Foxdale circular – 22nd June 2021

This is the most peaceful walk I have done so far on this island. It was helped by it being a balmy day, but the nature of this walk took me by surprise.

I hadn’t walked on any one of the 6 miles of track or path, other than a very brief section on the road from St Johns to the mines. Every step was an exploration of something new, seeing the hills and fields I see every day but from a new perspective.

I parked at South Barrule plantation and walked the same quarter of a mile I had done in a previous walk to Stoney Mountain, but this time when I reached the plantation I turned left which would take me around the northern perimeter of the Stoney Mountain plantation. It is bit untidy at the start, and you go through what appears to be someone’s garden, but then it becomes a clear uninterrupted path. In fact, this is described as a green route. It is a real mix of terrain, from a grassy path, to a pebbly path, to a stoney path, to what appears to be a stream in places. It is level walking and an easy path. From here you do get wonderful views of the hills above the Peel / Douglas valley.

There is a choice of route once you finish the first mile. I turned left, walking down a peaceful lane. The wild flowers, grasses, horses and donkeys seem to own this section of countryside, and although not far from any ‘main’ road, I couldn’t hear any traffic and only occasionally glimpsed any vehicles. This road terminates on the Braiid to Foxdale Road, where the new mansion has been built. I walked easterly along the road for a very short distance, before taking the footpath to the left.

This led around the westerly edge of the Kionslieau Reservoir. I have never been here before and it’s wonderful, well worth a visit, if just to admire the view. The path has been very well maintained with a boardwalk over wetter parts. Unexpectedly, I came across more orchids beside the path. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should as my granddaughter video called me, along with my son, and somehow I managed to mix up the dials on my camera and got myself in a tizz as I couldn’t get it off panoramic view and didn’t know (and still don’t know) how to use it. I really should have stopped for longer, it was so very peaceful.

This path comes out on a minor road, or I thought was a minor road, except that I had to keep stopping for cars. It was a very pretty lane with meadow buttercups festooning the tall banks on either side. When this road turned to Foxdale I continued along the top, which gave me a good view of the observatory. Judging by the number of hens on the road, this part of the road does not get as much traffic. Just past the hens is a footpath going down the hill into Lower Foxdale. Be careful if you go this route as the footpath is to the right of the wide manmade track, but the sign is in the ditch, so you could easily miss it and have to retrace your steps to the top as I did!

This is actually a very splendid path, obviously not much used as it was quite overgrown in places. It did make me think that we really do not need to leave spaces between plants in our gardens. This was heaving with plants, butterflies and all sorts of insects. I enjoyed walking down here and I was glad I had my stick so that I could beat myself a path at times. It is not long before you do hear the hum of traffic and the path finishes on the main St John’s road.

I turned left, slightly uphill until I met the minor road to the right which leads to… absolutely nowhere. It crosses the disused railway line, which again looked very attractive in its spring attire. This is a bit of a hike uphill but it’s not difficult. Another time, I might walk back along the railway line for a short distance and then take the path up Glen Dhoo. This would be more interesting than road walking and also cuts off a bit of distance. I had never heard of Glen Dhoo, but I when crossed it at the top it looked quite a nice glen. But, taking the route I went, at the T junction I turned left and followed the road to the ford at Gleneedle and turned immediately left. This is shown as a dead end, but the dead end is a good mile away. It is a steady climb up to the top of Dawlish Ard, and from there it is a really pleasant walk contouring around the lower part of South Barrule, with view to die for. It is an easy, grassy path, and you follow this all the way back finishing in South Barrule plantation, where it is a short walk back to the car.

I really enjoyed my birthday walk. It will stay long in my memory.

Orchid Walk 20th June – Close Sartfield

We are spoiled with so many prolific wildflowers on this island, but none more so than in June at the Manx Wildlife Trust’s Close Sartfield Nature Reserve. Apparently, it has been estimated that there are at least 100,000 orchids on this reserve, a figure I can well believe from what I saw yesterday – or was that just one field? Um, I’m not sure now. Either way, it’s a heck of a lot.

