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.

Cregneash and the Coast – March 7, 2021

At last! I had been waiting for a sunny day in order to take some supplementary photos for a watercolour I am planning to paint. For those who don’t know, the Isle of Man went back into lockdown again almost a week ago, following some unaccounted-for cases of Covid-19. Since then, we have an unusual amount of children and families with the virus and one of my cancer clients has family members affected by the recent outbreak, making it very real. Our 3 week lockdown looks like extending over Easter, but we are a robust island and we cope well with adversity, by and large.

It does make it hard to justify going out, even if we are allowed to go out for exercise for as long as we like. I took the car up to the Cregneash quarry and walked down into the village, where I wanted a particular shot of some of the cottages. There were several cars parked in the quarry so I knew to expect to see people on my walk. I secured my mask around my neck just in case and off I went. As I went through Cregneash I saw a few units of people, singles, family groups and couples all keeping strategically away from each other, or waiting for each other to pass on narrow sections. As I went up the hill towards the coast, the horses didn’t recognise social distancing and galloped from one fence to another to say hello to all and sundry.

At the top of the lane, again there were several cars parked, some of whom no doubt belonged to residents of the cottages, but again it indicated there would be people about, and indeed there were. However, this was my next photo point. One of my painting projects is a view from here looking down toward the Chasms cafe, and I needed to know the lie of the footpath in order to extend my painting. I also needed to know where the sea and sky meet behind it, if you know what I mean. My house faces south, and if I could make a direct path through the hills from my house to the sea this would be the view I would have, so I thought it would be nice to have a bright painting of this scene at midday on my stairwell. It would make me feel alive every time I walk down the stairs. Whether I can accomplish this is an entirely different matter. I only started painting at all in lockdown 1, but four watercolours on and I am doing ok, and they are all hanging on my walls in my house right now 🙂

It wasn’t a bright day and there was a very slight haze, but the sunlight was beautiful on the old Chasms cafe and as I walked along the coast line, I noticed things I don’t normally notice, such as the lichen growing on the rocks and the wave effect on some of the bigger slabs that I would walk over time after time. The light played beautifully on the sea too and I was so glad to be out in this sensational secenery. I paused for a while and watched the sea and listened to the many birds chattering on the Sugar Loaf. Can you spot the sheep grazing on Black Head? No, not the photo with the sheep posing in the middle but the photo next to it of the steep cliff. You may need to enlarge it. How they manage to make their way down there is remarkable.

I only walked as far as Spanish Head, via Black Head, where the Calf of Man looked more like one of the Canary Isles in the haze. From here I turned back returning to Cregneash through the farmers’ fields by a very muddy farm track but not before I snapped what I thought was a Chough, but looking at the wing span I now doubt my judgement.

This was only a short walk, only about 3.5 miles and only just about 500 ft of ascent. You could spend a whole afternoon wandering around these hills and never be bored.

Update: 11th April 2021. This is the painting I have done of this area, a watercolour on board. The wrong kind of material for watercolour. I was advised to score the board before applying the paint, which unfortunately didn’t work and has made the sky almost impossible to paint or cover the scouring marks. For the moorland I used a dabbing technique applying light colours first. This is only my fourth painting, having started during lockdown. The logo is a digital watermark so is not actually on the painting.

Heritage Trail & The Raggatt

Welcome first and foremost to all those of you on Facebook and Twitter who have recently stumbled across my blog and taken the trouble to read and follow it. I have been staggered by the number of new followers I have on those media in recent weeks, and thank you. I have been quiet this month due to our Covid-19 circuit-breaker and not getting out much. However, now that we are free of restrictions again I did get out for a short walk on Sunday afternoon before Evensong at Peel Cathedral.

I parked at the Raggatt and walked for a short distance along the main road back to Patrick, trying to work out where the railway track may have lain that took the internees to Knockaloe all those years ago. There is evidence of the track within the Raggatt itself but I failed to work out its route after that on this occasion.

Walking is so good for the soul and developing observational skills. As I reached the entrance to Knockaloe (for those reading this who are not local – there is now a museum opposite this entrance detailing its history and displaying artefects from the time. One item was recently shown on Antiques Roadshow!), I noticed the stone mount (see above) which presumably was used for climbing into your carriage? I have never noticed this before. The hills behind are some of the oldest on our island.

I turned left onto a beautiful tree-lined lane that takes you to St John’s the back way. There is a narrow pavement all the way. It is a fairly quiet road and enjoyable to walk along. Just past the church is an area entitled “Patrick Orchard Community Allotments” or similar. I couldn’t see any allotments just trees, so this is something of a mystery. On my short journey along this road I counted nine streams coming off the hillside under the road into the River Neb, all with fairly fast flowing water. It has rained cats and dogs these last few days (and loughtan sheep), causing floods last Thursday in Strang that at least one mad fool was caught driving through (!), so this was not surprising.

I passed Close Leece Farm Shop and Cafe that was doing a roaring trade, and walked a little further before crossing left over the bridge into the fields that would lead to the Heritage Trail. When I have been on this newly created path before I haven’t enjoyed walking along it. It is certainly harder underfoot than it was previously and having had all the vegetation stripped on either side of it, it is certainly less interesting as a path and …. yes, there is a ‘but’ coming. As I walked a couple of miles along it I began to appreciate it more. No longer do you have to wade through muddy sections as where the water table is high the path has been raised. It is still possible to enjoy the wildness of the area in parts and the Raggatt itself is as beautiful as ever. And of course, it is accessible to more people. There is even a picnic area with benches, tables and a cycle stand for weary cyclists and walkers.

There are various places along the river where there are small weirs and fishing places. I stopped beside one of these and had my lunch (the stepping stones in the feature photo), and when the temperature dropped and the odd snowflake started to appear out of the sky I walked as far along the other side of the river as one can go, which is another half mile, so not very far. This is a dirt path mainly for fishermen I think. It is a shame that one cannot continue beside the river and cross back. I am sure many people would enjoy a shorter circular route.

As it was, without the minor extension of 1 mile, the circuit is 4.5 miles of easy, mostly level walking. You could take a wheelchair/pram or pushchair, though the field section of no more than half a mile would be slightly tricky. And of course, you can take a break at the Cafe or have a picnic on the trail itself or in the Raggatt. A nice afternoon walk that children and adults will enjoy alike.

I apologise for the slow upload of the photos. I will try and find a way to make them smaller files in the future.

The maps below show the main walk to the lunch picnic spot, and the extension where you have to retrace your steps.

New Year’s Day 2021

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 🙂

Final Day of 2020 – Glen Helen

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).

Over Foxdale to Snaefell

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.