Glen Helen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year’s Day – and What a Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramsey Glens and Albert Tower

This is a delightful short walk providing extensive views to the north of the island. On a good day you will see Scotland, the Lake District and Wales, and all just a stone’s throw from Ramsey.

The walk began at the Gooseneck car park on the Mountain Road. There is a grassy footpath leading upwards beside the main road but away from it, so it is safe to walk the short distance to the bend in the road, when we turned left onto the Hibernian road. At this junction a new bench has been placed to commemorate a couple who both died of covid within weeks of each other – a very sad memorial. The bench is beautifully made and the views towards Ramsey are unsurpassable. This is a viewing point for the TT, being between the 25th and 26th milestone and is 550ft above sea level.

We passed by the top end of the Ballure plantation before turning into it to follow a delightful track, made even better by the dappled sunlight sparkling on the trees. There has been a lot of rain lately and we had a small flurry of light rain for a short time, just to give some variety. As you walk through the plantation you can hear the stream rumbling away in the distance. One and a half miles into the walk and we find ourselves at the Ballure Reservoir. This was originally created by Ramsey Waterworks in 1884, collecting water from Druidale to Ballure for the merry folks of Ramsey. There were in fact two reservoirs slightly lower than the existing one. The current Water Treatment works was constructed in the 1950’s and the new dam created over a valley of glacial deposits on top of the bedrock. The embankment is 17 metres high. The reservoir itself is is 11.5m at its deepest point, contains 18 million gallons of water, providing 3.5 acres of fishing, mostly rainbow trout and the occasional incomer of brown trout. In summer you are allowed to catch 4 fish in summer, and 2 in winter, all by licence of course.

The actual Ballure (Place of the Yew) plantation is relatively new and was constructed in the 1960s and covers 30 hectares. There were people on our walk today who could remember there being few trees, just a few old gnarled ones. In the mid 1990’s it was completely restocked with broadleaf trees, which we are all benefiting from today. It is a delightful walk through the lower part of the glen. Taking the upper path close to the road you can imagine that this would have been the original Moutain Road before the super-route was developed sometime after 1866. Prior to this the mountain road barely existed, just feeding small, isolated farmsteads. Then the government got involved to decide whether this was private land or ‘crown’ land. Various parts were sold off and £25,000 (a fortune in those days) was raised to develop the road across the mountain.

We reach the Hairpin bend and cross over the road. There was a lot of water in the small waterfall at the corner, something I have never noticed before, and our leader said that often there is very little water there, but of course it has done nothing but rain for several weeks on and off. We continued through the Claughbane plantation, which was originally a commercial plantation but has more variety now and a range of activities go on here, courtesy of The Manx Wildlife Trust. They are currently developing some natural playgrounds for children there. At the bottom end the beech trees looked wonderful in their autumn glory, but they do deplete the vegetation on their leafstrewn banks.

It is just a hop and a skip then into Elfin Glen, so named to incite the imagination of tourists. It’s original name was Ballacowle Glen. While I remember, for those who participated in this walk and wanted to know the translation of ‘Cooil”, it means ‘winding nook’. Elfin Glen does not contain a wide variety of trees, being mostly, oak ash and hazel. There is also evidence of pedunculate oaks. This Glen was purchased in 1963 by the Forestry Board for £3625. It is a steep sided glen and you can wander freely through it and it does have quite an eerie feel to it. It is very quiet and unspoilt with a very small stream running through it deep below the path. At its furthest point, you cross over a bridge where there is a small waterfall. Crossing over to the other side, we come out of the glen to reach our final viewpoint of the day – the Albert Tower, visible for some distance as your traverse the Mountain Road or descend North Barrule.

This is located at the top of Lhergy Frissel – don’t we have wonderful names? Lhergy means a hill slope or a high wasteland, both of which apply here. This folly was created to commemorate a visit of Prince Albert, who surprised everyone by rowing from his boat into Ballure rather than Ramsey and taking a walk up to this place on 20th September 1847. Who knows what inspired him, but if this story interests you, you can read more about it here:

http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/wma/v1p102.htm

The tower is built of granite and marble blue slate. It is an impressive construction, 45 ft high (14 m) on top of a hillside (Albert Mount) 430ft above sea level. It cost £300 to build. It became a registered building in 2003. You cannot go inside as I believe the staircase is in a state of disrepair. It was used in WW2 as a look-out by the Home Guard. The old photo above is courtesy of the i-museum.

