A Shapely Walk Around Douglas and Summerhill Glen- 4 miles

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The natural entrance to Summerhill Glen

Douglas is a surprisingly attractive town to walk around as long as you turn a blind eye to the less appealing aspects of its make-up and areas that look lost and forlorn or where some car park or development has emerged from nowhere and taken away all the character of the area. The Isle of Man does itself no favours by not caring enough about its heritage and there are too many derelict buildings or hideous erections that should never have seen the light of day, not even in an architect’s mind let alone in practice. It is too quick to destroy what history it has, as in the pending doom of the lone 18th century cottage which is being demolished to make way for a new ”by-pass” in Ballasalla, only approved by short-sighted politicians because Dandara promised to fund it as long as they could build xxx number of houses at the same time. But I digress…

You might say Douglas is much like any town. But look up, out, about and around the many old buildings  of the later 19th and early 20th centuries and you will see interesting shapes and objects that will surprise you. Roadnames with fingers pointing you in the right direction, canopies over shops that look as if they belong in Tunbridge Wells Pantiles area, attractive iron railings separating the Edwardian properties, squares of parkland and a crescent of housing reminiscent of Bath (though not as grand). Lots and lots of substantial Edwardian properties built to last, reminding us of the Isle of Man’s heyday when B &B’s sprung up in abundance to cater for the wild tourism that would swarm in on the ferry in the summer months.

I had been to the dentist on Woodburn Square and instead of walking back to the bus stop I went in the opposite direction, down roads I have never walked before, around the back of Nobles Park to the top of Summerhill Glen. The house styles are very varied and many are attractive with double fronts or bay windows, a row of chocolate box houses, one with a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden and sometimes very unusual houses. There were two houses side by side with windows in the upper elevations that looked as if they belonged in the 16th century as their small windows protruded out above the main house. There are many established trees in this area and it feels quite luxurious in places. There must have been a large country seat where Laureston Manor remains, now afflicted by the ever terminal illness of living apartments, but it still has its grounds and other houses have been built around the edge of its land, so the pathwork of land still retains its rich flavour.

I reached an area where most of the roads bear the name Victoria or similar, signs of anticipated grandeur and nobility – Victoria Road, Victoria Crescent, Victoria Avenue, Dukes Road, Upper Duke’s Road, Palace Road, Castle Hill – you get my drift, and here the roads are at the top of the wonderful cliff that skirts the whole of Douglas Bay and from where if you could only see through the trees there must be a wonderful view of the Bay. There are several very large buildings around here, many now converted for business use, again indicating that Douglas has at times been very wealthy.

All this was unexpected. This was not a planned trip but an idle walk through Douglas to get some fresh air with the idea of walking in daylight down Summerhill Glen. My first visit to this Glen was just two week’s ago when my son Matthew stayed with me for Christmas and we went to enjoy the illuminations which we did thoroughly enjoy in spite of the rain.

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Reaching the top of the Glen I followed the path down to discover a second more interesting path that enters the glen from the other side of the stream. I know most people are very happy with the modernisation of the paths in the glens but for me wide tarmac paths lose all the natural feel and magic of walking down a forested glen, so I was very happy to wander along the section that had not been tarmacked and watch the water meandering its way across the flat and boggy terrain, creating new rivulets here and there as it jumped over minor hazards on their way to join the main stream.

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The glen itself is very natural at the top and I found several interesting shapes in the stream and in the vegetation that sparked my interest. The stream is pretty with minor waterfalls along its ever downward and slightly winding trajectory. In the centre there is a flat area with wooden seats neatly positioned to enjoy the display the children (and adults) have created. It is not possible to follow the stream all the way to the sea as it goes underground whilst still quite elevated, but when I reached the shore to see where it finally entered the sea, I could hear a rush of water where it comes out behind the houses on Strathallan Crescent.

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The tide was out so I walked out into the bay and again I looked up at the lovely aforementioned cliffs and noticed houses half way up holding tightly on to the side of the cliffs, a pink house I had never noticed before with a curtain of trees behind it. Looking in the other direction out to sea, I walked out as far as the sand would allow me and came across boulders and seaweed that were as tall as me. I walked the mile or so back into town, and if you wished you could make a full circle of this walk.

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So, if you come to Douglas, take a bit of time to venture into those parts you don’t usually go and I’m sure you will find hidden treasures.

