The first day of the year would not be complete without a brisk walk, and today was no exception. Well, it didn’t start out that way. Having had weeks of sleepless nights or very little sleep I was finally asleep at the time I had intended to rise to go and view the dawn. After a light breakfast I went back to bed and slept for another couple of hours, so this was really not a promising start to 2021.
Indeed, our government had reported some unwanted findings of coronavirus in the community at 2 minutes to midnight, heralding in more doom and gloom for the New Year. Given that they had had this information since Boxing day and not deemed it of enough importance even to mention in the briefing on 30th December, they could have waited instead of spoiling everyone’s New Year celebrations.
Anyway, I finally shook myself out of my lethargy and suggested to Janet that we have a walk up to Bradda Head. This would mean I couldn’t opt out if I suddenly found I couldn’t be bothered. We met up at Athol Glen, wearily looked at each other, and decided maybe Bradda Head was a step too far today :-). However, we did go most of the way, with suitable rests after moments of exertion on perfectly positioned benches and were rewarded with some lovely views and a crisp air to shake away the cobwebs.
In the end, we walked 3 miles or so, the sun shone, and we could see the remnants of snow on the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland. I do have some plans for longer walks in the hills over the next few days, so look out for those posts.
When I loaded up the information from my Garmin, I found I had been awarded the Strong Start Badge 🙂
We had had snow overnight and a sudden flurry of hail, causing some chaos on the roads. By the time I went out today the situation was much improved. It was a bright day with extensive views in all directions. On the way home I could clearly see Snowdonia (hello Ros!) and Anglesey (hello Ian and Valerie).
On reaching South Barrule I stopped along the Round Table Road to get a view of Snaefell in its winter wonderland. Then onwards and upwards, with the roads getting just very slightly slippery as I neared Glen Helen.
It is months since I have been here, so I thought it would be a good place to meet up with my friend, Jill, for a short walk before lunch at Greens in St. Johns. It was still quite cold, even though it was midday, so we wrapped up warmly to accommodate the chilly weather.
There were few people about and no-one else stopped and stared at the things we spied: the necklace-like spider’s web shimmering in the light, the russet colours of the beech and oak leaves lying on the ground; the sphagnum moss clinging for dear life to defunct tree trunks as they toppled down the hillside; some broom in flower. The colours were suprisingly bright for mid winter.
The path has recently been renovated and this is one of the better paths that is pleasant to walk on, with plenty of room for pushchairs and wheelchairs. New sturdy wooden bridges have been created which give wide views of the river, which was furiously scrambling over rocks, pebbles and collapsed trees on its way to meet the sea. At one point a new bench had been positioned looking away from the river back up the hillside – very odd, especially as there was fencing behind it to stop anyone from falling into the river!
In no time at all we were at the waterfall which was putting on a special show just for us. The water-scuplted rocks made interesting shapes. About 5ft above the level of the water was an unusual ball-shaped space, looking as if it might have contained a large boulder at some time, and which had long ago tumbled into the water. You can just make this out on the photo below. The alternative is that the waterfall may have changed its course, so that was my cue to continue upwards to investigate. I left Jill admiring the waterfall and took off up a grassy, muddy path with some slippery stones to negotiate. There were more waterfalls at the top and I concluded that it is possible that many aeons ago the waterfall would have been a lot higher and the bowl shaped sculpture could have been made by a previous waterfall, though we shall probably never know. Maybe the elves spend the winter carving out the stone for their palace in the woods.
So, from there it was the same walk back, although we did cross the river to view a throne on the other side. There is nothing to indicate its significance but that is something more for me to investigate another time.
This was a short walk of only 2.3 miles and a coupleof hundred feet of ascent on my extension, so it really is a basically flat walk that anyone can enjoy. You can walk right to the end and return on the other side and the total distance would be no more than 3 miles.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. I had planned to do a Sunrise Walk in the hills, but with potentially icy road conditions forecast, I have decided to give that a miss, but there is nothing to stop me doing the same thing up Meayll Hill, stand in the stone circle and watch the new year come in from the east.
