Agneash and Laxey 4th Jan 2022

I joined this U3A 5 mile walk at the curiosly named Ham and Egg Terrace on the bend of the main road at Laxey where the mountain railway begins its ascent. There is plenty of parking here. I had always assumed Ham and Egg Terrace was a nickname because of the numerous tea rooms that were at one time set up in the miners’ houses along this stretch of road, but as I walked along it, I noticed there is actually a tiny lane with this title beside what was previously – guess what? – a tearoom. Which came first, the road or the name ham and egg?? I was disappointed to see that this very lovely tearoom has now been converted into a fabric shop, but life moves on and things must change.

The walk followed the lane west past the Salmon centre and the Laxey Wheel (Lady Isabella) on the right – we didn’t visit this today. It is a fairly good pull up the hill all the way to the ancient village of Agneash, which is mentioned in documents as long ago as 1510. The name Agneash is thought to come from a norse word meaning “Ridge Cape” and refers to the shape of the hills immediately behind the village. The village itself is very small and quaint and mostly known for its attractive church which was constructed in 1856. The village comprises mostly white cottages, some larger than others and it gives the feeling of having its own individual identity, no doubt inflated by the large numbers of tales of white unicorns and fairies and darker tales of a child being spirited away in the night. It’s easy to imagine how such tales develop as the mists descend on the village and everything is shrouded in a damp white and eerie light.

Today the sun shone. It was cool and fresh and perfect walking weather. We took a path that went between the houses down to the stream and up onto the hills about half way up Slieau Ruy, past some old mill buildings and contoured gently upwards mostly on grassy paths along the edge of the hills towards the sea keeping Laxey village on our right (not that we could see it). These hills are quite steep and wooded so it pays to look up rather than down, and as we looked back towards Agneash, the snow-capped Snaefell stood clearly out with the softer and greener valley in the foreground. Splendid! In the south we could see across to Clay Head, invitingly peeping out into the sea.

Looking in a northerly direction we were on the edge of Slieau Ruy with Slieau Lhean and Slieau Ouyr sticking out of the moorland in the distance, separated by the stream we had crossed lower down coming off the mountains that would eventually join the Laxey river below Agneash.

We continued on the grassy paths with a brief stop to admire some shetland ponies before reaching the minor road above the coast road. We walked along this quiet lane back towards Laxey, visiting King Orry’s graves on the way. I have written about this monument before so I won’t write about it here, but the ancient sites on the Isle of Man are worth visiting, and one day if more excavations are done we might find out who this large grave expanse belongs to. As a minimum it must have been a significant chieftain either from Scandinavia or Ireland given the size of the graveyard.

The group walked a little way down Minorca Hill and then we parted ways as I wanted to go down to the beach, not that there was much to see or much to do. It hadn’t woken up from its Christmas sleep. It was deserted and the cafes closed, but the light was interesting. As the day had worn on, the light white clouds had thickened and darkened and a few flecks of snow flittered down temporarily and at the same time, the sun would shine through other parts of the clouds, so that in one direction it was bright and sunny and turn your head left or right and you felt as if you were in another world, which is quite appropriate as one part of this hill is called ‘The Dream”.

My walk was 5.45 miles, with 869ft of ascent, whereas if you did not visit the beach it would be 5 miles. It was a super morning walk and it provides other options. If you want to spend time on the higher hills there is a very straightforward path which would take you to the tops, you could walk along those to Clagh Ouyr and take the mining path back to Agneash – that would be great when the days are a little longer.

New Year’s Eve ’21 walk around the Carnanes

This walk always reminds me why I live here. It is just a stone’s throw from my house and within minutes I am atop the Carnanes perusing wonderful vistas in all directions – that is, on a good day. Today, it was misty and a little windy but even so it still holds its magic for me.

I parked at the southern car park on the back road to Peel just above Port Erin. I immediately noticed that the Manx Woodland trust have planted more trees in the car park area. They have done a great job this year reforesting parts of the Carnanes. I walked up the road a little, crossed over onto the moorland. It was very quiet today, hardly any cars or people; in fact, I didn’t see a single person in the two hours I was out today. I had the hills, the sky and the views all to myself.