This reserve is in the north of the island, located in fields behind the Curraghs Wildlife Park, so you could easily combine this short walk with a visit to our local animal park. In both locations you may be lucky enough to spot the itinerant wallabies, who can now be seen lolloping around most of the countryside at some time or other. Much as they are appealing I believe they can also be a nuisance, as was explained to us by Tricia Sayle who manages the reserves. Whenever they spot a nice piece of grass they will find a way to reach it by grubbing up fences, which then make it possible for sheep to escape much to the consternation of the farmers. Apparently, the wallabies are too lazy to jump over fences! But much as with Covid -19, we have to learn to live with them.As it happens we didn’t see any today. We were pleasantly surprised to have a warm sunny day, given that the forecast had been for dull or even rainy weather. As it was, sunhats were in order.

Immediately on arriving at the reserve we were delighted to see so many orchids tossing about in the light wind, protected by grasses only just slightly taller than themselves. Tricia explained that all the fields have manx names to reflect their previous occupation or describing the nature of the fields; and how it had taken much painstaking work to remove the gorse that seems unwilling to give up its habitat. In places, we could see where a birch woodland had been allowed to develop and how very quickly it establishes itself if left very much to its own devices.

There are often six species of orchid to be seen but I think we only saw four. Tricia explained that although they often look the same, there are subtle differences in the structure of the leaf, and how many have hydridised. These hybrids tend to stand tall and erect, being proud of themselves. I guess in time, without management, the whole field would eventually be taken over by the hybrids. But that’s why Tricia and her Midweek Muckers are there regularly tending the reserve, to make sure all flowers have the maximum opportunity to fulfil their potential.

It is a short, flat walk of about a mile if you include a visit to the hide. In the summer, the gates are unlocked and the paths are open, but out of season you cannot walk around the reserve other than to go to the hide. It is a lovely way to spend a quiet few minutes in the countryside. The best time to view the orchids is probably mid-June. How grand the display is depends to a large extent on the weather during the winter and spring, and this year has certainly produced a bumper crop.

I haven’t been out ‘proper walking’ for a while as my health isn’t what I should like it to be, but we are sorting that out and hopefully once I am back from England – I am going to see my children who I haven’t seen for more than 18 months and see my new grandchild who is now 7 months old, who is coming to visit from El Salvador (with his dad of course) -, I shall be back to my old self, clambering up hills and finding hidden nooks and crannies that keep me amused for hours. But you never know, I may manage something tomorrow to celebrate my birthday – or I may indulge in box sets, wine and a healthy meal instead. Who knows, but I will be back soon 🙂

Niarbyl Short Walk – 9th June 2021

It’s hard to believe how the weather can vary within such a few miles. As you will see from these photos, it was pleasant weather at Niarbyl (if very windy), but only a two minutes drive from there and I was shrouded in thick mist all the way back to Port Erin.

This was an unplanned short walk. I had been for a massage at Peel. Having such very painful legs and feet, I judged it was time to take myself in hand, and indeed I immediately felt the benefit of my treatment. My massage was followed by a quick walk round Peel, including a look at sofas in Paradise and Gell and a coffee on Peel beach. It seemed too early to go home and I intended to stop at Niarbyl and take a look at its tremendous views.

Of course, it was too much of a draw to simply look at the views, so I took the cliff path round to White Sands Beach, almost getting blown off my feet as I walked around the headland. It was very very blowy, but even so very enjoyable. It is barely half a mile’s walk to this lovely bay, but there are some ups and downs and some steps so not entirely flat, so not a walk if you don’t like steps. I always enjoy spending time on this mostly pebbly beach, and the wind was whipping up the sea nicely, creating white horses buffing up against the rocks. I was amused to think that the large rock with the seagull perusing the shoreline looks aptly rather like a seal.

Where the path goes uphill there is a sweet waterfall. I did clamber up the rocks to see the fall higher up, but the photo was disappointing. You can tell it is often windy here as the trees lean in towards the rocks, as if they struggling to keep themselves upright. It isn’t long before you reach the top of the cliff. Make sure you keep to the coastal footpath as there is a private path to the left, now marked private. It is possible to continue walking around the coastpath, but the actual path then takes you over fields to join the track from Cronk Ny Array Laa to Dolby.

