Cregneash, Chasms, Sound, Port Erin – 12th September 2019

This was my first ‘step out’ for some time, at least a couple of weeks, as I have been ascertaining the effect of hill walking on my metabolism. Having decided it was having no direct ill effect on my health, I am happy to report you will find me wandering out and about the local hills as usual, and further afield over the next six months.

This afternoon I stretched my legs and walked from home, up the Golden Road, which is not at all golden at the moment, but does have heaps of blackberries and Speckled Wood butterflies. I am pretty sure I also saw a Comma or a Fritillary, but you know butterflies they are gone before you have a chance to see them!

I started out in reasonable weather, but it wasn’t long before the rains came, but I was suitably attired and enjoyed my walk up Meayll Hill. The heather has mostly turned now but the gorge looked very sunny in the rain. On the top Meayll Hill I passed by the stone circle in the featured image at the top and veered slightly out of my way and found an old ‘bunker’ from the days of the WW11 radar station. Not sure what would have been contained here. Maybe it goes underground… there’s the start of a thriller.

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Over to Cregneash, up and over the top and down to the glorious Chasms – and the sun came out. The sheep made their own stone circle shape and stood out very effectively against the scenery. This next section has always been one of my favourite parts of our wonderful island, round Black Head and Spanish Head. One of the Loaghtan sheep was poised like King Orry observing pirates out at sea simultaneously guarding his flock.

A little further on and I was down at the Sound in the early evening sunlight. There were few people here now but I stopped at the cafe to replenish my stocks then continued on past Rocky Valley over the hills to Port Erin. The low sunlight was casting wonderful shadows and shapes that gave distinctive images of the rocks with the play of light and dark, but goodness was it windy!!

More sheep – usually, as you know, with me it cows – but sheep it was today. The brown Loaghtan sheep looked wild and scruffy whereas the cream coloured sheep looked as if they had just been in the washer in time for their photo shoot.

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I can never resist taking a photo of one of my favourite gates on the Isle of Man. As I walked around the bay I observed the light was reflecting on the sand and on the beach the lugworms had taken over from the children building sandcastles.

If you are a new visitor to the Isle of Man, this is a walk not to miss. You can start from Port St Mary and follow the coast, getting the steam train or bus back to Port Erin, or if you just want to best bits, take a car to the quarry car park at Cregneash and follow my walk to Port Erin. In summer there is a bus that will take you back to Cregneash.

Total distance 7.5 miles (home to home); 1339 ft of ascent, similar descent, probably a little more. Moderate walking. Highest point to Sound 501ft (no details of height of highest hill from Sound to PE).

Maps:

Other points of interest from the wildlife: Do let me know if you can identify the caterpillar.

 

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Ballasalla to Crosby (almost): 9.3 miles, 597 ft ascent

What to do during TT (other than watch the racing)? Walk some of the Millenium Way of course.  At a risk of putting some of you off attempting it, the southern section is a mix of some lovely scenery, as in Silverdale Glen and some super views to the south, but a lot of road walking and, as it has been raining a lot in the last 10 days, muddy footpaths.

I met up with a friend who I had met when I hosted the Facebook U3A walking page for the Isle of Man, and we boarded the number 12a bus at Port Erin railway station which took us to Ballasalla for the start of our walk. From here, we walked down to the Ford, where a biker walked into the water, stood in the middle for a second or two, then retraced his steps to the other side! Strange…

DSC00574We followed the lovely Silverdale river past the Monk’s Bridge (above) up to the boating lake where we had a short break, then continued past the old waterworks – or more correctly, the now defunct spring water factory to the main Ballamodha Road.

This is the first stretch of road walking,  which in itself is not unattractive – it affords great views of South Barrule – but the road was relatively busy by Isle of Man standards.

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We were quite relieved when after a mile or so, we turned off the road onto the footpath, that would eventually take us to St. Marks. At one point, we went through a farm yard where a friendly dog kept yapping at us to the consternation of its owner. At the far end of the farm was a sign pinned to a barn, saying in no uncertain terms that persons should “shut and fasten the gate, or be liable to a fine of forty shillings”. We duly shut the gate, not having forty shillings on us, and continued on the path, which appeared to peter out shortly afterwards. We continued northwards across a field, before I thought this was wrong route and we retraced our steps to find a very clear sign pointing across a different field, which we had missed completely because of the angle of the sign on approaching it. Here started the mud, and many gates that were only fit for very skinny people and not people with rucksacks. The grass was long and wet which helpfully cleaned our boots intermittently. As we went over a shrubby stream, Ros saw a frog. At various points on our walk we saw a small copper butterfly, a female common blue butterfly and a number of dead birds! As we approached Crosby we did see a bird of prey but could not identify it.

On, over the grassy meadows and reedbeds, we finally reached St. Marks where we had lunch and visited the absolutely delightful church; simple and unassuming, warm and welcoming. You can even help yourself to tea and coffee, but as we had brought ample supplies for ourselves, we did not partake.