From here, it is a short trip across fields back to the car park. If you just want to visit this, it takes no more than 5 -10 mins to walk to it. The total walk is just over 4 miles with a maximum of 800 ft of ascent; there are few steep areas, just a lot of ups and downs adding to the total ascent. Thank you for Dulcie for leading it for the IOM U3A. It was most delightful and so nice to visit hidden spots and see the sights at a different time of year too.

Colden and The Creg

This upland walk starts at the newly-created Sartfell Carpark on the Kirk Michael to Snaefell road. I had arrived early and suprised no-one except the linnets and crows, who were singing (or squawking in the case of the crows), and flocking in abundance.

The route follows a well-made track around the side of Slieau Maggle, providing extensive views to the west towards Peel and the inner valley of Little London. You can just about see Glen Helen, hiding itself away to keep its glories all to itself.

Once around Slieau Maggle, there is a choice of footpaths through the gates. The one to the left takes you across the boggy moors towards Colden. The more recognised path, which is the one we took, continues as a stoney track for a short distance before turning onto a peaty path gently ascending along the western flank of Colden. Distances are deceptive here and it some two miles from the startof the walk to where we turn off to ascend Colden.

Before then, you will have views south ofthe lovely ridge walk towards Greeba Mountain, but that will be for another day. If you like relatively flat walks, where we start our ascent, you can easily continue on the ridge up to one or more of the cairns on Lhargee Ruy, have a picnic lunch and return via the same route.

Our path is not marked on the mark, but it is visible on the ground. It is a soft, heathery ascent basically on sheep paths. If you see what look like waymarkers, these are not actually on the path so best to avoid them. Keep following the sketchy paths uphill and onto the large hump of Colden and you will eventually reach the cairn marking the top. From here, you can see in all directions on a good day. Even better is the next section of the walk south, with lovely views of Carraghan, Beinnee Phott and Snaefell, and beyond if you are lucky. To the south, I could see Douglas, seemingly a stone’s throw away but in reality several miles, and even further south Langness, Snowdonia and Anglesey. It was a very clear and bright day.

This good path appears to go down to the car park at Injebreck, which was not on my plan for the day. I wanted to visit the Creg, a lower hill just above the Injebreck plantation, so I had to veer off the path across the heather. I knew there was an indistinct farmer’s track contouring around the southern edge of Colden, so I tried to find that.. and did so, but I needn’t have gone quite so far out of my way. Another time, I would head there more directly. It is necessary to leave the farmer’s track and continue across the wild countryside and this flat plateau seems to go on and on, but eventually you will reach a tiny cairn, on which someone had placed a flag (which may or may not be there another time). It is worth visiting.

Making my way back to the farmer’s track, it is then easy to follow it back to the junction with Lhargee Ruy. I stopped for lunch here and admired the manicured plantation in front of me. There are no real alternatives but to walk back along the track you first went along, but it is very pleasant, and the views are different looking north. If you wanted a longer day, you could go to the top of Lhargee Ruy and then follow a track down to Little London. From there, it would be quiet road walking back to the car.

Incidentally, if you choose to walk this route around Colden in reverse, it is difficult to find the start of the farmer’s track. You can see it in the distance but it is not obvious on the ground. The photo with my walking stick shows where the two paths divide.

I really enjoyed this walk. The only people I saw were two dog walkers, at the start and end of the walk. For a hill walk, this is effortless and there is a great sense of space and peace here. The distance is about 6.5 miles, with a total ascent of 827ft.

West Baldwin and Abbeylands

I do like to try out new walks so I was delighted to see walking.im offering this walk today. I really don’t know the north of the island very well in comparison with the south. I showed my ignorance as to where the north starts as I was informed that St Lukes Church where we started this walk is actually in the middle of the island, and not ‘north’ at all. The position of the church affords amazing views in all directions. It is worth spending time there.

I had never even been along this section of road which leads from Injebreck to Abbeylands. The church stands proudly at the top. The only way to continue north is on foot or cycle along the Millenium Way which take you to the fine mountains of Beinn-Y-Pfott, with Carraghan in front of it and Snaefell in the distance.

