Daffodil Walk, Port Grenaugh & Port Erin, 26th /27th March.

March, and the daffodils are in full bloom, even beginning to go over. When I was young, the daffodils would never flower this early in the year. What a delightful way for spring to appear in a glow of yellow, especially on a wonderfully sunny weekend as this was.

Two of my children had come over to see me, one turning up unexpectedly and being a total surprise and an absolute joy. My second son was dropping hints from the time he arrived, such as ‘oh, there’s a plane just coming in from London’ and earlier in the week ‘ How many beds do you have?’ and I still didn’t twig. I got a wonderful surprise when Paul knocked on the door in the darkness and when I opened it, there he was greeting me. I shall remember that for a long time. The rest of them (I have 4 children) had kept that a secret since November and even the grandchildren hadn’t let on that my eldest son was also coming over. That made up for the massive disappointment of my daughter contracting covid (again!) the day before she was due to travel over. She has missed out on all the fun we have had in this brief visit 😦 . I shall make it up to her another time.

The three of us (my other son was hardly likely to come over from El Salvador for the weekend with his 1yr old son, so I knew there wouldn’t be any more surprises!) had a great time catching up and making fun of each other. On Saturday they treated me to a very nice Mother’s Day lunch at The Boatyard in Peel, then I drove them a very windy and convoluted route to Port Grenaugh, almost going in a complete circle at one point even though I should have known where I was going, to look at the daffodils and have a walk along the coast. We were blessed with wonderful weather this weekend, and even today we managed three mini-walks around the south in glorious sunshine, even if was a tad windy.

So, here are the photos in the form of a slideshow. They speak for themselves so I don’t need to write a description of the daffodils or the walk, or provide maps on this occasion, except I should say that the mound/earthworks is called Cronk Merrui, an iron age fort very close to Port Grenaugh. The house on the headland is now owned by the Department of Transport, which seems a somewhat exotic and expensive location for a government building, but what do I know.

Silverdale and beyond 13th March 2022

This is always such a delightful walk, especially in the spring. Give it a few more weeks and the wild garlic and bluebells will be out.

I started out from the Abbey Hotel car park in Ballasalla. There is a large public car park here in addition to the private car park for the hotel. You find yourself beside the picturesque ford over the Silverburn, a popular spot for photographers and children alike, as they have fun crossing from one side to the other. If you do this, just be careful. It can be a tad slippery.

I followed the path north beside the river up to the ancient Monk’s Bridge and continued taking the winding path beside the river up to the Mill, passing Cam’s tree. There are a number of different paths, but most are likely to be muddy at this time of year. There are various things of interest on this river walk. It was noticeable that the storms have wreaked havoc with a number of trees having had to be felled.

After about half a mile there is a cafe and duck pond at the Mill; today model boat enthusiasts were out skimming their boats across the water. If you have time on your hands you can have a look at the pretty river to the right, as we have digressed from this path. We continue past the old dairy and into the woodland where we rejoin the river. Here there were masses of daffodils, Wordsworth would be proud.

Reaching the Ballamodha Road, usually the route continues beside the river, but at the time of writing (and for some time) this path has been closed. I believe the bank beside the river has deteriorated and is unsafe. This necessitates a walk up the road for about 5-7 minutes to join a higher path leading to Grenaby. I have walked this in the opposite direction many times, but never this way. It is absolutely delightful and has wonderful views towards South Barrule and the south and you can pick out the route of the river below you. As well as crossing through fields, this takes you through and interesting woodland, and you eventually find yourself at the bridge with the doll’s house beside it. This is for sale if you are interested.

Crossing the bridge and turning left up the hill for a short distance, the road then leads to the right. Had we been able to walk by the river that path comes out just above the junction. There is no choice but to walk along this road for about 15 minutes, but it is a very quiet lane and once on the top (our highest point for the day) you can literally see for miles – the southern uplands to the right as on the cover photo and the sea to the left.

I took the first public footpath to the south. Unfortunately the gate collapsed as I tried to open it as the post securing the gate was rotten. Down it went and being on my own there was no way I could life a heavy steel gate. Hopefully when the entrance is repaired the farmer (or whoever is responsible for it) will consider putting in a stille or kissing gate for walkers. Fortunately, this does not lead into a standard field with sheep but more of a track around a field. The path goes left, almost parallel with the road. Keep left over a bridge and stile and continue to the next one. When you reach a large field head for the H shaped pylon as it is difficult to see the exit from this field initially. The route continues across another field to a kissing gate in the left corner.

Here you meet a horizantal track. Turn left and follow the track for the short distance bearing right at the next junction. You will see a mound of rubble obscuring the entrance to the next footpath, which is clearly signposted. You can just about get around the side of the mound of rubble. You will be surprised by the lovely view you get. There is a small stream winding its way down the slight hill to the left and a smooth hill to the right. The path takes you down to the left corner, through some more mud at the gate, and following the stream to a bridge where the stream diverts to the right.