I followed it left down to the tiny hamlet that has its own glen. There is a ford here, but the footpath neatly avoids this. From here, simply follow the now tarmaced road to Dalby and back down the drag to Niarbyl itself. There is a cafe here, and there are amazing views to the south from here on a good day.

This was a very short walk, just over 2 miles, so perfect for an evening stroll or to work off the excesses of a Sunday lunch, and of course you could extend it quite easily by continuing on the coast path further to the south and meeting the path at Eary Cushlin, making a 6 mile walk.

26 Peaks Challenge, Day 2 plus – Lhargee Ruy, Colden, Slieau Maggle

I had a plan – a good ridge walk, with a couple of detours onto the nearby hills, and this is largely what I did, with a bonus of it being a very pleasant circular walk involving Colden and Slieau Maggle.

I parked behind a convoy of cars at the Sartfell plantation. It was gone 10am when I started, and those walkers had long gone. I followed the path that snakes behind Slieau Maggle and largely around Colden’s tummy , to complete the section I had not done on Sunday. This took me to Lhargee Ruy and Sunday’s furthest point, Slieau Ruy. As you walk this section you get tremendous views to the west. It was a reasonably clear day so I could see some distance. It is so good for the soul. The photo below shows Cronk Ny Array Laa, South Barrule, Slieau Whallian, Beary Beg and Beary Mountain.

Having detoured Slieau Maggle, there is a choice of paths; a nondescript path leading southeastwards for those wishing to make their way to the Colden plantation and Injebreck, or continue on the main route for a very short distance and then turn left to take you around the haunches of Colden. This is a really easy route to walk, on a well made path. There are no clearly visible paths up Colden itself (or Slieau Maggle) from this direction although if you don’t mind walking over heather and gorse there is nothing to stop you heading straight up to the top. But this was not on my agenda just yet.

I had chosen this route so that I would not have the sun in my eyes, and at the same time I would enjoy extensive views to the south and west. Colden on the left blocks the views to the big hills, and I would be able to enjoy these on the return route later on.

After about 15 mins you will find that the path starts to climb, and you begin to leave Colden behind. There is a not so helpful signpost pointing to a path leading down the hill in the direction of Little London. Continue straight on and up and you reach a couple of small cairns indicting you are almost at Lhargee Ree. So far I have failed to find anything interesting to tell you about these hills. All I could find on a google search was how to pronounce Lhargee Ruy!

Just beyond this point the path from Crosby feeds in from the left at a gate and kissing gate. This is a walk I did with Ken a couple of years ago. The next section is a delight to walk along. A largely level grassy or peaty path that only becomes a little more demanding when you start the final climb up to Slieau Ruy. I didn’t loiter here long as this was not my focus for today. So far I had walked 3 miles. I had anticipated an overall distance of 7 miles. As the other day, at this point I had seen no-one at all and had the hills enitrley to myelf.

I returned down the same track to Lhargee Ruy where I perused the scene in front of me. The hills in the background were commanding my attention, but I also liked the look of the Creg and I could see what looked like a path circling around Colden where it would meet at the saddle with the Creg. It is not marked on the map, and in reality, without a compass or the necessary enthusiasm, it isn’t easy to find on the ground. As you get lower, the path is not visible and the terrain is a mix heather, gorse and …. bog.

So true to form, I thought I might take the more obvious path to the top of Colden and reach the Creg that way, but I found something more interesting to do, so that will be on my list for another day, as it is indeed another 1000ft top to bag. The path to the top of Colden is basically a sheep track, but it is visible and easy to follow. The contours are not particularly demanding and after about 10 mins you reach the top. It’s one of those hills where you think you are there and there is a bit more and a bit more. There is a cairn at the top, and no obvious paths off from here, just more paths like sheep tracks. There is a path which I thought would lead back to Creg, but I wanted a view of Slieau Maggle so I had to walk north on unchartered territory to gain a view of it. As I had passed it earlier, there was no obvious path up there, so I wanted to see whether there were any paths on the ground. I had gone a few hundred yards before I could see enough to make my decision, and yes, it looked like I would be able to climb Slieau Maggle joinng it not far from a plantation.

