Snaefell to Laxey over the hills

A free day, and one planned to do a recce before the madness of TT starts, with practice week next Saturday. I was up early, too early for the first train from Laxey to the summit of Snaefell. It wasn’t a great day, overcast and a little gloomy but it was possible to see the top of Snaefell, so it could have been worse.

As I entered Laxey station I immediately saw a walking colleague, Ken. He is a great leader and was taking a walking group from Orpington up Snaefell and on to Ramsey. The one-carriage train was almost full as we headed off up the valley, with the female voice-over telling us all the important points to look at on the way, such as the Laxey Wheel and the mines. Once at the top, the passengers spilled off the train onto the viewing platform. It certainly was hazy, and there was no question of seeing the Mountains of Mourne today, but it was calm and warm, and considering how often blows a hoolie up here, I settled for that.

I tried to let Ken’s party lead off ahead of me, but my delaying tactics didn’t seem to work, so eventually I found myself at the tail end of his party, enjoying idle gossip as we went downhill to Black Hut. There, we parted company as their route would take them to the left and mine to the right. I only saw them briefly again as they reached their first summit of Clagh Ouyr. My route was a gentle climb up the flank of the hill, across heathery moorland and occasional shallow bogs until I reached a plateau that I walked on for about a mile. On a good day, the views would be fantastic on this section, and even today, they were still very good. The path is easy to follow and at the saddle between two hills there is a signpost where you can turn left and follow a track in a north-easterly direction to Glen Mona. That would be for another day. My path went around the southern side of the hill, turning into a stony track. This was all right for a while, but it gradually got wider and stonier and although relatively easy to walk on it did become a little tedious. I looked for a path, even a sheep path to take me to the top of the hill, but there seemed no easy way amongst the heather, so I refrained for the moment. Crossing a small bridge, it seemed as if there should be a path up between two hills, Slieay Lhean to the left and Slieau Ouyr to the right, but I couldn’t make one out from the track. I could see some grassy areas on a steeper section, so I made my way towards those on Slieau Ouyr and blazed my own trail up to the top of the hill. In reality this was only an ascent 322 ft but it felt more as it was straight up for 1/4 mile max!

I was pleased I had chosen this route as it was far more pleasant higher up and I could see in all directions: North Barrule and eventually the coast up to the Ayres and all the hills around Snaefell. Not having done this route before I was surprised how much of an arc these hills make. From Laxey, they look as if they are in a straight line, but they are not. Having reached the final summit of Slieau Ruy, it was all downhill towards The Dreem, across sometimes difficult moorland. The path is narrow, barely visible sometimes, and you have to be careful where you put your feet as there can be sudden drops invisible because of the heather. It eventually joins the boring track I had been on before. The boring track is absolutely fine really and you still get good views of the southern part of the island, but of course, being lower, you can’t see over the mounds immediately adjacent to the path, so you cannot see the northern hills.

Once off the green track there is a choice of routes. Continue straight on and before long you join a minor road that you can follow back to the top of Laxey. I turned right. This next section was lovely; you are still reasonably high, so there are good views, and there were very green paths in between farmed land. The colours had changed from being purple and brown wherever you looked to being bright green wherever you looked. There is a great direction-finder for the next path, as there is a tall, fairly small wood, that you can see for miles, so you can just head for that, as the next path starts here and goes immediately south down into Laxey, or Minorca to be more accurate. As I neared habitation, the colours became even more dynamic and the trees looked magnificent and seemed to own the place. I wasn’t expecting a ford on this walk, but there it was, but with no water overlapping the road today. There must be deluges from time to time, as someone has constructed quite a strong footbridge for those very occasions.

It is now just a few more paces until you join the minor road where you will find King Orry’s Graves. I didn’t visit them on this occasion as I have done so many other times before. Instead, I continued to the main road and followed it along the top road into Laxey before dropping down a delightful path into Laxey village itself. It was then just another short climb up the road back to the station, and Laxey Glen where I had parked the car.

Distance 6.9miles; 614ft of ascent; and a whopping 2,516ft of descent. You won’t notice the descent. It is very gradual, and if you have good weather, this walk deserves the full day treatment. And of course, once you arrive in Laxey, you can spend time walking around the village or have an afternoon tea in a local cafe, or mooch along the beach. It is a lovely village, and you should allow yourself some time to enjoy it.

