26 Peaks Challenge, Day 2 plus – Lhargee Ruy, Colden, Slieau Maggle

I had a plan – a good ridge walk, with a couple of detours onto the nearby hills, and this is largely what I did, with a bonus of it being a very pleasant circular walk involving Colden and Slieau Maggle.

I parked behind a convoy of cars at the Sartfell plantation. It was gone 10am when I started, and those walkers had long gone. I followed the path that snakes behind Slieau Maggle and largely around Colden’s tummy , to complete the section I had not done on Sunday. This took me to Lhargee Ruy and Sunday’s furthest point, Slieau Ruy. As you walk this section you get tremendous views to the west. It was a reasonably clear day so I could see some distance. It is so good for the soul. The photo below shows Cronk Ny Array Laa, South Barrule, Slieau Whallian, Beary Beg and Beary Mountain.

Having detoured Slieau Maggle, there is a choice of paths; a nondescript path leading southeastwards for those wishing to make their way to the Colden plantation and Injebreck, or continue on the main route for a very short distance and then turn left to take you around the haunches of Colden. This is a really easy route to walk, on a well made path. There are no clearly visible paths up Colden itself (or Slieau Maggle) from this direction although if you don’t mind walking over heather and gorse there is nothing to stop you heading straight up to the top. But this was not on my agenda just yet.

I had chosen this route so that I would not have the sun in my eyes, and at the same time I would enjoy extensive views to the south and west. Colden on the left blocks the views to the big hills, and I would be able to enjoy these on the return route later on.

After about 15 mins you will find that the path starts to climb, and you begin to leave Colden behind. There is a not so helpful signpost pointing to a path leading down the hill in the direction of Little London. Continue straight on and up and you reach a couple of small cairns indicting you are almost at Lhargee Ree. So far I have failed to find anything interesting to tell you about these hills. All I could find on a google search was how to pronounce Lhargee Ruy!

Just beyond this point the path from Crosby feeds in from the left at a gate and kissing gate. This is a walk I did with Ken a couple of years ago. The next section is a delight to walk along. A largely level grassy or peaty path that only becomes a little more demanding when you start the final climb up to Slieau Ruy. I didn’t loiter here long as this was not my focus for today. So far I had walked 3 miles. I had anticipated an overall distance of 7 miles. As the other day, at this point I had seen no-one at all and had the hills enitrley to myelf.

I returned down the same track to Lhargee Ruy where I perused the scene in front of me. The hills in the background were commanding my attention, but I also liked the look of the Creg and I could see what looked like a path circling around Colden where it would meet at the saddle with the Creg. It is not marked on the map, and in reality, without a compass or the necessary enthusiasm, it isn’t easy to find on the ground. As you get lower, the path is not visible and the terrain is a mix heather, gorse and …. bog.

So true to form, I thought I might take the more obvious path to the top of Colden and reach the Creg that way, but I found something more interesting to do, so that will be on my list for another day, as it is indeed another 1000ft top to bag. The path to the top of Colden is basically a sheep track, but it is visible and easy to follow. The contours are not particularly demanding and after about 10 mins you reach the top. It’s one of those hills where you think you are there and there is a bit more and a bit more. There is a cairn at the top, and no obvious paths off from here, just more paths like sheep tracks. There is a path which I thought would lead back to Creg, but I wanted a view of Slieau Maggle so I had to walk north on unchartered territory to gain a view of it. As I had passed it earlier, there was no obvious path up there, so I wanted to see whether there were any paths on the ground. I had gone a few hundred yards before I could see enough to make my decision, and yes, it looked like I would be able to climb Slieau Maggle joinng it not far from a plantation.

My peat surveying skills of walking on uneven land have stood me in good stead, so I decided to continue by blazing my own trail down Colden and on to Slieau Maggle. As I write this, I have just ascertained what Maggle means – testicle! Okay. Bit of a strange name for a hill. It wasn’t difficult at all, I have come across much worse in unfrequented parts of other hills. At other times of year or after rain it might be a little boggy and you might not like it, but today it was fine. I did see plenty of sphagnum moss which pleased me. I was even more delighted that when I reached the start of Slieau Maggle I had navigated to the only stile in the vicinity, purely by chance, but very rewarding. It’s a bit rickety, so be careful if you go over that.

From here, I simply took the easiest route to the very flat top. I didn’t bother with a map, so I guessed that as long as I was walking uphill I would eventually reach the top. Lo and behold, I came across a stake in the ground with stones placed around it, which I think must be the top. I didn’t quite know the best way off the hill, so I headed in an easterly direction when I would eventually meet the Injebreck road. I had no idea whether they would be a fence or gate to negotiate, or just barbed wire, but I was sure it would all work out. In fact, it was a great decision, as the moorland simply ebbs onto the road and I just climbed over the bank. From here is was a short walk back to the car. I almost did Sartfell and then thought better of it. I had only wanted a short day, and it had been perfect.

