Shore to Shore (Colby River)

No matter how many times you do the same walk there are new things to discover – new sounds, new sights, new shapes. I have walked this walk many times before, usually a different way round. Today, I took the bus to the Shore Hotel at Gansey and started my walk there, following the River Colby to the top of the glen and back via a different route.

I followed the minor road around the back of Kentraugh Mill grounds, having a nosey in people’s gardens and the Mill gardens which are more visible through the trees in the winter months. Then I took the public footpath through the wetlands beside the river. I noticed for the first time ever, that there are two arches to the bridge under the road. Another time when I am wearing my wellies I’ll go and have a good look as to why there are two as it is such a tiny river I can’t see any reason for this. I also noticed what looks like a wooden track from one side of the river to the other. Again, I couldn’t see any purpose for this. If you have any ideas why it’s there please let me know. When I was pondering this, a small greenish, stripey bird flitted about in the undergrowth but wouldn’t stop long enough for me to identify it. There were a few flowers out. The double snowdrops which grace this section of the river are very beautiful, if indeed that is what they are.

It was a very windy day and I was glad once I was a little more inland to be sheltered from the fiercest winds. Walking the route this way round I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful shapes made by the trees and the great variety of landscape; sometimes I was walking amongst shrubs or on a narrow path; the next minute I was treated to a vast expanse of farmland with great views to the north. Turn a little right, and I was back on the timeless river path, the river becoming ever smaller, and eventually in the wooded Colby Glen.

At Colby, it is impossible to walk beside the river until you reach Colby Glen, but don’t give up. It is only a short distance up an attractive lane. Colby Glen is worth a visit at any time of year, and in winter at least you won’t be plagued by midges and the like. Storm Eunice and the other rcent nasty storms have brought down a few trees in many of our glens, opening up the canopy to the sky in places. Hopefully saplings will replace the old trees that are now lying recumbent on the valley floor and eventually fill in the gaps again.

Colby Bridge

If you have never been to Colby Glen, it is a narrow wooded valley with a stream that opens up to disclose a grand grassy theatre at its top end. Here, in the summer months, choirs will perform and it is a great place to bring your children for a picnic. Once you reach this peaceful spot, just stop, listen and look around, and you will hear water in the distance and after a little investigation see it bubbling around the corner and then you encounter a most delightful waterfall. One of the footpaths exiting the glen goes immediately past it and up to the small hamlets of Cronk Y Dooney and Ballakilpheric. This is a very pleasant path shaded by shrubs on either side, but it can be very muddy. You are no sooner past the waterfall and you can no longer even see the river or see where it goes. You would not even know it’s there. All you can see are hills to the right up toward South Barrule, hills to the left (the Carnanes) and the sea to the south.

There are a number of choices from the village so I followed the lane south that would lead back to Colby, taking the path to the right after about half a mile that leads to an old mill that is being renovated, past this and up a grassy track to join another lane at Scholaby that leads immediately down to Croit-e-Caley.

Crossing the road and the railway track, follow the lane south until you see a path a little way to the right that leads behind the house and back to the Shore Hotel across (very muddy) fields. Once there, I felt the wrath of the wind once more. The tide was in and blowing up massive waves across Carrikey Bay. It was quite splendid and a lovely way to finish the walk.

Atogether this walk was about 4.5 miles with a total ascent and descent of just under 600ft. If you are using a car, you would need to get permission to park at the Shore Hotel or park beside the nearby bridge or further along Shore Road. If getting the bus, you need the 12A or 2A to Port Erin. Should you be unlucky enough to get on the wrong Port Erin bus, never fear, you can start and finish the walk at Colby instead 🙂

Scarlett, 7th February 2022

I was treated to a tremendous light and wave display along the whole of this short 3.5 mile amble on the coastal footpath to Castletown. I shall never forget it.

It had been a last minute idea to get the bus over to Fisher’s Hill and walk along the coast. It wasn’t a particularly nice day, in fact, it had been raining and it was very blowy but I needed some air and to try and stretch my legs. Even on the bus I was having second thoughts as the rain started up again and there were dark grey clouds in all directions. What a reward I received for continuing!

I don’t need to describe this walk to you. I have done this often enough in the past, so instead I am giving you a slideshow showing the spectacular views and vistas I experienced in the 90 minutes I was out walking. I hope you enjoy it and it prompts you to go out on those days when the weather is not inviting; perhaps you will experience the same kind of surprise and joy as I experienced today.

It started with light grey bloomy skies; then the sun would try to peak through turning everything silver; then glimpses of blue sky amid the dark clouds, and the odd bit of rain making shafts of light on the horizon, grey clouds turning almost orange, emblazoned by the blowy winds casting light in all directions and throwing up blustery waves as it reached high tide. In sheltered places the sea was like a mill pond, in others it would vent its fury. There was such variety it is hard to imagine.