West coast walk near Niarbyl

What a way to refresh your soul. I have been working flat-out for a few weeks now and had set aside today for a complete day to myself, without any students, without looking at emails or marking work. I had not anticipated such as treat as I started off through Kerroodhoo Plantation, having parked off the road at Dalby Mountain Nature Reserve.

The sun was shining and it was a warm day as I ventured into the eastern edge of the forest. It is always a delightful walk, no matter what time of year, but as the sun glinted through the trees, it was very pretty; even more so when, rather like Wordsworth daffodils, I came across a sudden drift of bluebells, that went on in all directions. I took photo after photo but show you just two here. Although the path is only partly marked out on the map, in practice it continues all the way to Barrane. In places it is a little muddy and in other places slightly steep. If you are slightly infirm of foot I would definitely use a pole to help you down safely, but these are very short sections and nothing to worry about. Not only was there an abundance of bluebells, but throughout this walk there were many, many different wild flowers and it was pure joy to be amongst them. I shall include a slideshow of these at the end.

Barrane appears after a mile of walking downhill, then the route joins the road leading to Dalby but go south instead of north, and this becomes a stony track uphill. After crossing the ford, or avoiding it by following the signs for the coastal footpath, take the footpath that leads to the edge of the coast. Most people turn right to go to Niarbyl, but our route goes south at this junction and the cliff path is delightful along here. There is a little uphill walking at this stage but there is a nice resting place where I stopped for some time watching the tortoiseshell butterflies doing a merry dance and listening to the linnets singing in the bushes. The view was sensational and there were different flowers in every direction that I looked. It was so restful and just what I needed.

From here, there is a little more uphill and then you join the standard coastal path which begins on a fairly level grassy path before zigzagging downhill for a short distance. Having crossed the ladder stile, the path becomes narrower and closer to the cliff edge. It is never dangerous, but I know some people get nervous on such paths so I have included some photos to show you how close it is. As I say, it is perfectly safe. After a little more downhill, where you are fairly close to the bottom of the cliff at 153ft above sea level, we cross a stream called Glion Mooar and then start the rather more cumbersome 500 ft / 3/4 mile climb up to Eary Cushlin house, of which the first part is the steepest. This can only be avoided by not taking the coastal footpath earlier, but it is a good, grassy path and you can rest whenever you like.

I plan to lead this walk in August, but from here I shall probably take a slightly different route to avoid walking on tracks. Today, I followed the main track up to the edge of the plantation then turned south. This goes very gently uphill to the highest point of day at 998ft. The route then turns off into the Dalby Nature Reserve owned by Manx Wildlife Trust and we walk through this back to the cars. This is likely to be boggy in places as it was today, so if you do follow this route I would recommend wearing long trousers and gaiters. Gaiters for the boggy bits and being a nature reserve the heather and gorse do not take account of walkers and sometimes the path is very narrow if existing at all.

I am feeling so much better these last few weeks and I hoping to get out in the countryside once a week from now on, so you can look forward to a few more posts over the coming months than I have been able to write in recent months.

Distance 5.25 miles; Total Ascent 1,184ft

Slieau Freoaghane and views of Glen Dhoo

I have a new favourite walk, at least for the extensive views it provides in all directions. This is a ridge walk on the eastern side of Kirk Michael, and it is relatively short at just about 5 miles. You can choose how much ascent you do as well, so this walk caters for different kinds of walker.

It starts at the Sartfell car park on the Kirk Michael to Snaefell road just before the cattle grid. Today, the mountain road was closed, and I was up early, so I had the hills all to myself, something to be strongly recommended. My only companion was a very blustery wind, which I would have preferred to leave me alone, but it persisted for the whole walk. At least it was warm -ish, but it was also hazy, so this walk will be even better on a really clear day.

The walk follows a stony track gently and very gradually uphill contouring round the eastern side of Sartfell. There’s a deep plantation to the right to begin with prohibiting any distant views, but as you get a little higher, the trees become a little sparser and you get glimpses of a far distant land. Being so windy, the trees were making a heck of noise, sounding like gushing water or labourers felling trees, but no such thing was going on; it was just very windy.