Today, we were heading south towards the very outskirts of Douglas. This is a straightforward walk with nothing difficult; a few minor uphill and downhill stretches, no rocks to clamber over, just soft turf and some road walking. It is a very pleasant route that takes a couple of hours or so. We began with a fair bit of road walking, or ‘lane’ walking. These are very quiet, leafy lanes, mostly going nowhere in particular and sometimes it is nice to have the space to walk alongside a friend and chat about your experiences, rather than walking single file along a narrow track.

After about 3/4 mile we stopped outside a very attractive white house whose post was being delivered by a courier, before appearing to walk right through their garden on a recognised footpath that you would not know is there. This is short uphill section behind the house, leading onto very soft, green fields with superb views to the north. We carried on over more fields until we hit another lane, where we turned to the right. I have walked this section before after an archaeological trip. There is not a lot to see along this lane as it is heavily wooded, crossing over quaint streams that eventually become the River Douglas. It is therefore an attractive amble along the lane for about a mile.

At this point, you reach the road junction and turn left towards Abbeylands. Crossing yet another bridge, with the evocative name of Sir George’s Bridge (a statesman who contributed £100 towards the building of this bridge in 1836 – thank you very much, Sir George!), there is a delightful wooded walk along the valley bottom, with a stream gently meandering to the right. After this lovely gently ascending path, we were then followed another nice lane, until we were able to step over the stile on the left and walk across the most beautiful meadow, full of yellow flowers that were really eye-catching against the dark green trees in the valley (see photos above). This sloped gently at first and then a little more steeply into a short section of woodland, and guess what, another bridge, before finishing on the road at East Baldwin where we had passed earlier. We would continue on this road further than we had previously before our final ascent back to West Baldwin. I amused myself by looking upwards at the skeletons of trees with their interesting shapes, the products of which are found below:

At this point, some people made their way to the pub and a few of us continued up to look at the ancient monument, the site of Tynwald Hill (recreated by the Victorians), but clearly a meeting place for all the surrounding parishes. The hill is called Cronk y Keeill Abban, indicating a long heritage and no doubt giving us the name Abbeylands. The views of the heather strewn Slieau Ree were stunning.

Being in the middle of nowhere, any way would take me home eventually, so I ventured home via the hills. The heather was just beautiful and the sun had come out so I was really blessed on my journey home.

Distance 5.5 miles, with 856ft of ascent (lots of small ups and down, nothing much).

Sweet surprises come unexpectedly

Just a short post today. Yesterday was table tennis day. My road was being resurfaced so I took the bus into Douglas. On the way I walked through Athol Glen, and how lovely it looked in the early morning light. I waited patiently for a bus that never came (this happens quite a lot right now), but we have plenty so I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long. It was busy and the driver seemed to have to stop at every single bus stop and I was actually late for my 9am start having left home at 7.40am.

Table tennis was its usual mix of good and bad shots but also excellent company and a lot of fun. After this I walked into Douglas along the Nunnery path. This woodland is always beautiful and we are so lucky to have this tucked away just behind the industrial areas. The river Douglas looked tantalisingly beautiful, although not obvious here, the river level is very low and at times as it reached the harbour it barely continued on its way. Along the Nunnery path is an area of grassland and there were large clumps of Willowherb looking as if they owned the field. They were lovely.

After a quick fling round Tesco, I waited for the steam train home. For the first time ever, I was in First Class, with three single seats on each side, each with soft cushioning, but also with very straight backs. One lady and her daughter from Ireland joined my carriage, followed by an elderly gent who relished in telling me stories about ‘before I was born’. I did try to tell him how old I am but he kept repeating this adage, so I assume he must be well into his 90’s. He was so interesting, as was the Irish lady and she renewed my interest in visiting Ireland, though I think I will need a month to do it justice. The old gent, let’s call him Joe (not his real name) and I were lamenting the ‘old’ days and discussing government policies just as you expect old people to do. “In my day…” springs to mind, though as far as the Isle of Man is concerned I can only talk about the last 25 years, as I had never even visited it before then.

You never know quite who you are going to meet, or when, or what joy brief conversations will bring and create lasting memories. Two days’ running in my case.

Peel coast, railway line and river circular

I had a lovely walk yesterday with walking.im. Thank you to Ken and Catriona and all the regulars who made me feel very welcome. We met at Fenella Beach in Peel. People were swimming in the bay and I overheard a lady getting very excited about all the scallop shells on the beach, and off she and her son went hunting for the best specimens to take home.

