A Shapely Walk Around Douglas and Summerhill Glen- 4 miles

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The natural entrance to Summerhill Glen

Douglas is a surprisingly attractive town to walk around as long as you turn a blind eye to the less appealing aspects of its make-up and areas that look lost and forlorn or where some car park or development has emerged from nowhere and taken away all the character of the area. The Isle of Man does itself no favours by not caring enough about its heritage and there are too many derelict buildings or hideous erections that should never have seen the light of day, not even in an architect’s mind let alone in practice. It is too quick to destroy what history it has, as in the pending doom of the lone 18th century cottage which is being demolished to make way for a new ”by-pass” in Ballasalla, only approved by short-sighted politicians because Dandara promised to fund it as long as they could build xxx number of houses at the same time. But I digress…

You might say Douglas is much like any town. But look up, out, about and around the many old buildings  of the later 19th and early 20th centuries and you will see interesting shapes and objects that will surprise you. Roadnames with fingers pointing you in the right direction, canopies over shops that look as if they belong in Tunbridge Wells Pantiles area, attractive iron railings separating the Edwardian properties, squares of parkland and a crescent of housing reminiscent of Bath (though not as grand). Lots and lots of substantial Edwardian properties built to last, reminding us of the Isle of Man’s heyday when B &B’s sprung up in abundance to cater for the wild tourism that would swarm in on the ferry in the summer months.

I had been to the dentist on Woodburn Square and instead of walking back to the bus stop I went in the opposite direction, down roads I have never walked before, around the back of Nobles Park to the top of Summerhill Glen. The house styles are very varied and many are attractive with double fronts or bay windows, a row of chocolate box houses, one with a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden and sometimes very unusual houses. There were two houses side by side with windows in the upper elevations that looked as if they belonged in the 16th century as their small windows protruded out above the main house. There are many established trees in this area and it feels quite luxurious in places. There must have been a large country seat where Laureston Manor remains, now afflicted by the ever terminal illness of living apartments, but it still has its grounds and other houses have been built around the edge of its land, so the pathwork of land still retains its rich flavour.

I reached an area where most of the roads bear the name Victoria or similar, signs of anticipated grandeur and nobility – Victoria Road, Victoria Crescent, Victoria Avenue, Dukes Road, Upper Duke’s Road, Palace Road, Castle Hill – you get my drift, and here the roads are at the top of the wonderful cliff that skirts the whole of Douglas Bay and from where if you could only see through the trees there must be a wonderful view of the Bay. There are several very large buildings around here, many now converted for business use, again indicating that Douglas has at times been very wealthy.

All this was unexpected. This was not a planned trip but an idle walk through Douglas to get some fresh air with the idea of walking in daylight down Summerhill Glen. My first visit to this Glen was just two week’s ago when my son Matthew stayed with me for Christmas and we went to enjoy the illuminations which we did thoroughly enjoy in spite of the rain.

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Reaching the top of the Glen I followed the path down to discover a second more interesting path that enters the glen from the other side of the stream. I know most people are very happy with the modernisation of the paths in the glens but for me wide tarmac paths lose all the natural feel and magic of walking down a forested glen, so I was very happy to wander along the section that had not been tarmacked and watch the water meandering its way across the flat and boggy terrain, creating new rivulets here and there as it jumped over minor hazards on their way to join the main stream.

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The glen itself is very natural at the top and I found several interesting shapes in the stream and in the vegetation that sparked my interest. The stream is pretty with minor waterfalls along its ever downward and slightly winding trajectory. In the centre there is a flat area with wooden seats neatly positioned to enjoy the display the children (and adults) have created. It is not possible to follow the stream all the way to the sea as it goes underground whilst still quite elevated, but when I reached the shore to see where it finally entered the sea, I could hear a rush of water where it comes out behind the houses on Strathallan Crescent.

