The Tuesday U3A Walk – Eary Cushlin, Round Table, Cronk Ny Arrey Laa

What a wonderful day we had. Superb views, superb company and wall-to-wall sunshine. I have described this walk in detail on a number of occasions so today, I shall simply tell you some interesting facts that I related to the walkers en route.

The day started out not quite as planned as the Midweek Muckers (Manx Wildlife Trust’s sturdy volunteers) had taken up all the car parking spaces. This meant that we had to park at the far end of the track, but in reality this turned out to be an asset not an inconvenience, as we got all the track walking out of the way at the start. We were only 7 in number. A couple of people didn’t turn up, but I know that some of the regulars felt this particular jaunt would be a challenging step too many for them.

We set off down the Glen Rushen valley, stopping at the first tholtan (Thallaquaine, Claughbane). This is where I delivered my first interesting tale. But first, what a stunning location. It is set high up on the northerly slopes of Glen Rushen and has panoramic views of South Barrule and the moorland plateau. There is another tholtan in full view of Claughane, and the story involves both homesteads in the year 1906. Claugbane farmer and butcher, Robert Clarke, agreed to keep a light shining in his farmhouse all night and every day in case marauders came and he needed help. The light shone brightly for many a day, until one day, William Carran looked up from his farm across the Glen and noticed the light had gone out. Donning his overcoat and boots, he trudged off down the ‘main road’, crossed the river and climbed up the slopes on the other side until he reached the cottage. He knocked on the door – “Anyone there?”……. No answer. He tentatively pushed open the door to see everything exactly as it should be. Dishes on the side, clothes in the cupboard, furniture where it should be, but no people, not one. As he turned to leave, he spotted on the sideboard a slip of paper. Taking it to the light, he read “Gone to America”. The intrigue continues as a report I read states that not only Robert Clarke emigrated but also “Mrs. Christian, her son and daughter from Peel, gone to Ohio, Cleveland”. Do you think they eloped?

This set the scene nicely for the next stage of our walk to the other Tholtan on the other side of the river. This large farmstead has a rich history, but few details until 1820, when it is cited that the owner was Joseph Faulder. It is now called Carran’s Farm, but it is thought it had previously been called Glen Rushen Farm. In 1871 he put it (and Thallaquaine) up for sale and William and Anne Carran eventually bought the 350 acres for £230. They had 8 children all living here! It is reported that only one remained in the area, Thomas Carran, and indeed he inherited it and farmed it until 1932. At this point it was sold to the Peel Water Company, who promptly put all the assets up for auction, including cattle, poultry, horses, sheep and all the farm machinery, including a turnip drill, rabbit lamp and double barrel gun. Why did the Water Board buy the property? That’s odd you might think? Not at all once you know that this area had been designated to be dammed and the Glen Maye river and valley would have been swallowed up by a reservoir. Thankfully, this never occurred and we are able to enjoy all the benefits of rambling freely in this beautiful area.

Carran’s Farm contains the house, with an extension of a scullery and parlour, several outbuildings, a toilet (I wouldn’t recommend trying it), a theshing wheel and gardens, now all overgrown or in a state of disrepair. With such a rich history you do feel this farm warrants renovation by Manx National Heritage. There are many many similar tholtans on this section of the walk, as this was the ‘main road’ at the time leading from Colby down to Glen Maye and would therefore have been a thriving thoroughfare 150 years ago. There was no route contouring South Barrule as there is today, and the windy coast road to Dalby did not exist either. As we trundled up the track, we realised what a tough life these people had. Yet the valley had a large population whereas today people living in these hills are sparse.

Reaching Round Table we stopped for lunch before enjoying a most beautiful amble across the moorland. The heather had sprung into life since I last came, and the sheep were keen to see us. Reaching the corner at the foot of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, two walkers decided they had walked far enough and made their way downhill back to their cars. The rest of us continued to the top of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, also called Cronk Ny Irree Lhaa. The first term means Hill of the Day Watch, associated with Viking Times; the other term means “Hill of the Rising Day” associated with the herring fishermen. We discussed whether we could see Anglesey in the distance. We could certainly see Black Combe on the outskirts of the Lake District, and the mountains of Snowdonia further south. To the west, the Irish Mountains of Mourne loomed large, along with more northerly parts of the Irish coastline. To the north, Scotland was just visible. We spent a relaxing few minutes chatting away and enjoying the views before descending down the precipitous coast path to Eary Cushlin, where we stopped again for another chat and we all lamented the fact that we wished it were a pub or a cafe rather than rental accommodation.