It was almost exactly 7 miles, with 1257ft of (easy) ascent and about the same amount of descent. Walking time was actually 2hrs 38 mins. The time stated on the map is the start and finish times.

I would do this walk again. It’s one I am sure my daughter, who has MS, would enjoy, and it’s one where you can let the kids off the leash too.

Surprised by Joy – Glen Maye 3rd June 2021

Sometimes the shortest walks can bring the greatest joy. I was on my way home from my hospice client at Nobles and decided to go a round-about route to pop in on Glen Maye to take some photos of the waterfall in dappled sunlight. My next watercolour project is this beautiful waterfall, so I wanted to know how the sunlight falls on the water, trees and leaves.

I hadn’t expected anything in particular, but it turned out to be a very special hour in the glen. The leaves were a vibrant green, and the sun caught the edges of the leaves and created reflections in the water I haven’t seen before. As we haven’t had a lot of rain recently, I was able to scramble down the bank into areas I don’t usually visit to get unusual views. In addition, the birds were singing loudly and the wind whistling through the trees.

It was so peaceful and calming that I continued through the glen down to the sea and then took the top route back to the car park. The wildflowers were abundant, but not often dramatic. It pays to stoop down and look at individual flowers to appreciate them, and sometimes you spot things you have never seen before. At the end of this short blog, I am attaching a video showing some of the wildflowers I encountered, most of which I can now name, so if you want me to indentify anything for you, just send me a message. The photos are only small files but they seem to take a while to download.

I feel so blessed to live here and to have such variety of countryside within a few square miles; there is something for every mood, every level of health and fitness, which is how I ended up here seven and a half years ago. All being well tomorrow, I shall be back on the hills, but I adore the gift of the glens just as much, each one similar and yet different, with their own identity.

This ‘walk’ was just two miles long, including standing in the river and walking backwards and forward along the beach admiring the flowers. It would be a great place to take young children to show them the beauty of nature.

26 Peaks Challenge Day 2- 4 peaks and 10 miles

This was Day 2 with a difference, hence calling it ‘2 minus’ – the difference being I was unable to go with the group yesterday and decided that I would make up for it by doing two circular walks involving the same peaks over the next week. The bonus is that I had never walked from the starting point I chose, or been up Beary Mountain, or made my way up the skirt of Slieau Ruy, so lots of new things.

The weather was glorious warm sunshine, only the sun was not strong enough to push through the haze in the distance, so my photos are somewhat lacking. The atmosphere was wonderful and being on my own I could choose when and where to stop and I shall long remember my extended stop on the slopes of Slieau Ruy taking in the vistas, brushed by a gentle breeze.

I parked at Tynwald Mills car park (St. Johns) and started my ascent immediately on crossing the main road from St Johns to Kirk Michael. There are two options here. Either follow the signpost for horses or take the left turn through the woods, which theoretically at least was the actual path. It was a delightful walk through the woods until it petered out at the stream, which meant I had a mini adventure making my way through the undergrowth in the trees to get to the top path (the horse path). It was fun anyway.

This path is clearly a very old path and once you reach a certain point it contours around the midriff of Beary Park (the hill with the mast that you can see for miles). This path is very accessible but stony. The path on the map shows it continuing to join the lane from Greeba, but there is a very pleasant path left which takes you to the southern edge of the Beary Park plantation and eventually joins at the crossroads to Beary Mountain. I then went into the plantation to bag my first peak over 1000ft, being Beary Park itself. Last time I was here, a year ago, it was completely shrouded in mist so it was nice to have views this time. If you are new to the island, if you continue on this path it eventually takes you back down the hill to Glen Helen, a very pretty stream and waterfall.

I retraced my steps to the crossroads. I could see a clear path ahead leading onto Beary Mountain. Bear in mind that the paths on the ground do not necessarily match those on the map, so you need to keep an idea of where you are eventually heading. In my case, I hadn’t actually decided and I was quite happy mooching around on Beary Mountain enjoying the countryside. The plantations too do not look like their designated areas on the map either and they are a little misleading. I never did find the Cairn (not that I was actually looking for it) but I am certain I went over the highest point of Beary Mountain, so that is Peak No 2 for today. Not that it seemed like any kind of peak being largely flat, and as I looked back, Beary Park peak seemed clearly higher. Of course, it must be an illusion, but you can see for yourself what I mean.

I followed a path that lead southeastwards skirting the forest, which I presume is the Glion Gill plantation, climbed over a gate and followed a non-descript path to the lower saddle of Slieay Ruy. It is on this slope, which I took steadily as it was relatively steep for my legs at the moment, that I stopped to admire the view. It was so peaceful. I hadn’t seen a soul all day, and I watched the pippits hopping from heather to heather and the clouds skimming across the sky. Pure joy.