Once you leave the trees behind you are granted a full vista of the northern hills, with Sulby reservoir in the dip. It is still not possible to see over the hills to the east at this point. The stony track continues and becomes flatter. In the distance you can make out an old tumble-down wall on the right and that was where I was heading for. The map showed a foothpath up Slieau Freoaghane. It is a gentle hill climb from this starting point, on a well trodden path over mostly peat and heather. It is only when you reach the grassy top that you get the amazing views in all directions. At the trig point, there is a bell which I was very tempted to ring, but I managed to control myself, fearing that I might otherwise summon all the emergency services for no good reason. Reading someone else’s blog, this bell has not always been on the summit, but may have been linked to worker’s cottages lower down the hillside, and the bell was rung to signal the beginning and end of shifts – day and night. My walk was not going in this direction.

The path off Freoaghane is steeper than the climb up, but very friendly. It is a wide, grassy slope and a very enjoyable descent. As you walk down you can map out where you want to go next slightly off the beaten track, which is exactly what I did, as I wanted to avoid more stony tracks as much as possible. Eventually, it is necessary to meet the track again but only as far as the point where the path divides into two, one going to Kirk Michael, the other to Ballaugh.

There is a very strange grid to walk over, which is semicircular with horizontal bars. Here there is a tremendous view of Glen Dhoo above Ballaugh. I then took a track leading up the delightful valley with Slieau Dhoo immediately opposite. This is a great lunch spot, with lots of grass and even a makeshift natural bench if everyone wants to sit in a row 🙂 There is small amount of ascent on this pleasant footpath which leads to over the brow of the hill and down to the yet another stony track. Don’t be put off by this path saying “road closed’ at either end. I am sure walkers are welcome, but the bikers are not. On some maps, there is a right of way immediately opposite leading down to Druidale, and another one a short distance to the right. In reality, these are in a bad state of repair and give the impression of being purposely neglected. About half a mile away, there is a new signpost, but it is not in the place shown on the map, although it does join up with another footpath that is in a slightly better state of repair.

Lunch stop overlooking Glen Dhoo

There is a choice at this point. This new track adjoins the former track we began walking on, so it is quite possible to simply walk along this back to the car. The views are stunning, so why not? Alternatively, you can take the track to the left which is about the 4 mile marker on my map, and follow the stream, again walking on heather and peat down to the Druidale Road. There is no alternative but to walk along the lane up the hill to the car, but it is a very quiet road and a pleasant walk. It does mean you do not have to retrace your steps for the last 3/4 mile. It will add on some uphill and probably another half mile.

The hill walks on this island are just beautiful, but they have to compete with our splendid coastline. Last week my son came over for the Good Friday 10km run in Port Erin. On the Saturday, we went to one of my other favourite places – the rocky outcrops at Langness. We were really spoiled, as not only were the seals in abundance, but we also saw a pod of Risso Dolphins in Castletown Bay, a I guess sheltering to some extent from the blustery seas – yes, it was windy then too.

I am leading the Freoaghane walk for the U3A on June 14th, so if you are a member or would like to become a member, get in touch and I will send you details of where and when to meet us. There is no charge for walks; you are entitled to two try-outs but after that you have to become a member of the U3A to participate in any further activities. They are a great bunch of people, and there many different kinds of groups, so if you have time on your hands and you like meeting people and sharing ideas, it’s a good organisation to become a part of.

Distance: 5 miles; total ascent /descent 1010ft/ 974ft

Crosby to West Baldwin Circular

This was a route I have never walked and I didn’t know quite what to expect. I was planning a walk for the U3A and if this one wasn’t quite what I wanted I had another up my sleeve. However, the contingency plan was not required as this is a beautiful walk with extensive views in all directions. The paths are good to reasonable, if a bit muddy in places, and the route is easy to follow.

I started at the centre of Crosby parking by the Bowling Green. I haven’t been there since they build the new houses and Coop and the old-fashioned toilets that were so useful have now disappeared, although the gate remains! Crossing the main road requires care and then there is uphill section for some distance. The first part is the most arduous but it’s not too bad and with every step up you get a better view from where you have just come. A path beside the road has been created for a short distance and by the time we do this walk in May, it should be festooned with wild garlic.