I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Whatever it may bring, the countryside remains accessible and open to us all to renew our souls and bodies, so let’s take advantage of the natural beauty wherever we live. So far, it is the one place that coronavirus has not colonised and we can breathe.
I was itching to get out in the hills. It is so long since I have walked anywhere but in the south, and this time I could leave my measuring stick behind me, ignore the peat and sphagnum moss and just appreciate our wonders scenery. Instead of including photos as I go along there is a slideshow at the bottom instead today.
I picked the day when the weather would be best ( both Monday and today being rainy days) and invited my friend Janet to join me on a walk I have never done, but have often looked at from afar. We took the road up from just outside Kirk Michael and parked on the grass at the start of the walk, just before the road to the right leading to Injebreck and the cattle grid leading onto the main Snaefell uplands. You can find this easily by looking for a triangular piece of woodland, called Sartfell plantation.
It was bright and sunny initially, though a little chilly. We followed the green lane gently upwards. Sartfell at 454 m is immediately to the left but there is no direct footpath to the top and there are signs discouraging people from going off the track, though I suspect this is mainly for the benefit of the bikers and possibly horse-riders who are allowed to use these green lanes. We continued north on the path skirting Slieau Freoaghane (488m). There is a choice of paths at this point and I wanted to go slightly westward so that we would get a view of the western slopes of the island, so we took the left fork temporarily to the saddle between the said previous hill and Slieau Dhoo (424m). We were not disappointed. The views down the valley to Kirk Michael were lovely and the hills around had satisfyingly geometric green slopes.
We retraced our steps a little to continue on the eastern side of the hills up to where the green road meets the ‘main’ Druidale Road that leads down to Ballaugh. Along the whole of this path we had had wonderful views of Snaefell and its neighbouring hills, with North Barrule tipping its head up so we could see it in the distance. The green road is not particularly pleasant to walk on being heavily rutted by the motorbikes, but there is room to walk on grassy ledges most of the time. There were quite a few puddles to negotiate as well.
This was our midpoint at the head of the Tholt -e- Will plantation and there were excellent views down to the Sulby reservoir and at one point we could see the Ayers lighthouse far away in the north. We now turned south to walk along the road all the way back to the car. Usually I don’t like road walking but at this time of year when it has been so very wet it’s a good idea and in any case cars were few and far between and it is a most attractive road to walk along.
As we walked back and looked across to our left, we reflected on the fact that are no footpaths across most of the land we could see. A few sheep would venture over on to the moorland, and there are very very few buildings, so the area is quite unspoilt.
This walk was just under 7 miles, with about 810ft of ascent. However, it is easy walking with no really steep gradients and if you need to take a break at any point you can simply say you are admiring the view.
The slideshow starts with a view the hills of South Barrule and Cronk ny Array from the car park then a mix of locations on the walk itself.
My next planned walk in a very early morning (7am) walk to herald the New Year on January 1st!
To be more accurate I should perhaps write ‘less’ peat surveying as the peat was disappointingly thin on the ground – excuse the pun. I am getting to know every inch of South Barrule, sometimes very personally! This time I was on the western flank where the path leads up to the top from the Cringle Plantation.
I had planned my waypoints following contours to ease the number of ups and downs and scrambling over rocks, heather, gorse, and falling down gullies. In windy weather measuring the peat can be quite a chore, so a boring grey day seemed a good choice.. until I got there. There had been some quite heavy rain the previous few days and the terrain was slippery, whether it was grass or stone, and being on uneven ground only made the matter worse. Having the measuring pole is quite a blessing as it acts like a walking stick and enables me to move faster over the moorland and prevent falls.
There is little to say about the 17 waypoints I measured, as there were very few prods with depths of over 30 cm, and very little sphagnum moss, except in secluded areas. It seems to like plateaus or areas where there are natural springs and gullies, so as this section of South Barrule is mostly a continuous slope there was little of interest by way of peat and sphagnum moss. However, I did find a toadstool and I observed an unusual plant ( unusual to me anyway) and the deer grass looked absolutely splendid in its autumn colours. Towards the end of the session I came across an area abundant with sphagnum moss and this was a very bright and cheerful green lying on a springy bed of turf.