Once I met the official path I veered left to the trig point and cairn of Slieau Roy (479m). I thought about continuing but I decided Lhargee Yuy could be attained on my 2nd trip out from a different direction. I then retraced my steps and continued on to Greeba Mountain. This is typical peat moorland with little else to comment on, except the extensive views in all directions; but still it was hazy and unfortunately there would be no great views for me today. There is no footpath directly down the ridge here, so it is necessary to follow the very stoney trail to the edge of the forest to make the descent.

I was struck by the immediate change in colour, from the dull greens and browns of the moorland, to the vivid bright greens of the vegetation and trees. This is an easy walk down a well trodden path, although longer than I remembered it, it being more than a mile from Greeba Mountain to the bottom. As you descend you can appreciate the soft colours of the farmland and the undulations of the middle valley, separating the north and south of the island.

I had a choice at this point, whether to walk along the road or cross over and walk along the heritage trail. I opted for the former and was pleasantly surprised by the number of wild flowers growing on the wayside, which made up for the constant noise of the traffic! Another time, I would probably take the heritage trail, but as my route was northwards at Ballacraine, it seemed sensible to keep things simple. However, it was over 2 miles on road. It’s worth keeping in mind that there are buses along this route so if you have had enough of walking, you can wait for a bus instead of taking either route.

I really enjoyed the peace and quiet of this walk, and of course the miles and miles of views in all directions. I only saw a few pedal bikers in the distance and one family just before I hit the main road. For four hours I had seen no-one at all. Bliss. I finish this blog with some photos of the wildflowers I came across, and a final look back at one of the hills:

26, 1000ft + Peaks Challenge – Day 1; 22nd May 2021

I imagine the title will make some of you feel exhausted, turn over and go back to bed, but if I can do it as an OAP, so can you. Not that I’m sure I can do it yet. Having various infuriatingly only partially diagnosed metabolic problems makes hill-climbing often painful and extremely tiring to the extent I have to rest for several days afterwards. But this is who I am and what I have done all my life, though without so many encumbrances. I adore being out in the hills, wind, rain, snow, sun, I don’t care. If I stop now I will lose a lot of my identity and what gives me purpose in life.

These 26 peaks take in the majority of the Manx Slate hills, which run diagonally north east to south west. We didn’t start with Bradda Head or the Carnanes the furthest points south as these are just under 1000′.

Cronk Ny Array Laa (437 metres): We started out gently at the car park on the Sloc road towards the top of Cronk Ny Array Laa. I don’t usually have a problem with this, but the group started out fast (as groups always do) and I found it difficult to lift my legs or breathe. Not a promising start. When we reached the trig point of this our first peak I advised the leader that I may discontinue and that I would take it at my own pace. Cronk ny Array Laa means Hill of the Day Watch. The cairn above it is a burial plot dating to the late Neolithics. Just beyond this you will see a stone memorial citing the Manx Fisherman’s Evening Hymn, written by W.H.Gill.

Round Table: The next section was downhill, flat and slightly wet as we crossed the moorland to the Round Table and the crossroads taking you either around South Barrule, towards Niarbyl in the west, Colby /Ballasalla in the south or Port Erin in the south west. This looks such a short section and yet it always take quite a while to walk through the peaty moorland.This is the meeting point of 3 parishes and also denotes the separation of the Northern and Southern divisions of the land. Just over the road is a kissing gate, and to the right of this is a flat mound or tumulus, an ancient monument barely visible and never excavated. It would originally have been square, but the story goes that the soldiers used to argue as to who should sit at the head of the table, so they made it round. It is strategically located, given its tiny size. It is the highest point in the dip between South Barrule and Cronk Ny Array Laa, and from here you can see the sea in all directions, so it must certainly have been some kind of lookout, perhaps like a keep. If you want to go and look for this yourself, on the Colby/Ballasalla road there is large white stone on top the wall, and immediately behind it should be the tip of the hillock. You are looking for a raised area of just a few metres diameter with an indentation in the centre and the hint of a surrounding ditch.

The walk across the moor from Cronk Ny Array Laa

South Barrule (483 metres) : onwards and upwards, on a well defined track and then a stony path for about 180 metres. Now you start to feel the wind, but it was really quite a pleasant day, though hats and gloves were much in evidence. The path starts gently with some sections rising, a little like terraces. There are a few outcrops where you can stop to admire the view or have a coffee break. On both ascent and descent, you go through a stone rampart encircling the top of South Barrule. This was an enclosure of 5-6 acres, and within this have been found 85 round huts, the remnants of many of which can quite clearly be seen. The rampart itself is made of turf and faced with stones, most of which have tumbled away and lie strewn across the ground. This was an Iron Age fort. Radiocarbon dating of a hearth in one of the huts showed it to have existed since 524BC. It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder why they picked here. It is one of the few places where (on a good day) you can see the Seven Kingdoms of Man, but it is also inhospitable, and is thought to have been inhabited partly due to climate change affecting the lower levels – plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose.

2nd Peak – yours truly in bobble hat and purple cagoule. Photo courtesy of Ken.