We follow the Millenium Way all the way to West Baldwin, up hill and down dale. The maps show direct routes across fields but it is clear from sign markings that the farmers would prefer us to walk around the field, so please be considerate when you are walking across countryside. Some of these fields were very muddy today but I am hopeful that by May they will have dried out a bit. The views, especially to the west and north, make up for the terrain.

As you get close to West Baldwin, the route follows the river along a high track. This was a lovely section and I enjoyed listening to the water tumbling down into the valley below. West Baldwin is lovely and unspoilt, with some interesting and quaint houses and has a much-loved feel to it. The bridge is attractive in itself and a good place for a lunch stop. This is the half way point in this walk, at about 3 miles.

From here, we follow the road south through the village for a very short distance before taking a minor road uphill and going round a few corners before we drop onto what looks like an ancient track going down to a ford, with a tiny foot bridge for walkers. The track is stony but not difficult to traverse and as it goes uphill after the ford it becomes a grassy track leading to a small lane, which is wide and airy. From here you can retrace your footsteps in your mind’s eye as the vista unfolds in front of you.

This is our downwards stretch which takes us eventually to Glen Vine via tracks, a small amount of road and more fields. The stiles in the field section just beside Glen Vine need some attention. They are surmountable but you do need to take care. A couple of them can be avoided by going through gates, but not all of them. Arriving at the main Peel to Douglas Road, we turn right towards Glen Vine for a very short distance, before crossing over the road and following yet another stream (we have followed a lot of streams on this walk) through an old wood down to the old railway line. In all my years of walking I can’t believe I have walked down this path. It is clearly very popular as people have made higher and lower paths through it and created a swing over the stream for children to play.

The walk along the old railway track is very easy walking, and also interesting. There is a new nature reserve and I always enjoy looking at the wetlands just to the side of the track and thinking what life they have and how they developed over the years. The path was modernised in recent years to make it accessible for bikes, pushchairs and wheelchairs. It is settling in well now and doesn’t look quite so much like a road any more. The section from Glen Vine to Crosby is actually narrower and more appealing to me.

This is a walk I would definitely do again. It is not too demanding, with a total of 741 feet of ascent/descent and nothing too steep. Most of the uphill is in the section before West Baldwin. The distance is about 6.75 miles, which I confess was really too much me only 6 weeks after my operation but I am still glad I did it, and I shall look forward to taking our members around the route in May. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos. I obviously have some settings wrong on my camera, but they do give you a flavour of what to expect.

Spring Afternoon in Port Soderick

The western boundary

It was a lovely sunny afternoon on Saturday and what better way to get some gentle exercise than to stroll up the small but beautiful glen that is Port Soderick Glen. You really don’t need to set any time aside for this walk as it will only take you 3/4 hr even if you are walking at a leisurely pace. It has a timeless tranquillity about it, and possibly because it is only half a mile long you can imagine all the feet that have traipsed beside the stream as you jump over the boggy bits and admire the hills on either side.

I was really on my way to Tesco in Douglas. This is what is so nice about the Isle of Man. I could have done a number of different short walks along other glens on the way, driving through lovely countryside to get there. This had to be a short walk as I was still suffering with a fair amount of pain but I needed to build up my exercise after 5 weeks. The first thing that struck me was the bird song – not that I can recognise birds from their song but I enjoy trying to find out where they are perching in the trees while they perform their arias. The second thing I noticed was that it was quite wet and there was a fair amount of water in this little stream. The third thing I noticed was that the paths have been upgraded and a new higher path has emerged. Of course, I had to try this out. As I reached the ‘top’ there was water gushing off the meadow above. It had created a small path in the grassy turf before it tumbled into the glen, but where was all this water coming from? It was only a few feet to the top from there, maybe 8-10 ft, so how was it generating that kind of force? It’s good to have mysteries – just as we have our faeries and elves on the Isle of Man.

There is little to say about the walk itself. I walked one side of the stream, admiring the celandine and wood sorrel; then as I crossed to the other side there were primroses and marsh marigolds and a few stray daffodils enjoying the sun. You reach the end of the glen where it joins a track and there is a quaint bridge to the left. Follow the track to the right and it will join the road – here there is a minor tributary than joins the Crogga River that you can just about make out in the vegetation below, and there are plenty of trees as you make your way upwards. At the road, it is necessary to walk a short distance back along the road towards the sea, but then it is possible to turn back into the woodland and rejoin the river near the bridge. It feels completely different up here, with less vegetation and the trees standing tall. It is a very well made path and pleasant to walk along.