At this point you are nearing the quarry. I have never walked on this section of the path. If you have an OS map the path originally went in a more direct fashion to the main road, but now you have to skirt around the quarry, at times getting glimpses into it. There are two or three ladder stiles, all of which are quite steep and it is absolutely essentially to go down them backwards. After the last stile (still circling the quarry) you enter one final field, where you turn right to join the road at Cross Four Ways. There is a pavement on the other side of the road, but you may be surprised to learn that there is a lake opposite, completely hidden by trees and inaccessible. It must be a haven for migrating birds.

There is a choice at this point, either to continue walking along the pavement back to Ballasalla or to do as I did and walk up the unpaved Ballamodha road for 5 mins to turn onto a footpath taking you through a farmstead, across fields with fine views to Rushen Abbey. From here, it is a short walk back to the cars, either by the river or the back road whichever you prefer.

This is an easy walk, but muddy in the glen and when crossing the fields, so you do need boots. You get extensive views and variety of scenery without very much ascent. What ascent there is is gradual. However, there are quite a few stiles, some which are a little tricky to negotiate, so if you have difficulty with stiles, this may be one to miss out. But for everyone else, it is pure joy, especially on a sunny day. Distance 5.75 miles, 593ft ascent; 643ft descent.

As always, if you want to look at one of the photos in detail, just click on it and you will be able to see the full view.

Braddan Bridge to Douglas 12th Mar 2022

I hadn’t intended to have any sort of walk today. I was supposed to be helping with the Manx Wildlife Trust’s ‘Watch’ group, only I discovered I had the wrong time down in my diary and I had missed the event. Only, I didn’t find out until I had arrived at Braddan Church when no-one turned up. So, there was nothing for it, but to get the bus home again!

The walk into Douglas from Braddan Bridge by the river is very pleasant. The birds were clearly delighted it is spring and were busy singing in the treetops and the sun had come out after a dull start to the day. I was also able to walk better than usual so I too was feeling quite chirpy 🙂

The route goes alongside the main road to Peel, but you could avoid this by taking the back road which brings you out at pretty much the same place on the Castletown road. Crossing over the main road, I took the cycle track that goes round the back of the NSC. The river is now on your left and it curves round towards the power station where the new Pulrose Bridge has been built. Looking at this, I wonder if it will cope with any massive swell or a flooding situation. The space under the bridge looks quite small.

From here, I crossed the bridge and took the first road left. This is not the most exciting part of the walk through the electricity complex (as you can see on the photo) but you are soon into the grounds of the Nunnery and once again following the river. The trees here are magnificent and this short walk along here is beautiful. When I play table tennis at the NSC on a Thursday I often take this route into Douglas. It is particularly useful if you want to get the steam train to Port Erin as it is very close to the end of this route.

I couldn’t renew my season ticket as I hadn’t got it with me, but the assistant let me on the train anyway. I was so delighted. I haven’t been on the steam train during the covid pandemic and I had forgotten how beautiful the route is, and how calming it is taking the train rather than the bus. So thank you for your kindness there.

The walk from Braddan Bridge to the railway station is barely 2 miles, but it is much better than getting the bus or driving and you spot things you have never spotted before, so give it a try sometime.

Glen Wyllin, Glen Mooar and Cooildarry

This short walk is spectacular, especially if you do it after rains as I did today. The walk starts at the Glen Wyllin campsite, or if you prefer you can park in Kirk Michael village. There is a path right behind the cafe with steps that take you to the old railway line. This path has not been dug up and widened as has happened to the railways tracks in other parts of the island and it still retains its natural charm. Incidentally, if you do park in KM you will have to descend into the valley and ascend the other side as the stone platform of the viaduct has been removed and only the pillars remain. The path is mainly enclosed but every now and again you catch a glimpse of the sea to the west and the hills to the east.

We follow the railway line until it meets a small lane after about a mile just before Glen Mooar. Prior to this, you will go under a couple of bridges. At the lane, the footpath sign tells you to cross over the road and continue through a gate. The path continues for only a short distance, as guess what, the viaduct has been removed at Glen Mooar and again just the supports remain standing, bringing you to a firm standstill. A path downhill has been created. This is a fairly steep descent, but only for about 60ft or so. As you descend you enter another world, away from the farmland and distant vistas of hills and sea. Now we have a tree-lined river with steep banks on either side. The lower path is closed so unfortunately this necessitates more undulating ascents with minor descents and more steps. The gains are great though, as the woods are so very pretty and there are some very large beech trees guarding over the valley. It will look lovely when the spring flowers come out. The cover photo shows the view through the trees to the hills.