From here we made our way down through the gorse and heather in a northerly direction until we joined the Sloc Road and the Cross Vein mine workings (now defunct). Notice how barren the land is, almost like volcanic ash. The next section was road walking, but this is not an issue as there is hardly any traffic, until we took a detour for lunch in the Arrasey plantation. This was first planted between 1935 and 1967, and is continually being felled and restocked with Sitka Spruce, Pine, Larch and more recently Corsican Pine. After lunch we got our first view of the western coast and Peel, with field after field of soft green farmland, such a contrast to the higher moorland.

Slieau Whallian (383 metres): We walked around the edge of the plantation and rejoined the lane downhill until we reached a bend in the road at 210 metres where we turned uphill along a stony track. Under normal circumstances this would be the way to St John’s, but our leader had negotiated an extension with a landowner who kindly agreed to allow us to go onto his property so that we could reach our final top of Slieau Whallian. He had even put up ladders for us. Thank you so much, Mr. Farmer (not his name!); we appreciate your permission and your thoughtfulness. It was a very straightforward walk to the top and afforded us a wonderful view all the way back to our starting point and we could see all our stopping points in between. And of course we could see all the way to Douglas and beyond and Peel and the north in the opposite direction, with big hills right in front of us.

Then came perhaps my favourite part of the day. The hills are soft and gentle underfoot, but in places surprisingly steep, creating amazing vistas that somehow you don’t expect to see on this island. It’s not altogether obvious as there are few erratics scattered around compared with say Yorkshire or the Lake District, but the topography of the southern and northern uplands (over 200 metres) has been created by glacial drift, giving it its distinct undulating shallow upland basins and deeply incised streams/ glens. These round topped hills could be seen everywhere as we made our way down.

Our final descent was through the Slieau Whallian plantation. You have probably heard the story that it is called the Witches Hill – how they were put in a barrel with spikes inside and their body weight rolled it down the hill. I don’t imagine that would have been a pretty picture when they opened the barrel at the bottom! Our descent through the trees was far longer than I was expecting, but not difficult. The sun was glinting through the forest lighting our way, and eventually we made our way down to the back lane into St. John’s. Apparently my watch slightly undercooks distance and it was just about 10 miles; 1631 ft of ascent and 2769 ft of descent. My body battery was 79/100 when I started and 7 when I finished, and it has taken 2 days to get it anywhere near that level. I shall attempt Day 2 next Saturday and take it at my speed and hopefully make it through. I don’t give in easily.

Thank you to Ken for a great day, and to the group for being excellent company.

Wildflower Walk Port Soderick Glen – 15th May 2021

Another cool day with a blustery wind, very different from this time last year when we were bathed in warm sunshine for weeks. This was a short walk along the beautiful Port Soderick Glen to see what plants and flowers were coming into bloom.

I arrived early so had a brief walk down to the coast. I rarely see the cove when the tide is in so this was a (windy)treat. I was surprised to see a ‘new’ building nestling underneath the rocks, and our guide later informed us that there is more development planned for this area to include a resthome / apartments for war veterans. You can’t go further than the cove. This is not a coastal /beach walk at this point, though a short distance above you can walk to Douglas along Marine Drive. If you want to venture south, these days it entails a 1.5 mile detour inland before regaining the coastline, which is really disspiriting.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the glen. At this point we hadn’t had a lot of rain recently so the stream was fairly quiet. The trees are just coming into leaf and the spring greens are always refreshing, reminding us of new life and hope. And there are plenty of trees!

The first interesting plant we saw was a Garlic mustard, also called Jack-by-the-Hedge for obvious reasons. We were invited to taste it (along with several other leaves). It had a very pleasant taste, one that would be nice in salads. Other interesting plants were the beautiful Marsh Marigolds, standing majestically in their boggy terrain. The yellow colour was outstanding and you could see why the bees would make… a bee-line… for them. There were all the attractive spring flowers you traditionally expect to see in this type of woodland – golden saxifrage, wood sorrel, wood anemones, lady’s smock, bluebells in abundance. The native bluebells have a longer stem and the flowers seem to droop from the top. They also tend to be a slightly darker blue than the foreigners.

One plant that was pointed out to us to avoid was the hemlock water dropwort. There is plenty of this around. It is fairly tall and dark green with parsley shaped leaves, and it is poisonous. This one probably wouldn’t kill you, at least, not quickly, but there are others that do. This one would more likely make you vomit a lot and maybe hospitalise you, so please don’t eat it. Sorry, no photos but here is a picture from my book:

We learned of various plants that heal, from the common plantain to the woundwort, with the humble herb robert in between, that was regarded as a remedy for toothache, and the yarrow, seen all over the island, used to stop bleeding.

Then there were the more unusual species – the unique salmonberry, an imported shrub from the USA. This looks like an oversized raspberry. It grows in a couple of places along the glen. You really can’t miss it, with its long pendulous branches, shiny green leaves and at the right time of year its wonderful orangey-pink berries. Right now, the fuschia-pink flowers were just finishing and there were hints of the berries that would form beneath it.

