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…

Chibbanagh Plantation – 2.5 miles

I had a renewed sense of freedom today as our rules were relaxed a little so that garden centres opened to the public, so I grabbed my car keys and set off for Douglas. As I was nearing Douglas on the wonderfully picturesque Foxdale to Douglas Road I passed the Chibbanagh Plantation on my right and promised myself a walk around this forest on the way home should time permit.

A couple of hours later I parked up and perused the view. I could see for miles towards the backbone off our island and way out to sea. It was a beautifully clear day with a strong wind. We had had sleet and snow overnight and the day was distinctly chilly. In the far distance the Lake District hills loomed out of the sea and in the near distance a boat was proudly moored in Douglas harbour. I say boat (right photo), but actually this is the largest sail-assisted motor yacht in the world, worth $400 million, owned by the Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko. The yacht is 142 metres in length and its tallest mast is 91 metres (higher than Big Ben!), and it can have up to 54 crew members. some ‘boat’!

It is an uphill start to the walk along a well-made regular track, but of course, I spotted a lesser track to the left following the eastern boundary of the plantation. This looked a lot more fun, being narrow and slightly undulating, or even massively undulating in places.

At a corner I was forced to turn right to join the main path and follow it again slightly uphill in a southerly direction. I soon spied another path through the undergrowth leading off to the right, so I headed downhill in a westerly direction, where every now and again South Barrule could be seen peeking out above the trees.

Meeting the western edge of the plantation gave me a dilemma. Do I turn right or left? Right would presumably take me back to the car (eventually) or left would take me where?? Who knows, but as I wanted to see if there were any views of the south of the island this is the direction I chose. This necessitated a muddy tread uphill and an even muddier trip downhill, and there was I wearing totally inappropriate footwear as I hadn’t been planning a walk. So, you can guess what happened next. Yep, a nice slippery and ungainly splat on all fours into the undergrowth. At least I had a soft landing (rather better than when I tripped on the stairs and crashed into the front door a month ago, providing me with a luscious black eye and affecting my upper jaw!).

A little further along, this makeshift path contoured around to the south along what I suspect was a former field boundary in the days before the plantation. It was like walking along a derelict wall (am I asking for more trouble you ask?) with sloping sides and narrow footholds. It was a lot of fun. There was more jeapardy than you can appreciate in this photo. It seems I need fun at the moment. Eventually it joined the main path where I did finally catch a glimpse of the sea to the south, but it wasn’t much of a view.

From there, it was another uphill climb on a more recognised path that leads to the highest point. This was very pleasant walking, and indeed the real, intended path is a mixture of grass and soil, or chippings, and it reminded me of a path in Northamptonshire I would regularly use for training for 10km runs. I followed this same path all the way back to the car. It was a truly delightful walk and all the better for being unplanned. It is a dog walker’s paradise and a great place to take a walk if you only have a short amount of time.

Castletown to Port Erin – 5 miles

I hadn’t intended to walk all the way home after dropping my car off at Castletown for its much-needed service but… it was a lovely day and it had been a very stressful one. Anyone involved with the GCSE and A level examination assessments will know that although the process has been simplified this year, it is far from straightforward. I am an assessor for an organisation that handles entries for private candidates, who often have little or no evidence of any assignments or coursework and we have to magic something out of nothing for them within a few weeks, and hope they can conjure up some tricks in the invigilated mocks to get the grades they deserve. That would be ok if anyone is able to understand the rules.

So, a walk seemed like a jolly good idea. I had thought of walking to the Viking ship and round the coast back to Castletown and then getting the bus home, but as I was almost at Fisher’s Hill anyway it seemed sensible just to carry on walking along the coastline all the way home. There was a surprising number of vehicles on the main road, given that we are still in full lockdown, and I passed a handful of bikers and pedestrians most suitably wearing their face-coverings even when no-one is about.

The views to the north were beautiful, although South Barrule decided to hide just as I was taking its photo. As I reached the coast, the air was a little hazy and the tide was quite well in. Usually this beach is stony with a little soft sand where the road bends to meet the sea. Today, there was a lot of seaweed banked up on the stones. The regular birds were still there waiting for their catch and there were a lot of insects which annoyingly kept finding their way undeneath my mask. It was so good to feel the sun on my face and get some air into my lungs.

On the other side of the road, the fields were very green and lush. The daffodils lining the drive to Kentraugh house looked magnificent.

I continued around Gansey point as it seemed a shame to abandon the coastline for boring roads, and this took me up to Port St Mary, from where I followed the back road home.

So, just a short blog today. It is so interesting to see the same locations at different times of day and different seasons and different weather. It never bores.

When I got home I sent a couple of photos to one of my candidates who is as equally fed up with the examination assessment as myself to cheer her up. This worked, although her reply made me realise, if I didn’t already know, that we do live in a very special place. Her words were “That looks amazing. How lucky to live somewhere so beautiful….unfortunately, we live on the outskirts of a town right in the middle of the country (uk) so no views like yours”. Let us never forget what we have on our doorstep.

Earystane Plantation Circular 6 miles

Another first! I do like firsts, especially during lockdown while much of life is dreary.

I had driven to the lane at the foot of Cronk Ny Array Laa, the furthest I would consider driving right now. I would be following recognised paths (well mostly, as you will discover) so unlikely to need to call out any of the emergency services.

I made my way across the moorland to the top of Earystane plantation. I have never walked through this terrain so I didn’t know what to expect except loads of trees. I was pleasantly surprised to find an unique landscape that could almost be called ‘the land that time forgot’. My photos don’t do it justice. It was far darker, greener, with wiggly and wriggly shaped trees appearing to drip with a variety of mosses. Of course, you have to go off piste a little to appreciate this but not far from the marked path. It was quite special.

