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.

Peel coast, railway line and river circular

I had a lovely walk yesterday with walking.im. Thank you to Ken and Catriona and all the regulars who made me feel very welcome. We met at Fenella Beach in Peel. People were swimming in the bay and I overheard a lady getting very excited about all the scallop shells on the beach, and off she and her son went hunting for the best specimens to take home.

We walked along the bay northwards. This is a wonderful stretch of coastline and easy walking. It provides a great panoramic view of Peel and you can see the coastline as far as Jurby. You will pass stacks of red sandstone, only found in this area, and the sea birds, especially the shags and cormorants make your acquaintance, perching and drying their wings only a few arm’s lengths away. Shags are slightly smaller than cormorants and slender and can be seen on the right on the photo below. One distinguishing mark of a cormorant is a white patch on the thigh which can be seen particularly when flying. A distinguishing mark of a shag, if you can get close enough, is its emerald eye which is sourrounded by feathers. This is different from the eye patch of a cormorant. This is only a marginally undulating path, and it does not have steep drops to put anyone off. This is a popular stretch of coastline for runners, hikers and dog-walkers alike.

Eventually, the path meets the main Peel to Kirk Michael road, and there is no way of avoiding this. A short walk along the road and you come to some houses on the left, and we turned into these. It is not marked as a footpath, so it is less well known. Follow it initially across a field and then very shortly you reach the dunes where there is a fairly steep path down to Whitesands beach. I had never been here before. It is very reclusive as there is no other access path, so you could spend many a happy hour with your family sharing a picnic, playing in the sand or swimming in the sea. Perhaps not best to do right now though, as there were several dead gulls and razorbills washed up on the beach amongst the sea weed, due to avian flu. If you come across dead seabirds, please do not touch them.

Retracing our steps, we walked a short way along the road before crossing over to follow the railway track almost back to St Johns. This is an unspoilt track, so very different from the Heritage Trail from St John’s to Peel that runs alongside the river, which is more like a glorified road and heavy to walk on. I understand that it does mean that cyclists, wheelchair users, or people with prams can enjoy the walk without the ground being uneven, but it does lose some of its magic in the transition.

The quintessential countryside landscape that surrounds Peel is just as nice as the coastal scenes and shows what variety we have on our lovely island. This is what you can expect to see as you walk along the railway line.

This walk was 8.25 miles with a total ascent of 433′, which is all along the coastpath and going down and back to Whitesands. The remainder of the walk is flat. Allow 3.5hrs for this walk so that you have time to sit on the beach and admire the views as you go along.

Dalby Mountain & Nature Reserve

At last I am back out walking. Both feet and ankles are behaving reasonably well, so I am looking forward to getting out and about in our fantastic countryside on a regular basis.

Today, I was really just wanting to check an alternative route across the moors for a route I am leading soon; and, I also wanted to do a recce for a large painting I am planning for the autumn. I started off at the big bend in the road between the Sloc and South Barrule at the foot of Cronk Ny Array Laa, and followed the farm track as far as Kerroodhoo plantation. That wasn’t actually the plan, but I missed my designated footpath as I was examining all the different styles and steps leading off Cronk Ny Array Laa on the opposite side of the track. Note to self, pay attention if you have a plan in mind!! Not to worry, I would just do it in reverse.

I carried on the farm track as far as the coast road to Dalby/Peel, turned left and took the first track immediately to the right. When I walked this a few weeks ago the orchids were still out but they had gone now. In their place there is knapweed and heart’s ease and smaller flowers such as eyebright. I took this path in order to find a good vantage point for my painting, as it is a little higher up than the path leading into Glen Rushen and would give a better aerial view. I stopped for 15 minutes and did a quick preliminary sketch, then decided to walk down to the other footpath. Only when I got there, there was a massive hedge that was impenetrable so having checked for alternatives I decided I had no choice but to go back to the top of the hill.

As usual, this is where my original plan and my impetuous nature were at odds with each other, so rather than return to my original route, I turned right onto the track only permitted for horses and motorbikes (though I am sure walkers are fine too), the one with numerous gates with fastenings that are easy to manipulate. This skirts just below the top of Dalby Mountain and provides excellent views to the north, west and south. Peel seemed just a stone’s throw away but in reality must be 4-5 miles. Scotland was clearly visible too. I eventually joined the path that goes from the road to Glen Maye and turned left onto this to retrace my steps back to Dalby Nature Reserve. I really enjoyed this part of the walk and I discovered another track that I would take another time, and another route for the U3A (down to Dalby/Niarbyl).