We walked along the bay northwards. This is a wonderful stretch of coastline and easy walking. It provides a great panoramic view of Peel and you can see the coastline as far as Jurby. You will pass stacks of red sandstone, only found in this area, and the sea birds, especially the shags and cormorants make your acquaintance, perching and drying their wings only a few arm’s lengths away. Shags are slightly smaller than cormorants and slender and can be seen on the right on the photo below. One distinguishing mark of a cormorant is a white patch on the thigh which can be seen particularly when flying. A distinguishing mark of a shag, if you can get close enough, is its emerald eye which is sourrounded by feathers. This is different from the eye patch of a cormorant. This is only a marginally undulating path, and it does not have steep drops to put anyone off. This is a popular stretch of coastline for runners, hikers and dog-walkers alike.

Eventually, the path meets the main Peel to Kirk Michael road, and there is no way of avoiding this. A short walk along the road and you come to some houses on the left, and we turned into these. It is not marked as a footpath, so it is less well known. Follow it initially across a field and then very shortly you reach the dunes where there is a fairly steep path down to Whitesands beach. I had never been here before. It is very reclusive as there is no other access path, so you could spend many a happy hour with your family sharing a picnic, playing in the sand or swimming in the sea. Perhaps not best to do right now though, as there were several dead gulls and razorbills washed up on the beach amongst the sea weed, due to avian flu. If you come across dead seabirds, please do not touch them.

Retracing our steps, we walked a short way along the road before crossing over to follow the railway track almost back to St Johns. This is an unspoilt track, so very different from the Heritage Trail from St John’s to Peel that runs alongside the river, which is more like a glorified road and heavy to walk on. I understand that it does mean that cyclists, wheelchair users, or people with prams can enjoy the walk without the ground being uneven, but it does lose some of its magic in the transition.

The quintessential countryside landscape that surrounds Peel is just as nice as the coastal scenes and shows what variety we have on our lovely island. This is what you can expect to see as you walk along the railway line.

This walk was 8.25 miles with a total ascent of 433′, which is all along the coastpath and going down and back to Whitesands. The remainder of the walk is flat. Allow 3.5hrs for this walk so that you have time to sit on the beach and admire the views as you go along.

Dalby Mountain & Nature Reserve

At last I am back out walking. Both feet and ankles are behaving reasonably well, so I am looking forward to getting out and about in our fantastic countryside on a regular basis.

Today, I was really just wanting to check an alternative route across the moors for a route I am leading soon; and, I also wanted to do a recce for a large painting I am planning for the autumn. I started off at the big bend in the road between the Sloc and South Barrule at the foot of Cronk Ny Array Laa, and followed the farm track as far as Kerroodhoo plantation. That wasn’t actually the plan, but I missed my designated footpath as I was examining all the different styles and steps leading off Cronk Ny Array Laa on the opposite side of the track. Note to self, pay attention if you have a plan in mind!! Not to worry, I would just do it in reverse.

I carried on the farm track as far as the coast road to Dalby/Peel, turned left and took the first track immediately to the right. When I walked this a few weeks ago the orchids were still out but they had gone now. In their place there is knapweed and heart’s ease and smaller flowers such as eyebright. I took this path in order to find a good vantage point for my painting, as it is a little higher up than the path leading into Glen Rushen and would give a better aerial view. I stopped for 15 minutes and did a quick preliminary sketch, then decided to walk down to the other footpath. Only when I got there, there was a massive hedge that was impenetrable so having checked for alternatives I decided I had no choice but to go back to the top of the hill.

As usual, this is where my original plan and my impetuous nature were at odds with each other, so rather than return to my original route, I turned right onto the track only permitted for horses and motorbikes (though I am sure walkers are fine too), the one with numerous gates with fastenings that are easy to manipulate. This skirts just below the top of Dalby Mountain and provides excellent views to the north, west and south. Peel seemed just a stone’s throw away but in reality must be 4-5 miles. Scotland was clearly visible too. I eventually joined the path that goes from the road to Glen Maye and turned left onto this to retrace my steps back to Dalby Nature Reserve. I really enjoyed this part of the walk and I discovered another track that I would take another time, and another route for the U3A (down to Dalby/Niarbyl).