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The tide was out so I walked out into the bay and again I looked up at the lovely aforementioned cliffs and noticed houses half way up holding tightly on to the side of the cliffs, a pink house I had never noticed before with a curtain of trees behind it. Looking in the other direction out to sea, I walked out as far as the sand would allow me and came across boulders and seaweed that were as tall as me. I walked the mile or so back into town, and if you wished you could make a full circle of this walk.

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So, if you come to Douglas, take a bit of time to venture into those parts you don’t usually go and I’m sure you will find hidden treasures.

Below:  A slideshow of some shapes in Summerhill Glen

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I regret to say I did not take photos of the interesting properties I saw, but I will retrace those steps another time when I am armed with my camera and not just my mobile phone.

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Port Soderick to Douglas along Marine Drive – 2nd November 2019

DSC02192This week saw the last of the steam train journeys until next spring, so what better way to go into Douglas than to hop aboard at Port Erin and disembark at Port Soderick to walk the 5 miles into Douglas.

DSC02177Here is the Kissack, no 13, waiting to leave Port Sorderick.  As I walked down the lane I encountered a convivial lady sportingly cleaning up the road for vehicles as all the drains were blocked by the autumn leaves and the excessive rainfall of recent days, leaving great puddles. That’s what I call neighbourliness.

I walked through the glen which was a little on the muddy side. I never known the Crogga stream to be so loud as it made its way downhill and then softened as it gained the lower reaches, just every now and again bubbling over the rocks.

Reaching Port Soderick Bay, I never cease to amazed how this area was once a bustling pleasure beach, with all kinds of attractions and businesses – outdoor games, a camera obscura, Thomas the ‘novelty card’ printer, roundabouts and such time as well as  the now defunct and removed Falcon Cliff lift that enable to tourists to have a leisurely (if ugly) route to the top of marine drive, where they could get the horse tram all the way to Douglas. It seems like another world. I do remember the hotel which was always good for a coffee but that has also long since gone. They are always talks of renovating this area. If so, maybe they could reintroduce the story of the Enchanted Isle off Port Soderick, which was sunk beneath the seas by the magician Finn McCool along with its inhabitants which were turned to granite pillars; the island rises out of the sea every seven years for just 30 minutes, when the inhabitants will be restored to life if they can place a Bible on the island in that time.

I followed the muddy path alongside the road to the top of the hill where I took the cover photo. These hills are steeper and higher than they look here at about 300 ft high. They are mostly the typical Manx group of rocks comprising mudstone, siltstones and sandstones of the Lonan formation. They form the standard thin and craggy beds of slate that were distorted by the uplift of mountain formation in the Silurian and Devonian period, and in places these are very dramatic. At Keristal, close to Port Soderick,  and towards Douglas you will find large slabs of paler sandstone giving a softer landscape.

In places the rocks are quite architechtural, as here, close to Douglas Head gate house.

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Marine Drive was constructed and the tramway opened in 1896 and was not the wide roadway as it appears today. In places an overhanging iron roadway was made to get around some of the tricky rocks and this section was suitably named ‘Horses Leap’. However, it was all dismantled between 1947 and 1949 partly due to rock falls. It was converted into a roadway in 1956 and over time it became a walkers’ paradise and the central section closed to vehicles. It is easy to see why when you walk the route.

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Having had only coastal views and wonderful skies, including an enticing rainbow as I reached the Whing (the steepest and most contorted of the rocks), it is all over too soon and soon the path starts sloping making its descent into Douglas. Looking at the clouds over the mountains I had time my walk just right.

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A very pleasant walk of 5 miles and about 733 ft of ascent, but it is very easy after the intial ascent and just little ups and downs along the way.

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A short walk around Peel and Glen Maye

I had been to Peel Cathedral for Evensong. It was a very special evensong, with the very musical group Voces Insulae providing the choral repertoire. It was absolutely beautiful and the bible readings too stood out above the norm for some inexplicable reason. The cathedral was particularly resonant today.  I guess some days are like that.

