Glen Wyllin, Glen Mooar and Cooildarry

This short walk is spectacular, especially if you do it after rains as I did today. The walk starts at the Glen Wyllin campsite, or if you prefer you can park in Kirk Michael village. There is a path right behind the cafe with steps that take you to the old railway line. This path has not been dug up and widened as has happened to the railways tracks in other parts of the island and it still retains its natural charm. Incidentally, if you do park in KM you will have to descend into the valley and ascend the other side as the stone platform of the viaduct has been removed and only the pillars remain. The path is mainly enclosed but every now and again you catch a glimpse of the sea to the west and the hills to the east.

We follow the railway line until it meets a small lane after about a mile just before Glen Mooar. Prior to this, you will go under a couple of bridges. At the lane, the footpath sign tells you to cross over the road and continue through a gate. The path continues for only a short distance, as guess what, the viaduct has been removed at Glen Mooar and again just the supports remain standing, bringing you to a firm standstill. A path downhill has been created. This is a fairly steep descent, but only for about 60ft or so. As you descend you enter another world, away from the farmland and distant vistas of hills and sea. Now we have a tree-lined river with steep banks on either side. The lower path is closed so unfortunately this necessitates more undulating ascents with minor descents and more steps. The gains are great though, as the woods are so very pretty and there are some very large beech trees guarding over the valley. It will look lovely when the spring flowers come out. The cover photo shows the view through the trees to the hills.

At one point you will reach a high grassy area where there are the clearly visible remains of a 10th century keeill (Patrick’s Chapel), priest’s cell and graveyard. It is a very peaceful area for contemplation, meditation or prayer while you listen to the birds singing in the trees.

A little further on and the sound of running water becomes louder and louder, although it isn’t easy to see anything. The path takes you to the top of the waterfall called Spooyt Vane (White Spout), where all you can see is where a small stream begins to gurgle down the rocks. Take the permissive footpath left, down more steps (sorry), and you find yourself in a dell with the wonderful waterfall at its head, with water gushing down into the pool below in a sequence of stages. To the right the area is hollowed out, which probably suggests the waterfall has changed direction over the millennia. I have rarely seen the waterfall so full and it was captivating.

Crossing the bridge, we follow the track along the top of the valley to join the road. There is a small parking place for those making single journeys and Glen Mooar is worth a visit on its own. At the road junction you will see an old chapel which was constructed in the 1860s as a Sunday School and Mission Room for children who couldn’t make the heady journey to Kirk Michael for schooling.

The route continues along the lane uphill past a few houses and farms. As you ascend notice the soft green hills on the left. The other side of these hills is where the recent archaeological dig has been going on for the last few years, unearthing remnants of people and posessions from the Bronze Age (over 3000 years ago). You can find out more about this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-48806185

At the top of the lane, there are panoramic views of the hills: Sartfell (454m) to the right, Slieau Freoaghane (488m) in the middle, Slieau Dhoo (420m) just behind this and Slieua Curn (351m) on the far left. They look so inviting on a sunny day like this and they make a fine ridge walk. These will be the subject of another walk at some point. Someone has thoughtfully placed some picnic benches along this section of the road so you can stop and enjoy the views as long as you like. You can even see Scotland from here if you look very closely – it was very clear in reality!

For now, we continue with our descent back to Kirk Michael following a track that becomes a footpath and leads to Cooildarry Nature Reserve (owned by Manx Wildlife Trust). It is possible to include an optional extra mile or two walking along the railway line north and then dropping down to the sea, for those who want a slightly longer walk.

There is such variety and interest in this walk, and as long as you don’t mind steps, you will find it a very rewarding experience. Altogether it is about 4 miles including the visit to the Nature Reserve and 545ft of ascent and descent., with an optional extra of 1-2 miles depending on the tides.