I had just joined the forest track when I spotted something on the ground, that looked like pages from a book. Indeed, this is exactly what they were. What an odd place to find such a thing. The pages were from a very old-looking book “The Land of England” and covers what happens to the land in each month. There were only a few tattered pages and they just happened to be for March, telling me how a furrow-slice works and how to gather up the ridges; also a quote from an ancient scribe on how to keep oxen. It even told me the origins of the word ‘camping’ which has absolutely nothing to do with putting up a tent in a field….

What goes up must go down, and the path down eventually ends in very nicely constructed steps, not too steep and quite manageable. From here, there is no choice but to follow the stream back to (the car park) or the sea. I had a wonderful surprise when I glanced up and saw a falcon displaying it aerial talents over the top of the trees. After this brief respite, I continued my journey. The sea hits you as something of a surprise as if you park in the lower car park and walk up the glen you wouldn’t know the sea is just to the left and only yards in front of you. And what a view when you get there. I was delighted as the tide was well in and the waves crashing on the pebbles. The beach itself is not amazing and it is a bit scruffy but I believe there are plans to do the area up a bit and restore it to its former glory.

If you want a little more of a walk, continue along the edge of the beach to the steps that lead up the northern edge of the cliff. This is an attractive addition to the walk. You can go all the way to Douglas if you really want to, along Marine Drive, but that would take you a couple of hours. However, if you time it right you can get the steam train in one direction of the other to make it a linear route. Otherwise, when you have had enough, just turn round and retrace your steps back to the car.

I confess I am still sore after my operation, and it is making me feel unwell, but I had my post op appointment yesterday and the Consultant (Mrs. Moroney) was just wonderful and reassured me that my recovery is as it should be. My operation was bigger than we were all expecting so I couldn’t expect to be in any better condition than I am right now. However, she says the chances are that I will be fighting fit again for the May walk and she said that it is often the case that just one day the patient wakes up and feels well again and there is no looking back. So I remain optimistic.

I shall be joining the U3A walk on Tuesday from Castletown to Port St Mary, but just for part of it. It will be nice to see everyone again and for life to return to some semblance of normality. This weekend I plan to do a recce for the walk I shall be leading in May, so let’s hope for some good weather.

Brief Update

My regular readers will have noticed that I haven’t posted for a while. This is because I had an operation in February and I am still recovering. It has been slow but I am getting there, and I hope to resume short walks in April and certainly longer ones again in the summer.

I am very much looking forward to the U3A Southport Walking Group coming over to the Isle of Man in September and we have organised several walks that we will be doing together.

So, look forward to more posts after Easter.

Meanwhile, keep walking….

Tenerife 28 Jan – 4 Feb 2023

I was so looking forward to my holiday. I had been in England looking at areas in Derbyshire where I might move back to in the future, and now I was in my way to Tenerife for a week’s holiday. I have never visited this island, although I have been to La Palma, which I very much enjoyed.

It could have started better. The Canaries are a place for winter holidays and although I didn’t expect really hot weather I didn’t expect as much rain, or mud, or for it to be as cool. I was also expecting it to be prettier, but my first encounter with it was on a very boring motorway in the south on which we travelled for 40 mins. The scenery was not captivating either, but I reassured myself that HF would not offer a holiday in a destination devoid of attractive scenery and good hiking countryside.

I was also somewhat dismayed to discover that La Laguna was a fair sized town, almost adjoined to Santa Cruz. The hotel Nivaria is situated in one of the few tree-lined squares in the town. It is an imposing building with a large entrance hall with comfy seating. The rooms are spacious and the beds comfortable. The food was excellent and always presented with a friendly smile. What about the walks you ask? This was a week of two halves, where after the first few days I could easily have packed my bags and gone home, but from Wednesday onwards the walks did improve.