Below:  A slideshow of some shapes in Summerhill Glen

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I regret to say I did not take photos of the interesting properties I saw, but I will retrace those steps another time when I am armed with my camera and not just my mobile phone.

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Port Soderick to Douglas along Marine Drive – 2nd November 2019

DSC02192This week saw the last of the steam train journeys until next spring, so what better way to go into Douglas than to hop aboard at Port Erin and disembark at Port Soderick to walk the 5 miles into Douglas.

DSC02177Here is the Kissack, no 13, waiting to leave Port Sorderick.  As I walked down the lane I encountered a convivial lady sportingly cleaning up the road for vehicles as all the drains were blocked by the autumn leaves and the excessive rainfall of recent days, leaving great puddles. That’s what I call neighbourliness.

I walked through the glen which was a little on the muddy side. I never known the Crogga stream to be so loud as it made its way downhill and then softened as it gained the lower reaches, just every now and again bubbling over the rocks.

Reaching Port Soderick Bay, I never cease to amazed how this area was once a bustling pleasure beach, with all kinds of attractions and businesses – outdoor games, a camera obscura, Thomas the ‘novelty card’ printer, roundabouts and such time as well as  the now defunct and removed Falcon Cliff lift that enable to tourists to have a leisurely (if ugly) route to the top of marine drive, where they could get the horse tram all the way to Douglas. It seems like another world. I do remember the hotel which was always good for a coffee but that has also long since gone. They are always talks of renovating this area. If so, maybe they could reintroduce the story of the Enchanted Isle off Port Soderick, which was sunk beneath the seas by the magician Finn McCool along with its inhabitants which were turned to granite pillars; the island rises out of the sea every seven years for just 30 minutes, when the inhabitants will be restored to life if they can place a Bible on the island in that time.

I followed the muddy path alongside the road to the top of the hill where I took the cover photo. These hills are steeper and higher than they look here at about 300 ft high. They are mostly the typical Manx group of rocks comprising mudstone, siltstones and sandstones of the Lonan formation. They form the standard thin and craggy beds of slate that were distorted by the uplift of mountain formation in the Silurian and Devonian period, and in places these are very dramatic. At Keristal, close to Port Soderick,  and towards Douglas you will find large slabs of paler sandstone giving a softer landscape.

In places the rocks are quite architechtural, as here, close to Douglas Head gate house.

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Marine Drive was constructed and the tramway opened in 1896 and was not the wide roadway as it appears today. In places an overhanging iron roadway was made to get around some of the tricky rocks and this section was suitably named ‘Horses Leap’. However, it was all dismantled between 1947 and 1949 partly due to rock falls. It was converted into a roadway in 1956 and over time it became a walkers’ paradise and the central section closed to vehicles. It is easy to see why when you walk the route.

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Having had only coastal views and wonderful skies, including an enticing rainbow as I reached the Whing (the steepest and most contorted of the rocks), it is all over too soon and soon the path starts sloping making its descent into Douglas. Looking at the clouds over the mountains I had time my walk just right.

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A very pleasant walk of 5 miles and about 733 ft of ascent, but it is very easy after the intial ascent and just little ups and downs along the way.

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Greeba Mountain – 2nd October 2019

1a. View across to Greeba Mountain

Greeba Mountain is not technically speaking a mountain as it doesn’t reach the giddy heights of 600 metres. In fact, it falls well short at 422 metres and is the peak you can see above the plantation, looking rather apologetic. This was our second ‘peak’ of the day, our first being the traverse of Slieau Roy at 479 metres. I notice the word Slieau contains the word ‘eau’ which is of course, french for ‘water’, which is very apt considering the boggy nature of the peat hills. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We started out from Crosby village, the visitors arriving on the bus and the locals arriving by car. We took the A23 out of Crosby – sounds as if it’s a proper road doesn’t it, but actually it is just a minor lane with little traffic. The road climbs gently from the start all the way up to and around Cronk my Moghlane. It doesn’t take long before you can see the full extent of the valley between Douglas and Peel, and what strikes you most of all is the distant views, the lack of housing and the large amount of patchwork green fields. We are so used to travelling down that valley with its numerous villages dotted along the way,  that it doesn’t seem at all remote, but once you get up on the hills you have a completely different sense of island and what it’s all about.