Back on the path, there is a variety of trees, gorses and heathers with different views across to the coast. It was very muddy in places as this is often a bike route. There are alternative paths for would-be adventurers but trespassers are encouraged to keep to the main path.

Leaving the forest, you come out into daylight and a wide vista encompassing the whole of the south of the island. It almost takes you by surprise as it is so open compared with the closely planted plantation.

The next section was a walk down the hill to the road, which takes longer than you might expect. I was heading along the quiet, unspoilt lane to Cringle Reservoir with South Barrule guarding from behind. There is a footpath through fields but last time I did this, I ended up having to climb over locked gates and such like so decided to give it a miss this time.

Road walking sounds boring, but it isn’t necessarily. I had never noticed the tholtans on this road before and began to wonder who had lived in the various dwellings and why they no longer were inhabited. I noticed there had previously been a track linking some tholtans with the upper road. A curious look over a hedge provided a glimpse of a wonderful stone hearth, so this one at least must have been a splendid small dwelling.

It is possible to walk all the way to Cringle Reservoir along the road, but I followed the paths inside Cringle plantation which followed its southern edge. These are well defined tracks and make it more interesting than road walking, though the forest is less interesting that Earystane in these parts.

Cringle Reservoir was my lunch spot, after about 3.5 miles. There were one or two fishermen and the occasional cyclist and dog walker, but it felt empty even so. This is a lovely place to visit and a good place for a picnic with children.

From here the plan was to follow the track to the north through the forest where it meets the path to South Barrule. But I got distracted by the sound of rushing water. Why is have this fascination with streams I don’t know, but if I spot one I have to follow it and see where it goes and what it does. This one did not disappoint.

The stream appears to follow a fault line and every now and again there would be big gaps in the earth and drops creating sudden ‘waterfalls’ out of nothing. Not quite competition for Gaping Gill but interesting none the less. I was in my element, prodding the earth to make sure I was a safe to walk on it and looking into deep crevices to see what troll might be lurking in there. It was here that I came across these strange creatures swimming on the surface of the stream. I couldn’t decide whether they were water boatmen, pondskaters or some kind of larvae, but whatever they were this was their domain.

I scrambled up the bank back up to the path and it was only a short distance to the northern edge of the forest at Round Table. From here, it was a pleasant open moorland walk for a mile or so back to the car at Cronk Ny Array Laa. If I were to do this walk again, I would start by walking the half mile to the top of this hill before continuing on the walk. I would have done this had the weather been more inviting, but as it was this was the perfect walk for today.

Distance: 5.83 miles; total ascent 925ft; total descent 896ft

Port Erin, Glenn Chass, Port St Mary – 13th March 2021

Just when you think there is nothing more to say about a walk you have done many many times you get a pleasant surprise. That’s just what happened today. I have walked the back route up the golden road to Glenn Chass and Port St Mary many times, but only today did I discover something new.

It started out as usual, well almost as usual, with a minor socially-distanced stop to allow some other people to pass on the path. Then it was onwards and upwards along the golden road. It was a bright, breezy but cool day and it afforded some fine views of the valley between the Meayll Hill headland and the Bradda / Carnanes range of hills.

This path follows tracks across farmland, crossing over streamlets until you get to one of my favourite streams – yes, I know, who else has favourite streams. It flows off the moorland down through the edge of Port Erin and has a delightful bridge that you can only see if you scramble down the side of the stream. Today, there was quite a lot of water in the stream and I could hear gushing water from above, so true to form I found myself wading upstream to see what there was to see. I wasn’t really wearing suitable footwear so it was a matter of hopping from stone to stone and clinging on to vegetation in places. Just for the record, this sort of messing about is my idea of bliss! I didn’t manage to get very far, but I did see the source of the noise – a tiny waterfall cascading over some rocks. You will have to look very closely to see it!

From here it was back to the path, only to be immediately diverted by a footpath going the other way, and then a made-made track following the stream in the opposite direction. No wading this time, just a curiosity to discover what might be round the next corner. And what was round the corner? Lots of wild garlic just beginning to sprout from the undergrowth and casting a heavenly smell. And looking up through the bare canopy of trees I could hear but not see a bird equally as happy as I to be enjoying the spring day.

After my detour I followed the main track to Glenn Chass to walk down the narrow stream let that feeds into Fistard Bay. Only now, this looks completely different from previous times I have been here. It is being managed, and a new footpath has been created so it is possible to do a circular route in this uppermost part of the Glen. Not that there is a lot to see. Some of the vegetation has been cleared but this will soon grow back and I look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

The path joins the lane and continues down to the sea, looking rather different from its neighbour on the other side of the road.

From here, I followed the coast path into Port St Mary. I didn’t deviate too much this time, only stopping to go down on the beach at the point where the golf course and footpath conjoin. I had missed high tide, which was a shame given it was a blustery day. Even so, the waves were having fun crashing against the rocks and the sunlight gave cool approval as it kissed the sea.

Up to this point, I had seen barely anyone but now in the town there were more people taking the air, or taking their dog for a walk. All stopped to allow others to pass, and many were wearing face coverings. Port St Mary had a peaceful air today and splendid views to the hills behind. Note how the benches look like seagulls looking out to sea for their prey. I reached the underway, but at this point had to leave the coast path as this is only one direction now and not the right direction for me, so I climbed up the cliff in front of the apartments, walked through the church grounds to the top road so that I could take the Truggan Road back to Port Erin. I may or may not have told you this before: Truggan Road can be translated as ‘the road to the swift stream’. How poetic is that, and very fitting for my adventurous afternoon.

This was a short walk of about 4 miles and about 650 ft of elevation in total. A most enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.