This is a great walk for an afternoon stroll after Christmas dinner. It is easy walking along paths that are well trodden, and if you have children there are heaps of cairns on hillocks for them to run off and explore while you gently pace yourself and take in the air. They are many different paths, and if you wish to can take the green road down to the sloc, then follow the cliff path back towards to Port Erin and do a circular walk of about 4-4.5 miles. That was not for me today. My walk was about 3 miles altogether, visiting the cairns on the Carnanes but not going as far as the highest point of Lhiatee Ny Beinee. I occasionally traipsed over the heather to reach a certain point and I used the lesser paths to reach my viewpoints. It is not especially sensible to veer off the paths too much as the gorse and heather are quite thick and not easy to traverse unless you have a particular reason to venture through it. And be aware that some of the paths go nowhere, and occasionally you may have to retrace your steps as you can see happened to me if you look at the map!

I find the outcrops of quartz and striations in the manx group rocks fascinating. I just wish I knew more about them, as this area is not well covered in the textbooks. For instance, towards the end of my walk I noticed that the rock structure must change as there were several natural springs that I crossed on the path that I hadn’t noticed before. Presumably the rain water filters through the top of the hills until it meets some impermeable rock about half way down. I shall have to make it my mission to find out during 2022.

So ends 2021. I have not been able to do as many walks this year as I would like for a variety of reasons, but I shall continue with my blog in 2022 and try and find some new places to show you. I haven’t done anything like enough walking in the north of the island and it has such different topography that is just as interesting as the coast and the hills.

I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year and I hope you all have opportunities to explore your own landscapes and to feel the same exhileration that I feel every time I am out in the countryside.

Santon Circular Coast Walk (U3A)- 2nd Nov 2021

You could be forgiven for thinking this walk might not have gone ahead given the torrential rain we had had over the previous weekend. Indeed, by the time I actually led this walk I had created and mostly walked four different routes to give my walkers the most pleasant and least muddy walk.

Even on the day the plan in my head changed as unbeknown to me and anyone else for that matter the railway staff were doing some major works at the railway station and were expecting heaving machinery to be delivered to the station car park where we were to meet. This scuppered plan 3, which had been to get the bus to the start as everyone then had to find a suitable spot to park on the very narrow lane at the other end of the station road.

So back to plan 1 ++. I was really disappointed as the route I had finally selected is by far the most scenic route, as the views to the north along the coast are more spectacular than the views to the south and we would also end up on an elevated route giving fine views of the sea towards England as well the inland countryside. And, we now had to walk the mile on a road down to Port Grenaugh as well, never my favourite terrain.

No-one minded. I could have done anything and they would all have politely followed me. Thankfully, this day was fine and even sunny, a vivid contrast to Sunday when I walked my preferred route with howling gales and sharp downpours all the way! Having said that, I was blessed with the most beautiful rainbow as I hiked away from the coastpath. I have some photos to show you, and I shall make them into a slideshow for you at the end. Fortunately, the weather on Monday was breezy and dry in the south and I cannot get over how much difference one day had made to the levels of water on Tuesday to Santon burn and the sodden tracks. Apart from a few sections it was fine, but then this new route did avoid the muddiest sections.

So, my small group of 10 set off down to Port Grenaugh and along the windy coastpath, via Port Soldrick to Santon Gorge. There are no surprises on this part of the coast path and as long as you can cope with uneven paths and sometimes walking on the side of a slope it is accessible for most people. It’s only about 3 and a bit miles from Santon itself to the Gorge and there are plenty of stopping points for a rest. The path does need some maintenance. Most of the boardwalks are a bit dodgy, and there are a lot of them as there are numerous springs falling off the cliff on this section of the coastpath which have been boarded to make it easier for everyone to walk over. There were quite a few mushrooms and toadstools and lots of shags drying their feathers on the rocks. Port Soldrick is an attractive bay and was actually a harbour in times gone by and as you reach the southern end of the cliff you can see the Smugglers Cave, very well placed for unloading contraband.

Not too far from here we reach Santon Gorge itself, which is beautiful. It is part of an ancient woodland of oak, ash and alder mainly and we spotted some good specimens as we made our way down to the bridge. On another occasion, and a different walk, it is possible to hop down to sea level, straddle the burn and hop up the other side and come out by the fort. We may do this another time as apparently there is an igneous dyke that I would be quite interested in finding. We were standing on the northern side of the Gorge which is Manx slate, and the fort is on the southern side which is Castletown carboniferous limestone, and the gorge marks the fault between the two. There is a very small steep section on this walk where care is needed and most of my walkers decide to slide down on their bum, but you don’t have to. It is a very short section and then you follow the trail through the tree-lined gorge to the burn, crossing through some wetlands that have wonderful species of insects and butterflies in the summer.

