Port Erin – Colby Circular: 8 miles

After 9 weeks in almost permanent solitary confinement, I decided to venture further than Shoprite today. It was a mild but very breezy day and I needed to do a house visit to Colby. This provided the perfect reason to get myself off my bum and do some exercise.

I walked across the fields to Four Roads, then up Church Road to Ballachurry Nature Reserve, where I dropped in for a short visit. As I wound my way along the neatly manicured paths I suddenly heard a screech of a mother bird and two little fluffy chicks rapidly made their retreat into the undergrowth. I think they were pheasant chicks but I’m not awfully sure. They were very cute. They hid too well for me to snap them though.

Ballachurry Nature Reserve
Ballachurry Pond
Purple Iris at Ballachurry
Purple Iris 

 I followed the roads up to the Levels where I took a left turn up the hill. This begins as a road to various small settlements and eventually peters out at a farm. I turned right just before this point and passed an old chapel currently being renovated before meeting another lane, where I turned briefly left and then took a right footpath to Colby which I haven’t taken in 6 years of living here. There is sense of openness here. It is a strange combination of feeling as if you are in the middle of Derbyshire and yet still being able to see the sea. I really enjoyed watching the swathes of grass as they blew in the wind. I did take some video to show you, but WordPress doesn’t permit it 😦

Towards South Barrule
Towards South Barrule

From the countryside one enters the pretty village of Colby. Having taken this particular path I then had to follow the main road north for a short distance to go into Colby Glen itself. This lovely glen never disappoints, no matter what time of year, no matter what the weather. I thought there might be more people there now that our restrictions on the Isle of Man have been lifted to such an extent, but I only saw a couple of young people and a small gathering (up to 10 now permitted here) having a picnic in the glen.

Colby Glen 1
First Glimpse of Colby River

 

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Then it was back down into Colby itself and my visit to the house I look after for my friend. I was somewhat surprised to see a boat on the drive, but this mystery was resolved after I spoke to the neighbour who said he was cheekily borrowing the drive. With our borders being closed, the owners could not travel to the island. Mm, they could have asked the owners first, but hey ho, it doesn’t really matter.

The afternoon warmed up nicely and the sun shone, but my goodness did the breeze blow – in my face, all the way back to Port Erin. By and large I won’t bother you with this part of my walk as I have commented on this section several times before, but I did like the sheep and the skyline of trees and the cows in the foreground as I made my way home. The river Colby is a delight to follow all the way to the sea. It is unspoilt and uninterrupted and you have the feeling that you are following in many people’s footsteps over centuries.

I will let the photos tell you anything else you may wish to know.

 

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And finally, here is the route I took. It is an easy route, on either roads or easy tracks.

My Local Wilderness – 7th May 2020

This was the longest walk I have done since lockdown, and surprisingly the most sociable. It being a warm, sunny day my intention was to walk  down to Gansey, have a stroll on the beach and continue to Port St Mary. It started out that way, but as I was walking through Port Erin I saw one of my friends who, having reached the ripe old age of ‘over 70′, (and therefore considered vulnerable) was working in her front garden, so an impromptu visit was on the cards now that we are able to say’ hello’ from a distance :-). So we had a nice natter and I carried on my walk, down the one-way system, passing the tip with no queues, down to the Bay.

First glimpse of the sea

The tide was only just going out, but it was enough for me to able to stretch my legs along the sand as far as the Shore Hotel. This is where I had planned to turn back, but an idea came into my head that the butterflies might be out in my little wilderness just the other side of Kentraugh House, so my plans changed and within minutes I was engulfed by natural wildlife, including a lot of midges and insects and a few butterflies. On the way down the lane, I spied Kentraugh’s wonderful woodland through a keyhole in a gate, full of wild garlic garlic and ultimate charm.

In the reserve there were plenty of male orange tips sipping nectar from the various low growing plants, but the brightly coloured females were constantly on the go and never stopped for one minute – seems like an allegory for all male/female relationships doesn’t it!! The birds were tweeting in the shrubbery and I was able to go off piste and visit areas I had never visited before. Later in the year the grass grows thick and fast and many parts become impenetrable. In the featured photo you can see the yellow flags in the foreground and the village in the distance, this being the boundary of the wilderness.

Green veined white

See how well the butterfly is camouflaged. It looks just like a part of the flower!  From here, it was a walk around the other side of Kentraugh House and back along the beach to Gansey. I passed these reeds to the right and I just loved the swirling shapes they made.