The glorious pink flower of the salmonberry (Rubus Spectabilis)

To complete our walk, we followed the stream down to the sea, and there we found the omnipresent stonecrop, thrift, bittercress, stitchwort (looking beautiful at this time of year), and the less showy mousear snuggling amongst the grass. Simon pointed out some black lumps planted on some tree trunks. These are called King Alfred’s Cakes (look up the story if you don’t know it). They are actually fungi that survive for years on dead branches, mostly beech and ash. There was also plenty of sea scurvy. You will see this around the coast, looking like handfuls of dandruff on low stems. The other find was the sea beet, a relative of beetroot and swiss chard, also known as wild spinach, which is also edible. Again, you can’t miss it lining the pebble beaches. It only grows in well-drained areas and it doesn’t like shade, so the edge of the sea is a perfect location for it.

I do enjoy these nature walks. Simon Smith runs them. You can find details of his walks on Facebook (Wildflowers on the Isle of Man) or http://www.manxwildflowers.com

My next post will be rather different. On Saturday I did the first leg of the 26 peaks over 1000 ft on the Isle of Man. Look out for this in a couple of days.

MWT Wildflower Walk – Bradda Head

What else could you wish to do on a cool but sunny evening, other than walk along the cliffs, explore nature’s haven and watch the sun set?

A small group of nature lovers met at the Bradda Glen car park, wondering if we were at the right place, when our leader Andree Dubbledam appeared out of the blue, having confessed to falling asleep and almost missing the walk! Such is the laid-back attitude on the Isle of Man that nobody blinked an eye, half-suspecting that this could happen :-). We don’t have the famous manx idiom ‘Trai dy liooar’ for no good reason.

This was a very short walk, only about 1.5 miles in total, and started just steps away from the car park as Andree described how bluebells and ramsoms (wild garlic) colonise different types of terrain just yards away from each other, often on different sides of a path, and how the nutrients leech through the soil making this possible by changing the acidity of the soil. And how the pesky three cornered leek, being a very hardy comeover, and later stopover, is gradually denuding sites of their natural wildlife. It’s hard to be angry with it when it looks so beautiful, but then the bees really do like the bluebells. I didn’t know that the nectar sacs in each tiny flower bud on the bluebell refill every night so there is a constant supply for the birds.

The three-cornered leek

We also began to fall in love a little more with the sycamore trees. At this time of year the leaves were just coming into their lushious greenness, and if were to inspect the leaves you may well see aphids nestling in there, which will become food for the bluetits. Apparently they hibernate in the crevices of the sycamore and provide nourishment for birds during the winter months too.

Then there is the brilliant European Gorse in all its fine yellow, parading over the hills. You can’t miss it. It grows tall and bold, showing the world who’s boss. Occasionally, in between its wide shoulders you can spot samples of the less showy Manx Gorse, which is more compact and smaller. The Manx Gorse flowers later in the year from August to October, so you can expect to see one or other type of gorse flowering at most times during the year.

As we reached the mines area the turf is very very short and it’s hard to imagine that anything much grows here. How often have you stopped to look at what lies beneath your feet, or do you simply tread carefully on your way up to Milner Tower? Andree explained that the earth disturbed by the mine workings brings different elements to the surface that allows flora to grow that otherwise would not. One example of this is the dainty spring sandwort. Unless you are knee thigh to a grasshopper you will find yourself crouching down and searching amongst mosses and plantains to even notice this tiny flower, about half the size of your little fingernail, at best. You may be more familiar with the thyme and plantain, but even they were hard to spot. Hard to believe that some of these will become very noticeable plants as the summer comes along.

The self-conscious tiny spring sandwort

Beside one of the mine shafts we spent a few minutes (or rather Andree did) rummaging about in a very shallow muddy ditch looking for and failing to find any interesting specimens. He did point out a small hawthorn tree amongst the gorse and informed us that given a few centuries this area, if undisturbed, would revert to a natural small woodland.

At this point, shaded by the lofty Milner Tower, and wrapped around by an ever-present breeze, that was occasionally blusterous enough to lift us off our feet, the air turned very cool so rather than continue on along the cliff edge with the prospect of losing a group member off the side of the cliff, we turned inland to examine large tufts of grass. The main path is pretty much devoid of anything other than grass but to either side of it are these small hardened mounds with grass growing over them. One of two had very small areas of shaved earth and loose soil towards the top, which are an indicator of the living residents within. I’m sure you have heard of termite mounds; these are the manx equivalent and are the yellow meadow ants’ home. We didn’t see any because like any sensible creature if it gets cold you go inside, but we were assured that they would be there snuggling up, keeping warm and protecting their young.

The anthills are just a bit further down from here on either side of the path, though these could be some small anthills developing.