From the bridge, we followed a green track up out of the gorge to join a very minor road (this was the new section). I had done my research and discovered the lovely ancient church of St. Sanctain which is about a mile away from the bridge. There is no way of avoiding the uphill section but there is no rush and we all get there in our own time. Once you reach the top there are fine views in all directions and from hereon it is downhill or mostly level. Just as we reached the church it started to rain. We all went inside and I gave the sermon on the mount (choirstall in my case), told them all about the origins of the church and some of the artefacts contained therein, including two stone crosses and a roman slab, yes roman, a rarity on the Isle of Man, which was found during excavations and is believed to be part of an ancient grave. It is a really really interesting church, and much loved, judging by the number of donations over the centuries and the ambiance in the church. You can find out more by reading this document. It is fascinating and I can only thank the people who put it together: http://www.santon.org.uk/history.html

The churchyard would have been interesting to visit, and it is large, but time was against us and we needed to continue our walk. It is only a short distance to the Old Castletown road. We followed this south west for about a third of a mile, before turning onto a farmer’s track that follows the stream again, but higher up this time. It was a little muddy in places, but what’s a bit of mud between friends. This path ends up by the motorcyle museum on the new Castletown road right next to Santon railway station. This is where we parted company, the walkers to get their cars and me to get the bus back to Port Erin.

It was a really delightful walk with excellent company. If you are interested in walking with the U3A, they usually walk once a month on a Tuesday. You can find out more information here https://u3asites.org.uk/isle-of-man/page/19385 At the moment it refers to this walk, but this will be updated with details of the December walk shortly.

This walk was about 6.5 miles, with a total ascent of 643ft and 604 ft descent.

The slideshow below is the ‘wet walk’, though it looks quite nice here!

I would like to thank Ian of the U3A for inviting me to lead this walk. I have a couple more in mind that I think the group will enjoy and I shall start planning them for outings in the spring 🙂

Tales of Glen Helen and an Autumn Feast, 12 Sept 2021

Well, I don’t know if it might be a healthy feast but there certainly was a host of fungus along the banks of the Glen Helen river two weeks ago. I had friends visiting and Glen Helen is a sure-fire winner for an absolutely beautiful walk, with variety and interest and it was an area they hadn’t visited before.

Over the last year or so, the paths have been widened to enable wheelchair uses to have easy access to the main waterfall and to benefit from these wonderful views. To me, this is our bit of Switzerland on this island, and perhaps because it is so niche and has a different ambience to the other glens it is even more special. There are some magnificent trees which stand proudly at the entrance to lure you in.

This is not a difficult path to walk along. It follows the river at just a height so that you can look down into it but not have to negotiate any slippery stones. There is a bench half way along, which for some reason has been placed with its back to the river, presumably to enable those in wheelchairs to stop and take a break, but it would have been far more sensible to turn it the other way round so they could actually see something. We Manxies do have our idiosyncracies – though I cannot count myself a Manxie, being a stop-over from only 7-8 years ago. It takes a lifetime to be called a true Manxie!!

The actual waterfall was a little lame on this occasion as we haven’t had a lot of rain, but still lovely as are all waterfalls. From here, there is a choice of paths. You can either go straight up a very narrow path which takes you to the top of the falls, or you can take the steps to the right that lead uphill into the woods. We chose the latter option. If you deviate very slightly from this you will see another section of waterfall, which is very lovely and makes you want to look around the corner and see where it goes. Retracing your steps, you climb gently upwards until you reach a roughly level path with follows the river all the way back to the car park. I cannot understand how I have never taken this path before, but I did enjoy it and it was on this section that we came across the ‘hundreds and thousands’ of different types of fungi. I could become quite absorbed in looking at these, but as I know nothing about them at all, I satisfied myself with taking photographs of them, some better than others. They were an array of colour too, not just boring beige or grey toadstools. The images below are a few of the very many we came across. There may be a few duplicates as they look very different as they decay.