We continued gently uphill following a grassy track full of humps and hollows made by the bikes in former years, now forbidden on this path, and contoured around the  eastern side of Slieau Ruy, which gave excellent views of the neighbouring hill called Colden (487 metres) and its shoulder The Creg – ‘creg’  meaning ‘rock’. I don’t know what Colden means…  now I do. It comes from the Scandinavian word Kollrinn, meaning the ‘top’ or ‘summit’. Just to complete the Manx lesson Slieau Roy means ”Red Mountain’, supposedly taking its name from the heather. In former times, many flowers were called red even though they were pink or purple; and Greeba is also of Scandinavian origin from the word ‘Gripa’ meaning ‘peak’.

 

11. View of x from my point

It was a little blustery but we so relieved to see the sun after yesterday’s torrential rain that had completed wiped out Laxey and caused landslides on Snaefell. As we reached the col, we turned back along the ridge to the top of Slieau Roy.  It might have been time for lunch, but the weather was not conducive to sitting on boggy ground with the wind whistling past our faces, so we continued undaunted if a little hungry on to the lesser Greeba Mountain. The views in all directions were wonderful and we could spy the wind turbines at Morecambe, Black Combe and the other mountains of the western Lake District and in the other direction we could see the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland. Who cares whether or not Greeba mountain is a real mountain. It is lovely place to stop and stare.

After this we descended off the moorland into one of many plantations in this area, this one with the unimaginative name of Greeba Forest, also known as King’s Forest. Believe it or not, there was an unusual battle here as late as 1937 between police with firearms and feral sheep, who were slaughtered to prevent the spread of sheep scab. I wish I had known that little trifle of knowledge as I was walking down the hill.  As it was, I was very happily engaged in very pleasant conversations with visitors who were part of our walking festival. You can see them below – how many different ways of smiling (or grimacing) can you spot?

18. The top

As we had made good time, we finished our walk by crossing over the ever so busy St John’s road and made our way to the heritage trail, which was formerly a railway line between Douglas and Peel. It has recently been upgraded and totally spoiled (in my opinion) in order to accommodate cyclists and possibly wheelchairs. It is now a wide uninteresting shingly type of path that won’t make anyone want to go for a walk. It has lost all its character and there is no longer any sense of its history. But times move on, and so must I.

I leave this blog on a high note. I had a wonderful day, and met some really interesting people. It is so wonderful to share our love of this island with visitors and to hear their stories of their travels. Thank you so much to the Walking Festival, and to our leader, Ken and assistants Belinda and Gayle, who have given up their time to take us out for the day. I can’t join them for their other events this week, but I hope the weather holds up for all the walkers.

Distance: 9 miles; Ascent 1408 ft; Descent 1424 ft. I will attach a short slide show of other photos from today after the map.

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Ridge Walk Snaefell to Ramsey – 30th September 2019

This was a first, at least for me. For the last twenty years I have visited the Isle of Man and the last five years I have been living here, yet in all that time I had not done this spectacular ridge walk. We could have hoped for a sunny day, but this is the Isle of Man where we are more likely to encounter strong winds and rain or the dastardly Mananan’s cloak, but we could be lucky…

It all started out so promisingly as I drove to Laxey in bright sunshine, and the forecast promising not to disappoint until 4pm. The other walkers arrived at the station and it was still just about sunny as we hopped on the tram up to the top of Snaefell. As we reached Bungalow we realised the weather had other intentions as the top became swirled in mist. I could almost feel my fellow walkers psychologically putting on hats and wet-weather gear in anticipation. I did feel disappointed for the visitors to the island who might have hoped the see the seven kingdoms of Man, but it was not to be. However, you can see what a cheery lot we are as we set on down the mountain.

No view at the top

We reached the TT course and crossed over to start our ascent. Although classified as a strenuous route, this seemed a misnomer as we were starting at the highest point, with a few ups and downs but mostly downs until we reached the sea.

The ridge affords some wonderful views even in this semi-cloudy state. Every now and again clouds would swell up in the valleys and filter across the shoulders of the hills and engulf everything in their path; in between we had some fine glimpses into the distance and occasionally saw the Lake District and even less occasionally saw Scotland. I waved to my son, James, who is wild camping in Galloway though I couldn’t see Scotland at all at that moment, and instantly I received a video text from him waving to me and saying he couldn’t see the Isle of Man either. Talk about coincidences.