My peat surveying skills of walking on uneven land have stood me in good stead, so I decided to continue by blazing my own trail down Colden and on to Slieau Maggle. As I write this, I have just ascertained what Maggle means – testicle! Okay. Bit of a strange name for a hill. It wasn’t difficult at all, I have come across much worse in unfrequented parts of other hills. At other times of year or after rain it might be a little boggy and you might not like it, but today it was fine. I did see plenty of sphagnum moss which pleased me. I was even more delighted that when I reached the start of Slieau Maggle I had navigated to the only stile in the vicinity, purely by chance, but very rewarding. It’s a bit rickety, so be careful if you go over that.

From here, I simply took the easiest route to the very flat top. I didn’t bother with a map, so I guessed that as long as I was walking uphill I would eventually reach the top. Lo and behold, I came across a stake in the ground with stones placed around it, which I think must be the top. I didn’t quite know the best way off the hill, so I headed in an easterly direction when I would eventually meet the Injebreck road. I had no idea whether they would be a fence or gate to negotiate, or just barbed wire, but I was sure it would all work out. In fact, it was a great decision, as the moorland simply ebbs onto the road and I just climbed over the bank. From here is was a short walk back to the car. I almost did Sartfell and then thought better of it. I had only wanted a short day, and it had been perfect.

It was almost exactly 7 miles, with 1257ft of (easy) ascent and about the same amount of descent. Walking time was actually 2hrs 38 mins. The time stated on the map is the start and finish times.

I would do this walk again. It’s one I am sure my daughter, who has MS, would enjoy, and it’s one where you can let the kids off the leash too.

Surprised by Joy – Glen Maye 3rd June 2021

Sometimes the shortest walks can bring the greatest joy. I was on my way home from my hospice client at Nobles and decided to go a round-about route to pop in on Glen Maye to take some photos of the waterfall in dappled sunlight. My next watercolour project is this beautiful waterfall, so I wanted to know how the sunlight falls on the water, trees and leaves.

I hadn’t expected anything in particular, but it turned out to be a very special hour in the glen. The leaves were a vibrant green, and the sun caught the edges of the leaves and created reflections in the water I haven’t seen before. As we haven’t had a lot of rain recently, I was able to scramble down the bank into areas I don’t usually visit to get unusual views. In addition, the birds were singing loudly and the wind whistling through the trees.

It was so peaceful and calming that I continued through the glen down to the sea and then took the top route back to the car park. The wildflowers were abundant, but not often dramatic. It pays to stoop down and look at individual flowers to appreciate them, and sometimes you spot things you have never seen before. At the end of this short blog, I am attaching a video showing some of the wildflowers I encountered, most of which I can now name, so if you want me to indentify anything for you, just send me a message. The photos are only small files but they seem to take a while to download.

I feel so blessed to live here and to have such variety of countryside within a few square miles; there is something for every mood, every level of health and fitness, which is how I ended up here seven and a half years ago. All being well tomorrow, I shall be back on the hills, but I adore the gift of the glens just as much, each one similar and yet different, with their own identity.

This ‘walk’ was just two miles long, including standing in the river and walking backwards and forward along the beach admiring the flowers. It would be a great place to take young children to show them the beauty of nature.

Wildflower Walk Port Soderick Glen – 15th May 2021

Another cool day with a blustery wind, very different from this time last year when we were bathed in warm sunshine for weeks. This was a short walk along the beautiful Port Soderick Glen to see what plants and flowers were coming into bloom.

I arrived early so had a brief walk down to the coast. I rarely see the cove when the tide is in so this was a (windy)treat. I was surprised to see a ‘new’ building nestling underneath the rocks, and our guide later informed us that there is more development planned for this area to include a resthome / apartments for war veterans. You can’t go further than the cove. This is not a coastal /beach walk at this point, though a short distance above you can walk to Douglas along Marine Drive. If you want to venture south, these days it entails a 1.5 mile detour inland before regaining the coastline, which is really disspiriting.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the glen. At this point we hadn’t had a lot of rain recently so the stream was fairly quiet. The trees are just coming into leaf and the spring greens are always refreshing, reminding us of new life and hope. And there are plenty of trees!