This whole area was once pleasure gardens, created and designed originally by the philanthropist Mr. John A Marsden, who developed all the footpaths in the glen to highlight the natural beauty of the area. Where there are bridges now were stepping stones, so the falls would not have been accessible to anyone except the sturdy of foot, but would have been fun for children to cross.

There was so much to entertain you in the 1870’s, as long as you had a spare fourpence to enter the grounds – yes, you had to pay. Then you and the family could amuse yourselves with swings, skittles and croquet, and if you had a full 1 shilling you were allowed to fish in the river. At one point there was an aviary, a monkey house, seals(!), a bowling alley and even a small zoo. Sounds rather good. I think they should reinstate it as pleasure gardens, although now the glamping phase has taken over in the section close to the car park.

The car park has an interesting history too believe it or not. Just up the road from here is a white cottage called Sarah’s cottage, and you will notice a small stream runs beside it and then disappears, never to be seen again. Well obviously it has to go somewhere, and it goes under the road. Not so long ago there stood a hotel in this location and the stream flowed beneath it in its cellars. The hotel was knocked down and a car park concreted over it until… one day in 1980 a lorry driver (you could get them in 1980!) parked in an unfortunate spot, the driver hopped out of his cab for a call of nature, to simultaneously watch his lorry sink into the ground and a gap of 18″ opened up under one of the back wheels. In trepidation he moved his lorry and rang the authorities, who promptly arrived with a digger, but as they started to operate the machinery a whopping great chasm appeared 14ft deep and the whole car park disintegrated. I wonder what happened to the engineers who had initially designed the car park? Needless to say, there is now a reliable culvert underneath the existing car park, but do take care, you never know what may happen next. 🙂

As you can see from the map below this is only a short walk of about 2 miles in all, maybe 3 and perhaps 150-200 ft of ascent in all. For once I didn’t measure the distance or height. If you don’t know where this is, if you take the Douglas to Peel road, turn right at the Ballacraine crossroads where there are traffic lights (just before St. Johns) and Gleb Helen is a couple of miles up on a bend in the road. It’s always beautiful no matter what the weather or the time of year.

Santon to Ballasalla and more

The last two weeks has been very varied but with few opportunities for a good walk. In addition to my usual activities I have been helping Dawn at Manx Wildlife Trust introducing young people to nature and getting them enthused. For my part, my exploits were a little more dramatic than planned with a tumble on mossy ground grazing my arm and leg on one of the events and then on Friday at Ballaugh Plantation when we were hunting dragonflies and pond-dipping, my face became a meal for any biting insect that was around, so I now have a very spotty face.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit The Mallards in Santon, a new project creating a botanical garden which is the brainchild of millionaire Mark Shuttleworth, funded by himself. I had been here a few years ago and was looking forward to seeing how it has developed. The aim is to capture various moods and habitats that will be sustainable and provide a long term future for species that are not usually found on the Isle of Man. There will be (amongst other things) a Japanese garden, cascading waterfalls, historical living fossils, wetlands, an amphitheatre designed to be used occasionally for outdoor activities. I won’t see all this come to fruition in my lifetime and most of it is still under construction but it was interesting to hear about their plans and I shall enjoy watching it develop over the next 10-20 years.

Following this visit, I walked down to Port Grenaugh which is about a mile downhill from Santon. The walk along the coast here is magnificent, winding in and out of the cliff edge, round deep bays and through a gorge. It does not involve a huge amount of ascent. In fact, I only climbed a total of 500ft from start to finish and it is all in short doses. It is a normal sandy cliff path, a little uneven in places and if you have a stick you might find it useful to help to balance you from time to time. Having said that, it is perfectly manageable without one, with care. There is a slightly tricky short and steep downhill section in Santon Gorge for you to negotiate but you are soon over this. Although the gorge is treelined, this is always one of my favourite sections of this path as the stream is beautiful and the colours gorgeous and you go through a small area of wetland where you can see different wildlife. It is a very peaceful area. I saw a Speckled Wood Butterfly and a Large White Butterfly, and a little further on, Common Blue Butterflies and a Foxmoth caterpillar – very popular over here.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The walk starts with a road walk, albeit very pleasant, down to Port Grenough, that follows a stream all the way down to the bay. The path then takes the beach for a short distance and then goes along the cliffs for some 2-3 miles. There are great views to the north and south as you walk along and some interesting rock formations. About half way along you descend to a bay, have another short walk along a pebbly beach before ascending the cliffs again. There are many stopping points and if you are lucky you might see some dolphins out in the bay. From Santon Gorge, where we have to go inland, we cross the river and follow the path back to the coastline. The path is signed to the left and there is a broken wall, so you can enter the grassland sooner if you prefer. Keep walking left through a gap in the gorse and this takes you to an old promentory fort, which the U3A Archaeology leader would be able to tell you all about. I think this may have been a large fort as there is another embankment on the southern side as well. It was here that I spotted an owl pellet, which was rather surprising, but I didn’t take a photo of it I’m afraid. From here it is only a short distance to the airport runway extension that you can walk round to take you to Derbyhaven and Castletown, but I followed the perimeter fence into Ballasalla to get the bus home.

