Christmas Deliveries Pt 2: Port Erin to Castletown 6 3/4 miles

Big boulders, little boulders, coarse-grained sand, smooth sand; pebbles galore reminding one of Dorset’s Chesil beach, just as arduous to walk along, but only one mile instead of many. Deep wedges of seaweed, troughs made by meandering streams, fossilised corals and even remnants of a bird trapped within the confines of the limestone; vesicles made in the rocks by tiny organisms or were these holes evidence of gas trapped in the volcanic eruptions in Castletown bay? Who knows?! All this in a short 7 mile walk from Port Erin to Castletown, not to mention the ancient historical monument of Close Ny Chollagh and the Giant Steps created in the limestone nearby. There were mandatory cows at Pooil Vaaish Farm who stood to attention and waited politely for me to pass by – age before beauty :-). For those who are new readers, cows feature in many of my walks one way or another!

The walk began along Truggan Road behind Port Erin, leading towards Port St Mary. My first port of call was a house on Beach Road, followed by another a short distance along Shore Road. Here I couldn’t find the letter-box, so opened what I thought the porch door to find myself in their hall which was decorated with a very fine Christmas tree. I didn’t see the owners, but I do apologise for the intrusion.

The tide was out, so here was an opportunity to walk along the beach to Fishers’ Hill. I began to regret it as there was a strong easterly biting wind constantly battering my face and the mixed terrain was lop-sided and uneven to walk along, but there were joys to be had in the many fossils I stumbled across and the wonderful light shining on the sea. I regained my normal speed once on the track going around to Scarlett, detouring from time to time to find a new angle on a walk I have done many times before. If you have never walked this, this is one you should find time to do.

 

Christmas Deliveries Part One: Port Erin – 5 miles

Today our postal workers are on strike, so I didn’t have to wait in for any spontaneous delivery. Instead, I decided to take a tour of Port Erin and deliver some of my Christmas cards by hand. You can tell winter is knocking on the door. The drafty winds and grey skies speak a thousand words, so I wrapped up warm in my cosy handmade scarf and hat and set out. Each day is so different; each tide brings in new spoils and smooths out the rough edges on the beach. Each day the sky changes, and even areas across the sky appear to send out different themes and messages. And in between the grey and white clouds, the silvery glows across the sea and the specks of sunshine, even the moon, all make their personal claim to the sea and sky. These stories are told in the photos below, so even if the walk itself was nothing remarkable, the skies let you in to their secrets and make every walk special.

               

 

 

               

 

                        

Ps. No matter how I set out the photos, they always arrange themselves in their own unique way 😉

An afternoon stroll for Christmas Day – Colby Glen

Yes, I know its not Christmas yet, but I shall be away then, and as I strolled through the lovely Isle of Man countryside today I thought this is the most perfect walk for families to get a breath of air after the indulgence of the Christmas turkey. My walk was just over 5 miles altogether, but it can easily be shorted to 2, 3 or 4 miles if you don’t have a lot of time. The best part is the first couple of miles anyway.

I got the bus to Colby, getting off at the river. It is necessary to follow the minor road for a short distance uphill but this allows you time to imagine who lives in the varied houses abutting this gorgeous if small river. You soon arrive at the entrance to the glen; the view comes as a bit of a surprise, as there is no reason to expect the steep sided, wooded valley that encloses the river. Colby Glen is one of our national glens and therefore protected. It isn’t very long; it would take no more than 20 mins to walk end to end and back, but it is very special. The footpath follows the river, sometimes high, sometimes low, but always keeping the river in sight. In summer it is impossible to see the sky but as with Glen Rushen, in winter the trees stand out starkly against the blue sky with the sun glinting through them every now and again.

    

If you enter the Glen at the southern end, you wouldn’t expect to see the wide flat area at the northern end where I am sure I have heard fairies chattering and seen elves darting about amongst the undergrowth. This enchanted place is very magical, calm and quiet, sheltered from the tearing winds that have been slamming against our coastline these last few days and the bustle of everyday life. It is place to stop, take stock or meditate, or sing: many years ago I attended a concert (Meadowside?) being performed on this natural stage. That was late summer and apart from the lovely singing I can only remember batting off mosquito after mosquito on a balmy night.

I followed the contouring bends of the river, drawn by the sound of strongly flowing water. I have been here many times before, but never before have I seen a waterfall! That is probably because I have always followed the footpath signs or simply sat on the benches, or been there in summer when there is little flow. We have had a fair bit of rain, so I imagine all of our many glens will tell a similar tale.

 

Leaving the glen I walked up to Cronk Y Dooney and over to Ballakilpheric, where the path goes through a fine mansion’s back garden. The views over the bay are splendid there. Then on to Scholaby, and Croit-e-Caley, before finishing the main part of the walk at the Shore Inn (about 3.5 miles). There can’t be many places in England where you can start at a river, find a waterfall, walk through meadows and finish at the sea. It is easy to think of this as an ordinary walk, but we are so lucky that our island has tons of walks like this.

