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.

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.

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…

Pre Christmas Walk – Druidale 22nd Dec 2020

I was itching to get out in the hills. It is so long since I have walked anywhere but in the south, and this time I could leave my measuring stick behind me, ignore the peat and sphagnum moss and just appreciate our wonders scenery. Instead of including photos as I go along there is a slideshow at the bottom instead today.

I picked the day when the weather would be best ( both Monday and today being rainy days) and invited my friend Janet to join me on a walk I have never done, but have often looked at from afar. We took the road up from just outside Kirk Michael and parked on the grass at the start of the walk, just before the road to the right leading to Injebreck and the cattle grid leading onto the main Snaefell uplands. You can find this easily by looking for a triangular piece of woodland, called Sartfell plantation.

It was bright and sunny initially, though a little chilly. We followed the green lane gently upwards. Sartfell at 454 m is immediately to the left but there is no direct footpath to the top and there are signs discouraging people from going off the track, though I suspect this is mainly for the benefit of the bikers and possibly horse-riders who are allowed to use these green lanes. We continued north on the path skirting Slieau Freoaghane (488m). There is a choice of paths at this point and I wanted to go slightly westward so that we would get a view of the western slopes of the island, so we took the left fork temporarily to the saddle between the said previous hill and Slieau Dhoo (424m). We were not disappointed. The views down the valley to Kirk Michael were lovely and the hills around had satisfyingly geometric green slopes.

We retraced our steps a little to continue on the eastern side of the hills up to where the green road meets the ‘main’ Druidale Road that leads down to Ballaugh. Along the whole of this path we had had wonderful views of Snaefell and its neighbouring hills, with North Barrule tipping its head up so we could see it in the distance. The green road is not particularly pleasant to walk on being heavily rutted by the motorbikes, but there is room to walk on grassy ledges most of the time. There were quite a few puddles to negotiate as well.

This was our midpoint at the head of the Tholt -e- Will plantation and there were excellent views down to the Sulby reservoir and at one point we could see the Ayers lighthouse far away in the north. We now turned south to walk along the road all the way back to the car. Usually I don’t like road walking but at this time of year when it has been so very wet it’s a good idea and in any case cars were few and far between and it is a most attractive road to walk along.

As we walked back and looked across to our left, we reflected on the fact that are no footpaths across most of the land we could see. A few sheep would venture over on to the moorland, and there are very very few buildings, so the area is quite unspoilt.

This walk was just under 7 miles, with about 810ft of ascent. However, it is easy walking with no really steep gradients and if you need to take a break at any point you can simply say you are admiring the view.

The slideshow starts with a view the hills of South Barrule and Cronk ny Array from the car park then a mix of locations on the walk itself.

My next planned walk in a very early morning (7am) walk to herald the New Year on January 1st!

Guernsey Day 4 – coastal walk 29/08/20

This was my last full day of walking, so I started out early from the hotel finding a new route down to Petit Bot Bay.

Others had already arrived by the time I got there, mostly children and their parents who I think were about to go kayaking. There was already one group in the water. There is a cafe here, but as it was not yet 10am it had not opened.

The climb onto the cliffs is fairly strenuous, with something like 160 steps. I tasked myself with counting them today. Over the full day, I think I climbed 800 steps as well as encountering the standard undulations. It is worth the climb as the views are terrific and you get a sense of accomplishment too.

The coast path goes inland to cross streams in a few places and the paths weren’t always easy to find. To make matters worse ( or better), the Guernsey National Trust has purchased various areas around the cliff path and there are numerous routes within these areas, should you decide to veer off the regular track to explore. On one such occasion around Les Corbieres I did not quite end up back on the right path and found myself on a path slightly more inland than intended. Not that it mattered. This was a fairly long walk anyway of between 9 and 10 miles and I was more interested in reaching my destination than being pedantic about which path I took. However, because of this detour I did not visit the German Observation Tower at the top of this post, though I saw it for many miles thereafter.

There are only two places on this section of the coast path where you can get drinks so make sure you take plenty with you in case they aren’t open. It hasn’t been very warm for late summer but even so my stocks of water were getting low towards the end and I was concerned about getting dehydrated. There is a cafe and a bus terminus at the end of this walk, so it is easy to replenish your stocks and get back to your starting point, although buses are only once a hour. I had thought of going to see Little Chapel as I had finished by 2pm, but there were no buses going to that area at all on a Saturday.