At my coffee stop I sat and admired the view down the Glen Rushen Valley, one of my favourite sights, and as I was at ground level I took advantage of the grasses blowing at head height to get some different photos of this area. As you will see from the slideshow there is a lot of tufty grass or heathers and gorse blocking the way for the mosses to grow.
I called in at the Manx Wildlife Trust office to discuss the recording of waypoints and Sarah told me that South Barrule had previously been an area with deep rich peat, but with the mining, quarrying and peat cutting, those days seem to be long gone.
But I live in hope that the remaining 50 or so waypoints I have to measure above Round Table will provide something of value, but either way I am in my element out in the hills, just me and my trusty pole.
I have a few more ‘normal’ walks in the pipeline during the Christmas period, including a Coast to Cairns at the top of Snaefell and a very very early morning walk on New Year’s Day to watch the sunrise. Watch out for these posts, and meanwhile have a lovely and safe Christmas wherever you are.
What else might you conceivably do on a very very wet day when it has been raining for hours? Spend hours over your Sunday lunch, watch a box set, snuggle up around a warm fire? I chose to don my waterproofs and go for a walk down Glen Maye on my way to Peel for the annual Friends of the Cathedral Choir service.
It really was raining cats and dogs and I suspected the paths and steps would be very slippery, especially as they would be strewn with autumn leaves, so rather than take the direct route into the glen I took the road that bypasses the main beauty spot and takes you towards the beach. Even this was tricky to negotiate in places with massive puddles and streamlets meandering down the road.
What a joy to enjoy this area and have it all to myself – I can’t imagine why! – and to see the swollen river rushing down little alley ways and bubbling furiously over rocks and stones. Having reached the beach and already soaked I didn’t hang around and went back to join the track that goes into the main glen. There were a few places where the waters were more gentle and every now and again it would surprise me with sudden spurts and mini waterfalls that are never usually present.
The autumn leaves lying on the path were beautiful. Most of the leaves had left the trees, leaving the canopy more open to the sky, and allowing the rain to tumble through more easily. This is only a short walk, gradually going uphill, and I could sense a build up of water as I heard the rush of water falling in the distance. Turning the corner, I was at the Glen Maye waterfall, looking resplendent and owning the place. I have never seen it so full of water and I stood there mesmerised watching it pounding down over the rocks and creating a misty haze over the pool. It was stunning. This was definitely the way to encounter the waterfall, starting low with expectation building up as I walked though the glen.
From here, it is just a short climb up to the car park. I am always surprised by the contrast of the beautiful tree-laden glen down below and the stark car park just 50 metres above. When you are down there it is as if you are in a different world, but you very rapidly come out into reality.
This should have been a wellie walk and would have been had this not been a spur of the moment decision to catch the bus to Ballasalla to admire the trees beside the Silverburn before they lose their leaves for the winter. I was lucky. It was pouring with rain as I left home to go to the post office so had already donned my waterproof trousers and waterproof trainers. I was midway from home to the village when I made my decision and what a good decision it was. The trees were magnificent in their autumn glory and the river was flowing with all its might, furiously tippling and toppling over stones on its way to the sea.
I won’t bother you with the details but will leave you with some photos to enjoy. Maybe they will give you pause for thought, that bad weather can bring moments of joy and enlightenment that never can be anticipated, and to try would be to spoil the occasion.
I have been living on the island for 7 years yet this is the first time I have visited Earystane Nature Reserve, a hectare of land owned by Manx Wildlife Trust that can’t be more than three miles away from my house as the crow flies. I had worked out a short circular walk of about 4 miles, just perfect for an afternoon walk now that the clocks have gone back and the nights draw in early. Our walk started at the top of Colby. Take the Colby Glen road uphill for just over a mile until you run out of houses and where Earystane is signposted. We parked on the corner beside the nature reserve, but it is preferable to park in one of the lay-bys just before or after the entrance.
In the back of my head I thought this small site had only recently been converted into a nature reserve, but this is untrue. It was formerly the local tip and it was offered to the MWT in 1996 to transform it into a reserve and a local amenity. It has a most attractive natural tree arch over a good wide path suitable for wheelchairs that leads to a hide. At this time of year there weren’t many birds about, though we did see a small flock of goldfinches. The view across to the Carnanes is beautiful from the hide at any time of year. From here, there is a boardwalk which might be difficult for wheelchair users but would be possible with care. This takes you to a low wild wetland area of willow, shrubs and trees that would be called curragh in the north but is called moenay in the south (peat).