The first day, the guides (as opposed to HF leaders) changed the planned walk due to bad weather, which is totally understandable. Instead they took us to the Roques de Garcia that are imposing rock formations on the western side of Teide, and the sun shone all day. We could see the mist just a few hundred metres below us, and we could see this was a good decision. However, much as it was a beautiful walk with amazing views, it was extremely short, just 3 miles with, if I remember rightly, less than 300 ft of ascent (less than going up to Bradda Head) and about 1200 feet of descent. The guides were incredibly knowledgeable and we learned a great deal and had an unforgettable experience crawling on our bums through an former underground lava tunnel, which was great fun. But, it was too short, and I must admit I felt short-changed, especially as this was meant to be the harder walk.

I didn’t walk with them Day 2 and instead got my bearings walking around the town, a gentle day in preparation for more extensive and more arduous walking the next day, only this walk too was changed to a most forgettable beach walk. We were not given detailed briefings or shown examples of the terrain or maps which would allow us to judge the suitability of the walk, but I was already worked out this was not going to be a great walk, so I packed my sketching set in anticipation of needing something ‘extra’. Our guide again provided interesting geological and historical facts, but as we neared our destination I decided to stop and do some sketching, even though there was little of interest to sketch. I am glad I did, as the group finished their walk by 12.30pm and had a 90 mins wait for the other group. To make matters worse we then had to wait a further 45 mins as the longer party (who had only done an extra 2 miles of beach walking) had been promised that they could get lunch when they arrived. I was literally hopping mad at this point, as this was meant to be a walking holiday not a sightseeing tour. The photos below make it look nicer than it really was!

The next day was the off day when guests do their own thing. I had asked one of the guides about local walks, so off I went in search of an adventure. The route started from the hotel with a short walk through the town. Crossing over a small river, the ascent on the eastern side of La Laguna began. It is something of a pull-up, but with a few small rests to gets my breath and admire the view I was soon at the true starting point amongst the dramatic hills. My tracker that we had spent some time getting to work, worked, and then didn’t work, so I looked at the hills and decided my route, bearing in mind I was looking for scenic views rather than views of the nearby conglomerations. I was not disappointed. The wide track turned into a narrow track just about where I thought my original route would have gone north. I was enjoying my new route and it took me around the back of one hill and provided distant views into the northern hills and a most delightful valley with a reservoir. I had no poles with me today, so extra care was needed over scrambly bits and muddy bits. I eventually ended up on a small road leading to the north side of this group of hills. Checking my map, I could see that the original route would be largely road walking from here, so I took the alternative path on to the very top of the hill. What a surprise I received up here, with oodles of yellow meadows in the foreground with the purple hills behind. There were masses of flowers throughout this route and it was almost like being in Austria. I dropped down the other side and contoured above my previous track with had surprising variety including some really rocky outcrops. The route was altogether 5 miles with 1300 ft of ascent and descent. Even so, I was back by lunchtime, and then I enjoyed a lazy afternoon reading and writing.

Thursday was a walk in the Teno mountains and by this time the guides had reverted to the original HF walks. Still not sure of my abilities I opted for the glorious easier walk, initially gently ascending through a green valley, then ascending more through a magical laurel forest before reaching the summit and a memorable ridge walk. The weather had improved and we had both distant views, views down the sea several thousand feet below and other views into the neighbouring ravines. I could have stayed up there for hours. The ridge walk was sadly only short and then the walk descended, contouring around hills to a viewpoint and cafe. This was a truly beautiful walk with great variety, 5.6 miles in length, 858 ft of ascent and 1483 ft of descent.

On the final day of walking I opted out for a variety of reasons. The easier walk, although attractive was not compelling as there was only a small amount of ascent and a lot of descent where the views would not change much. I was concerned that I might find the altitude too thin for me on the harder walk and I didn’t want to hold up other walkers. Plus, I wanted to go up Mount Teide. The cablecar doesn’t go all the way to the top, just as far as the cone where it changes colour, but I knew that I would be able to see views towards inside the crater of Pico Vieja, and to go to a volcanic island and not really experience a volcano would have been disappointing. I agreed with the guide that I would do this, followed by a walk to meet them at the end of the day. I am so glad I did this. The cablecar was very expensive at 38 Euros but it was worth it for the experience. I went from one viewpoint on the west to the other on the east. The weather was good but not fantastic, but I was treated to some steam emanating from Mount Teide as I returned to the cable car, reminding everyone that it may not be awake but it is still breathing.