The Reeds

I have another friend who lives in this stunning location at Gansey, in a house overlooking the beach. She too is one of these so-called ‘vulnerable’ people, so I took a chance and rang the doorbell, or more accurately knocked the knocker to say ‘hello’. I was greeted warmly and invited into the garden for tea, at a social distance of course. How could I refuse? This is the first time since March 20th that I have shared a cup of tea with anyone, and it was very welcome. I had my hand sanitizer, so I used that as I left.

Gansey Bay 3

Port ST MAry1

I walked around Gansey Point looking out for people who might stray into my way on the narrow path, but there were few people about, just a few dogs and their owners. On the beach I did meet a man having a run with his two children who said he was then going to have a swim. Very impressive. I didn’t stop in Port St Mary as I wanted to get home to listen to the Press Briefings, Isle of Man style. This is the first day I haven’t listened to the ‘live’ version, but I managed to catch up later on and hear about the small but significant changes that are happening to our easing of our lockdown.

Leaving Port St Mary, I came across another friend pulling up the wild leeks which have run rampant in her splendid, wooded front garden. I hadn’t seen this friend for a very long time, and it was nice to catch up at a social distance. From there, it was a short walk back home.

Between the hills

Total distance: just under 6 miles; Ascent 259 ft; Descent 223 ft, including scrambling over the boulders to the beach. I do wish whoever placed the (massive) boulders as sea defences had thought that people need to be able to get to the beach from the steps without having to negotiate these whoppers.

I finish with a short slideshow of other beauties in the landscape.

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Yellow Flag!!

Port Erin Beach and Athol Glen 5th May 2020

If ever there was a short walk, this is it! My customary stroll down to the village and then on to the beach. I have been asked for some ‘beach photos’ so after my shop I wandered down to see what was in store on the beach today. First though, a snapshot of life in lockdown. It was just after 1.30pm on a debatably warm, but definitely sunny Tuesday afternoon. Normally, Port Erin would be bustling with people and cars would be parked on every available square inch of kerbside. Not today. This is what lockdown looks like when it works properly, just the standard 2 metre depth queue for the Coop,  a lone walker, and next to no cars. By the time I got there, the queue  had developed to a massive three people and meant a wait of about 10 minutes to do my  tiddly shop for eggs and milk.

Port Erin in Stage 2
Port Erin in Lockdown

After that, I continued my solitary walk to the cliff top, where a man was enjoying  a bit of relaxation on the bench at the top, where the featured photo was taken.  I took the stepped path down to the bottom lane in the centre of the village, where I joined the beach passing by a young child, no more than 2 or 3 on the final section. As I walked passed her, her mum apologised for her young child not understanding social distancing.

You can tell it has been a little windy as the sand had carved out mini layers of sand and rocks. There were surprisingly few people on the beach given that the schools are not back yet and most people are working from home. I had it largely to myself. It was bright and clear today and very pleasant. There was even one brave soul swimming in the water. No danger of contracting Covid-19 there at least!

A quiet beach

Buoyed Up

Spaldrick

Bradda Head

I walked along the edge of the sea and joined the path at St Catherine’s Well, and followed the lane back to the street corner and more importantly  to the ice-cream parlour. I hadn’t planned a treat for myself but it seems rude not to take advantage of an open shop selling such niceties, especially when you aren’t expecting it to be open. In I went and had a pleasant conversation with the owner and we discussed the plight of Davisons in Peel, who had found unwanted fame on social network by someone posting a photo of a long queue and no-one social distancing. It turns out that Davisons had been targeted and the owner had had his tyres slashed – for opening the ice cream parlour!? – and the photo had been taken from such an angle to minimise the distance between people in the queue!  It seems some people will find something wrong with anything. I will issue a word of caution as this is simply what I was told and I have no other evidence for or against this point of view.

I enjoyed my raspberry ripple ice-cream as I walked back through Athol Glen which is looking very attractive. A bit of rain wouldn’t go amiss to freshen everything up, but it was doing a pretty good job without it, and the birds were singing in the trees and telling us that life will go on and nothing really changes, so stop worrying and enjoy life.

I finish with a few photos from Athol Glen. I hope to travel up north (if we are allowed to travel, I’m not quite sure).  We are now allowed to make unnecessary journeys but I think this is meant to apply to close to home, but I really could do with some air in my lungs. I would really like to walk along the miles of beach around Kirk Michael and tomorrow it is due to be warm and sunny, with less wind than today. I am enjoying it already…..