There is only one entrance or exit. From here our walk started. We followed the northwest track that leads to some old farms. We walked around the back of the farm called Ballamoar, where there is something that looks like a set of fence hurdles to negotiate. The path is clearly marked so do persevere. Where the path turns eastwards there was a huge field of turnips with no obvious pathway left for walkers. It was easy to traipse over the turnips but the farmer should have left a track through the field to avoid walkers damaging his/her crops. Reaching the other side, we met a few stiles and grassland taking us around the southern end of another most attractive dwelling to the A27.
We followed this road left for a short distance before turning right and right again down what I assume is the old road or farm track leading to Ballabeg. This was a little muddy in places but is a pleasant unspoilt grassy walk on a narrow lane, preferable to walking along the main thoroughfare.
As we met Ballagawne Road, we turned right and shortly afterwards left into fields. I had remembered this particular footpath to be extremely muddy but the last time I walked this path was 20 years ago, so I wasn’t put off. Things change …. or not. I was so busy finding the most sensible path through the heavy mud I forgot to take a photo to show you, so the one I show below is one of the more friendly patches of mud. There are very ancient boardwalks in parts, but I wouldn’t trust them to withstand the weight of too many people – they were very rocky in places with just two of us walking on them.
Despite the mud it had some nice sections, providing extensive views of the south. Wellies would have been better than walking boots but this is only a relatively short distance, and very soon you find yourself back on the edge of Colby where it was just a short walk back to the car. You can extend this walk by taking a diversionary path south over fields into the lower part of Colby then walking up the beautiful Colby Glen back to the car. If you have never visited Colby Glen then it would be a perfect extension to your walk. If you want to go this route, take the path over the fields beside the derelict house.
Ignore the elevation on the photo. I can’t imagine there was ascent of 423 ft as it is a mainly level walk. The distance is correct, however, and excludes the walk around the nature reserve.
It might not be easy to get on and off the island just now, but there are ways, and this was one of them. I had seen a post on FB saying that Shona Boats would be offering boat trips to the Calf of Man, either landing and leaving you there to have a wander, or giving you a full onboard tour of the the whole island to show off its wildlife and spectacular scenery.
I knew I was unlikely to see much wildlife, but I thought there may be seal pups at this time of year, but perhaps not too many birds or cetaceans. One of my fellow passengers was hoping to see puffins but I knew that was out of the question, and we didn’t even see the decoy puffins designed to lure real life puffins on to the Calf.
The weather was mediocre, an overcast day, a little cool but not too windy, so we could expect a fairly calm boat ride. Our trip was delayed slightly by one of the passengers getting held up by a road traffic accident in Douglas which meant a detour for them of some distance to reach Port Erin. Soon we spied their car zooming along the promenade eager to catch us before we left. We were a little short of time, as we found out when we returned. Had we been much later we would have missed our landing berth on the Raglan Pier but as it was all was well and we disembarked using the last possible steps.
I had attired myself suitably for gusty winds and spray, and was wearing various layers and had hat, scarves and gloves in my rucksack, all of which got used during the trip. We set off around the buoy that marks the edge of the old pier where once upon a time cruise ships would unload their passengers who would then spill into Port Erin to see the wondrous sights our lovely bay has to offer. This jetty has long gone, and I have only ever known this area to be a mass of rocks that spew up water magnificently in windy weather in winter and serve as a perch for shags and cormorants.