The paths look very similar to the walk I did the other day, so instead of describing the route, I will leave you with a gallery of photos of the walk. I must say, I think this south western point is prettier and quieter than the eastern side around St Peter Port, and the houses I saw were much less showy.

Tomorrow, I shall walk to Little Chapel and return to my hotel for afternoon tea before my mid afternoon pickup for the airport.

Overall distance: 9.17 miles; total ascent 1414 ft; total descent 1762 ft

Guernsey Day 2 – La Villette to St. Peter’s Port 27/08/20

I had been warned by the taxi driver that this is quite a strenuous walk with a lot of steps, so I knew what to expect.

I set out early in the morning and was on the cliffs shortly after 9am. I decided to miss out Icart point and start with a gentle route down to Saints Bay, following another gladed valley. I soon hit the coast path contouring around several small bays, including Bon Port to Jerbourg Point.

At Moulin Huet car park, be careful to follow the map and descend along the road. The path then takes you through some light woodland before you ascend once again on the open coast path. There are one or two ins and outs on this stretch giving some variety to the walk, but whenever you turn a corner, the views are splendid. Renoir created some of his masterpieces here and there are several information boards showing you the view he was capturing. Below is one such scene.

There are two viewpoints mentioned on the map on the Jerbourg peninsula and it is worth taking your time here. The close up view of Les Tas de Pois d’Amont (translates as Pea Stacks) which have been visible all the way around this large cove is magnificent. The path continues around the point to join a lane which leads to the Jerbourg hotel. If you have had enough of steps by this point you can while away your time in the hotel having a cream tea, and then catch the bus (no 81) which will take your on a tour of the island back to St Peters Port.

 

I do not say this lightly, as the next section begins with a lot of descent and more steps, in the sure knowledge that you will have to ascend the same amount before long. This is a kinder path and slightly more undulating than straight up and down and you get the first views of Helm and Sark and the Castle at St Peters Port.

I had set off in fine sunshine, and pleasantly warm. I was also aware of dark clouds looming over the land and I was forlornly hoping that I might escape rain. This was not to be, but thankfully there was some tree cover and I waited patiently for a gap to appear in the lashing rain before I continued. Patience was clearly not a virtue and was going to make no difference, so I set off again for Fermain Bay, where I could see a cafe beside the beach. It was just about noon and I had walked 6 miles. I enjoyed some warming cups of coffee, had a chat with a local who had been swimming and I think wished he hadn’t bothered and ate my packed lunch. The tide was almost in but it looks to be a lovely beach and on a nice day I bet the locals come down here.

There was a brief respite so I set off again, yes, you can guess it, uphill again through woodland at Ozanne Steps and past some houses that had the most scenic and uninterrupted views of the sea. Leaving that path, it takes you to the Clarence Battery at Les Terres Point, an outpost that has guarded St Peters Port for centuries. From there it was a steady descent along La Vallette into St Peters Port.

I didn’t spend much time here today. I wanted to get back to the hotel, dry off and catch up on some sleep! So I boarded the bus, which showed me the delights of the area and dropped me off outside my hotel – very convenient.

I don’t know how many steps there were altogether, but it must be hundreds as there were usually about 30-40 minimum on each ascent. The total distance was 8 miles, descent 1726ft and ascent 1427ft. This walk started with descent, and it is this combination that makes it a little tiring. But it is so rewarding, and if you have a fine day, I would recommend it.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is not great, so I am thinking of doing a hop on hop off bus tour to the other side of the island and maybe do a bit of shopping.

Continue reading “Guernsey Day 2 – La Villette to St. Peter’s Port 27/08/20”

Fleshwick and Bradda Hill – 20th June 2020

This relatively short walk – just under 6 miles from home – begins in very easy fashion. There is no short cut to walking along the edge of Port Erin. On reaching the golf course and the outskirts of Ballafession I took a path that is less used, maybe as it goes through someone’s garden, round the back of this hamlet. This takes you to an ancient monument, persistently visible from the road, but one that doesn’t require a second look very often. Today, it was sporting an Isle of Man flag, quite why I don’t know, but perhaps representing our pride in achieving Covid-19 free status, at least temporarily if not permanently.