The distance is immaterial, as you will not be walking from my house. But if you were to park in Port Erin, the whole distance would be no more than 1 mile, with  ascent and descent  up and down the cliff of 100 feet, And you can follow a gentle road up and down if you don’t like steps. Just lovely to have all this on my doorstep. Aren’t I the lucky one!

Silverdale Glen 2nd May 2020

At last! A few restrictions have been lifted and we can now enjoy limitless hours of solitary entertainment walking along our wonderful riverbanks, through our forests or along green byways. Psychologically I feel liberated, and no longer feel that eyes are watching me as if I am a criminal when I walk down the road.

After potting up more seedlings and planting more seeds, the warm sunny weather  drew me out to go further afield. One of my boys had sent me a heart-warming photograph of a forest of bluebells that he had encountered on his daily Derbyshire walk. Spurred on by his thoughtful gift,  I was prompted to drive to Silverdale Glen where I hoped the ramsons and bluebells would be flowering. And indeed they were, though perhaps not quite as abundantly as in previous years maybe due to the exceptionally dry weather we have had over the last month and they certainly weren’t as pungent as they usually are in most places.

Wild Ramsom

I parked in the top car park and walked down the footpath to where the path divides. To the right the boating lake and to the left the wilder side of the glen with the leat running  north to south to feed the mill at the lake. This was marked no access but I knew this would where the ramsons and bluebells would be standing at their most proud so I flouted the footpath closed sign for the sake of getting photographs.

The Lake

The reason for the closure became obvious as the bridge has been taken down and a low one put in its place. Whether it is to remain like this I don’t know, but it would allow pedestrians and wheelchairs access to the other side of the river. It was so quiet down there and the sunlight darted about about the trees and vegetation. It was like being in a fairies’ playground.

The Woodland

Reflections

The bank

There were a few people around the boating lake, some with their children at the play area but this place usually bustling with activity on fine days was a shadow of itself, but still very lovely. I walked to the old Mill and crossed the road and walked up the lane to go to the other man-made lake where there were ducks chasing each other in the water. I was surprised to see butterflies, given that it is so early in May. I saw male orange-tips flittering about never stopping long enough for me to snap them,  and what I think is a speckled wood, judging by its eye on the underside.

Lake 2

Ducks

There were numerous spring flowers lining the paths and riverbed, some of which I have included in the slide show, along with the butterflies and ducks!

I continued down to Ballasalla, passing Abbotswood and saying a little prayer for all those struggling with Covid-19 and the key workers there cleaning up the nursing home to make it safe again for the residents to return. On to the bridge and Rushen Abbey, then following the river north back to the Mill. I hardly saw a soul in the 75 mins I was out.

The Silverburn

So, I finish my ramble with a slideshow of the flowers I enjoyed and the  interesting trees with the unusual shapes they throw, often looking like hands or monsters creeping over the ground.

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Distance: 2.3 miles; 121 ft ascent! 🙂

Silverdale Map

Self- Isolation – is it really any different? April 19th 2020

We are nearly a month into lockdown here on the Isle of Man, but life goes on for some of us pretty much as usual. For those who live on their own, many days can go by without seeing anyone under normal circumstances. The onus is very much on the individual to be proactive and to make acquaintances and contacts. It’s a lifstyle that we never expect to come to us. When we are younger we appear to be surrounded by people, at work, at home, in our leisure activities, and just the process of getting to work or doing the shopping makes us acutely aware of the hundreds of people we come across in daily life. It’s hard to get away from people.  Once you hit retirement, semi- or full, life does change. There is no compulsion to get up in the morning or to hit a bonus target. Life becomes measured by the social activities we engage in and our pension being delivered regularly to our bank accounts. The paid work that some of us may continue with is not a necessity but a way of keeping in touch with our former work and interests, and for me it gives me contact with people of all ages, but particularly a lot of young people. It keeps me in a healthy state of mind.

So what difference has self-isolation made to me? Very little. By choice, I have rarely ventured out these last four weeks. I have a garden and the weather has been good. It have a small but perfectly-formed house where I feel very comfortable. I have had my brain taxed by my exam students who are anxious about being given / not given predicted grades and the effect this will have on their future careers. But work has largely dried up because no-one has any motivation to study, so it is looking as if it will be a quiet summer.