Reaching the nature reserve, I didn’t know whether the path across the moor would be well defined or a mass of heather and gorse, so I decided to walk on a compass bearing back to the track at Cronk Ny Array Laa. As it turned out, this was totally unnecessary, but it’s good to remind yourself of your skills every now and again. The moorland was full of Bog Asphodel in its yellow clothes, some beginning to look rather tatty as they turn brown towards the end of their life. The bell heather is coming out, and in places there was bog cotten too. If you take this path and are using a map, you will notice that the woodland on the left (looking south) adjacent to the reserve has been felled. However, at the corner, there is a large ladder stile over a wall, so if you have binoculars you can look out for this. This is more visible from the opposite direction as you are going slightly uphill this way round. On the other side of the wall, the path is less well marked but still easy to follow. There is more grass and less heather. There are waymarks although some have fallen down. There is a small area of bog, even in this very dry weather, and the sphagnum moss was having a field day just there. It is passable. I was only wearing strong walking trainers, not boots, and my shoes didn’t get too wet. However, I can imagine this could be very different in winter or if we have a lot of rain. My phone battery had run down by this point so there are no photos of this section of the walk. But the cover photo shows you the moorland very clearly.

After about half an hour I was back on the track, with the short climb back up to the car. This was a most enjoyable and unexpected walk, of about 5 miles (without my painting detour). The total ascent and descent was virtually identical at about 741 ft, but there is nothing strenuous about this at all. It is easy walking, and the views are tremendous. Of course, it is uneven underfoot, but nothing that most people could not manage. A good morning’s walk.

Trip up north to Point of Ayre

This trip was planned to allow me to test out my feet, both for driving and for walking. As it turns out I did more of the former than the latter, and I guess my left foot in particular will not be too keen on long walks right now. Driving was better, my main injury being my left ankle so not too much required on this foot except for gear changes. Even so, the 2 hrs in the car, and the 1.5 mile walk was quite enough for one day. As I have to drive in England before too long, I was testing the water.

It was a dull and cloudy day, promising to rain. Believe it or not, I have never walked around the Point of Ayre towards Cranstal & The Dog Mills down to Ramsey, only walking along the most ‘northerly’ part of the island previously towards the Visitor Centre. It isn’t really due north, as the island lies on an angle, but technically this is the most northerly point on the island. I took this photo off my tv having recorded a programme about Earth from Space, and it conveniently gave this interesting view showing the true location of the Isle of Man.

Starting at the large lighthouse, I walked around the headland, much to the consternation of the terns and oystercatchers who were nesting there. They kept track of me until I was out of their danger zone. Key areas on the beach are fenced of to prevent the public from inadvertently or advertently intruding onto nest sites. There were several stonechats too keeping watch from their vantage points on the gorse and shrubs inland, alerting their pals to my presence. The beach is mainly pebbles of assorted sizes and the solid land too is a mix of pebbles and sand dunes with a bit of soil and grass on the top in places. It is very unstable and is constantly being unearthed by the winds, rains and seas. The vegetation grows low around the periphery of the beach but when you move even a few metres inland, it has a chance to grow taller and dominate more. The flowers that grow abundantly around the seashore all around the island are miniscule here, holding on for dear life, but hold on they do, and in the 40 minutes I was out and about, I took 30 photographs of different species, a few of which I have put in the slideshow at the end for you.

Photo courtesy of lighthouseaccommodation.co.uk showing the foghorn and Winkie

The main lighthouse in the top photo was completed in 1818 , with 124 steps and a 105ft tower. Winkie, in the middle was completed in 1890 and designed to avoid high water tides being 33ft above sea level. I suspect the difference in height has grown now with the shingle build up in this area. I didn’t walk on the pebbles but tried to walk on the grassy tops, which have eroded away in many places. Indeed, even though not a deep drop from the ‘cliff’ to the beach, it would not pay to walk too close to the edge as there are many overhanging edges. Unfortunately, this scatty terrain meant I had to curtail my walk as the path that had been gradually climbing came to an abrupt and unexpected end at a ‘precipice’ with no means of continuing unless I retraced my steps and walked along the beach towards Ramsey which would have been a good few miles circular walk. I didn’t take a photo of this, but you get the idea from this one, taken a little earlier, slightly further north:

The coastal footpath is signposted to walk along the beach and when the tide is further out this would be possible; but not today, so I turned slightly inwards and back to the car. The area adjacent to this section of coastline is being reclaimed so there really are only two choices – walk along the beach or walk along the road around this area. A word of warning. It is important to check the tide times if you intend to do the beach from Cranstal to The Dog Mills, otherwise you may find yourself running out of beach at high tide!

I had planned to walk along Marine Drive in Douglas on Wednesday but it may be a step (or many steps) too far for my ankles/feet, but we’ll see. I hope to be fit enough to lead my U3A walk on July 14th as this had to be postponed this month.