Cronk Howe Mooar as it is today

It was at this point that I met up with some old friends – cows. What is it that cows find so fascinating about me? I am turning into a ‘cow whisperer’ in that I speak and they obey, but only until I turn my back. It was like playing ‘What’s the Time, Mr Wolf”!

Anyway, I digress. I did not actually go atop the mound, called Cronk Howe Mooar, which looks to all intents and purposes as if it was built by a large dog doing a very big bone scrape. On first excavation in 1812 it was thought to be a natural vestige of the ice age as it contains layers of rocks in a similar sequence to those found in the north. In fact, it is now considered that it is 900 man-made remnant of an ancient fort. Although difficult to see, there is a 10 metre ditch surrounding the motte and bailey castle.

Artist’s impression of Cronk Howe Mooar as it was 900 years ago, although the moat would have been fenced off too

I left the cows and walked both beside and in the stream which leads to the Honna Road (not the best path I have ever seen), then walked up Mill Road to join the pleasant walk down to Fleshwick Bay. This was about 2.5 miles by this stage. Fleshwick Bay is so pretty and unspoilt. It lies in a steep sided valley between Bradda Hill and the Carnanes, so whichever way you go thereafter, it will be uphill, and steep uphill. Before that, I clambered over the rocks and found myself a quiet place to have my picnic and watch a dog swimming in the water as its owner threw pebbles for it to chase.

I was walking back to Port Erin and I had a choice of a walk contouring around the east side of Bradda Hill, or taking the climb and walking along the coast. You can guess which one I opted for.

I am used to this climb, but even so I tend to pause several times on the way up. It is steep, there is no doubt about it. You go from sea level to 200 metres in half a kilometre, with the bulk of it in one section. It is a good soil path and in some ways it is easier to go up than down it, especially if is has been raining.

A clear view of the ascent to Bradda Hill

What views you get from the top! Initially, you can see all the way to Niarbyl and Peel in the north- west then as you continue along the coast path the Calf and Port Erin in the south become visible and Castletown and Langness in the east.

Cronk Ny Arrey Laa with Niarbyl and Peel in the distance

I was walking along the fields before the climb up to Bradda Head where I met a young couple walking from Port Erin to Peel. At the time it didn’t particularly occur to me that it was quite late in the day to be only at this point. They would still have at least another 10 miles to go, including some steep uphills. They wanted to reach Niarbyl by 5pm when the cafe would close, and I thought that if they were good walkers and with a favourable wind they might just make it. As I continued my walk, I began to have doubts and I became quite worried about them. They didn’t seem particularly well equipped and they were already saying when I met them that they needed a drink. A sole walker caught up with me when I was on Bradda Hill and we both agreed that they wouldn’t make it to Niarbyl in time, especially as he informed me the cafe had closed at 3pm, not 5pm as they had believed. This lone walker had taken 3.5 hrs from Niarbyl to Bradda Hill and he was no slouch, he had been walking at a good pace and he seemed quite fit. I decided there and then that I would get home, which would take me about an hour, pick up the car and see if I could find them, and take them to their destination.

Milner Tower and the Calf

I enjoyed my brisk walk across Bradda Hill and Bradda Head, taking the route by Bradda Glen, then the quickest path along the promenade and back home. Going through my head was that if I didn’t find them, the chances of the bus running from Dalby was zilch and they would have no choice but to walk the full distance. The beautiful sunny weather was also just beginning to turn.

Heather just coming into bloom and Port Erin Bay

I dropped off my rucksack and picked up a couple of bottles of water and sped off in my car. The only sensible place I might see them would be on Cronk Ny Arrey Laa by this time. I did check as I went around the Sloc and there was no-one walking there. The only problem was that if they had gone the right way, then they wouldn’t come down to the bend in the road and I would miss them. But at least I would have tried. It was rather cool and breezy when I arrived there. It had been breezy all day but the weather was beginning to deteriorate. I looked up to the summit of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa and I could see a couple walking down towards the car. I couldn’t tell if they were my couple but I could ask whoever it was if they had seen them. And then they were down, and yes, it was them. Would you believe that, and I had only been waiting 5 minutes. They had missed the coast path that would take them to Eary Cushlin. The lady was really pleased to see me, she had had enough of hill climbs, but the man would have liked to continue. Realistically, he didn’t know where he was going or how long it would take them so it wouldn’t have been a good idea to continue. I didn’t give them much choice, and I bundled them in the car, gave them some water and took them to Peel where they were going to get a meal at the Creek.