So that was our day. This is a fairly tiring walk, especially in hot weather, but worth every tired limb and sunkissed arms and face to be treated to such delights. The full walk was just under 7 miles with about 1200ft of ascent and a similar amount of descent.

Apologies for the lack of photos. I only took 2 today, the two sunny ones! 🙂

Teaser for Tuesday

On Tuesday I am leading a walk for the U3A down the Rushen Valley up to the Round Table and on to Cronk Ny Arrey Laa and Eary Cushlin. I had offered an extension to view Lag Ny Keeilley, so the purpose of today’s walk was to check whether the coast path from the top of hill to this historic site was suitable for my walkers.

I must admit I wasn’t really in the mood for walking – horror of horrors I hear you say, but my apathy was soon dispelled once I started moving. It was a lovely day and there seemed to be no-one about so I had all this wonderful countryside all to myself. Maybe everyone is watching the Commonweath games or gone away…

The route to the top of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa is well travelled and easy. It is about 300ft from the road and takes about 15 mins to reach the top, from where the views are unsurpassed anywhere on the island, with the exception perhaps of Snaefell. The route down to Eary Cushlin is not so easy. It is narrow and steep and the footings are tricky in places where the ground has been eaten away over time, leaving fairly high steps on the banks. Having said that, it is easily passable with care. It looks no distance from the top but in reality takes between 20-30 mins to walk down and across the moor to where the path meets the lower path at Eary Cushlin.

On Tuesday, we shall continue straight on past Eary Cushlin house and back to the cars. I haven’t described the earlier part of the walk as I have covered this before. When I write it up on Tuesday I shall tell you all about the Tholtans in the area. However, for those wanting to visit Lag Ny Keeilley, turn left and continue mostly downhill on a rough path for about 3/4 mile. This was originally a packhorse route which would have run all the way around the steep western slopes of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa to the Sloc. I decided this path was not suitable for a group. Not only is it narrow and overgrown with bracken the ground has broken away in places on the slopes making the path very difficult to negotiate. It really needs some maintenance, but I guess this is not a very frequented path so won’t be high on the list of things to do over here.

If you do continue, the views are beautiful on this dramatic coastline, and it is extremely peaceful. There were several little birds hovering and chatting as I walked along and a very big bird kept circling overhead – possibly a harrier. When I eventually reached Lag Ny Keeilley, over 1000 years old, you will initally see two modern cairns at the entrance. The whole area is surrounded by a circular wall, though this is difficult to see, indicating a burial ground. Indeed several burials have been found, including a lady who lived at Eary Cushlin who was buried there in 1800. The keeill itself is fairly substantial and significant finds were found here, including the original altar and quartz pebbles, often found in these settings as a mark of respect for the dead. The remains of the priest’s cell is also visible. If you would like to know more about this site, take a look at Andrew Johnson’s explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkxEbGS6Sos. Although his video was made only a few years ago, the site seems in better condition then than it does now, which is a shame.

Overall, the distance of this walk was about 4 .5 miles, and 1070ft of ascent and roughly the same amount of descent.

Sweet surprises come unexpectedly

Just a short post today. Yesterday was table tennis day. My road was being resurfaced so I took the bus into Douglas. On the way I walked through Athol Glen, and how lovely it looked in the early morning light. I waited patiently for a bus that never came (this happens quite a lot right now), but we have plenty so I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long. It was busy and the driver seemed to have to stop at every single bus stop and I was actually late for my 9am start having left home at 7.40am.

Table tennis was its usual mix of good and bad shots but also excellent company and a lot of fun. After this I walked into Douglas along the Nunnery path. This woodland is always beautiful and we are so lucky to have this tucked away just behind the industrial areas. The river Douglas looked tantalisingly beautiful, although not obvious here, the river level is very low and at times as it reached the harbour it barely continued on its way. Along the Nunnery path is an area of grassland and there were large clumps of Willowherb looking as if they owned the field. They were lovely.

After a quick fling round Tesco, I waited for the steam train home. For the first time ever, I was in First Class, with three single seats on each side, each with soft cushioning, but also with very straight backs. One lady and her daughter from Ireland joined my carriage, followed by an elderly gent who relished in telling me stories about ‘before I was born’. I did try to tell him how old I am but he kept repeating this adage, so I assume he must be well into his 90’s. He was so interesting, as was the Irish lady and she renewed my interest in visiting Ireland, though I think I will need a month to do it justice. The old gent, let’s call him Joe (not his real name) and I were lamenting the ‘old’ days and discussing government policies just as you expect old people to do. “In my day…” springs to mind, though as far as the Isle of Man is concerned I can only talk about the last 25 years, as I had never even visited it before then.