The first interesting plant we saw was a Garlic mustard, also called Jack-by-the-Hedge for obvious reasons. We were invited to taste it (along with several other leaves). It had a very pleasant taste, one that would be nice in salads. Other interesting plants were the beautiful Marsh Marigolds, standing majestically in their boggy terrain. The yellow colour was outstanding and you could see why the bees would make… a bee-line… for them. There were all the attractive spring flowers you traditionally expect to see in this type of woodland – golden saxifrage, wood sorrel, wood anemones, lady’s smock, bluebells in abundance. The native bluebells have a longer stem and the flowers seem to droop from the top. They also tend to be a slightly darker blue than the foreigners.

One plant that was pointed out to us to avoid was the hemlock water dropwort. There is plenty of this around. It is fairly tall and dark green with parsley shaped leaves, and it is poisonous. This one probably wouldn’t kill you, at least, not quickly, but there are others that do. This one would more likely make you vomit a lot and maybe hospitalise you, so please don’t eat it. Sorry, no photos but here is a picture from my book:

We learned of various plants that heal, from the common plantain to the woundwort, with the humble herb robert in between, that was regarded as a remedy for toothache, and the yarrow, seen all over the island, used to stop bleeding.

Then there were the more unusual species – the unique salmonberry, an imported shrub from the USA. This looks like an oversized raspberry. It grows in a couple of places along the glen. You really can’t miss it, with its long pendulous branches, shiny green leaves and at the right time of year its wonderful orangey-pink berries. Right now, the fuschia-pink flowers were just finishing and there were hints of the berries that would form beneath it.

The glorious pink flower of the salmonberry (Rubus Spectabilis)

To complete our walk, we followed the stream down to the sea, and there we found the omnipresent stonecrop, thrift, bittercress, stitchwort (looking beautiful at this time of year), and the less showy mousear snuggling amongst the grass. Simon pointed out some black lumps planted on some tree trunks. These are called King Alfred’s Cakes (look up the story if you don’t know it). They are actually fungi that survive for years on dead branches, mostly beech and ash. There was also plenty of sea scurvy. You will see this around the coast, looking like handfuls of dandruff on low stems. The other find was the sea beet, a relative of beetroot and swiss chard, also known as wild spinach, which is also edible. Again, you can’t miss it lining the pebble beaches. It only grows in well-drained areas and it doesn’t like shade, so the edge of the sea is a perfect location for it.

I do enjoy these nature walks. Simon Smith runs them. You can find details of his walks on Facebook (Wildflowers on the Isle of Man) or http://www.manxwildflowers.com

My next post will be rather different. On Saturday I did the first leg of the 26 peaks over 1000 ft on the Isle of Man. Look out for this in a couple of days.

MWT Wildflower Walk – Bradda Head

What else could you wish to do on a cool but sunny evening, other than walk along the cliffs, explore nature’s haven and watch the sun set?

A small group of nature lovers met at the Bradda Glen car park, wondering if we were at the right place, when our leader Andree Dubbledam appeared out of the blue, having confessed to falling asleep and almost missing the walk! Such is the laid-back attitude on the Isle of Man that nobody blinked an eye, half-suspecting that this could happen :-). We don’t have the famous manx idiom ‘Trai dy liooar’ for no good reason.

This was a very short walk, only about 1.5 miles in total, and started just steps away from the car park as Andree described how bluebells and ramsoms (wild garlic) colonise different types of terrain just yards away from each other, often on different sides of a path, and how the nutrients leech through the soil making this possible by changing the acidity of the soil. And how the pesky three cornered leek, being a very hardy comeover, and later stopover, is gradually denuding sites of their natural wildlife. It’s hard to be angry with it when it looks so beautiful, but then the bees really do like the bluebells. I didn’t know that the nectar sacs in each tiny flower bud on the bluebell refill every night so there is a constant supply for the birds.