My walk was 5.65 miles, with a total ascent of 499ft and descent of 561ft. My Garmin tells me the highest point at any time was 163ft so you can see this is well within most people’s capability.

Around Staarvey and along the Switchback Road, 13th Aug 2021

The tree lined avenue between St Johns and Tynwald Mills always cheers me. The colours and the dappled light look attractive at all times of year. Following this minor road over the bridge you meet the back road to Peel. I have often wondered where the track went immediately opposite the junction, and today I decided to find out.

I had been helping Dawn at Manx Wildlife Trust at Cooildarry with the young Watch group. We were investigating the traps Dawn had set, and the children excited meandered through the wood looking out for flags and traps, trying to guess whether there would be anything inside the traps – which were mostly positive with single woodmice ferreting about inside. We weighed them and measured them and sexed them. Then it was the hedgehog tunnels, with ink stained paper in the centre so that their footprints could be caught on the white paper either side of the tunnel. Only, we didn’t find hedgehog footprints, just a cat(!), mice and possibly a stoat’s footprints. It kept the children absorbed for about 90 mins.

From there, I stopped at the car park on the switchback road, which is a long 2 mile … switchback… with fantastic views towards Peel. There is a footpath uphill on the northern edge of the switchback, another footpath I had never walked along. It is a stony track suitable for bikes and pedestrians but not pushchairs or wheelchairs. Just as you take a rest, there is a chance to enjoy this surprise view, which you might expect to see in a mediterranean country rather than the Isle of Man.

If you keep on this path it takes you over the side of Knockharry, but I took the path to the right leading to Staarvey. There are wonderful views to the east but only occasional glimpses of the sea to the west as the path goes through farmland below the top. If you look very very closely, on the top left of the photo below you can just about make out the marquees at Patrick, signalling the Royal Show is on. This photo was taken just as I came off the rise but this view would soon be masked by the hills. The map tells me there are cairns close to the path but I must admit I didnt see them. This is a walk across fields full of cows, which as usual were interested to know what I was doing, but finally left me alone. Guess they think this is their land, not mine.

I am always amazed at the different atmospheres and vistas that this island gives us in different places; places where we walk or pass by regularly look so different from just a few feet higher up. I enjoyed this walk across the fields as there was a great variety of colour and the hay had been cut and it is clearly a living landscape. Some of the stiles were a bit iffy, particularly the one in the last field before the lane. I was tempted to climb the gate but persevered but it was impossible to find the rungs on the ladder on the opposite side of the fence on the photo below.

From here, I joined the road which was still a very pleasant, quiet walk down to Laurel Bank and around the hillside which eventually turned into the aforementioned track that had originally interested me. There are great views of Slieau Whallian and St Johns here, but my phone was out of juice so I wasn’t able to take any further photos and none of the switchback road which is disappointing. Another time. I turned right at the main road – this is a fairly busy back road and although it is fine to walk along it as a single person or even two or three people, I wouldn’t recommend it with a group. Just past the right bend I turned off onto the switchback road and followed this all the way back to the car. It is slightly uphill for about a third of the road and from then on small humps and hollows but nothing difficult or strenuous; just a delightful walk on a narrow lane with passing places. There was the odd car and cyclist, but this road is safe for pedestrians.

I haven’t been able to do much walking recently due to physical constraints (what’s new!) and jobs I have to do in the house, mostly putting things in the roof or decorating before my new carpets come. One job seems to create another. Then of course, I do have my ‘work’ teaching Psychology. I am thrilled to say that all my students, even those I assessed for another organisation, retained the grades I gave them, so if I have to assess private candidates next year I shall feel confident to help them all.