From the cable car I had a 2 hour walk across the semi-barren landscape to the Parador beside the Roques de Garcia. The colours and distorted shapes of the volcanic rocks were interesting and varied as I twisted and turned around corners, and the vegetation looked even smaller against the magnificence of the huge mountains behind. In places, there were dried up areas that become wet with snowfall and form small lakes. It was a very pleasant and easy 5.3 miles of walking, basically flat, although my Garmin watch is telling me porkies and saying I climbed a few hundred feet. I did descend 853 ft, which seems realistic. It is impossible to gauge distances. I walked 2 miles south across the valley which from the road looked about half a mile, and when up on Teide, those summiting looked really tiny on the rocky top, whereas without any perspective it looks just a stones throw to the top.

So ended my holiday. I am back home now and it all seems very strange now, as if I have just woken from a dream, something that never happened but only occurred in my imagination. Perhaps you will get a sense of this from the last photo I took as the plane took off from Tenerife, with Mount Teide hiding in the sunset clouds.

Glen Helen

The one time I forgot my camera and my mobile phone is the one day I would really have liked it. Although I know it has done little else but rain on and off for weeks, I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that the waterfall would be quite spectacular. But not only the main waterfall, there were waterfalls in places we don’t usually see them, and water permeating through the rocks and dripping onto the paths in spectacular ways.

So, no photos today I’m afraid. Instead, I will try and describe the walk using old-fashioned words. I was doing a recce of a part of the walk I am leading a week on Tuesday, and I wanted to check out the various routes through the Eairy Beg plantation. Taking note of the weather forecast I had left it until late morning to avoid the rain. I parked at Swiss Cottage, donned my walking boots and set off over the river. Already I could see there was a fair amount of water in the river, and as I reached the children’s playground there was an impromptu waterfall gushing onto the surface and finding a hidden way to reach the main body of the river. I continued on the far side of the river, gradually making my way uphill, over the wooden bridges where the water was tumbling underneath with great agility, and up the steps to the top of the glen where the forest meets the farmland. The principal waterfall is left at this point but I was only intending to visit the plantation so I turned right and joined the track and higher entrance into the plantation. This track was a little muddy but was quite passable. It is initially a wide track, as it would have been the main path to the ruined tholtan, now standing a little precariously in the middle of the plantation. Just past this point is a junction, where I turned left to make the climb to the top of Beary Park. This narrow path was muddy in places and it is quite steep for about 30 minutes. The colours and shapes in the plantation are interesting at this time of year – the bright green mosses growing in the mud and stone walls contrasting with the grey angular shapes of the denuded trees, which looking higher up sport splashes of dark green foliage. Occasionally, I would come across single Christmas trees looking odd in the landscape.

If you are walking this on your own, the path keeps left of a mossy wall. It is wide and soft to walk on, the only detour necessary being a slight dip around a fallen tree. In the distance were glimpses of light through the trees, heralding a change of terrain. Suddenly, you find yourself out of the plantation with moorland in front of you. To the left is a slight schism in the moorland, a hollow from which all the water on the moor gathers to make its steady flow downhill through the plantation to create the waterfalls. At this point, there are good views to Sartfell and the ridge of Greeba Mountain. Being moorland, this section was boggy, but there is plenty of grass to the side of the path making it much easier and drier to walk on.

Once you reach the saddle, the path continues down to Greeba, our path turns right into the plantation again, and after a gentle ascent you find yourself at the top of the hill, and now you can see right over the top of the trees, through the gaps in the mountains to Snaefell. Continuing on this path (I went over the moor here, pointlessly) you are on the road to the transmitter pylon, keeping the edge of the plantation on the right. From here, it is all downhill and as it is on the edge of farmland there were great views towards Peel and the south, that had not been visible from the top. This is a slightly steep, grassy path, which can be a little slippery, but there a wire fence with some wooden staves to help with support if needed, but I would recommend using walking poles on this section.

The path rejoins the forest and there is much less mud on this side and fewer streams and waterfalls. It is a really pleasant forest walk, mostly level or gradually descending, back to Swiss Cottage. At this point, I couldn’t resist going to see the main Glen Helen waterfall, so I contoured through the forest and rejoined the top path. This was very easy walking; however, do take care of the wooden boards and bridges which were quite slippery today to the extent that I preferred to walk through the bogs in some places. The boardwalks are perfectly passable with care, and again, be careful on the steps down to the waterfall for the same reason.