Clypse Reservoir 1st March 2022

I can’t believe that in all the years I have been walking on the Isle of Man, this lovely walk has escaped me. It was led by Ian for the U3A and it was a good choice of walk, given the very wet weather we have had recently.

We parked in a small layby (sufficient for about 10 cars) on the B20, a lane off the Ramsey to Onchan Road that leads to Conrhnenny Plantation. We walked up the road with pussy willow reminding us that it was the first day of spring; this road affords tremendous views of the hills around Laxey and the coast at Baldrine. As we reached the south-eastern edge of the plantation, we followed the mostly level track with Slieau Meayl inviting us forward until we re-joined the road at the western edge of the plantation. There are no footpaths on this section, but it is a quiet road, certainly at this time of year. It might be busier in the summer during TT as this is motorcycle country.

After a short distance we took a cobbly and awkward path that leads to the main carpark for the two reservoirs, Clypse (built 1876) and Kerrowdhoo (built 1893). Together they take up 562 acres. You really wouldn’t know you are just half a mile from Onchan as it feels quite remote, and indeed is one of our Dark Skies sites (we have 26 of these scattered over the island). These two reservoirs are excellent for fly-fishing and are stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Note, that you cannot just turn up and fish. You need to have a Government Reservoir Licence here. There are also limits on the number of fish you can catch.

Anyway, we weren’t here for fishing, but we did stop for lunch. It was a glorious day, if a tad windy, and I enjoyed watching the mallards swimming around whilst I ate my salad and chatted with my friends. The best part of the walk is still to come….

We left the reservoir at its northern end (we did not visit Kerrowdhoo today), which takes us beside the delightful Groudle River (stream) before we are forced to depart the stream to cross some farmland to join a track beside a small woodland.

I was busy taking photographs when I noticed that everyone was huddled round a puddle on the side of the track. once they left, I had it to myself and saw lots and lots of frog spawn. Someone must have had eagle eyes to spot this while they were walking and talking! A little past this spot we rejoined the now very small but pleasant Groudle River, which we followed uphill for a little way until we reached another plantation. The stream passes through unspoilt countryside on either side, with low vegetation, shrubs and trees. It is quite boggy in places and there are several boardwalks which make it easier.

We walked around the edge of the plantation until we reached a track, which then lead us back to the A20, passing by farms and machinery and the Equestrian Centre, reminding us that much as the countryside is beautiful it is also a living, working environment for many, who keep it just as it is for us all to enjoy. A very happy 5 miles with around 500ft of ascent altogether. Thank you to Ian for a good day out.

Shore to Shore (Colby River)

No matter how many times you do the same walk there are new things to discover – new sounds, new sights, new shapes. I have walked this walk many times before, usually a different way round. Today, I took the bus to the Shore Hotel at Gansey and started my walk there, following the River Colby to the top of the glen and back via a different route.

I followed the minor road around the back of Kentraugh Mill grounds, having a nosey in people’s gardens and the Mill gardens which are more visible through the trees in the winter months. Then I took the public footpath through the wetlands beside the river. I noticed for the first time ever, that there are two arches to the bridge under the road. Another time when I am wearing my wellies I’ll go and have a good look as to why there are two as it is such a tiny river I can’t see any reason for this. I also noticed what looks like a wooden track from one side of the river to the other. Again, I couldn’t see any purpose for this. If you have any ideas why it’s there please let me know. When I was pondering this, a small greenish, stripey bird flitted about in the undergrowth but wouldn’t stop long enough for me to identify it. There were a few flowers out. The double snowdrops which grace this section of the river are very beautiful, if indeed that is what they are.

It was a very windy day and I was glad once I was a little more inland to be sheltered from the fiercest winds. Walking the route this way round I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful shapes made by the trees and the great variety of landscape; sometimes I was walking amongst shrubs or on a narrow path; the next minute I was treated to a vast expanse of farmland with great views to the north. Turn a little right, and I was back on the timeless river path, the river becoming ever smaller, and eventually in the wooded Colby Glen.