The three-cornered leek

We also began to fall in love a little more with the sycamore trees. At this time of year the leaves were just coming into their lushious greenness, and if were to inspect the leaves you may well see aphids nestling in there, which will become food for the bluetits. Apparently they hibernate in the crevices of the sycamore and provide nourishment for birds during the winter months too.

Then there is the brilliant European Gorse in all its fine yellow, parading over the hills. You can’t miss it. It grows tall and bold, showing the world who’s boss. Occasionally, in between its wide shoulders you can spot samples of the less showy Manx Gorse, which is more compact and smaller. The Manx Gorse flowers later in the year from August to October, so you can expect to see one or other type of gorse flowering at most times during the year.

As we reached the mines area the turf is very very short and it’s hard to imagine that anything much grows here. How often have you stopped to look at what lies beneath your feet, or do you simply tread carefully on your way up to Milner Tower? Andree explained that the earth disturbed by the mine workings brings different elements to the surface that allows flora to grow that otherwise would not. One example of this is the dainty spring sandwort. Unless you are knee thigh to a grasshopper you will find yourself crouching down and searching amongst mosses and plantains to even notice this tiny flower, about half the size of your little fingernail, at best. You may be more familiar with the thyme and plantain, but even they were hard to spot. Hard to believe that some of these will become very noticeable plants as the summer comes along.

The self-conscious tiny spring sandwort

Beside one of the mine shafts we spent a few minutes (or rather Andree did) rummaging about in a very shallow muddy ditch looking for and failing to find any interesting specimens. He did point out a small hawthorn tree amongst the gorse and informed us that given a few centuries this area, if undisturbed, would revert to a natural small woodland.

At this point, shaded by the lofty Milner Tower, and wrapped around by an ever-present breeze, that was occasionally blusterous enough to lift us off our feet, the air turned very cool so rather than continue on along the cliff edge with the prospect of losing a group member off the side of the cliff, we turned inland to examine large tufts of grass. The main path is pretty much devoid of anything other than grass but to either side of it are these small hardened mounds with grass growing over them. One of two had very small areas of shaved earth and loose soil towards the top, which are an indicator of the living residents within. I’m sure you have heard of termite mounds; these are the manx equivalent and are the yellow meadow ants’ home. We didn’t see any because like any sensible creature if it gets cold you go inside, but we were assured that they would be there snuggling up, keeping warm and protecting their young.

The anthills are just a bit further down from here on either side of the path, though these could be some small anthills developing.

From here it was a short walk back to Bradda Glen, and for me a further walk back home along the cliff edge where I spied a number of other spring flowers that adorn the cliffs at this time of year, such as squill, sea campion, red campion, thift, primroses and the occasional brilliant white bluebell.

Glen Mooar to Jurby, Beach Walk 10.5 miles

I have so missed seeing this long expanse of beach during our several lockdowns. Being a respectful citizen I did not venture out very far during this time, but now with our new-found freedom I could once again visit this mega landscape.

I had intended to park at Glen Wyllin, but my mind was miles away and I turned off the main road early into Glen Mooar, so stopped there instead. It was a cool day but just right for walking. The tide was on its way out (absolutely vital for this walk) but was still not far enough out to avoid walking on the pebbles. The cliffs are quite steep, and at one time there was a cliff walk from here to Glen Wyllin, but you would be taking your life in your hands if you were to do this today, due to the various landslides. Nearing Glen Wyllin there is a significant evidence of this, as a fence lies stranded in the air atop the cliff and you can see where the path once went.

Indeed, when you get to Glen Wyllin, you can see the Canute attempts to hold back the tide by the many defence boulders positioned at its entrance, and on the other side of the stream there are further attempts to sure up the foundations of the nearby property. New houses built not that long ago that will be counting the days to when they fall into the sea. It won’t be for a while, but I think it will eventually happen!

At Glen Wyllin, which is one of the closest points to Kirk Michael, the cliffs become sandier and larger until you reach Orrisdale Head. the cliffs make interesting shapes and patterns and are fascinating to me. I think it is in this section that an ancient elk was discovered as the cliffs receded, allowing the animal body parts to tumble onto the ground below. This has been recreated and is in the Manx museum in Douglas. If the tide is in, it is still necessary to walk on pebbles, which is surprisingly tiring and amazingly not flat (!), and even as the tide goes out there are more substantial boulders to negotiate before you reach the fine sand, which really is fine to look at and walk on. My feet were tired of pebbles by the time I reached my lunch spot.

