I woke up to an icy scene outside and was glad I was in no hurry to go out. I had already postponed the U3A Port St Mary walk that I had been due to lead today, but I did have to find some time to do a trial run of the walk I was proposing for New Year’s Day. The weather forecast for next week is worse than snow, ice and freezing temperatures, so Sherpa Gill set out about 11am to basecamp at South Barrule and risk the icy conditions.
I parked at South Barrule plantation car park, with the aim of contouring through South Barrule plantation, my thoughts being that the heavy canopy of trees would protect the paths from the worse of the ice and snow. I was both right and wrong! There were several icy parts and then I would unexpectedly come across a completely clear section for a short while until another skidfest appeared.
I have never walked through the plantation in daylight. The only other time I have done this walk was in Oct/Nov 21 when I did an exciting night hike, so I had no idea of the number of different paths that might try to entice me in other directions. Having said that, I only made one mistake and I spotted that almost immediately. The paths do go very slightly uphill, but you barely notice the ascent until you find you have an open space and can see for miles and miles. It was a particularly bright and sunny day and I enjoyed the panoramic views. In these conditions, you do need patience. In places, it was possible to walk on snow to the side of the path, but it was prudent to tread fairly gingerly as you never quite know what is under the snow. I did keep on paths leading upwards or to the right, and the last section through the Cringle plantation was a little hazardous as the path was very narrow, very icy, with a lot of furrows. I had walked this section before when I was doing the peat monitoring. Although it seemed tedious today and this path seemed to go on and on, I was glad I had stuck to it, as I was able to completely avoid the Whisky Run, which looked like a skating rink.
Coming out of the plantation, you wouldn’t have thought there was any snow on South Barrule, but you would be wrong. There was icy and crisp snow on the path all the way to the top and the way down the other side was an absolute joy. The snow was a few inches deep and lovely to walk on. I could have enjoyed a snowball fight had I had anyone to chuck a snowball at, but I didn’t see anyone at all in the 3 hours I was out. The walk downhill is a relief in these conditions. I was walking on a compass bearing over the snowy moorland as I wanted to finish my walk where I had started in the forest. Having taken my bearing, I saw a mound just above the quarry so headed to the right of that. There are benefits to frozen terrain, in that I was able to walk over ground that I am fairly certain is a bog(!). I soon found the tiny stile, which was the iciest thing I had seen all day and with a big of guesswork and imagination given that there is no genuinely obvious path, I found my way down through the forest back to the car park.
My only sadness is that I was unable to take photos at the top. I had enough battery but my phone flatly refused to take photographs, complaining that it was too cold to be out in those temperatures. I had actually felt warm all the way round so I was surprised my phone was picking a fight. It was only really chilly on the very top. The view at the top was stunning. The sunlight was glinting on the snow and picking out interesting shapes, and the hills of Beinn Y Phott, Snaefell and Colden were all topped with snow, whereas the valleys were green. It was pretty.
The upshot of my trial run is that I shall not offer this walk to the U3A walking group, and instead we will start our walk at Round Table and do a circular walk in a different direction. Walking 3 miles through a forest is probably not most people’s idea of fun, but then I am not most people! Everyone can enjoy South Barrule, it is such a special place, no matter what the weather.
Distance: About 5.5 miles (I had forgotten to charge my Garmin watch, so the ran out of battery just before the end) and 1096 ft of ascent.