Port Erin Harbour

There is no need for a diary right now; my diary is now empty with the exception of a much prized Tesco slot this coming Friday, a video call with friends tomorrow afternoon, and on Saturday my friend and I  will be having a ‘virtual afternoon tea’, provided by the Bowling Green Cafe at Castletown to join in with the Great Manx Tea Party being held that day.

With so much free time there are lots of opportunities for acquiring new skills, like drawing which I have been attempting. I am amazed that everything I have attempted so far is actually recognisable so there is a degree of motivation to continue. I have also signed on for an online End of Life Diploma course (yes, I know, I could have picked something a bit more cheery, but this ties in with my hospice work), so I need to plan this into my routine day as well. I am not really one for routines, but under these circumstances some routine is necessary, such as opening up the greenhouse in the morning and watering the garden in the evening. This is how days are measured right now, and better to have some routine then spend the middle of the day spending hours doing jigsaws on my computer!

I decided it was time for a brisk walk this evening. It had been a beautiful, sunny day, if cool. I took the top road and walked down Ballafurt Road to the beach, along to the pier, along the beach and back. I hardly saw a soul, which is not unusual on a Sunday evening. I did pass our MHK Lawrence Skelly as he and his wife were taking their dog for a walk. I refrained from engaging in conversation as they are working so hard on our behalf any leisure time must be just that! It is quiet mainly because of the lack of traffic. People don’t make noise. The quietness does allow colours and shapes to stand out more than usual.

Cosy Nook

Life in self isolation does not have to be boring. I am happy with my own company and I have four wonderful children who live across who keep in touch most days, and friends who send me amusing videos. We need to laugh, and that is something that is always difficult to have enough of when you live alone. As a psychologist I was taught (all those years ago) that the physical act of smiling helps you to feel happy. The theory has largely be de-bunked these days, but try it, you might be surprised.

Church Stretton – Arrival day 13th Mar 2020

View from the HF house at Church Stretton

The whole country may be in disarray thanks to the Coronavirus, but where I am right now, no-one would ever know.

I was in two minds whether to continue with my planned holiday to the UK, but given that everything was still going ahead, i.e. boats, planes and trains, well not so much planes with the collapse of Flybe, I resolved to proceed as planned.

Well, not entirely as planned as I was booked on a Flybe flight, which then became as expensive alteration to my plans as I was obliged to use the ferry costing me £267.50 for me and the car, with a seat and WiFi being extra.

The journey was actually very pleasant – a smooth sailing sat amongst a crowd of netball and hockey players on their way to play in Lancashire. Travel down from Heysham on the M6 and A49 was uneventful and at least I wouldn’t be on a crowded train of potential virus sufferers.

I was especially thankful to be in the car when I arrived at picturesque Church Stretton, as Longmynd House is positioned up a steepish hill, which would not have been fun to walk with a suitcase and umpteen pairs of walking boots.

I had come very well prepared given that Shropshire has had such rains and floods in recent weeks, so I doubted that one pair of boots would be enough, and given that I am a messy walker, I would also need a range of other outerwear too. And having the car meant that I could throw in anything I like, which was a luxury I rarely encounter as I usually travel light.

The HF house is large, with a fantastic lounge offering panoramic views of Caer Caradoc and its range of soft topped grassy hills. I was suitably impressed with its wonderful location. I was eagerly greeted by one of the walks leaders, and the manager and team who preside over the house were very friendly and obliging so it was all very promising.

The evening was spent eating and drinking – there is always a lot of food at HF holidays, and the walks leaders introduced themselves and their walks for the following day. Not a mention of any type of virus so clearly it doesn’t exist, not here at least.

It was a good start to the holiday and the other guests were very friendly, so I knew I was in for a good week’s holiday.

Port Erin Circular Coast route – 7th Feb – 10 miles, variable

With Storm Ciara threatening to curtail activities in the next few days and a free day, I decided to catch up on my old favourite and walk from home around the coast, taking in the Sound.

I started from the beach at Port Erin. It was not a particularly nice day, overcast and rather gloomy and a little chilly, but it is always good to get outside and dust off the old cobwebs.