There are a couple of other entry points to the beach, so if you want a short walk along the beach back to Kirk Michael, there are many options, and if you prefer a mix of terrain you can walk one way along the beach and back along the old railway line, which is a very pleasant walk.

You have to be determined if you decide to carry on, as the pebbles continue and there appears to be no end in sight. As you round Orrisdale Head, you get fine views to the northwest of Jurby in the distance, with its church on the promontory guiding you in. This is as far as any sane person would want to walk if you are doing a return route. It was 5.5 miles to this point. There is a road access at this point, so, if you can find one, you can always get a bus back to Kirk Michael. It is, I’m afraid, mostly road walking otherwise for some distance.

I had timed my walk so that I reached just south of Jurby at Ballateare when the tide would be at its lowest, which would mean I would be able to walk back further out on the soft sand. Every now and again as I went past the cliffs I would hear the sounds or see the sight of pebbles and sand falling off the cliffs. It is wise to keep your eyes and ears open and not to walk entirely at the foot of the cliffs. Even a poor sheep had fallen off the cliff to its end, so we all need to be careful.

If you are walking way out along the sand, also beware of the incoming tide as it has a tendency to surge rapidly along channels and form pools which could mean you get cut off and have to wade through them to get closer to the shore.

If you need a breath of air, a sense of peace and to connect with nature, you can’t do much better than this. I saw quite a few birds: plovers, shags, oystercatchers, gulls, wagtails and some slimy animals embedded in the sand. Not sure what these are – I shall have to ask my expert friends. And the boulders and pebbles are all shapes, sizes, colours and type of rock. But above all, it is the sense of space, the sea and the sky that makes you feel glad to be alive on this walk.

Stoney Mountain Wardens Walk – 5 miles

I have lived here since 2013 and been visiting since the 1990s and yet I had never walked around Stoney Mountain, an outcrop of granite situated near Foxdale. Having said that, I met a lady yesterday who lives in Port St Mary, who said that despite living there for 31 years she had never been down Athol Glen in Port Erin. We do seem to become parochial living on this island.

I downloaded the Warden’s walk for this area which is actually about 4 miles total, but you will know by now that I tend to extend walks following tiny tracks to see where they go and this one was no exception. I parked the car at South Barrule plantation, walked down to the main road where I turned left. Even this showed me something I hadn’t noticed before – a pretty stream running down the side of the road by the side of the forest, looking very green. There was a variety of trees competing for sunlight and bidding to be the first to open their buds for the spring.

Path starts on the main Foxdale road

A short way down the road to Foxdale there is a well-marked path to the right taking you into Stoney Plantation. It looks and feels so different when walking, compared with viewing the forest from the road as you rush past at speed in a car. The plantation begins on a well defined wide track heading uphill and in a south easterly direction. In fact, this is the path you continue on until you reach the far southern end of the plantation, unless, like me you take one of the many bike tracks and go off exploring. My track took me off to the left. I had absolutely no idea where it would lead, but as long as I could glimpse the sun every now and again to know where south was, this did not concern me. It was an easy track to follow, if narrow, and led in between the sharp-pronged lower branches of the spruces and pines. The ground underneath was soft and springy. It was like wearing a comfortable pair of slippers once off the main track.

Every now and again you come across boulders of granite, some very large, and round mounds springing out of the earth taking you by surprise. These were obviously great fun for the bikers. It also shows how the different rocks create our landscape. I continued my wanderings downhill jumping over tree roots and dodging branches until I reached a clear entrance on the easterly side of the forest and then I took a very grassy path westwards and uphill again.