Having started out as an inconveniently wet night and morning, it had now brightened up, so I strolled down to Peel beach where the wind had whipped up froth that looked like candyfloss. I then did the circuit of the exterior of Peel Castle, passed the spot on the point where my grandchildren, son and I had had a memorable picnic about this time last year. As I came round to Fenella Beach you could imagine St Patrick’s island cut off from Peel as great swathes of sand seem to almost continue seamlessly from one side of the harbour to the other.

I then traversed the low route contouring around the east side of Peel Hill back to my car, intending to get home in good time to cook my tea before the ‘Strictly’ results show,. Peel look very colourful and appealing in the soft late afternoon light.

I just had to pop in to my favourite glen on the way back for a bit of magic. And I was not disappointed. As you can see the fairies had made their ring to dance around, though they hid in the undergrowth when I turned up.

Fairy Ring

I could hear the waterfall well before I could see it. It was spewing out copper and peat coloured water and although there was quite a torrent it was nothing like I had witnessed a month or two ago.

On one side of the ravine, the water was dripping down the side of the rocks looking life hanging vines.

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Rain drops looking like hanging vines

I managed to watch Strictly – no surprise as to who was sent home there then – then settled down to watch ‘Millionaire’ as well, when I decided to make some fruit cake to take out tomorrow on my first walk with the Island Walking Festival’s Weeks’ Walks, so I dodged out in the intervals and I now have a full stock of food to take with me tomorrow.

I shall be walking from Snaefell along the tops to Ramsey, and on Wednesday doing a circular route taking in Greeba Mountatin, before I leave the island for a little while to visit family and have a week’s holiday with HF in the Lake District. I will try and write a blog about each of these walks that I haven’t ever done before!

Bradda Head – 13th September 2019

You know what they say – you can’t keep a good dog, or in my case, woman down. Two consecutive days of walking. What a treat. Today, I had relatives visiting so what an opportunity to show them some of the outstanding scenery on our doorstep. On Thursday I headed south, yesterday I headed north from Port Erin.

We met at Bradda Glen restaurant, which is an excellent starting point for this walk if you don’t want to walk the extra mile from Port Erin. We followed the Coronation footpath to Milner Tower,  stopping at various points to describe the scenery, tell tales or just to enjoy each others’ company in the balmy autumn wind and sun. It was our warmest day for a while, and the sky was very blue.

The top

We didn’t pass a soul on our way to Fleshwick. The path down from the Bradda cairn was a little slippery and uneven, surprising considering the lack of rain, but by the time we reached the steep descent the path was dry and easier to conquer. We did meet a lady blackberrying with her dog and a group of holiday makers on a walk and a drone, i.e. a mechanical instrument, not a humble bee or rude name for a boring person!! The drone did rather spoil the ambience.

On the tops we had the splendid views towards Peel. I could stay up here for hours, with views of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on a good day. It is just perfect, well maybe a couple of weeks earlier would have been even better as the colour of the heather would have given the senses a real boost. But you can still imagine what it looks like in its rich colour, can’t you?

Towards Cronk Ny Arrey Laa

Our return route contoured around the base of the Bradda group on an easy footpath then joined the road through East Bradda back to Bradda Glen. This was followed by a lovely evening together at The Shore Hotel. The food was magnificent and rounded off a super day with friends.

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Fleshwick Beach

And the start of the route down, which drops off steeply at this point:

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Most of my photos were of my friends, so I can’t include many today.

Distance: 4.71 miles (Bradda Glen circular); ascent 1092 ft; descent 1060ft. Maximum elevation 732ft – not bad for cliffs.