At Colby, it is impossible to walk beside the river until you reach Colby Glen, but don’t give up. It is only a short distance up an attractive lane. Colby Glen is worth a visit at any time of year, and in winter at least you won’t be plagued by midges and the like. Storm Eunice and the other rcent nasty storms have brought down a few trees in many of our glens, opening up the canopy to the sky in places. Hopefully saplings will replace the old trees that are now lying recumbent on the valley floor and eventually fill in the gaps again.

Colby Bridge

If you have never been to Colby Glen, it is a narrow wooded valley with a stream that opens up to disclose a grand grassy theatre at its top end. Here, in the summer months, choirs will perform and it is a great place to bring your children for a picnic. Once you reach this peaceful spot, just stop, listen and look around, and you will hear water in the distance and after a little investigation see it bubbling around the corner and then you encounter a most delightful waterfall. One of the footpaths exiting the glen goes immediately past it and up to the small hamlets of Cronk Y Dooney and Ballakilpheric. This is a very pleasant path shaded by shrubs on either side, but it can be very muddy. You are no sooner past the waterfall and you can no longer even see the river or see where it goes. You would not even know it’s there. All you can see are hills to the right up toward South Barrule, hills to the left (the Carnanes) and the sea to the south.

There are a number of choices from the village so I followed the lane south that would lead back to Colby, taking the path to the right after about half a mile that leads to an old mill that is being renovated, past this and up a grassy track to join another lane at Scholaby that leads immediately down to Croit-e-Caley.

Crossing the road and the railway track, follow the lane south until you see a path a little way to the right that leads behind the house and back to the Shore Hotel across (very muddy) fields. Once there, I felt the wrath of the wind once more. The tide was in and blowing up massive waves across Carrikey Bay. It was quite splendid and a lovely way to finish the walk.

Atogether this walk was about 4.5 miles with a total ascent and descent of just under 600ft. If you are using a car, you would need to get permission to park at the Shore Hotel or park beside the nearby bridge or further along Shore Road. If getting the bus, you need the 12A or 2A to Port Erin. Should you be unlucky enough to get on the wrong Port Erin bus, never fear, you can start and finish the walk at Colby instead 🙂

Scarlett, 7th February 2022

I was treated to a tremendous light and wave display along the whole of this short 3.5 mile amble on the coastal footpath to Castletown. I shall never forget it.

It had been a last minute idea to get the bus over to Fisher’s Hill and walk along the coast. It wasn’t a particularly nice day, in fact, it had been raining and it was very blowy but I needed some air and to try and stretch my legs. Even on the bus I was having second thoughts as the rain started up again and there were dark grey clouds in all directions. What a reward I received for continuing!

I don’t need to describe this walk to you. I have done this often enough in the past, so instead I am giving you a slideshow showing the spectacular views and vistas I experienced in the 90 minutes I was out walking. I hope you enjoy it and it prompts you to go out on those days when the weather is not inviting; perhaps you will experience the same kind of surprise and joy as I experienced today.

It started with light grey bloomy skies; then the sun would try to peak through turning everything silver; then glimpses of blue sky amid the dark clouds, and the odd bit of rain making shafts of light on the horizon, grey clouds turning almost orange, emblazoned by the blowy winds casting light in all directions and throwing up blustery waves as it reached high tide. In sheltered places the sea was like a mill pond, in others it would vent its fury. There was such variety it is hard to imagine.

When I ventured out I was tired and sore. When I returned I was still tired and my legs even more sore, so that I walked like a toy soldier back to the house, but my spirits were lifted. It is so important to feed the soul as well as the body, and this walk had done just that for me.