I shall be busy over the next couple of weeks with more Watch meetings for young people, helping at Ballachurry Nature Reserve and my usual duties at Scarlett Nature Reserve; and I still have more peatland to survey, so whether I can get out doing any serious walking we shall have to wait and see.

The walk I have just described shows how a short walk can be just as pleasant and rewarding as longer walks and revive the spirit.

Distance – just under 4 miles; total ascent 476ft; total descent 479ft

St Johns to Foxdale Circular – 8 miles

I planned this walk to save the best bit until last. This is one of the nicest of our disused railway lines that hasn’t been ‘upgraded’ and retains the natural wildlife around it. The rest of the walk is very good too!

I started at St. John’s and walked in an easterly direction along the railway track for about a mile. This is naturally flat, but this section isn’t especially inspiring, although some of the wildflowers waving in the fields looked magnificent. I crossed the Ballamodha Road, where there is an old station building and walked to the next road junction on the outskirts of Greeba. Here I turned right up the lane for a short distance and then the path leads off to the left. I had never walked this track before and it is very pleasant, providing excellent views of Greeba Mountain.

It is an upward path for about a mile, but not difficult. The highest point is 656 ft over this distance. It is a gentle slope on the side of a valley that eventually takes you to the Cornelly Mines. This makes a good coffee stop, and you can climb the stile and peruse the site if you wish. I declined this invitation, walking past the mines to go into the Archallagon plantation.

There are many routes through this, and I mostly took the track shown on the map, until I spied a field of purple wildflowers looking splendid against the backdrop off the mines. From then on I took a lesser path that would get me to the same destination. I came across some orchids beside the path, perhaps not at their best now, but nice to know they are there; and I watched as chaffinches flitted from branch to branch.

I left the plantation at the southerly car park and walked along the road for a short distance. I had noticed a short cut down to the hairpin bend at Foxdale, and this turned out to be a very attractive, if overgrown in places, footpath. It terminates just before the top reservoir. I kept to the less frequented lane to avoid the Foxdale main road, passing some lovely houses and the Kionslieu reservoir I visited a month or so go.

The reservoir at the hairpin bend

Now the wildflowers in this lane had changed from the meadow buttercup to cow parsley and harebells. This time, I took the lane at the top of the hill that leads down to Foxdale, passing by the towering Old Vicarage and church.

The lane leading to Foxdale

It was no distance from here to the start of the railway track that would take me to St. John’s. the old station building remains and the track leads below the houses on the top road, allowing us to see into their gardens and also appreciate that what you see of the houses from the road is only a fraction of the size they really are, as they are built into the hillside. The walk along here was just lovely, with the drop on the right deepening with every step. I could hear the water in the unspoilt stream bubbling away below, but there is not footpath beside the stream, so the vegetation has taken over and looks most attractive.

The track crosses the main road, though I continue to be puzzled as to why I had to climb the height of a bridge to rejoin it. Presumably it was in two sections at some point? From here to St Johns the path is sometimes more open, sometimes in trees, but giving you glimpses of the countryside in different directions. It was so pretty as the sun came out making everything look cheerful.

I saw very few people on this walk, just a few dog walkers in the Archallagon plantation and cyclists on the other footpaths. You can shorten this route in a couple of places, or if time is limited or you don’t want any hill-climbing, you could park in Foxdale, walk the railway line, and get the (occasional) bus back to St. John’s. All routes are beautiful. You won’t be disappointed.

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Tideswell, Derbyshire – final day

I have really enjoyed my few days in Tideswell. The countryside is a perfect example of the UK’s traditional green and pleasant land and it has a timeless feel to it, despite evidence all around of progress and technology, in the forms of masts and wires, a variety of road signs, and cars parked in every nook and cranny on the streets, at least in the old part of the village where the houses were originally built for living rather than housing transport. Some of the properties are very old and opposite the church is a house whose front door is dated something like 1542. What stories that house would be able to tell.

Today, I did a short morning walk of about 3 miles, starting with a trip to the pharmacy to get some nail varnish for my Aunty in Retford, who I am visiting tomorrow. (When I was in Castleton yesterday I asked if there was a pharmacy and was told I would either have to go to Chapel-en-le-frith in one direction or Hathersage in the other, so there are clearly some disadvantages in living in remote beauty spots.)