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Conrhenny Plantation 25th August 2019

The view

What a glorious day for a wildflower walk, away from Port Erin that was bathed in Mananan’s Cloak for most of the day. Being Bank Holiday Sunday we were a small group but this only added to the enjoyment. I have walked through Conrhenny Plantation before with the U3A but I have never stopped and stared at the vegetation or wondered at the myriad of butterflies happily darting from Buddleia bush to another. We were also fortunate to see a most amazing insect, rather like an overgrown mosquito feeding on Angelica. Just look at that tail! One of my erudite and expert friends informs me that it is an Ichneumon Parasitic Wasp. If you want to know more about this not-so-angelic-as-it-looks creature take a look at this Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxHckvpbopQ

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We started out from the car park having dowsed ourselves in sun cream to protect ourselves from the unrelenting sun. Just a few metres along and we had our first encounter with wildlife, looking at the tiny but well-formed Mouseear, so named because its petals are duple and each one looks like… you guessed it, a mouse’s ear. We also saw pearlwort, another tiny flower that you would walk over time and time again without noticing it.

We made our way through puddles and streams towards the man-made ponds – wish I had worn my wellies. I didn’t even know there were ponds here, and we saw some rare species, including Cape Pondweed. The yellow lesser spearwort and blue water forget-me-nots gave even more colour to the ponds. As summer turns into autumn there are fewer flowers and more seedheads, so colour turns from yellows blues and reds into more sombre browns and dull greens.

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Water Forget-Me-Not

As we continued along the edge of the ponds, we came across a host of peacock butterflies, a few painted ladies and red admiral on the Buddleia. These are the first peacock butterflies I have seen all summer. The painted ladies were not looking their best compared with a few weeks ago when they all rushed in from abroad.

Peacock Butterfly

Simon, our fount of all flower knowledge, showed us some Japanese Hogweed – sorry, Japanese Knotweed – in flower and pointed out that its bad reputation is really not deserved and if left in peace it would spread, but so much more slowly than when the demolition team try to dig it up and scatter roots and stems in all directions.

Japanese Hogweed in Flower

The views are tremendous looking out toward the sea between Douglas and Laxey, especially when the grasses, sedges and wild flowers are allowed to dictate the scene, as in the photo below where the hogweed seed heads look as tall as trees against the distant horizon.

 

Majestic Hogweed

The pendulous sedge looked very proud along the forest edge, and in another view the willowherbs were the centre of attention against their backdrop of fields and hills.

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Amongst all this finery, I think my favourite species of the day was the humble Spear-leaved Thistle, looking showy with its nest of furry seeds. Following close on its heels was the equally humble Horsetail with it sporophtye standing proudly erect amongst the fronds of its plant.

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And finally to add some colour to the late warm afternoon, here is some Yellow Loosestrife, often seen in gardens.

Yellow Loosestrife

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Postcard from Port Erin, 15th August 2019

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I shall be off island for a few days visiting my lovely daughter, Sarah, and her husband, so I thought I would send you a postcard to remind you just how beautiful our skies are here in Port Erin.

This wasn’t an intentional evening walk, but then they often aren’t with me :-).  I was forced to have an impromptu visit to Shoprite as earlier in the day I had bought a scratchcard and hey presto, I won a very welcome windfall of £100! How’s that for serendipity as it is one of those months when my cash flow is not flowing so well. I walked up to Bradda Glen Restaurant to book an evening meal for myself and two friends at the end of the month. The restaurant (set in a wonderful location overlooking the bay for those who don’t know the island) is under new management, so we absolutely must give it a try. It does look a little barren inside at the moment. It could do with some colour and character, but there were quite a few people there enjoying their meals, which is what really matters.

I walked back along the coast path. The tide was well out. It had been a warm day with a light, perhaps cool breeze, perfect for me at the moment. My doctor today informed me that it is possible I may have an autoimmune illness as well as a parathyroid problem, which together are messing about with my metabolism so I get very hot at the moment, and I have ‘sticky blood’ making everything I do very tiring. The breeze though was just lovely and cooled me down and I am always happy when I am out and about, as you well know. It’s always good to walk along the beach when the tide is almost fully out. You never quite know what creatures or shells you will come across. Tonight, there were a lot of lion’s mane jellyfish on the beach.

