Ruy. I didn’t loiter here long as this was not my focus for today. So far I had walked 3 miles. I had anticipated an overall distance of 7 miles. As the other day, at this point I had seen no-one at all and had the hills enitrley to myelf.

I returned down the same track to Lhargee Ruy where I perused the scene in front of me. The hills in the background were commanding my attention, but I also liked the look of the Creg and I could see what looked like a path circling around Colden where it would meet at the saddle with the Creg. It is not marked on the map, and in reality, without a compass or the necessary enthusiasm, it isn’t easy to find on the ground. As you get lower, the path is not visible and the terrain is a mix heather, gorse and …. bog.

So true to form, I thought I might take the more obvious path to the top of Colden and reach the Creg that way, but I found something more interesting to do, so that will be on my list for another day, as it is indeed another 1000ft top to bag. The path to the top of Colden is basically a sheep track, but it is visible and easy to follow. The contours are not particularly demanding and after about 10 mins you reach the top. It’s one of those hills where you think you are there and there is a bit more and a bit more. There is a cairn at the top, and no obvious paths off from here, just more paths like sheep tracks. There is a path which I thought would lead back to Creg, but I wanted a view of Slieau Maggle so I had to walk north on unchartered territory to gain a view of it. As I had passed it earlier, there was no obvious path up there, so I wanted to see whether there were any paths on the ground. I had gone a few hundred yards before I could see enough to make my decision, and yes, it looked like I would be able to climb Slieau Maggle joinng it not far from a plantation.

My peat surveying skills of walking on uneven land have stood me in good stead, so I decided to continue by blazing my own trail down Colden and on to Slieau Maggle. As I write this, I have just ascertained what Maggle means – testicle! Okay. Bit of a strange name for a hill. It wasn’t difficult at all, I have come across much worse in unfrequented parts of other hills. At other times of year or after rain it might be a little boggy and you might not like it, but today it was fine. I did see plenty of sphagnum moss which pleased me. I was even more delighted that when I reached the start of Slieau Maggle I had navigated to the only stile in the vicinity, purely by chance, but very rewarding. It’s a bit rickety, so be careful if you go over that.

From here, I simply took the easiest route to the very flat top. I didn’t bother with a map, so I guessed that as long as I was walking uphill I would eventually reach the top. Lo and behold, I came across a stake in the ground with stones placed around it, which I think must be the top. I didn’t quite know the best way off the hill, so I headed in an easterly direction when I would eventually meet the Injebreck road. I had no idea whether they would be a fence or gate to negotiate, or just barbed wire, but I was sure it would all work out. In fact, it was a great decision, as the moorland simply ebbs onto the road and I just climbed over the bank. From here is was a short walk back to the car. I almost did Sartfell and then thought better of it. I had only wanted a short day, and it had been perfect.

It was almost exactly 7 miles, with 1257ft of (easy) ascent and about the same amount of descent. Walking time was actually 2hrs 38 mins. The time stated on the map is the start and finish times.

I would do this walk again. It’s one I am sure my daughter, who has MS, would enjoy, and it’s one where you can let the kids off the leash too.

Surprised by Joy – Glen Maye 3rd June 2021

Sometimes the shortest walks can bring the greatest joy. I was on my way home from my hospice client at Nobles and decided to go a round-about route to pop in on Glen Maye to take some photos of the waterfall in dappled sunlight. My next watercolour project is this beautiful waterfall, so I wanted to know how the sunlight falls on the water, trees and leaves.

I hadn’t expected anything in particular, but it turned out to be a very special hour in the glen. The leaves were a vibrant green, and the sun caught the edges of the leaves and created reflections in the water I haven’t seen before. As we haven’t had a lot of rain recently, I was able to scramble down the bank into areas I don’t usually visit to get unusual views. In addition, the birds were singing loudly and the wind whistling through the trees.

It was so peaceful and calming that I continued through the glen down to the sea and then took the top route back to the car park. The wildflowers were abundant, but not often dramatic. It pays to stoop down and look at individual flowers to appreciate them, and sometimes you spot things you have never seen before. At the end of this short blog, I am attaching a video showing some of the wildflowers I encountered, most of which I can now name, so if you want me to indentify anything for you, just send me a message. The photos are only small files but they seem to take a while to download.

I feel so blessed to live here and to have such variety of countryside within a few square miles; there is something for every mood, every level of health and fitness, which is how I ended up here seven and a half years ago. All being well tomorrow, I shall be back on the hills, but I adore the gift of the glens just as much, each one similar and yet different, with their own identity.

This ‘walk’ was just two miles long, including standing in the river and walking backwards and forward along the beach admiring the flowers. It would be a great place to take young children to show them the beauty of nature.