You never know quite who you are going to meet, or when, or what joy brief conversations will bring and create lasting memories. Two days’ running in my case.

Ambling and Rambling Around the Sound Coastpath

It was one of those days that was just right for walking, if a little breezy. At least it wasn’t boiling hot! It is a while since I have walked this route west to east (or roughly that) and I was really looking forward to it. I wasn’t disappointed. There are a few noticeable changes – well noticeable to me – such as quite a lot of erosion in places, some caused by weather, some caused my man, and some very definitely caused by rabbits. The heather, whilst still beautiful, was not quite as abundant as it has appeared in the past, and the bracken seems to be getting a stronghold in some areas and crowding out the heather. The gorse was variable with several areas without flowers. On the plus side, there were a lot of choughs, all busy arguing with themselves as only they know how to do.

I started out from home and walked along Athol Park to the top road overlooking Port Erin. This is one of my favourite views of the bay. It always looks so inviting, no matter what the weather. I followed the road to where the coastpath starts behind the delapidated Marine Biological Station, noticing that the stream that generally gushes out from the top of the cliff was completely silent today, testament to the very dry summer we are having. The seagulls seem to have already abandoned the cliff face here, where they used to nest in abundance. They must be anticipating their home being ravaged by builders and machinery once the development of the apartments begins. Today, there were only a couple of beleaguered herring gulls scattered on the site.

The path soon starts to climb uphill and this was the first point where I noticed that more rocks were exposed than I remember. Again, areas that are usually a bit muddy were dry and the wild flowers even seemed to be begging for rain. Otherwise, I didn’t see anything unusual on my walk round to the Sound. I was as delighted as ever when I reached the Valley of the Rocks with all its contorted shapes. A few minutes later I arrived at the Sound in time for a bowl of soup, which was accompanied with a roll, but the greedy seagulls took it when I wasn’t watching. I had been debating whether I wanted the bread anyway, so they did my a favour, and boy did they enjoy it and make a fuss! I am on a keep fit campaign, not much of a campaign really. I just want to lose a little weight and cutting out or down on bread and cheese are high on my list.

After lunch I spent a little time sitting on the rocks watching the seals. Several were lounging close by and others were peering at the visitors peering at them. This is such a beautiful spot to stand and stare, and you know how good I am at that. After that it was the steep climb up on to the top of Cronk Mooar and then on to Spanish Head. On the way, I met a couple watching some sheep who were having an argument. I was to see them later on in my walk – the couple that is, not the sheep, and we spent a very pleasant few minutes talking about our respective experiences of the island and comparing it with Germany, where they live. This section of path usually has the best gorse and heather, and add in the sage and the grasses, it makes for wonderful variation in colour. There are also interesting rock formations on this section of Spanish and Black Head, rather like limestone pavements, but I’m not sure they are made of limestone. If anyone knows what type of rock these are please let me know.

The last bit of uphill takes you to the Chasms and the Sugarloaf. Here I met another couple, also visitors, wanting to know where to go next. I think their decision was made by telling them there were toilets at Cregneash as they then headed up in that direction. I took the lower grassy path and made friends with a number of sheep, and picked up feathers for my granddaughter to paint. The vista on this side of the Sound is very different. On the north western side all you can see are hills, but from here you can see not only the hills but the terrain also gently rolling down to the sea and the flat areas of Castletown and Langness.

By the time I reached Glen Chass I had had enough. If you are doing this walk, you might want to continue down to Port St Mary and take one of the roads back to Port Erin. There are a number of different options, depending on how far you want to walk. You can go over the hill at Fistard, taking the path upwards from the golf course, follow the coastal path or as I did follow the road at Glen Chass to the Howe Road. I then followed the farmer’s track down to Truggan Road and then I was about home. However, if you turn left at the Howe road junction, you can take a footpath behind some houses on the right, going over fields and retaining the height and the wonderful views until you finally have to drop down on one of three footpaths leading to the Port Erin end of Truggan Road.

This walk was just under 8 miles, with a total ascent of 1463′ and a total descent of 1503ft. I took it slowly, to enjoy looking at all the wildflowers and other wildlife. I would allow 3.5 – 4 hrs of walking time for this beautiful coastal walk.