Walking past Spaldrick, the light was quite enticing, so I captured the bay for you.

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Then I walked along the beach out to the end of the breakwater on the southern side that you can see in this photo, and back along the prom home, a total distance of about 3-4 miles. I feel so blessed to be able to live on this island and enjoy evening walks like this from my doorstep.

And now I must check my emails from my psychology and sociology students as it A Level results day, and then pack for my weekend away. See you on the other side of the weekend.

Dhoon Glen 11th August 2019

I was expecting great things and I wasn’t disappointed. BBC’s Julia Bradbury, in her recent programme on walks on the Isle of Man, had made me aware that I still had never visited Dhoon Glen. This was the perfect opportunity to make amends. I had been on my regular wildflower quest, this time at the Ayres with Simon Smart and 15 other windswept people, and I was on my way home travelling along the coast road towards Laxey when I noticed a sign for a picnic area beside the train entrance to Dhoon Glen.

This week has seen so much heavy rain on the Isle of Man I thought there was a good chance that the waterfall would have some substance to it, but of course I didn’t know whether to expect a fairly small drop or a broad waterfall, and I had no idea whether or not it was continuous for the full length of the valley or would peter out into nothing. Such is the joy of doing new unplanned walks.

This one is an extremely short walk of less than 3/4 mile from the electric train station to the sea, but you will both descend and ascend an impressive 485 feet in that short distance. It is a mostly unrelenting climb with several steep steps, but there are a couple of patches where the terrain is more even and level and there are lots of bridges to rest on and a few seats to perch on.

Entrance to Dhoon Glen

Entrance to the Glen

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An even part of the footpath but remember to duck!

It didn’t start out as impressive. The entrance looks like any one of our numerous glens. This one was very muddy and potentially slippery in places and the ground was uneven. The stream is barely visible at the outset, but after only a few steps it begins to follow alongside the path. I had only walked a stone’s throw when the path went round a bend and into a tunnel under a bridge,  which was covered in concrete on one side with greenery growing over the top of it. It looked as if the tunnel contained at least two structures passing as former bridges and the concrete seemed to be keeping one side upright. Not promising, especially as the stream shortly went through a massive drain under another bridge. I was beginning to doubt Julia’s exuberant account of Dhoon Glen, but this would be to be short-sighted (which I am, as it happens!)

After this, I encountered a very large stone structure which had clearly housed some form of industry. There was no obvious place to take a photo of this, so you will just have to visit for yourself. It had a tall chimney and a space for a very large wheel, on a much grander scale than the one in Groudle Glen (which has now been entirely removed for renovation). The Dhoon Glen mine was only worked for a short time as it was not profitable and produced very little tin or lead.

Just around the bend from here, you start to hear and see water flowing fast and freely. The valley is extremely steep sided and it drops away very quickly. It provides tantalising glimpses of the waterfall through the trees and with each step I descended I felt I would be in for something special when I reached the base of the waterfall. And what a treat it was. The waterfall was gushing over a small but steep and deep amphitheatre and at the top it had divided itself into two, rather like hair falling down the side of a face. At the top, it struck some rocks, sending off explosive droplets of water in all directions. It was mesmorising.

It continues in a series of small cascades  and the path dodges over well constructed bridges before the stream has its final fling off the rocks as it reaches the beach.

 

On the beach I was struck by the size of the slabs of rock forming the cliffs on the northern side. You could imagine them creating their own waterfall in torrential rain. There is an alternative path on the southern side of the Glen, but this would avoid the waterfall, so I took the same path up, watching a pair of grey wagtails hopping up and down the stream in front of me. As I reached the waterfall (called Big Girl) I stopped and stared to imprint the impression of the waterfall on my memory for ever.

We may moan about the weather, too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, but it is this very variation that brings such moments of joy – and Dhoon Glen today was exactly that.