I have walked this coastline to the Sound from Port Erin many many times, but it is interesting to see the gullies and rifts in the rocks from a different perspective and to see how the land at the top mirrors or does not mirror the lower reaches of the cliffs. We were soon at the Sound and Kitterland where we saw our first seal, and another popped its head out of the water curiously wondering what we were looking at. Then we followed the eastern edge around the Calf to the Drinking Dragon, and from hereon, this was new territory for me as I have never gone all the way around this tiny island. It was here that the wind picked up and everyone reached for their winter woollies. I would tell you some facts about the Calf but unfortunately I couldn’t hear the guide as I was perched on the outer edge of the seating area and everyone else was in the middle, so naturally enough he talked to them and his words were lost in the waves to me. I wasn’t too concerned as I will do this trip again sometime and then I will remember to sit in the right place. It would have been good if he had used some kind of headset, but he didn’t. However, I caught a few words here and there about the shipwrecks in these treacherous waters and the longtails swimming across to the Calf.
There were quite a few seals and their pups, but there was very little else except Choughs, Oystercatchers, Gulls and Shags. We had some good and unusual views of the 4 old lighthouses and a few cliffs later we left the island and made our way back to Port Erin, feeling considerably cooler than when we set out. Even so, it was such an enjoyable experience to see the Calf in its autumnal state, and I had a sense of getting away from everyday life and an opportunity to be off the island for a couple of hours.
We were so unlucky. The group that went out the next day were escorted by some bottle-nosed dolphins back to Port Erin; instead we had the quiet of the sea and the gentle rocking of the boat as we reentered the harbour waters.
It’s hard to believe that I was only a stone’s throw from Douglas. The views were wide, soft and gentle with only the tenderest of hints of any kind of building. In the distance the top of the steeple of Onchan church could be seen, the rest hidden by the canopy of Molly Quirk’s Glen.
This was one of the walks offered as part of the Manx National Heritage culture weekends. I arrived at the meeting point totally unprepared as I had mistakenly dressed myself for an Onchan Town Tour and not a walk across fields or through glens. Luckily, I was wearing sturdy shoes and the terrain was not too inclement nor had we had our usual fill of rain, so still feeling embarrassed by my own ineptitude I informed the leader I would continue.
My friend informed me it was to be guided walk of two or three miles taking about three hours. Maybe this is why in my head I had thought it must be a town tour, as how can you take 3 hours to walk such a short distance? Well, I was soon to find out.
We started by walking up the narrow Bilbaloe Glen. This is a short side-shoot of the main Molly Quirk Glen and this small tributary takes you up on to the hills. Even before we began walking we were told about the history of an ancient bridge over this tiny stream which once bore the main road to Laxey. On the opposite side of the stream our guide pointed out a derelict building which had once been a vibrant methodist church but as methodism became stronger on the island it fell into disuse. As we reached the road there was a footpath sign to the left along a track, one I have never noticed before, and we followed this up to Ballakilmartin Farm, which is a total wreck. You can see it must have a busy, active farm at one time, but the current owner lives in South Africa and has no interest in restoring or even maintaining the property. We were shown the former coach house, cattle sheds and stables, and discouraged from exploring due to the state of the property. The main entrance to this farm was not originally from the east as we had just ventured but from the west where the old road would have passed alongside.
We followed the old road north for a short distance to the point where it is no longer obviously an old road, and on the right there is the remains of a keill, which you would never normally see or even know about (no photos, sorry, as it is only a collapsed heap in a bit of woodland). This is why it is so good to go out with informed guides who bring it all alive for you. We learned that this keill (a type of private church) was about 18ft x 9ft and the excavations have shown that it crossed the Onchan/Laxey road, meaning that it must have been in use before the original road was built. It is dedicated to St Martin, a French catholic saint from the 4th century, who is also the patron saint of beggars, drunkards and the poor! This walk was organised by the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, so if you are visiting, you might want to contact them and see if you can join them for a walk www.manxantiquarians.com. You won’t be disappointed. Locals can join the society and enjoy lectures in the winter months and excursions in the summer.
From here, it was another hop skip and jump along the same trackway to another old farm, this time Ballig Farm, which was been in the same family for centuries, and where the Manx folklore writer Sophia Morrison spent a large part of her childhood. Unusually, we entered into its garden to spy a very special well. It has a stone entrance which protects the 17 steps down to the clear-as-a bell water, some steps being covered. Legend has it and the owner says that the water ebbs and flows with the tides, though in reality I think this is impossible. I suspect the water levels are due to an impermeable type of local rock, otherwise most of the Isle of Man would be underwater if this were the true water table given that this farm is 500ft above sea level.