When I got home, I temporarily had doubts as to whether I should have interfered, but then checked the timetable, and they would have missed the last bus, so they would have ended up tired, cold, miserable and very hungry had they had to walk the full distance. They reminded of a time when I was walking the South West Coast Path with one of my sons, and we came across a man who was completely dehydrated and had collapsed and passed out. His girlfriend had somehow managed to prop him up under a bench so that he wouldn’t roll down the hill (!) while she went to get help, but he was just left there on his own. We stayed with him until he came round, and even then he wouldn’t take our dehydration tablets. Strange what you remember isn’t it, but I think this was in the back of mind when I decided to help this couple.

We had a good chat in the car, and I have heard from them since and they would like to meet up for a walk in the south sometime, and the young lady would like me to teach her Psychology!! 🙂

Distance: 5.89 miles; Total Ascent 1220 ft; Total Descent 1093 ft

Best of the rest:

Church Stretton – Beneath the Stiperstones [Day 1]

The Stiperstone Ridge

The hardest decision to be made each day is usually what to pick from the vast array of food for the packed lunch, closely followed by ‘which walk shall I do today’.

Given that my muscles are not great right now, and can be very painful on exertion, it was a fairly easy decision. Usually I would opt for the longest walk, especially if there is ridge walking involved, but I decided that 8 miles and just over 1000ft of ascent would be sufficient. It is so easy when you are younger to take your health for granted and it is so hard when your health starts to fail and you have to pace yourself and look longingly at ridges and scrambles rather than actually do them.

The day began with a coach journey of 40 minutes to our drop off point in the middle of nowhere, nowhere being just north of Corndon Hill at 344 metres. We followed an easy path over grassy knolls to Michaels Fold Stone circle, which is less impressive in practice than it sounds on paper. Makes you think a farmer so named it for his sheep. It was lovely up here, with wide expanses of moorland.

Michael’s Fold Stone Circle

From here we ventured south on very very muddy tracks to a place called White Grit. We followed a path taking us through Squiver farm up on to the very lovely Milk Hill, veering left of Mucklewick Hill – what wonderfully descriptive names they have in this part of Shropshire, though we may have been in Wales at this point. We continued to the foot of Grit Hill befor traipsing over boggy meadow to a spot called THE BOG. I write it in capitals as that is how it appears on the map.

Here there is a disused mine and a closed visitor centre, but there were benches where we could have our lunch. There was even old machinery showing how they transferred the rock from one end of the hills to another using a rope pulley system.

We had views of the Stiperstones from here, beguilingly in the near distance but just out of reach. We contoured around the lower regions and at a height of 430 metres we started our ascent to the Stiperstones ridge; we walked northwards along the ridge for a few hundred metres. It felt like more as it was very uneven, meaning that each step had to be carefully negotiated. This was our highest point of the day at roughly 490 metres. The views were tremendous in all directions, and we could see the foothills of Snowdonia in one direction, and the Wrekin in another.

The ever present Corndon Hill. We started to the far right of this then skirted left beneath it through fields on very muddy ground until we reached higher elevations. This area has a lot of undulating shale layers (the Mytton flags) creating clay soils, with discontinuous layers of volcanic rock. The hill itself is an intrusion of volcanic dolerite, as opposed to the Stiperstones quartzite, most likely laid down on a beach or in a water environment.

We descended through a narrow valley between Perkins Beach and Green Hill. This had a couple of steep and rocky sections but were easily passable with care. This section had an entirely different feel to anything we had encountered the rest of the day.

On reaching the road, it was just a hop, a skip and a jump to the village of Stiperstones and the village pub, which had a welcoming roaring fire, an old fashioned traditional pub, where you could imagine the locals sitting around sipping their pints and exchanging stories.