The slideshow starts with the 3 buildings in line with one another, the old lighthouse, the foghorn peeping out and the newest, Winkie, on the right, then the rest of the slideshow is of the wonderful spring flowers.

Hop-along-Gill….

Just a very quick update to say that it will be a few weeks until I can record some more walks. Not only have I sprained my left ankle (as described in my Crete post), I have now sprained ligaments and tendons in my right foot – a compensatory injury most likely, and I have not been able to put any weight on it at all, and of course this has put even more pressure on my left foot. Watching me walk is not a pretty sight.

The care at Nobles was great yesterday, kind and considerate, and I am thankful for the painkillers they gave me as no over-the-counter medicine was touching it. Thank you too, to my good friend Janet, who stopped what she had planned to do to take me there. Hobbling along on crutches is not my idea of fun when doing a walk, so I shall take it easy and catch up on some reading and plan some holidays for 2023. I have already booked an HF holiday to Tenerife in January. I have a ‘big’ birthday next year and would quite like to go to Iceland or Norway. This lay-off could turn out to be quite expensive. It’s a good job I have a lot of new clients to teach online right now!

Meanwhile, once I am driving again, I shall post some photos of our beautiful countryside on the Isle of Man. It isn’t absolutely essential to walk to find lovely things to see and do here, so perhaps my posts will have a different flavour for a few weeks.

Spot the difference between the cover photo and the one below. Can you work out which was taken first? And, what was the occasion?

Time away in Crete

Yes, I know it’s not the Isle of Man, but reluctantly I cannot do any walks at the moment as I have an ankle injury sustained while I was… in Crete, two weeks ago.

This was a walking holiday but I was not sure how much walking I could actually do, so on the spur of the moment I put a sketch pad in my suitcase along with my walking boots and off I trotted to Crete. I have been before, but not stayed on the western side. I had hoped to do the Samaria Gorge this time, at least that was my intention.

We stayed in a beautiful 4 star hotel miles from anywhere in a village called Spilia, a little distance from Chania. If I wanted to do any walks by myself this would necessitate a 32 mins walk each way to the nearest village to use public transport. But I am not complaining. The hotel was so relaxing, with two lovely swimming pools; the food was excellent and each room was completely individual and all scattered around the complex. It had originally been an olive pressing factory.

I did some walks with the group, alternating days, sometimes doing my own thing and yes, I did do some sketching, sometimes just 30 mins sketches and at other times adding in watercolour, but nothing taking more than 2hrs from start to finish. This was an absolute joy and has opened my eyes to painting ‘plein air’. I never want to have to paint anything from a photo again. Just give me an image and let me and my imagination paint the picture.

My highlights of the week are probably rather different from the rest of the walking group. The intrepid walkers did do the Samaria Gorge, but I and others opted for the Imbros Gorge, this being the shorter option and with the opportunity of a boat ride to otherwise inaccessible villages along the coast. I completed the Imbros Gorge in under two hours, then did a quick sketch of a village by the sea and then Loutro after the boat ride. The weather of course, was just wonderful, hot and sunny, but not too hot. Other than that, my favourite times were spent on my own, walking up the hill to the magnificent St John’s Cave at Spilia, seeking out other lesser known tiny chapels built into the rocks, and paying for a tour to Elafonisi beach on a day when nobody in their right mind would think of spending time on the beach as it was really windy, open and exposed! It looks idyllic on the photos but they are deceptive. It was extremely windy! But I loved it, and despite sand blowing all over my paints and painting, my water getting blown over time and time again, and the wind and sun drying out the paint as soon as it landed on the paper, I have a sketch painting that I positively like. It has life and vibrancy, not surprisingly rather more than was actually present on the day. The odd thing about Elafonisi is that the coastal footpath is certainly not flat and even. You have to walk through a boulder field, often clambering over rocks taller than me, but offering views of the most beautiful coastal nature reserve. The E4 footpath goes right round the island. Now that sounds like my kind of walking, at least in my mind. I would go back there again should I revisit Crete, but take a little more care as it was on the last stretch of this that I twisted my ankle and it still swells and bruises two weeks later if I walk on it.

The cave of St John’s at Spilia was a real bonus. I didn’t expect it to be so spectacular. It was huge, with lots of nooks and crannies, so I was able to sit there with the dog I acquired on the way up and just do an outline of the pillar cave. On returning to the hotel, I spent a couple of hours painting it from memory. It is so nice to have 5 sketches /paintings all in one sketchpad and I shall take this with me every time I go away to add others to my collection. Florence will be my next trip in the autumn – just two or three days, but time for my more experiences and sketching. I think a sketchbook will be more memorable than any photo I could take and when I am in my dotage I shall enjoy reminiscing about my time in Crete and other places I have visited.