Glens and Old Lonan Church, 1st Feb 2022

There are stories in these glens, ones of murder, mystery and ghosts. The U3A walk started at Little Mill at the top end of Onchan. The path down into Molly Quirk’s Glen is always slippery so do take care. It is a very pleasant walk through the trees and over the stumps keeping a little height above the river. It is quite an open woodland here, no doubt helped by the numerous instances of thefts and vandalism over the ages, reported crimes occuring as late as 1964 and 1972. The biggest crime was the supposed murder of Molly Quirk, aka Margaret Emmeline Isabel Quirk, the one time rich landowner, but there has never been any evidence to support this. Even so, you might see her ghostly shape appearing from within the trees from time to time.

The river is small at this point until the bridge at Whitebridge Road. There has been a bridge here since 1634, impeding the transition from Molly Quirk’s Glen to Groudle Glen. This was rectified when a path was constructed under the bridge, mostly courtesy of the Onchan Rotary Club (thank you!) in a timely 3 months in 2001!

Groudle Glen (Glion Ghroudal to give it its Manx name) owns its success to local entrepreneur Richard Maltby Broadbent who created this lustrous woodland in the late 19th century, planting hundreds of trees – beeches higher up, pines and larch lower down, replacing a lot of marshy scrubland. In the spring it is a delight with numerous bluebells forming a blue canopy throughout the glen. It is therefore a largely manufactured glen, with the exception of its own noticeable natural feature – the slimline canyon, where the water topples over the Manx slate down to the sea. Not only did Broadbent create a natural haven he incorporated the Alton Towers of its day, with all kinds of attraction in the valley and along the coast. To think, in its hey day the glen attracted 100,000 vistors each season!

We followed the woodland path beside the river to the Little Isabella waterwheel and pumphouse (used for pumping water up to the Groudle Hotel, built by you-know-who). This has been restored in 2021 and is working again, and it looks very smart. Just beyond here is a small station, part of Broadbent’s legacy. We walked along the tracks up to the lime kiln and then took the old packhorse path (now lane) from Douglas to Ramsey on to the top of the cliff to make our way to Old Lonan Church. If we didn’t know it before, we knew now just how windy it was!!

It is good to follow ancient tracks and to imagine who has walked these paths before. Who knows? Maybe the Culdees from Ireland who founded the old church? The contrast of scenery is dramatic, from the closed-in valley to the rolling hills and distant mountain vistas. Old Lonan Church (aka St. Adamnan’s Church) is tucked away off the well-beaten track and its spirituality is rooted in antiquity. It was originally called Keeill-ny-Traie, which means Chapel by the Shore, though it’s hard to see quite which shore it is referring to, unless Port Groudle.

St. Adamnan was the Abbott of Iona between 679-704. He has a rich pedigree being the biographer of St. Columba. However, he liked to rock the boat and was excommunicated for translating the Mass and scriptures into Manx. I wonder if these still exist?

The church itself has seen several make-overs, and the archaeology tells us this is a very ancient site. It is believed that the Irish missionaries first made their mark here in AD447, which is only just after the Romans left Britain. It would have been a very simple site. In the grounds you will see the Wheel Cross, which is one of the oldest true Gaelic crosses in Britain. It is 8ft high and in these early stages of Christianity it would have been the central gathering place for worship, almost having the status of an altar.

The oldest part of the church (12C) is that which is now derelict contains “poor holes” which the infirm or leprous could still receive alms without entering the church. In 1190 the land was given to St Bees in Cumbria, and there is evidence from the sandstone lintels that stones were imported from England to create the doorways. The old church is bigger than the new church which was restored by John Quine (vicar) in 1895. The location of this church was not useful for the parishioners which is why new churches have come and gone to cater for modern needs, but this church has been restored and is immensely peaceful along with its beautiful grounds, which contain a shelter with other simple gaelic crosses.

Having taken our lunch here we retraced our steps to Groudle Glen and the port. In the 16C there was a thriving Mill here and lakes with lily pads, but the Mill has gone and the lily ponds hard to find. The Glen was sold to Onchan Village Commissioners and the holiday village which still exists was sold to a private buyer.