Then, yet again, walking east along the same path we soon came to Mr. Kissack’s farm and buildings. He had built his own house on the land and had become a farmer having previously been a builder all his life. He looked very well and healthy with his new lifestyle and clearly this is his passion. However, hearing about machinery and cars was not to my taste so my friend and I decided to call it a day.
The remainder of the walk was just beautiful, initially along a wooded lane with just a few spectacular houses dotted along it until we came to the bridge leading down Molly Quirk’s glen. The story goes that Molly Quirk was robbed and murdered in this glen but there is no proof of this. Maybe had we stayed with the group the guide would have given us some interesting and more magical information about the glen. The paths are wide and easy to walk and with the golden leaves underfoot it was a very pleasant end to our walk. The total distance was indeed about 2.5. miles but as you can tell we were told a lot of stories along the way and the actual walking time was only just over an hour. You could extend this walk and continue along the stream into Groudle Glen, where you will eventually meet the sea.
This walk has peaked my interest to find these lesser known paths and to see how they connect to other areas.
As it is the last day of the month it seems appropriate to bring you up to date with the walks I have done in the last week or so. My time has largely been spent collecting data for the peat survey, which on Friday was absolutely exhausting and it took me the whole weekend to recover.
It started with a very very windy day, not cold particularly, though I did wear several layers and took hat and gloves, both of which I wore. On reflection, maybe I should have waited for better weather, especially as this walk involved going to the top of South Barrule for my first waypoint. It was a sunny day and the winds pushed the clouds out of the way affording me yet more views of our distant lands across the sea. I was glad I had worn my wellies too, as the ground was quite wet and boggy in places. I’ll tell you something – walking across naive territory where the only footprints have been made by sheep makes you aware of the fantastic footpaths that others have created (and maintain) for us to use to reach viewpoints and to engage with nature. I doubt if many people would venture out if they had to lift their legs knee high to cross the moors! Having finished this section, I then detoured to the South Barrule plantation thinking I might meet the dirt track and have an easy walk back to the car, but as you will see from the slideshow, it didn’t quite work out as planned. It was a strenuous day but one I look back on with a sense of achievement. That week my Garmin watch recorded 500 minutes of intensive training, when the govt guidelines advise a minimum of 150 minutes per week.
During this same week, I was lucky enough to be invited out for afternoon tea with my friend, Janet, so we decided to go to Peel (I seem to be there a lot these days) and commence with a 90 minute walk to justify eating sandwiches and cream cakes afterwards. If you like a short but interesting walk, this is perfect for you. Park at Fenella beach, either walk along the road to the bridge or take the upper route just above the roadway to the same point. Cross the bridge and immediately turn right. This will take you alongside the river. Believe it or not, I had never walked this particular section as I have always followed the Heritage Trail which takes you through the industrial estate (how exciting is that!). It is a delightful section and I shall never miss it out again. When you reach the bridge by the Raggatt you need to climb the steps to cross the road and go immediately behind the houses on the well made track. This is a gentle rise to Knockaloe Beg Farm where you turn right to go on to the hills. The fields are a lovely shade of green and look warm and inviting. It is a little pull up to the top, where you get unexpected views to the south all the way to the Calf of Man. There is a well-placed bench that allows you to get your breath back before making the final short climb to Corrin’s Folly. From there, it is a gentle undulating walk along the top before descending to Fenella beach. The footpaths are very good and there is no real need for sticks and you could get away with wearing stout shoes rather than walking boots. It’s a really lovely walk and one you can do any time you have a spare couple of hours.
And then, yesterday, I was back on the moors to finish those particular waypoints on South Barrule. This was much more pleasant. There was also a lot of sphagnum moss and on my final prod of the peat I recorded the deepest amount of the four sessions – 105cm. It’s one thing putting the prod in the ground but it’s quite another trying to get it out again. If I keep on doing this I shall soon look like Popeye. 🙂
So, that’s it for another month. I have quite a lot of activities coming up, with outings organised by Manx National Heritage, and I will document these as they happen over the next couple of weeks. I finish this post with some photos of Port Erin taken a couple of nights ago as I took an evening stroll.