Our first hill was Clagh Ouyr  (551 m), followed by two unnamed hills. I did think we should have given these demoted tops some appropriate names to identify them given them as they are still good heights for the Isle of Man, the first at 550 metres and the second 533 metres. The superior-minded North Barrule, which is only a matter of 565 metres seems to think it literally rules the place, which I guess it does. The pointy peak reminded me of Thorpe Cloud in Derbyshire. It’s not a difficult climb, being mostly on peat. It was rather boggy in places but easy walking along the ridge.

The peak route

As lunch approached, so did the clouds and we sensed a change in the weather. Our guide, who for some reason I keep wanting to call Steven, but whose name is actually Ken, pointed out that the formation of clouds showed that the rain was just being held at bay, and we hoped long enough for us to make our descent.

Spirits were still high as you can see, though I did wonder who was challenging who to jump off first.

North Barrule itself is a lovely hill and its one of those where you feel you want to abandon your rucksack and run up it and be a child again for a moment, but this was not quite the day for such frivolities.

The route down is a little tedious as it is very uneven, wet and boggy and therefore a little slippery. Even so, we did have some splendid view of cloud formations over Ramsey Bay.

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We eventually met a green road taking up to Ballure Reservoir and Glen. The reservoir was completely dry, which is ironic as at this point the heavens opened. It is only dry for maintenance and it was interesting to see it without any water. We proceeded down the glen amongst the trees and finished on the beach.

It was a really great walk and one that I can imagine I shall do many times in the future. Thanks to the Isle of Man Walks Festival for putting this on and many many other walks every day for a week. I look forward to seeing you again on Wednesday for Greeba Mountain if you will have me after I was telling what an unsociable walker I usually am!

Distance 7.39 miles; Elevation 854 ft; Descent 2734 ft

Snaefell

A short walk around Peel and Glen Maye

I had been to Peel Cathedral for Evensong. It was a very special evensong, with the very musical group Voces Insulae providing the choral repertoire. It was absolutely beautiful and the bible readings too stood out above the norm for some inexplicable reason. The cathedral was particularly resonant today.  I guess some days are like that.

Having started out as an inconveniently wet night and morning, it had now brightened up, so I strolled down to Peel beach where the wind had whipped up froth that looked like candyfloss. I then did the circuit of the exterior of Peel Castle, passed the spot on the point where my grandchildren, son and I had had a memorable picnic about this time last year. As I came round to Fenella Beach you could imagine St Patrick’s island cut off from Peel as great swathes of sand seem to almost continue seamlessly from one side of the harbour to the other.

I then traversed the low route contouring around the east side of Peel Hill back to my car, intending to get home in good time to cook my tea before the ‘Strictly’ results show,. Peel look very colourful and appealing in the soft late afternoon light.

I just had to pop in to my favourite glen on the way back for a bit of magic. And I was not disappointed. As you can see the fairies had made their ring to dance around, though they hid in the undergrowth when I turned up.

Fairy Ring

I could hear the waterfall well before I could see it. It was spewing out copper and peat coloured water and although there was quite a torrent it was nothing like I had witnessed a month or two ago.

On one side of the ravine, the water was dripping down the side of the rocks looking life hanging vines.

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Rain drops looking like hanging vines

I managed to watch Strictly – no surprise as to who was sent home there then – then settled down to watch ‘Millionaire’ as well, when I decided to make some fruit cake to take out tomorrow on my first walk with the Island Walking Festival’s Weeks’ Walks, so I dodged out in the intervals and I now have a full stock of food to take with me tomorrow.

I shall be walking from Snaefell along the tops to Ramsey, and on Wednesday doing a circular route taking in Greeba Mountatin, before I leave the island for a little while to visit family and have a week’s holiday with HF in the Lake District. I will try and write a blog about each of these walks that I haven’t ever done before!

Bradda Head – 13th September 2019

You know what they say – you can’t keep a good dog, or in my case, woman down. Two consecutive days of walking. What a treat. Today, I had relatives visiting so what an opportunity to show them some of the outstanding scenery on our doorstep. On Thursday I headed south, yesterday I headed north from Port Erin.