I took the path that runs behind the cathedral to the higher lane and followed it north. The cathedral itself is worth a visit and has a magnificent stained glass window amongst other interesting artefacts.

I had selected a particular road route because I was hoping to avoid mud for once, and the map showed the road descending between two hills, but in reality that was misleading, although the route was still very pretty and it was almost a dale in itself, with a small stream and meadows of wild flowers alongside the road. I turned off the road to take a very straight track that leads to Wheston. This was wide and easy to walk on, and it followed the top of the hill so the views were wonderful. I had to wait while a tractor went past as there wasn’t room for both of us. Wheston is only a very small hamlet but does lead to the entrance to Peter’s Dale, a dale I have not visited on this occasion but shall do another time.

The route back to Tideswell was along another minor lane, and I enjoyed seeing the village from another angle. It is also nice to have an undemanding walk every now and again. So, here terminates my few days on my own, though I did meet up with son James and his daughter Emily yesterday and daughter Sarah this evening, so not entirely on my own. It is so good to see the family after such a long break, and I am looking forward to spending more time with them, and son Matthew, after my brief sojourn to Retford tomorrow.

I shall definitely return here. There is so much walking to do either from the village or within 15 mins of driving. The paths are well maintained and they criss-cross the countryside to give you miles and miles of roaming, meaning that you can vary your route time after time within a narrow area. And Tideswell itself is lovely and less commercial than some other villages and towns in the Peak District. I can recommend it should you decide to visit Derbyshire, even on a rainy day.

Blue John Caves and Cave Dale, Castleton

Continuing my brief time away in Derbyshire, I decided to visit the Blue John Caves at Castleton. It is many years since I have ventured down under the ground, possibly thirty odd years ago, as I remember writing a children’s story about it at the time and my young son, Matthew, now with a child of his own, illustrating it. I still have his pictures tucked away in a drawer at home.

I was there early, so there was no queue. I paid my money, requesting an OAP ticket, which prompted the seller to ask me if I could manage the 245 steps down and up! As it was I managed them better than some of the younger people.

The caves are well lit, and the steps are a manageable height. There is a handrail all the way down, which the guide insists is used all the time, and photographs are only permitted when we stop. Some of the caverns are huge, others only moderately large, and you have to remember that the miners did not have the luxury of neat steps to negotiate and then they had equipment to lug up and down as well.

The mineral called Blue John, is a form of fluorite, a semi-precious mineral, and takes its name from its purple/ blue colour, unique to the two caverns here in Derbyshire (this one and Treak Cavern a mile away), and only found in China otherwise. It is still mined today, in very small quantities, and you can expect to pay quite a lot of money for blue John jewellery. Castleton has many jewellers selling the same.

Then, of course, it was raining, so what else to do but get wet and walk up another dale. This was after I had finished shopping.

Cave Dale is situated in the heart of Castleton itself and leads back up between the limestone hills. It is about a mile long and it is a glorious dale, and leads you to the top of the range of hills, from which you can get splendid views for a climb of about 500ft, so just a bit more than climbing from sea level to Milner Tower in Port Erin. It is a very gentle, grassy, stony climb, so do be careful on the rocks as limestone is so very slippery when wet.

On the right you can see Peveril Castle towering above you. This is a Norman structure, and woe betide anyone trying to attack. This steep sides were an excellent protection. Below Peveril Castle is Peak Cavern, also known as Devil’s Arse, the only natural cavern in the area, and this is worth a visit. Speedwell Cavern is also excellent, and includes a boat ride.

Cavedale was initially a wet dale, but today the water flows underground. Initially carved out by glaciers, it then collapsed further, creating the narrow gorge at the start. Even two hundred years ago, there was a ‘roof’ to the entrance. So, just think, when you walk through Cavedale, you are walking through history and over the top of an extensive cave system, much of which has still to be explored.

Having reached the top, and only wanting a short walk I followed the top of the hill leading steadily down the grassy pasture to the trees close to Peveril Castle, where the path turns into a fairly steep, stony and slippery path. They views are fantastic, even in the damp, foggy air.

At the most, starting from the car park by the visitor centre this is a 3 mile walk, so an easy walk to do at any time of day, and there are many places to eat and drink when you return to Castleton, and of course, the main other Caverns to visit.

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.