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.

Spear Thistle

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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.

Molly Quirk Glen & Groudle Glen – 27th July. Approx 7 miles.

This walk began rather inauspiciously as I took a recognised short cut to the start of Molly Quirk Glen and promptly slid banana-skin like down the wet and slippery path ending up on my backside. Being accustomed to such actions I know not to brace myself with my hands  so I only have a few scratches on my hands and my wrists remain intact!

It was all rather excellent after that. Molly Quirk Glen (currently under repair but mostly completed) is an unspoilt and pretty glen, with good footpaths. It has a quietness that makes it special. It eventually merges into Groudle Glen. You can tell when you are nearing the join as you can hear traffic on the high road and I was lucky enough to see the Ramsey tram going over the viaduct as I passed underneath. Groudle Glen is entirely manufactured, created by Richard Maltby Broadbent in 1893, making the most of a very small natural canyon.

Images of Molly Quirk Glen

Beyond this, entering Groudle Glen ‘proper’ this has a different feel, and different geology too. There are some small waterfalls and some big slabs of slate bordering the stream. The Mill wheel is under repair and the building has been removed and is surrounded by scaffolding. The paths are really good, and although if you start from the high road and walk down to the Glen it is a little steep, it is accessible for most people, and if you parked down at the beach you would be able to take a wheelchair along part of it and pay a visit to the Groudle Glen Wizard!

The main features of Groudle Glen

A glen is a glen is a glen so the photos look pretty much the same, though it was noticeable that this glen has a lot of beech trees, many of which had massive roots and some had toppled and been allowed to stay lodged over the stream.

I reached the pebble beach just as it began to rain. The rocks and cliffs form very unusual shapes as if standing on end. I followed the coast path up to the Seal Rocks cafe, where the tiny steam train line ends. This would be about 2.5 miles from the start of Molly Quirk Glen if you don’t do any detours. There is a cafe here that sells drinks and sandwiches, but only when the train is running. This miniature railway was originally opened in 1896 to take people to view the attractions in the water zoo which included seals and polar bears, but is now just a pleasant trip for adults and children alike. The views from here are lovely and on a nice day it would be a nice spot to stop for a picnic. You can just make out the cafe in one of the photos.

It is not possible to walk along the coast past this point. Rather than walk back exactly the same way, I followed the redirected coast path and walked up to a quiet road and walked along the top of the hill, turning left at the main road. There was another entrance into Groudle Glen so I ventured inside partly to get out of the rain and wandered happily about for a while before retracing my steps on the road to Groudle Glen tram station.

At this point, I descended back into Groudle Glen near to the viaduct. I was amazed how much extra water there was on my return visit. On the outward stretch I had watched a fish trying to get over an obstacle and failing, whereas it would have had no trouble now. The rain brought out all the scents of the flowers, especially the Meadowsweet as brushed past them on the path.

I had no choice but the follow the same route back beside the stream, but there was an upper path, which afforded slightly different views and kept me reasonably dry.

The total distance was just under 7 miles, with 511ft of ascent and 508ft of descent. It is a very very easy walk and very nice for a quiet afternoon stroll. One for all ages.

Groudle Glen