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Bradda Head and Milner tower from St Catherine’s Well

I walked up Ballfurt Lane to St Mary’s Lane and turned left to walk along the top road to Port St Mary. At this point I decided to call in home (!) and pick up a woolly hat, and as the day progressed I was so glad I did. The sun wanted to come out but it wasn’t trying very hard and it became very blowy, giving me a taster of what was the follow at the weekend.

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When I reached Port St Mary I followed the Underway which is always spectacular when the tide is in as it was today. The seabirds were having a field day as the wind must have whipped up fish close to the shore and they were competing for the best catch.

DSC02638At the harbour where one is no longer protected from the southeasterly wind the seas were swelling, fast and furious. I had walked about 2.5 miles at this point and had planned to call in at the Golf Course cafe for a coffee, but this was closed for refurbishment so I carried out on the path.

Dappled light at PSM
The calm side of the harbour

PSM Lightbhouse

Going round Perwick Bay I bumped into a friend who was monitoring the birds for a survey, today mostly shelducks and oystercatchers on that bit of the coast. I followed the route down the road to Glen Chass which ultimately leads to the Raad Ny Fooillan and grassy footpaths, which one has to share with sheep. There is an alternative route that takes you up higher and on to the Chasms, but I always like the low route as it gives wonderful views of the rocks around the Sugar Loaf and the opportunity for a tiny bit of scrambling.

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The steep cliffs of the Chasms

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The coastline around the Chasms, looking towards Black Head

By this time, the wind had really got going and I didn’t want to venture too close to edge once I was past the Chasms on Spanish Head. It reminded me of a time several years when I was following this route and the wind was so powerful I had to give up at this point and head to Cregneash as I could barely stand upright. It wasn’t like that today.

Chasms
The deep chasms

The day might be dull but the mountain gorse brightened up the walk significantly. It truly was this yellow and it was delightful.

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Ascending the slopes to Black Head I followed the deviating route that hugs the coast. This gives on the first look at the Calf of Man, the small island detached from the Sound. Chicken Rock lighthouse looked cold and forbidding today.  I am including a photo to give you a flavour but it’s not one of my best as it is out of focus though it does create a chilling mystical feel. Even the Drinking Dragon’s head is right down.

Chicken Rock
Chicken Rock Lighthouse on a cold, windy day

 

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Resting places at the Sound, with the Calf of Man in the background and Kitterlands in between. The cafe (and bus stop) is to the right, out of shot.

7 miles and it was lunchtime when I reached the Sound Cafe. It was reasonably busy. It is always a welcome sight on rough days, knowing that however cold or wet you might be, a warm coffee and hot food awaits (as well as toilets). For those not wanting to continue on, it is possible to catch a bus back to Port Erin, but they are not especially frequent.

For those of you who are new to my blog and I have quite a few new followers recently, thank you, I have a chronic condition which leaves me depleted of energy, and breathing and moving my legs can be a little tricky right now. The sensible part of me considered stopping here, but the outdoor and nature lover in me won the day and I carried on, it has to be said with some considerable difficulty along the cliffs to Port Erin. The weather perked up at this point, and although still windy the sun managed to creep through the clouds occasionally and I was well rewarded for my efforts.

CoastlineKamikaze sheep

Notice the Kamikaze sheep on the photo above. You feel if the first one jumps the rest would follow… like sheep! Quite why or how they had got themselves in that position I will never know. It wouldn’t be the most sheltered position.

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Looking Back
The view back. The Calf is the final cliff in the distance.

Port Erin in the mist
Port Erin emerging from the mist.

Once back at Port Erin I went to the Health Food shop and had a pot of camomile tea before walking home. I was back at 2.15pm having had fish and chips at the Sound as well! The full distance was 10 miles, but that includes lots of ins and outs that you don’t need to do, such as calling in at my house. 8-9 miles is more common for this route. You can also get the bus or train to Port St Mary, which avoids almost all the walking through villages and allows you to concentrate on the footpaths. And you can escape off the cliffs at the Chasms and go to the lovely hamlet of Cregneash where you can get a bus back, or follow a shorter walk over Meayll Hill/The Howe to Port Erin. So, there are lots of options if you want shorter walks.

Port Erin Circular

Distance: 10 miles

Ascent: 1732 ft

Descent: 1572 ft

Maximum elevation 1,028ft.

Saturday’s ‘walk’ (yesterday) was a wander over the Snaefell Hills taking measurements of the peat. I am just awaiting some photos then I will tell you about that. Meanwhile, keep safe and warm and well away from Storm Ciara.