We followed lanes and roads back to our starting point in Onchan. One really gets the feeling of housing threatening the natural countryside, being just a stone’s throw from the glens of Molly Quirk and Groudle.

A fascinating, easy walk, that can be done in about 3 hours, without too much ascent.

Sloc, Scard, Earystane Plantation and Cronk Ny Array Laa, 24th January 2022

It was so very quiet, not a breath, not a squeak coming from any direction as I set up from the Sloc car park along the road to take the path to Scard. It was a cool day with a heavy mist lurking in the air. It was one of those days when you don’t think of going for a walk but this was my only free day this week and I had been wanting to do this walk for a while.

Even on a dull day like today the views were still extensive, just not very clear, but it doesn’t matter. It almost gives you a different kind of sense of adventure, especially if it is a walk you haven’t done before. This one is a very accessible walk, mostly on tracks, a few fields, moorland and plantation tracks and although there is some uphill to do, taking this particular route you don’t notice the cumulative climb of 900 ft.

The walk begins with a downhill section to the point where a small stream goes under the path below one of the farms at Scard. I watched for a while as a tractor ushered the sheep into a field in the distance before continuing along the path in front of Bea & Blossom Farm (which has tourist accommodation). Just before this building the path turns to the right to the edge of the reservoir which is not accessible (or visible) to the public. The views from here are quite beautiful, with the Carnanes to the west and Meayll Hill sticking out in the south west. It is soft countryside and well farmed and makes you aware that the Isle of Man is largely a farming community, something that is easy to forget on the daily grind to Douglas. You will cross or follow numerous little streams running off the hillsides that will all end up eventually in the Colby River.

The path follows a stream to the left and terminates beside a cottage which is currently being renovated. If you continue straight on beyond the gate you will do a circular route to Lower Scard back to the Sloc but not be able to rejoin this route. This is a rope barrier at this cottage, which made me wonder if this was a right of way, but it turns into a road where there is a clear sign showing that the public footpath goes right in front of this cottage.

Continue on the private road past some other houses. At a sharp bend to the right, the path goes to the left, which does not look inviting as it contains many gates that are linked together. Just go through them and lock them up after yourself. It is the right path and at the top you will see the path then goes through the top of field behind a large house and across a very large open field. Don’t head for the open gate but instead look for the stile just in front of the house (see photo). This path through this property has been changed slightly but still meets the track leading to the Colby Glen road.

We follow the Colby Glen road northwards for a short distance before turning left at the junction and taking the track uphill that leads to Earystane plantation. This is the steepest section of the walk but it is not difficult and it levels out as you go through the forest, which is an exciting place to walk through with its knarled and knotted trees covered in moss, and little dells and dingles that you can explore in nice weather. It is quite a special place. It opens out towards the top as we come on to the moorland. Today, there were no views at this point as it was too foggy, but instead of looking up look down and search for the sphagnum moss lying among the peat, soaking up all the water.

Crossing over the road on a normal day you might head up Cronk Ny Array Laa, but today I couldn’t even see it. Instead I took the cyclists’ path that contours around the hill. It’s a lovely walk and as I got lower I could see everywhere I had walked earlier, including the triangular but previously-not-visible reservoir beside the farm. The cliffs of the Carnanes at the Sloc stood out with pride as I turned the corner.

This is a 6 mile walk that shouldn’t be hurried. Some of the paths are a little uneven, narrow, rutted or muddy and there are a fair few stiles to climb over, none too high. The total ascent is 899ft, with the highest point being 1220ft.

You could start this walk from the lane at the top of Cronk Ny Array Laa but personally I like the Sloc car park better as it means the uphill is about half way through the walk and you finish with a 30 minutes downhill section with views across the whole of the south of the island .

Please note that if you are inspired to do this walk and you are coming from the north, the road from St Johns’ to South Barrule is currently closed and you will need to reach the Sloc either from the Peel coast road, or via Ronague.

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.