From here it was a short walk back to Bradda Glen, and for me a further walk back home along the cliff edge where I spied a number of other spring flowers that adorn the cliffs at this time of year, such as squill, sea campion, red campion, thift, primroses and the occasional brilliant white bluebell.

Glen Mooar to Jurby, Beach Walk 10.5 miles

I have so missed seeing this long expanse of beach during our several lockdowns. Being a respectful citizen I did not venture out very far during this time, but now with our new-found freedom I could once again visit this mega landscape.

I had intended to park at Glen Wyllin, but my mind was miles away and I turned off the main road early into Glen Mooar, so stopped there instead. It was a cool day but just right for walking. The tide was on its way out (absolutely vital for this walk) but was still not far enough out to avoid walking on the pebbles. The cliffs are quite steep, and at one time there was a cliff walk from here to Glen Wyllin, but you would be taking your life in your hands if you were to do this today, due to the various landslides. Nearing Glen Wyllin there is a significant evidence of this, as a fence lies stranded in the air atop the cliff and you can see where the path once went.

Indeed, when you get to Glen Wyllin, you can see the Canute attempts to hold back the tide by the many defence boulders positioned at its entrance, and on the other side of the stream there are further attempts to sure up the foundations of the nearby property. New houses built not that long ago that will be counting the days to when they fall into the sea. It won’t be for a while, but I think it will eventually happen!

At Glen Wyllin, which is one of the closest points to Kirk Michael, the cliffs become sandier and larger until you reach Orrisdale Head. the cliffs make interesting shapes and patterns and are fascinating to me. I think it is in this section that an ancient elk was discovered as the cliffs receded, allowing the animal body parts to tumble onto the ground below. This has been recreated and is in the Manx museum in Douglas. If the tide is in, it is still necessary to walk on pebbles, which is surprisingly tiring and amazingly not flat (!), and even as the tide goes out there are more substantial boulders to negotiate before you reach the fine sand, which really is fine to look at and walk on. My feet were tired of pebbles by the time I reached my lunch spot.

There are a couple of other entry points to the beach, so if you want a short walk along the beach back to Kirk Michael, there are many options, and if you prefer a mix of terrain you can walk one way along the beach and back along the old railway line, which is a very pleasant walk.

You have to be determined if you decide to carry on, as the pebbles continue and there appears to be no end in sight. As you round Orrisdale Head, you get fine views to the northwest of Jurby in the distance, with its church on the promontory guiding you in. This is as far as any sane person would want to walk if you are doing a return route. It was 5.5 miles to this point. There is a road access at this point, so, if you can find one, you can always get a bus back to Kirk Michael. It is, I’m afraid, mostly road walking otherwise for some distance.

I had timed my walk so that I reached just south of Jurby at Ballateare when the tide would be at its lowest, which would mean I would be able to walk back further out on the soft sand. Every now and again as I went past the cliffs I would hear the sounds or see the sight of pebbles and sand falling off the cliffs. It is wise to keep your eyes and ears open and not to walk entirely at the foot of the cliffs. Even a poor sheep had fallen off the cliff to its end, so we all need to be careful.

If you are walking way out along the sand, also beware of the incoming tide as it has a tendency to surge rapidly along channels and form pools which could mean you get cut off and have to wade through them to get closer to the shore.

If you need a breath of air, a sense of peace and to connect with nature, you can’t do much better than this. I saw quite a few birds: plovers, shags, oystercatchers, gulls, wagtails and some slimy animals embedded in the sand. Not sure what these are – I shall have to ask my expert friends. And the boulders and pebbles are all shapes, sizes, colours and type of rock. But above all, it is the sense of space, the sea and the sky that makes you feel glad to be alive on this walk.

Stoney Mountain Wardens Walk – 5 miles

I have lived here since 2013 and been visiting since the 1990s and yet I had never walked around Stoney Mountain, an outcrop of granite situated near Foxdale. Having said that, I met a lady yesterday who lives in Port St Mary, who said that despite living there for 31 years she had never been down Athol Glen in Port Erin. We do seem to become parochial living on this island.

I downloaded the Warden’s walk for this area which is actually about 4 miles total, but you will know by now that I tend to extend walks following tiny tracks to see where they go and this one was no exception. I parked the car at South Barrule plantation, walked down to the main road where I turned left. Even this showed me something I hadn’t noticed before – a pretty stream running down the side of the road by the side of the forest, looking very green. There was a variety of trees competing for sunlight and bidding to be the first to open their buds for the spring.

Path starts on the main Foxdale road

A short way down the road to Foxdale there is a well-marked path to the right taking you into Stoney Plantation. It looks and feels so different when walking, compared with viewing the forest from the road as you rush past at speed in a car. The plantation begins on a well defined wide track heading uphill and in a south easterly direction. In fact, this is the path you continue on until you reach the far southern end of the plantation, unless, like me you take one of the many bike tracks and go off exploring. My track took me off to the left. I had absolutely no idea where it would lead, but as long as I could glimpse the sun every now and again to know where south was, this did not concern me. It was an easy track to follow, if narrow, and led in between the sharp-pronged lower branches of the spruces and pines. The ground underneath was soft and springy. It was like wearing a comfortable pair of slippers once off the main track.