Reaching the nature reserve, I didn’t know whether the path across the moor would be well defined or a mass of heather and gorse, so I decided to walk on a compass bearing back to the track at Cronk Ny Array Laa. As it turned out, this was totally unnecessary, but it’s good to remind yourself of your skills every now and again. The moorland was full of Bog Asphodel in its yellow clothes, some beginning to look rather tatty as they turn brown towards the end of their life. The bell heather is coming out, and in places there was bog cotten too. If you take this path and are using a map, you will notice that the woodland on the left (looking south) adjacent to the reserve has been felled. However, at the corner, there is a large ladder stile over a wall, so if you have binoculars you can look out for this. This is more visible from the opposite direction as you are going slightly uphill this way round. On the other side of the wall, the path is less well marked but still easy to follow. There is more grass and less heather. There are waymarks although some have fallen down. There is a small area of bog, even in this very dry weather, and the sphagnum moss was having a field day just there. It is passable. I was only wearing strong walking trainers, not boots, and my shoes didn’t get too wet. However, I can imagine this could be very different in winter or if we have a lot of rain. My phone battery had run down by this point so there are no photos of this section of the walk. But the cover photo shows you the moorland very clearly.

After about half an hour I was back on the track, with the short climb back up to the car. This was a most enjoyable and unexpected walk, of about 5 miles (without my painting detour). The total ascent and descent was virtually identical at about 741 ft, but there is nothing strenuous about this at all. It is easy walking, and the views are tremendous. Of course, it is uneven underfoot, but nothing that most people could not manage. A good morning’s walk.

Trip up north to Point of Ayre

This trip was planned to allow me to test out my feet, both for driving and for walking. As it turns out I did more of the former than the latter, and I guess my left foot in particular will not be too keen on long walks right now. Driving was better, my main injury being my left ankle so not too much required on this foot except for gear changes. Even so, the 2 hrs in the car, and the 1.5 mile walk was quite enough for one day. As I have to drive in England before too long, I was testing the water.

It was a dull and cloudy day, promising to rain. Believe it or not, I have never walked around the Point of Ayre towards Cranstal & The Dog Mills down to Ramsey, only walking along the most ‘northerly’ part of the island previously towards the Visitor Centre. It isn’t really due north, as the island lies on an angle, but technically this is the most northerly point on the island. I took this photo off my tv having recorded a programme about Earth from Space, and it conveniently gave this interesting view showing the true location of the Isle of Man.

Starting at the large lighthouse, I walked around the headland, much to the consternation of the terns and oystercatchers who were nesting there. They kept track of me until I was out of their danger zone. Key areas on the beach are fenced of to prevent the public from inadvertently or advertently intruding onto nest sites. There were several stonechats too keeping watch from their vantage points on the gorse and shrubs inland, alerting their pals to my presence. The beach is mainly pebbles of assorted sizes and the solid land too is a mix of pebbles and sand dunes with a bit of soil and grass on the top in places. It is very unstable and is constantly being unearthed by the winds, rains and seas. The vegetation grows low around the periphery of the beach but when you move even a few metres inland, it has a chance to grow taller and dominate more. The flowers that grow abundantly around the seashore all around the island are miniscule here, holding on for dear life, but hold on they do, and in the 40 minutes I was out and about, I took 30 photographs of different species, a few of which I have put in the slideshow at the end for you.

Photo courtesy of lighthouseaccommodation.co.uk showing the foghorn and Winkie

The main lighthouse in the top photo was completed in 1818 , with 124 steps and a 105ft tower. Winkie, in the middle was completed in 1890 and designed to avoid high water tides being 33ft above sea level. I suspect the difference in height has grown now with the shingle build up in this area. I didn’t walk on the pebbles but tried to walk on the grassy tops, which have eroded away in many places. Indeed, even though not a deep drop from the ‘cliff’ to the beach, it would not pay to walk too close to the edge as there are many overhanging edges. Unfortunately, this scatty terrain meant I had to curtail my walk as the path that had been gradually climbing came to an abrupt and unexpected end at a ‘precipice’ with no means of continuing unless I retraced my steps and walked along the beach towards Ramsey which would have been a good few miles circular walk. I didn’t take a photo of this, but you get the idea from this one, taken a little earlier, slightly further north:

The coastal footpath is signposted to walk along the beach and when the tide is further out this would be possible; but not today, so I turned slightly inwards and back to the car. The area adjacent to this section of coastline is being reclaimed so there really are only two choices – walk along the beach or walk along the road around this area. A word of warning. It is important to check the tide times if you intend to do the beach from Cranstal to The Dog Mills, otherwise you may find yourself running out of beach at high tide!