This path seemed to me to be unusual and not in keeping with the terrain. After a short distance I came across an abandoned farm, called a Tholtan over here. So this was why there was a good path up the hill. It turns out this was Cloghwilly Farm, quite a structure with many buildings of different sizes. The rust colours of the lichen on the walls were just lovely. I wondered who had lived here. It turns out it has quite ancient origins. You can read a little about this farm and tholtans on the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/irishwasa/23054670513

From here it was no distance back to the main path which I followed all the way to the southern perimeter of the forest. There were wonderful views of the big hills, and the gorse was a brilliant yellow, standing out against the various greens and browns in the landscape. In places, the trees have been felled and small shrubs are taking over until the area is replanted. I didn’t see the small lakes in the centre. The main path does not direct you there but it would be easy to make a diversion there for a quick coffee break.

Talking of perimeters, the walk then veers westwards all the way along the southern perimeter. You may think this sounds boring but it was very pleasant indeed. This far south the terrain changes into the grassy soil paths that we are so familiar with in the south, so it is very easy walking and pleasing because of the extensive views it provides of the south of the island. There are no means of detours from this path, except at one point where there is a field gate where you could enter back into the forest, but for the most part it continues all the way through moorland and scrub land, over a small muddy ford of a stream to join the main Foxdale road at its junction with the Ronague road.

From here, it is a gentle walk through the South Barrule plantation back to the car, and if you like, the coffee shop which is open all year. There is a Go Ape located here and I saw several people on Segways. Most of all there are the many bike trails taking you through a variety of beauty spots, so worth a visit if you haven’t been before, or even if you have. You can find details of this and other warden’s walks here:

https://www.gov.im/categories/leisure-and-entertainment/walking/forestry-wardens-walks/

If I were to do this walk again I would do it the other way round as the views would be more attractive, but either way, it’s a lovely walk 🙂 And to finish, some pictures of trees coming into life:

Colby, Cronk-e-dhooney, Colby Glen – 3 miles max

I did this walk on the first day out of lockdown 3 on April 19th. I had just been to my Tabata class in Colby (with FB Saraszestforlife, great class!) and wanted to stretch my legs a little more while I was nicely warmed up.

I walked along the main road in Colby to where there is a lane leading off to the right beside a stream. There used to be a small Methodist chapel on the corner but this has now been converted into a house. This is a very quiet lane with few cars, so safe to walk along with care. The tree-lined stream is delightful and is being maintained beautifully, presumably by the local residents. There is a path going alongside the stream but I think this is a private path.

it is a continuous walk uphill for about a mile, and at this point you come to a crossroads. Left to Ballakilpheric and right to Cronk-e-dhooney. In reality it is all one tiny hamlet, with another Methodist church in the corner. They are keen on churches round here! I turned right and right again and followed the more southerly of the two tracks which leads into the top end of Colby Glen. This was a soft grassy track following field boundaries, with views to north and south. The farmers were hard at work preparing the fields for their summer crops.

Colby Glen is only short, not even half a mile long, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in beauty. As you reach the upper part you can hear the gush of a small waterfall as the stream leaves the gently sloping plateau and tumbles into the glen.. but you can’t see it, until you descend into the green amphitheatre of trees and grass. The stream meanders around the edge of this area, with vines hanging down the vertical cliffs. It is a shallow stream with a big ego. There are benches here for you to enjoy your packed lunch and you can take the narrow path to see the mini waterfall leapfrogging over the rocks.

If you look up you can see the Colby Glen road at the top and there is an entrance to the glen just there. It has steps leading down and there is a bridge to take you over to the other side. In the summer time, when it is very green and lush, summer concerts are held here by local singing groups, but beware the midges if you choose to participate.

There is an undulating path taking you down stream along the sides of the hill, which close in a little, rather like a smaller version of Glen Maye, and you can hop and skip along this track until finally you have to cross over to the other side and take the road back down to the starting point. It is a shame that houses border the stream for the rest of its distance into Colby, meaning there is no alternative route to the road path. There are some very pretty houses and it feels like you are in an old traditional village, although like everywhere else, it has grown enormously in recent years.

This walk won’t take you more than an hour, and it’s one that children would enjoy as much as adults, though they need to be able to walk for themselves, as it’s not a route for pushchairs. I never tire of Colby Glen. It has an air of mystery and imagination.