The HF walking party were great fun. We all got on together so well, and there was a lot of laughter, eating and drinking, and until I did my ankle, we played table tennis too. Thank you to everyone who made my holiday so enjoyable. I shall try and put behind me the absolutely dreadful treatment we got from Easyjet when our flight to the IOM was cancelled having been half way round England before taking us back to Gatwick and totally abandoning all the passengers in the evening and not even providing any food or accommodation! To make matters worse, there were no flights for 3 days. As you would expect, I found an alternative and was back on our island the next day.

So I finish with a slideshow of photos to whet your appetite. Oh, and if you wish to try out the hotel it is called Spilia Village and you can find out more here: https://spiliavillage.gr/

Silverdale and Grenaby (again) with more history

This walk has a lot of stiles as commented on by many of my group but by compensation such a lot of beauty – a tranquil river, spectacular spring flowers, historical features and distant vistas. Having walked this route twice recently as I was leading a U3A group along these paths yesterday, I am amazed how a single week can make such a difference. The wild garlic are now out in full force, whereas last week they were just appearing. The field grass is about a foot tall in places now and the meadows of lady’s smock (cuckoo flower) were even more beautiful and the orange tip butterflies were enjoying their abundance.

I think my wildflower and historical notes really inspired my walkers as it took us an hour and a quarter just to walk a mile up the glen to Athol Bridge as we would stop at anything interesting or unusual. Perhaps I should have publicised it as a nature walk.

We began by grouping together on the bridge by the ford while I gave them a short history of the river and Ballasalla, with the aim of showing that river, albeit fairly small, has played a significant role in this landscape. There have been numerous mills over the centuries mostly involved with the cotton industry (rather than a flour mill). As yet, we don’t know quite where the cotton came from, whether or not it was grown on the IOM. Most interesting, for me at any rate, was the wide number of occupations that were found in Ballasalla in 1837 – two blacksmiths, 3 boot and shoe makers, one brewer, 3 joiners and carpenters, 2 millers, 2 milliners and dressmakers, 8 shopkeepers (!), 3 tailors, 1 tanner, 4 taverns etc etc. You can read more here if you are interested. https://www.gov.im/media/633197/silverdaleappraisalwithpicsv2.pdf I guess today there would still be variety but not closely linked to the natural environment in the same way.

We walked along the riverbank to look at the violets, alexanders, celandine, herb robert, red campion and wonderful wood anemones that were just beginning to go over but still looked fab. There were bluebells and a few wild garlic here and there in this section, but much more wild garlic further on. Deeper into the glen we saw wood sorrel, stitchwort and masses of wild garlic that would challenge Wordsworth’s view of golden daffodils. In the photos I have included my painting of the mineral water factory, which is really part of the old Cregg Mill buildings. Just before the mill where there is the boating lake is the old water wash ladder, presumably for cleaning the cotton, seen in the middle photo below.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this walk is that the river footpath on the other side of the Ballamodha is closed necessitating a short walk up the hill. Suprisingly there were more wildflowers on the embankment, inlcuding ivy-leaved toadflax and bugle, the latter not usually considered to be a wild flower, and some distance from any habitation. We even saw some trailing St. John’s wort – that wasn’t out last week, neither was the garlic mustard that we saw at Grenaby bridge.

As we crossed the road, we took a farmer’s grassy track. The pussy willow looked beautiful, and the lamb’s looked delightful gambolling in the fields. We stopped for a very belated lunch (2 miles and 1 and 3/4 hr of walking!!) at the creepy doll’s house on the corner at Grenaby. It is in a desperate state of repair but it is a fantastic location and is up for sale at £500,000.

Normally, I don’t like road walking, but we had a walk of about 15 minutes along a very quiet lane. What was particularly nice about this was that we could walk and chat alongside each other and it was very pleasant. We then took field paths, saying hello to some beautiful bay and black horses who seemed pleased to have some company, passing over many rickety stiles across fields with massive clumps of lady’s smock, a mound to negotiate and surprisingly beautiful gently sloping hills to the north of the quarry, and finished by taking the back path by Ballahott into Ballasalla with a ‘surprise’ ending. Having started by walking through masses of wild garlic, we were able to walk a less frequented path that took us round the back of the stunning art and craft houses above Rushen Abbey, that led into woodland brimming with wild garlic in flower right by the car park, just after a most beautiful field of dandelions.

The walk was actually 5.5 miles and would usually take about 2.5 hours but on a day like this, with so much to see, allow yourself lots of time. We took 4 hours and it wasn’t a minute too long.

To finish, here are two maps of this area. The first shows just how narrow the glen really is and what a micro climate it creates for itself and the second is an old map showing how tiny Ballasalla was in days gone past.