When I ventured out I was tired and sore. When I returned I was still tired and my legs even more sore, so that I walked like a toy soldier back to the house, but my spirits were lifted. It is so important to feed the soul as well as the body, and this walk had done just that for me.

Glens and Old Lonan Church, 1st Feb 2022

There are stories in these glens, ones of murder, mystery and ghosts. The U3A walk started at Little Mill at the top end of Onchan. The path down into Molly Quirk’s Glen is always slippery so do take care. It is a very pleasant walk through the trees and over the stumps keeping a little height above the river. It is quite an open woodland here, no doubt helped by the numerous instances of thefts and vandalism over the ages, reported crimes occuring as late as 1964 and 1972. The biggest crime was the supposed murder of Molly Quirk, aka Margaret Emmeline Isabel Quirk, the one time rich landowner, but there has never been any evidence to support this. Even so, you might see her ghostly shape appearing from within the trees from time to time.

The river is small at this point until the bridge at Whitebridge Road. There has been a bridge here since 1634, impeding the transition from Molly Quirk’s Glen to Groudle Glen. This was rectified when a path was constructed under the bridge, mostly courtesy of the Onchan Rotary Club (thank you!) in a timely 3 months in 2001!

Groudle Glen (Glion Ghroudal to give it its Manx name) owns its success to local entrepreneur Richard Maltby Broadbent who created this lustrous woodland in the late 19th century, planting hundreds of trees – beeches higher up, pines and larch lower down, replacing a lot of marshy scrubland. In the spring it is a delight with numerous bluebells forming a blue canopy throughout the glen. It is therefore a largely manufactured glen, with the exception of its own noticeable natural feature – the slimline canyon, where the water topples over the Manx slate down to the sea. Not only did Broadbent create a natural haven he incorporated the Alton Towers of its day, with all kinds of attraction in the valley and along the coast. To think, in its hey day the glen attracted 100,000 vistors each season!

We followed the woodland path beside the river to the Little Isabella waterwheel and pumphouse (used for pumping water up to the Groudle Hotel, built by you-know-who). This has been restored in 2021 and is working again, and it looks very smart. Just beyond here is a small station, part of Broadbent’s legacy. We walked along the tracks up to the lime kiln and then took the old packhorse path (now lane) from Douglas to Ramsey on to the top of the cliff to make our way to Old Lonan Church. If we didn’t know it before, we knew now just how windy it was!!

It is good to follow ancient tracks and to imagine who has walked these paths before. Who knows? Maybe the Culdees from Ireland who founded the old church? The contrast of scenery is dramatic, from the closed-in valley to the rolling hills and distant mountain vistas. Old Lonan Church (aka St. Adamnan’s Church) is tucked away off the well-beaten track and its spirituality is rooted in antiquity. It was originally called Keeill-ny-Traie, which means Chapel by the Shore, though it’s hard to see quite which shore it is referring to, unless Port Groudle.

St. Adamnan was the Abbott of Iona between 679-704. He has a rich pedigree being the biographer of St. Columba. However, he liked to rock the boat and was excommunicated for translating the Mass and scriptures into Manx. I wonder if these still exist?

The church itself has seen several make-overs, and the archaeology tells us this is a very ancient site. It is believed that the Irish missionaries first made their mark here in AD447, which is only just after the Romans left Britain. It would have been a very simple site. In the grounds you will see the Wheel Cross, which is one of the oldest true Gaelic crosses in Britain. It is 8ft high and in these early stages of Christianity it would have been the central gathering place for worship, almost having the status of an altar.

The oldest part of the church (12C) is that which is now derelict contains “poor holes” which the infirm or leprous could still receive alms without entering the church. In 1190 the land was given to St Bees in Cumbria, and there is evidence from the sandstone lintels that stones were imported from England to create the doorways. The old church is bigger than the new church which was restored by John Quine (vicar) in 1895. The location of this church was not useful for the parishioners which is why new churches have come and gone to cater for modern needs, but this church has been restored and is immensely peaceful along with its beautiful grounds, which contain a shelter with other simple gaelic crosses.

Having taken our lunch here we retraced our steps to Groudle Glen and the port. In the 16C there was a thriving Mill here and lakes with lily pads, but the Mill has gone and the lily ponds hard to find. The Glen was sold to Onchan Village Commissioners and the holiday village which still exists was sold to a private buyer.

We followed lanes and roads back to our starting point in Onchan. One really gets the feeling of housing threatening the natural countryside, being just a stone’s throw from the glens of Molly Quirk and Groudle.

A fascinating, easy walk, that can be done in about 3 hours, without too much ascent.