At one point you will reach a high grassy area where there are the clearly visible remains of a 10th century keeill (Patrick’s Chapel), priest’s cell and graveyard. It is a very peaceful area for contemplation, meditation or prayer while you listen to the birds singing in the trees.

A little further on and the sound of running water becomes louder and louder, although it isn’t easy to see anything. The path takes you to the top of the waterfall called Spooyt Vane (White Spout), where all you can see is where a small stream begins to gurgle down the rocks. Take the permissive footpath left, down more steps (sorry), and you find yourself in a dell with the wonderful waterfall at its head, with water gushing down into the pool below in a sequence of stages. To the right the area is hollowed out, which probably suggests the waterfall has changed direction over the millennia. I have rarely seen the waterfall so full and it was captivating.

Crossing the bridge, we follow the track along the top of the valley to join the road. There is a small parking place for those making single journeys and Glen Mooar is worth a visit on its own. At the road junction you will see an old chapel which was constructed in the 1860s as a Sunday School and Mission Room for children who couldn’t make the heady journey to Kirk Michael for schooling.

The route continues along the lane uphill past a few houses and farms. As you ascend notice the soft green hills on the left. The other side of these hills is where the recent archaeological dig has been going on for the last few years, unearthing remnants of people and posessions from the Bronze Age (over 3000 years ago). You can find out more about this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-48806185

At the top of the lane, there are panoramic views of the hills: Sartfell (454m) to the right, Slieau Freoaghane (488m) in the middle, Slieau Dhoo (420m) just behind this and Slieua Curn (351m) on the far left. They look so inviting on a sunny day like this and they make a fine ridge walk. These will be the subject of another walk at some point. Someone has thoughtfully placed some picnic benches along this section of the road so you can stop and enjoy the views as long as you like. You can even see Scotland from here if you look very closely – it was very clear in reality!

For now, we continue with our descent back to Kirk Michael following a track that becomes a footpath and leads to Cooildarry Nature Reserve (owned by Manx Wildlife Trust). It is possible to include an optional extra mile or two walking along the railway line north and then dropping down to the sea, for those who want a slightly longer walk.

There is such variety and interest in this walk, and as long as you don’t mind steps, you will find it a very rewarding experience. Altogether it is about 4 miles including the visit to the Nature Reserve and 545ft of ascent and descent., with an optional extra of 1-2 miles depending on the tides.

Clypse Reservoir 1st March 2022

I can’t believe that in all the years I have been walking on the Isle of Man, this lovely walk has escaped me. It was led by Ian for the U3A and it was a good choice of walk, given the very wet weather we have had recently.

We parked in a small layby (sufficient for about 10 cars) on the B20, a lane off the Ramsey to Onchan Road that leads to Conrhnenny Plantation. We walked up the road with pussy willow reminding us that it was the first day of spring; this road affords tremendous views of the hills around Laxey and the coast at Baldrine. As we reached the south-eastern edge of the plantation, we followed the mostly level track with Slieau Meayl inviting us forward until we re-joined the road at the western edge of the plantation. There are no footpaths on this section, but it is a quiet road, certainly at this time of year. It might be busier in the summer during TT as this is motorcycle country.

After a short distance we took a cobbly and awkward path that leads to the main carpark for the two reservoirs, Clypse (built 1876) and Kerrowdhoo (built 1893). Together they take up 562 acres. You really wouldn’t know you are just half a mile from Onchan as it feels quite remote, and indeed is one of our Dark Skies sites (we have 26 of these scattered over the island). These two reservoirs are excellent for fly-fishing and are stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Note, that you cannot just turn up and fish. You need to have a Government Reservoir Licence here. There are also limits on the number of fish you can catch.

Anyway, we weren’t here for fishing, but we did stop for lunch. It was a glorious day, if a tad windy, and I enjoyed watching the mallards swimming around whilst I ate my salad and chatted with my friends. The best part of the walk is still to come….

We left the reservoir at its northern end (we did not visit Kerrowdhoo today), which takes us beside the delightful Groudle River (stream) before we are forced to depart the stream to cross some farmland to join a track beside a small woodland.

I was busy taking photographs when I noticed that everyone was huddled round a puddle on the side of the track. once they left, I had it to myself and saw lots and lots of frog spawn. Someone must have had eagle eyes to spot this while they were walking and talking! A little past this spot we rejoined the now very small but pleasant Groudle River, which we followed uphill for a little way until we reached another plantation. The stream passes through unspoilt countryside on either side, with low vegetation, shrubs and trees. It is quite boggy in places and there are several boardwalks which make it easier.

We walked around the edge of the plantation until we reached a track, which then lead us back to the A20, passing by farms and machinery and the Equestrian Centre, reminding us that much as the countryside is beautiful it is also a living, working environment for many, who keep it just as it is for us all to enjoy. A very happy 5 miles with around 500ft of ascent altogether. Thank you to Ian for a good day out.