Despite the promise of better weather in the afternoon it rained the whole time from when I re-entered the plantation, and it continued whilst I sat on the bench eating my lunch by the waterfall, admiring the sheer force of the water plummeting through the narrow gap. All along the river, streams and the force of the roaring water was creating foamy waves billowing over the rocks. How I wished I had a camera, but really memories are more enjoyable than photos and last longer.

It is just under a mile to the waterfall from the car park, a mile of very easy walking and wonderful sights. I saw chaffinches, great tits and robins today flitting about between the trees, and there were geese in the meadows by the river.

I hope to see you on my U3A walk but if you can’t make it on 17th Jan, and you live on the island, can I encourage you to at least walk down Glen Helen and see the waterfall in its full fury. It looks very dramatic, and the Glen itself is particularly nice when it is not shrouded in a leaf canopy. You don’t have to do the mountain walk. Indeed, even on our walk, we will only do this extra section if the weather is suitable, but I will still take you to the tholtan if the weather is unsuitable to go higher.

Total distance 5.25 miles. Ascent about 1000ft, mostly all Beary Mountain.

New Year’s Day – and What a Day

I forgive the many of you who decided to abandon thoughts of a walk this New Year’s Day. The weather forecast was not great – we could expect at least a few short, sharp showers, but some clear spells too, and given there is nowhere to take shelter on this walk I imagine this might have put a few people off, especially as it was hailing cats and dogs in some parts of the island I gather.

Even I was wondering whether this was a sensible route to undertake today, and in my head I had prepared a few other options with more cover or escape routes, if required: Glen Maye, Port Soderick, Marine Drive or total abandonment of the walk. One of my trusty walkers who is usually game for anything rang up to sorrowfully back out at the last minute – you know who you are – which left just three hardy fellows including me to climb South Barrule.

We met at Round Table as planned and the weather was already dull. I could see rainclouds bubbling up in the distance and I knew this was the calm before the storm. I did offer my alternatives but the group would not be discouraged and we began our ascent of South Barrule. There was no snow today, but in its place was water – everywhere, and it was hard to avoid placing one’s foot in one puddle or another. Even so, it was easy walking and a pleasant climb.

No sooner had we started when I got a call from my son, then another from my friend and a text from my daughter as my Garmin watch was under the impression that I had had an ‘incident’ and it promptly notified my emergency contacts, detailing exactly where I was (well, close..) and demanding that they contact me to see if I was all right. Quite what I had done to initiate this technical emergency response I don’t know as I had not had a fall, neither had I severely knocked my watch, but at least I know the system works!

We continued up South Barrule with Andy leading the way while Eve and I chatted. Then came the rain, and the mist – not quite enough to consider it to be ‘fog’ – engulfed us as we reached the trig point. To be fair, there was the tiniest glimmer of sunlight at this point for which we were thankful. It was a little breezy on the top, but for the first day of the new year, it was at least fairly mild, though a glance to the skies indicated it was not mild enough to stop for a coffee at this point.

From here, it was all downhill, trampling over the gorse and heather to avoid the slippery, stony and wet paths whenever possible. It may not sound great but I really was enjoying the walk and the company despite the rain, which would stop every now and again and afford us views into the distance, so I was able to point out the longer route we could take if the rain would cease. Um, yes, that was quite a big ‘if’.

On reaching the road, the decision whether to extend the walk was unsurprisingly made by the weather which turned really nasty for the rest of the walk back to the car. We had chosen to walk along the road rather than take the longer detour, but there was no shelter here at all, and the rain lashed relentlessly in our faces for 1.75 miles. I didn’t take any photos at this point – rain doesn’t show up on an iphone – but stepped up the pace a little and considered humming a merry song. We were drenched, thirsty and hungry, but still cheerful, as how else should you spend New Year’s Day but with a typical walk on the Isle of Man.

I have to say, it was nice to get home and change out of my wet gear (including underwear!), make a nice hot cup of tea and have a slice of cake. But would I do it again – you bet I would!

No map today, except for the road walk – I must have forgotten to switch it on! I have recreated one underneath, but it is approximate. Distance: about 4 miles; Ascent: about 650 ft.

A winter’s day on South Barrule

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.