I had planned to walk along Marine Drive in Douglas on Wednesday but it may be a step (or many steps) too far for my ankles/feet, but we’ll see. I hope to be fit enough to lead my U3A walk on July 14th as this had to be postponed this month.

The slideshow starts with the 3 buildings in line with one another, the old lighthouse, the foghorn peeping out and the newest, Winkie, on the right, then the rest of the slideshow is of the wonderful spring flowers.

Silverdale and Grenaby (again) with more history

This walk has a lot of stiles as commented on by many of my group but by compensation such a lot of beauty – a tranquil river, spectacular spring flowers, historical features and distant vistas. Having walked this route twice recently as I was leading a U3A group along these paths yesterday, I am amazed how a single week can make such a difference. The wild garlic are now out in full force, whereas last week they were just appearing. The field grass is about a foot tall in places now and the meadows of lady’s smock (cuckoo flower) were even more beautiful and the orange tip butterflies were enjoying their abundance.

I think my wildflower and historical notes really inspired my walkers as it took us an hour and a quarter just to walk a mile up the glen to Athol Bridge as we would stop at anything interesting or unusual. Perhaps I should have publicised it as a nature walk.

We began by grouping together on the bridge by the ford while I gave them a short history of the river and Ballasalla, with the aim of showing that river, albeit fairly small, has played a significant role in this landscape. There have been numerous mills over the centuries mostly involved with the cotton industry (rather than a flour mill). As yet, we don’t know quite where the cotton came from, whether or not it was grown on the IOM. Most interesting, for me at any rate, was the wide number of occupations that were found in Ballasalla in 1837 – two blacksmiths, 3 boot and shoe makers, one brewer, 3 joiners and carpenters, 2 millers, 2 milliners and dressmakers, 8 shopkeepers (!), 3 tailors, 1 tanner, 4 taverns etc etc. You can read more here if you are interested. https://www.gov.im/media/633197/silverdaleappraisalwithpicsv2.pdf I guess today there would still be variety but not closely linked to the natural environment in the same way.

We walked along the riverbank to look at the violets, alexanders, celandine, herb robert, red campion and wonderful wood anemones that were just beginning to go over but still looked fab. There were bluebells and a few wild garlic here and there in this section, but much more wild garlic further on. Deeper into the glen we saw wood sorrel, stitchwort and masses of wild garlic that would challenge Wordsworth’s view of golden daffodils. In the photos I have included my painting of the mineral water factory, which is really part of the old Cregg Mill buildings. Just before the mill where there is the boating lake is the old water wash ladder, presumably for cleaning the cotton, seen in the middle photo below.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this walk is that the river footpath on the other side of the Ballamodha is closed necessitating a short walk up the hill. Suprisingly there were more wildflowers on the embankment, inlcuding ivy-leaved toadflax and bugle, the latter not usually considered to be a wild flower, and some distance from any habitation. We even saw some trailing St. John’s wort – that wasn’t out last week, neither was the garlic mustard that we saw at Grenaby bridge.

As we crossed the road, we took a farmer’s grassy track. The pussy willow looked beautiful, and the lamb’s looked delightful gambolling in the fields. We stopped for a very belated lunch (2 miles and 1 and 3/4 hr of walking!!) at the creepy doll’s house on the corner at Grenaby. It is in a desperate state of repair but it is a fantastic location and is up for sale at £500,000.

Normally, I don’t like road walking, but we had a walk of about 15 minutes along a very quiet lane. What was particularly nice about this was that we could walk and chat alongside each other and it was very pleasant. We then took field paths, saying hello to some beautiful bay and black horses who seemed pleased to have some company, passing over many rickety stiles across fields with massive clumps of lady’s smock, a mound to negotiate and surprisingly beautiful gently sloping hills to the north of the quarry, and finished by taking the back path by Ballahott into Ballasalla with a ‘surprise’ ending. Having started by walking through masses of wild garlic, we were able to walk a less frequented path that took us round the back of the stunning art and craft houses above Rushen Abbey, that led into woodland brimming with wild garlic in flower right by the car park, just after a most beautiful field of dandelions.

The walk was actually 5.5 miles and would usually take about 2.5 hours but on a day like this, with so much to see, allow yourself lots of time. We took 4 hours and it wasn’t a minute too long.

To finish, here are two maps of this area. The first shows just how narrow the glen really is and what a micro climate it creates for itself and the second is an old map showing how tiny Ballasalla was in days gone past.