Every now and again you come across boulders of granite, some very large, and round mounds springing out of the earth taking you by surprise. These were obviously great fun for the bikers. It also shows how the different rocks create our landscape. I continued my wanderings downhill jumping over tree roots and dodging branches until I reached a clear entrance on the easterly side of the forest and then I took a very grassy path westwards and uphill again.

This path seemed to me to be unusual and not in keeping with the terrain. After a short distance I came across an abandoned farm, called a Tholtan over here. So this was why there was a good path up the hill. It turns out this was Cloghwilly Farm, quite a structure with many buildings of different sizes. The rust colours of the lichen on the walls were just lovely. I wondered who had lived here. It turns out it has quite ancient origins. You can read a little about this farm and tholtans on the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/irishwasa/23054670513

From here it was no distance back to the main path which I followed all the way to the southern perimeter of the forest. There were wonderful views of the big hills, and the gorse was a brilliant yellow, standing out against the various greens and browns in the landscape. In places, the trees have been felled and small shrubs are taking over until the area is replanted. I didn’t see the small lakes in the centre. The main path does not direct you there but it would be easy to make a diversion there for a quick coffee break.

Talking of perimeters, the walk then veers westwards all the way along the southern perimeter. You may think this sounds boring but it was very pleasant indeed. This far south the terrain changes into the grassy soil paths that we are so familiar with in the south, so it is very easy walking and pleasing because of the extensive views it provides of the south of the island. There are no means of detours from this path, except at one point where there is a field gate where you could enter back into the forest, but for the most part it continues all the way through moorland and scrub land, over a small muddy ford of a stream to join the main Foxdale road at its junction with the Ronague road.

From here, it is a gentle walk through the South Barrule plantation back to the car, and if you like, the coffee shop which is open all year. There is a Go Ape located here and I saw several people on Segways. Most of all there are the many bike trails taking you through a variety of beauty spots, so worth a visit if you haven’t been before, or even if you have. You can find details of this and other warden’s walks here:

https://www.gov.im/categories/leisure-and-entertainment/walking/forestry-wardens-walks/

If I were to do this walk again I would do it the other way round as the views would be more attractive, but either way, it’s a lovely walk 🙂 And to finish, some pictures of trees coming into life:

Colby, Cronk-e-dhooney, Colby Glen – 3 miles max

I did this walk on the first day out of lockdown 3 on April 19th. I had just been to my Tabata class in Colby (with FB Saraszestforlife, great class!) and wanted to stretch my legs a little more while I was nicely warmed up.

I walked along the main road in Colby to where there is a lane leading off to the right beside a stream. There used to be a small Methodist chapel on the corner but this has now been converted into a house. This is a very quiet lane with few cars, so safe to walk along with care. The tree-lined stream is delightful and is being maintained beautifully, presumably by the local residents. There is a path going alongside the stream but I think this is a private path.

it is a continuous walk uphill for about a mile, and at this point you come to a crossroads. Left to Ballakilpheric and right to Cronk-e-dhooney. In reality it is all one tiny hamlet, with another Methodist church in the corner. They are keen on churches round here! I turned right and right again and followed the more southerly of the two tracks which leads into the top end of Colby Glen. This was a soft grassy track following field boundaries, with views to north and south. The farmers were hard at work preparing the fields for their summer crops.

Colby Glen is only short, not even half a mile long, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in beauty. As you reach the upper part you can hear the gush of a small waterfall as the stream leaves the gently sloping plateau and tumbles into the glen.. but you can’t see it, until you descend into the green amphitheatre of trees and grass. The stream meanders around the edge of this area, with vines hanging down the vertical cliffs. It is a shallow stream with a big ego. There are benches here for you to enjoy your packed lunch and you can take the narrow path to see the mini waterfall leapfrogging over the rocks.

If you look up you can see the Colby Glen road at the top and there is an entrance to the glen just there. It has steps leading down and there is a bridge to take you over to the other side. In the summer time, when it is very green and lush, summer concerts are held here by local singing groups, but beware the midges if you choose to participate.

There is an undulating path taking you down stream along the sides of the hill, which close in a little, rather like a smaller version of Glen Maye, and you can hop and skip along this track until finally you have to cross over to the other side and take the road back down to the starting point. It is a shame that houses border the stream for the rest of its distance into Colby, meaning there is no alternative route to the road path. There are some very pretty houses and it feels like you are in an old traditional village, although like everywhere else, it has grown enormously in recent years.

This walk won’t take you more than an hour, and it’s one that children would enjoy as much as adults, though they need to be able to walk for themselves, as it’s not a route for pushchairs. I never tire of Colby Glen. It has an air of mystery and imagination.