 

   

Yesterday, or today, depending on how you look at it, was my 5th Anniversary of living on this island (I moved December 8th 2013), and thankfully I no longer need a work permit. However, I can’t get old yet, as I have another 5 years to go before I am entitled to sheltered housing – if I want it. To mark my 5 years, I set out on a very drizzly and windy evening to walk up to the Brambles (the flat on the cliff where I first lived) to recall the moment I arrived in the dark. On that day, 5 years ago, I parked up the car, with my cat Sam, and all I could hear was the waves crashing against the rocks. In my mind it is very memorable. Sadly, it was impossible to recreate that moment. The wind made it almost impossible to stand up and of course, I see these views and listen to the waves most days, so what was very very special at the time is now my normal way of life, but always appreciated.

Body clocks, sleep and exercise

I have unfortunately been experiencing a painful back spasm this week which means I have been out of action (no walking) since I returned from the UK on Sunday. This has not been helped by teaching dance on Monday for several hours, but other than that I have had a sedentary few days teaching Psychology and Sociology, talking to online students and writing essays. One student was preparing some research on the topic of body clocks and exercise and there was a BBC program on this theme this evening, so it is very much in my mind.

Since I have been monitoring my fitness daily since May and done what I consider to be a ridiculous amount of fitness activity and intensity minutes, averaging about 5-7 miles of walking every single day and in addition averaging 210 i.m. per week as well as doing other fitness classes, I am aware of significant changes in my body clock, my mental health and in the way I sleep. Most of the time I feel great, I have finally started to lose a little weight though sadly very little 😦 , I eat less and I have a lot of energy.

I should say I am not an early bird, but then neither am I a night owl, but there has been a shift. First of all, I wake up now at dawn and feel relatively ready for the day – not necessarily for a jog, but I am awake and alert. I could easily do some mental work and often do. My body doesn’t seem to wake up fully and I can be quite sluggish if I have to have physical exercise until about 11am (as I found out in Mallorca) and then I can keep going all day, uphill, down dale, wherever or however long my walk or exercise takes me. I am usually out for a maximum of 4 hours, mostly over lunchtime. It is as if a switch goes on, the effect is so dramatic sometimes, especially if it is accompanied by a little food or drink. However, I think it is no coincidence that I am out in the fresh air when the amount and intensity of light at its greatest, especially during the summer and this is having a long-term effect on my circadian rhythms, so I am more active in the day and sleep better at night.

I have never liked exercising in the evening, say after 6.30pm, but I do find tea-time is a great time for muscular strength and flexibility work such as Pilates or Yoga. The body is warmed up through general movement during the day and hormones such as cortisol (stress hormone) are at their lowest so this is a good time to stretch out your body.  As darkness ensues the hormone melatonin increases to encourage you to sleep, which all sounds very sensible. When I had my dance school, I taught ballroom dancing most nights finishing about 10pm, so I didn’t experience the onset of darkness or relaxation until very late so my hormones didn’t kick in at the usual time. Not only was I very active all evening but the lights in the hall were bright, especially in winter; I had to eat at strange times and I found it impossible to sleep before midnight when I got home. I didn’t get up at dawn when I had that life. I used to complain to my doctor at Blisworth that I was always tired, but he dismissed me out of hand, as I always looked so well, and of course in every other way, I was very well and extremely fit, just very tired!!

I have also found that I have started going to bed earlier, about 9.30pm when I can. This means I actually get more sleep cycles, even if I lie awake for some time in the early hours. I think few people have problems with restorative sleep as that occurs predominantly in the first sleep cycles, but I am certain that in the past I have not had enough REM sleep, and when I have been zonked out from a lack of sleep I do notice that I dream more and for longer, and I always feel better for catching up this type of sleep. The length of dreaming sleep takes up a much larger proportion of a sleep cycle as the night goes on, and it is thought that this allows consolidation of memories, which may account for why I have such as lousy memory 😉

This week I have barely been out of the house and I do feel that my new healthy pattern is being disrupted. I have been surrounded by grey light all day as the days are getting shorter and there has been no sun, and the lack of physical activity is making me feel groggy and it is affecting my sleep. As you can see I am awake now at midnight, when I would normally be asleep.

This makes me think of those people with chronic fatigue and other disabling illnesses which prevent them from being active or getting outside. I wonder what happens to their various body clocks when are unable to get out and about. I suffered from a long term illness for 5 years; I learnt to live with morning tiredness but I would make sure I went out for an hour or two each day, no matter how painful or difficult it was. Maybe I did myself a favour that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. My concern was about losing muscle strength but maybe it also improved my sleep.

So for me, increasing my exercise and exercising late morning to early afternoon has had a significant impact on my sleep / wake cycle. This of course, is my story, and I am no expert in this field. Other people will have different but similar stories of how exercise at different times of day affects their sleep and body clocks. I would be interested to know how tennis players and formula 1 drivers cope will the rapid changes of time zones and sleep patterns and still manage to maintain their peak performances. For those with more usual occupations like you and me, some will find it hard to change their work patterns however much they would like to – nurses on shift work with a young family is an example that springs to mind, but it’s good to be aware of how your own body clock works and how to optimise it for good health and wellbeing. If you haven’t seen it, the programme below is well worth watching:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bn5ys4/horizon-2018-9-body-clock-what-makes-us-tick

Hopefully I shall be back walking again next week, maybe Tuesday – and normal service will be resumed.