Total distance: 7.5 miles, Ascent 1020ft

La Palma, Canaries: Day 5 – Caldera de Taburiente Rim

This was a spectacular day. It started with a long, meandering, climbing, one and a half hour bus journey through the laurel cloud forest, giving wonderful views of Santa Cruz and its defunct volcano; the higher we got, the further north we could see and the laurels gave way to  tall, elegant pine trees. At times, I wondered if it were possible to go any higher. Every now and again we would get glimpses of rocky peaks through the trees and then finally we came out into the desertified landscape where the bus stopped temporarily at a viewpoint into the crater of the Caldera de Taburiente. This volcano erupted over 1 million years ago and again 1/4 of a millenium after that. It has a diameter of 8 kilometres, though landslides and erosion have now blocked off one side of the crater so that it resembles something of an icecream cone now.

Day 5 1

First view of the Caldera

We continued on the twisting lava road turning left beside some observatories, some which look at the stars and others that look at the sun. Then we stopped and could go no further, and indeed this was true for the bus too, it puts its foot down and the clutch or brakes decided they had had enough of carrrying the HF party, so the bus driver spent the next 30 minutes organising another bus to pick us up later. We had arrived at our starting point – El Roques de Los Muchachos, which strangely translates as Rock of the Boys! We were at 2,426m or 7959ft. We were warned we could be a little light-headed but no-one suffered more than usual.

The observatories

We were at the highest point of the Caldera and looking across to the left were several observatories, none of which are accessible to the public. They are too busy doing serious stuff. It was at this point that it was discovered that the easier walk could not run as only one person opted for it, the other person having changed his or her mind. This posed a problem as HF cannot lead a walk with 1 person. Fortunately we had a guide with us, who was supposed to tell us about the geology, flora and fauna, and she kindly offered to take the lady on the easier route and leave the two leaders with the harder walk.

It has a nice feeling being on top of the island, if not on top of the world, with sky all around, the cloud forest to the left, blue sea to the right and the other Canary Islands daring to raise their heads above the cloud parapet and make their own claim for our attention. At different times we saw Tenerife, La Gomera, and El Hiero. We were so lucky to have a mostly clear day, certainly along the rim, although inside the crater there was a kind of blue haze. The previous week the walkers had traipsed around the rim in total cloud, with not a view in sight. We obvously picked the right week.

Tenerife
Tenerife in the distance

The cloud forest 2
Above the clouds

View south east to Los Llanos
Los LLanos just visible to the east

View across to Cumbre Vieja
The Cumbre Vieja

But I am leaping ahead of time. Most of the time we were inside the cauldron, with many short and steep ascents and descents to Pico de la Cruz (2,351m), where we had our lunch. Now that’s what I call a lunch stop, though the wind was blowing a hooley and it was quite chilly.

Lunch stop
View to my right

Lunmch stop 2
View to my left

At this point we became aware that we did not have our easier walker and the guide. What’s more, the leader had no signal on her phone, so many a moment was spent trying to make contact to find out where they were. One of the guests finally succeeded and we were able to continue. Ah, maybe this is what our leader Mary has spotted in the distance?

Nowhere to go but down from here

We carried on up and down the rocky rim, which had amazing colours at times and at other times seemed quite dull but never boring. We crossed two other tops, Piedro Llana 2,321 m and our final point on the rim was Pico de la Nieve, which reminded me of yesterday’s story of the talcum powder as Nieve means ‘snow’ and lends its title to the patron saint of that area and everything to the east towards Santa Cruz. Not that it looks very white, or does it?.

End Point Pico de Bejenado
The youngest volcano in the rim, Pico de Bejenado

From here, it was all downhill, though perhaps the rocks underfoot were whiter than the rocks we started on. We had passed ancient pillow lavas created undersea when the volcano erupted, now evident at 500 metres showing how the uplift and shifting plates make mountains out of molehills. The whole of the Canaries is moving towards the African plate, so one day there will a mighty upheaval yet again. Even so, this island is unique in that its volcanos go some 4000 metres under the sea and 2500 metres above sea level, making them some of the highest volcanos in the world.

I end this section with a slideshow of some photographs taken on the rim to show you the variety of colour and interest created by the weathering of the rocks. Tomorrow is the last day of walking, and different yet again. Having been in the oldest volcano, I now enter one of the newest and the terrain is certainly different. Look out for the final instalment in my story of La Palma tomorrow.

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Distance 7.5 miles

Total ascent 1312 ft

Total descent 2907 ft.

Maximum elevation 7951 ft; minimum elevation 6,283 ft.