Around the Carnanes and Lhiatee ny Beinnee – 8.5 miles

I can see this group of hills from the back of my house and they are very inviting on bright sunny day. There are many options to start this walk from a number of different places and a number of different ways of reaching the tops. However, today, or actually yesterday as I write this, I chose to walk from home. I didn’t have a specific plan other than to reach the highest point on these delightful mounds of hummocks, which is Lhiatee ny Beinnee (White Hill, due to the quartz I imagine) at just under 1000ft. Of course, there are undulations along the way so your total climb will be more than this, and in places it is steep, especially if you start at Fleshwick.

My route took me along the outskirts of Port Erin to Ballabeg and up the quiet lane to Surby. I noticed what appears to be a well just to the side of the road on someone’s forecourt. From here, it is a green lane following a stream which is full of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Some traditional cottages can be seen on this path and as you climb out of the valley you are rewarded by tremendous views to the south. The lane eventually peters out into a footpath, which today, or yesterday, was looking a little sad as the gorse has been severely pruned leaving a mini wasteland compared to previously. This is only a short section and a stile and gate inform you that you are now on the lower edge of the moorland of the Carnanes.

As you glance northwards it is impossible to avoid seeing the many cairns on top of the hillocks, many of which I have clambered up in the past, and some never until today. There is a good reason to stick to the paths between the cairns as I shall explain later, but for now take a look at the undergrowth in the photo to the right above and you may guess what’s coming. For now, I followed the northerly path which gradually veers to the west and gives you tremendous views of the Irish Sea and on a day with good visibility Ireland. Adjusting your eyes to the right it is possible to sea Scotland too, and Black Combe in the distance across the water to England in the opposite direction. Now you know why we have our three legs of man.

Can you spot Anglesey and Snowdonia in this photo?

I stopped for lunch (a sandwich of chicken, chutney, fresh sage and thyme – yummy) at a small cairn overlooking Bradda Hill towards Fleshwick Bay, Port Erin and Port St Mary. I could also see out way beyond Port St Mary and in the very far distance I could see Anglesey and Snowdonia. It was one of those days that provides exciting views on all directions. I had thought of heading south at this point, but instead I went as I had promised myself to the top of the big hill so that I could see Cronk Ny Array Laa looming out of the sea and a bit further along the shoreline, Niarbyl peeking out from under its cliffs and even Peel Hill in the far distance. This ‘detour’ meant that I had to return along the same path back to my lunch cairn. By an incredible stroke of coincidence I bumped into someone I met last summer on this very same part of the hill, so we had a socially-distanced chat for a few minutes. He was walking back to PSM via Port Erin if, as he said, his legs were up to it (i.e. the steep climb up to Bradda Hill).

I had already decided my route. The Bradda Hill circular is a regular walk for me, so this time, I decided to give that part of the coastal footpath a miss, and instead went craghopping from cairn to cairn around the Carnanes. Sounds great until you try to find a different path off it. I could see the main path only 50 metres away, only between me and it was thick gorse and heather. Any sane person would have retraced their steps, but this is me, and I waded through scratchy gorse sometimes 3ft deep. I did think at one point I had taken on more than I could chew, but I persevered and finally met the path. There were other walkers on this bit of path and I think they wondered what on earth I was doing!

From here it was only about half a mile to the eastern edge of the moorland, still up high but grassy now rather than gorse and heather. I crossed the Sloc road that leads slightly downhill to a car park and picnic site with unbelievable views then carried on a hundred metres or so to take a path left into the farmed countryside. This was something of an obstacle course. The first stiled wall is about 5-6ft tall, with just two stones to clamber up with an equally deep drop on the other side, followed immediately another rickety wooden stile(!). At the end of the next field is a kissing gate which is about all you can do if you are wearing a ruckscack unless you are very skinny. Then after traversing a muddy field there is a high ladder stile to cross. Anyone would think they didn’t like walkers. At least the bikers won’t take this route. If you don’t like stiles or are quite short (!) consider the path the same distance in the other direction from the picnic site, which takes you pretty much in the same direction but starting further north.

On reaching the farm at Scholaby, it is then an easy walk down the lane for about a mile to The Level, passing cows posing for their photo and the old chimney that I can see from my house signifying mining from days long past, or if you fancy a longer route, you can turn left just after the farm and visit Colby Glen (worth a visit if you haven’t ever been) and get a bus back. I followed the main back road to the roundabout and had a rest at Ballachurry Nature Reserve before finishing my walk by crossing the fields behind the Ballahane Estate.

A great day out and I felt a sense of achievement when I got home, having successfully avoided TV and the incessant coverage of the very sad death of Prince Philip (RIP) for a number of hours.

If you use the data above for any reason, the time includes rest times and meal times. Actual walking time was 2hr 50mins.

Incidentally, you may or may not know that I started painting for the first time in lockdown. I have updated the recent Cregneash / Chasms post so that you can see my latest effort (no.5). Bit of a curate’s egg, but I’ll use the correct type of paper next time…