We met at Bradda Glen restaurant, which is an excellent starting point for this walk if you don’t want to walk the extra mile from Port Erin. We followed the Coronation footpath to Milner Tower,  stopping at various points to describe the scenery, tell tales or just to enjoy each others’ company in the balmy autumn wind and sun. It was our warmest day for a while, and the sky was very blue.

The top

We didn’t pass a soul on our way to Fleshwick. The path down from the Bradda cairn was a little slippery and uneven, surprising considering the lack of rain, but by the time we reached the steep descent the path was dry and easier to conquer. We did meet a lady blackberrying with her dog and a group of holiday makers on a walk and a drone, i.e. a mechanical instrument, not a humble bee or rude name for a boring person!! The drone did rather spoil the ambience.

On the tops we had the splendid views towards Peel. I could stay up here for hours, with views of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on a good day. It is just perfect, well maybe a couple of weeks earlier would have been even better as the colour of the heather would have given the senses a real boost. But you can still imagine what it looks like in its rich colour, can’t you?

Towards Cronk Ny Arrey Laa

Our return route contoured around the base of the Bradda group on an easy footpath then joined the road through East Bradda back to Bradda Glen. This was followed by a lovely evening together at The Shore Hotel. The food was magnificent and rounded off a super day with friends.

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Fleshwick Beach

And the start of the route down, which drops off steeply at this point:

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Most of my photos were of my friends, so I can’t include many today.

Distance: 4.71 miles (Bradda Glen circular); ascent 1092 ft; descent 1060ft. Maximum elevation 732ft – not bad for cliffs.

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Cregneash, Chasms, Sound, Port Erin – 12th September 2019

This was my first ‘step out’ for some time, at least a couple of weeks, as I have been ascertaining the effect of hill walking on my metabolism. Having decided it was having no direct ill effect on my health, I am happy to report you will find me wandering out and about the local hills as usual, and further afield over the next six months.

This afternoon I stretched my legs and walked from home, up the Golden Road, which is not at all golden at the moment, but does have heaps of blackberries and Speckled Wood butterflies. I am pretty sure I also saw a Comma or a Fritillary, but you know butterflies they are gone before you have a chance to see them!

I started out in reasonable weather, but it wasn’t long before the rains came, but I was suitably attired and enjoyed my walk up Meayll Hill. The heather has mostly turned now but the gorge looked very sunny in the rain. On the top Meayll Hill I passed by the stone circle in the featured image at the top and veered slightly out of my way and found an old ‘bunker’ from the days of the WW11 radar station. Not sure what would have been contained here. Maybe it goes underground… there’s the start of a thriller.

Cregneash

Over to Cregneash, up and over the top and down to the glorious Chasms – and the sun came out. The sheep made their own stone circle shape and stood out very effectively against the scenery. This next section has always been one of my favourite parts of our wonderful island, round Black Head and Spanish Head. One of the Loaghtan sheep was poised like King Orry observing pirates out at sea simultaneously guarding his flock.

A little further on and I was down at the Sound in the early evening sunlight. There were few people here now but I stopped at the cafe to replenish my stocks then continued on past Rocky Valley over the hills to Port Erin. The low sunlight was casting wonderful shadows and shapes that gave distinctive images of the rocks with the play of light and dark, but goodness was it windy!!

More sheep – usually, as you know, with me it cows – but sheep it was today. The brown Loaghtan sheep looked wild and scruffy whereas the cream coloured sheep looked as if they had just been in the washer in time for their photo shoot.

Sheep and the Tower

I can never resist taking a photo of one of my favourite gates on the Isle of Man. As I walked around the bay I observed the light was reflecting on the sand and on the beach the lugworms had taken over from the children building sandcastles.

If you are a new visitor to the Isle of Man, this is a walk not to miss. You can start from Port St Mary and follow the coast, getting the steam train or bus back to Port Erin, or if you just want to best bits, take a car to the quarry car park at Cregneash and follow my walk to Port Erin. In summer there is a bus that will take you back to Cregneash.

Total distance 7.5 miles (home to home); 1339 ft of ascent, similar descent, probably a little more. Moderate walking. Highest point to Sound 501ft (no details of height of highest hill from Sound to PE).

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Other points of interest from the wildlife: Do let me know if you can identify the caterpillar.

 

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