From here it was more road walking, but this time on quieter roads that barely see traffic, but do bring with them views to the north and the valley in between.  This walk makes one aware of what a watery place the Isle of Man is, with streams at the end of every few fields. There is no doubt that even walking along roads makes you aware of the local scenery in a way you wouldn’t otherwise see it.

 

DSC00611As we came closer to Crosby we could hear the buzz of the motor bikes and saw what we thought was a TV helicopter following the racing. On this stretch of road, Ros found an abandoned egg shell. It was almost the size of a hen’s egg, was buff coloured and very slightly speckled, as you can see in the photograph. If anyone can identify this, please add a comment to this blog.

Unfortunately, I have had a problem with my Achilles tendon for the last month – I know, nothing stops me walking until I am forced to face the problem – and as we reached Marown old church, where we were due to turn right to go to Glen Vine, I was forced to take a break. At the same time, who should come out of the church but a friend from choir who happens to live just down the road from me! What a happy coincidence. Ros and I had a half second discussion and decided we should ask if he was going back to Port Erin. And, of course, he was. My poor ankle was so very grateful. We had been intending to walk another 4-5 miles along the railway track back to Douglas, but my foot clearly thought otherwise. Someone up there was obviously watching over me today, as I can be my own worst enemy.

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This opportune event allowed said friend and I to catch up and Ros and I passed a very pleasant 20 minutes sitting comfortably in his car listening to stories and finding out what is happening elsewhere. He dropped us off at our respective houses and continued on his way to Shoprite. And I, for once, did as I was told and bathed by ankle in ice cold water. So, probably no more walks for a bit – sad face – and a holiday in Crete – happy face – but I do have a short but interesting walk to write up from walking around and inside the cliffs of Port Erin this last week, so another blog to follow shortly.

Port Erin to Sound, Cregneash circular – 25th September 2018, 7 miles

It was  a cool morning, necessitating the wearing of leg warmers underneath my lightweight walking trousers. After several hours of psychology calls and a few more hours of psychology planned for the evening, I had an interlude over lunchtime, meaning I could escape the drudgery of work for a couple of hours.

I usually do this walk the other way round, but I fancied a change. I walked from home, down the short but very pretty Athol Glen, over the top and down to the Bay Hotel, joining the coast path at the old marine building. The coast path starts with a most unprepossessing view, as the signpost points behind a generator that you have to scramble behind to get to the path. But this disappointment is short lived as you are soon up on the cliff path with stunning views both out to sea and back towards Port Erin Bay.

Photo: the lovely Athol Glen. Compare with the start of the coast path below, but it doesn’t last and soon you are away from it all!

It is a bit of a pull up this hill initially, and my goodness, the wind was howling around the corner and it was a job to stand upright. Good job I had taken my trusty stick and the wind was blowing off the sea rather than out to sea! On I went, with the wind blowing in my face the full three miles to the Sound. There are fantastic views in all directions, though it was hard to take any photos without significant camera-shake.

 

Photo: The wind has given me a very neat hairstyle, showing off all my grey 🙂

My favourite part of this walk is our very own ‘Valley of the Rocks”, and walking from this direction I noticed a large sculptured rock looking to me just like a thigh bone. The path goes immediately below this, then there is a very slight scrambly section before reaching the soft grasses of the hills immediately beside the Sound cafe. The waters were fast and furious today, with the currents ripping through between the mainland and Kitterland like I have never seen before.  One or two seals were curiously eyeing me as they accomplished their synchronised swimming, just keeping their heads above water, flippers madly flapping below the water.

A stop for lunch. No other mad fools sitting eating their sandwiches here in the wind 🙂 Though many were safely tucked up inside the cafe eating their Manx Broth and cakes. On I pressed, wondering how easy it might be in these winds to get up the steep stepped hill on to Spanish Head. I was pushed about it quite a bit, but I got there and on to Black Head, the Chasms and Cregneash. I had thought of stopping at the tearooms here but decided to carry on over Mull Hill back to Port Erin over the moors.

What a treat was in store for me. Having been blown and buffeted by the hefty winds all the way around the south and west of the headland, as I dropped onto the moors I was cosseted by a warm and welcoming soft wind, and a wonderful light that bares no description. The colours of the heather and gorse were magnificent. Our Manx gorse is low and sparsely yellow, but beyond and intermingled with it was a chocolate coloured mass of heather. No photo would do that justice, but it is a memory that will linger long.

And so, I pottered downhill along the grassy tracks for a final mile to my start and resting point. I was only out a few hours but felt alive and ready to tackle the rest of the day and my demanding students!

Total distance 7.14 miles; Elevation Gain: 1377 ft; Elevation Loss: 1371 ft

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Figure of 8, Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, Tuesday 4 Sept 2018, 8.78 miles, 1533 ft of ascent

This is a walk of endless possibilities and permutations. Well maybe not endless, but there is a wide variety of starting and finishing points. If you prefer to finish with a downhill section, then start at the Sloc, as virutally any other path will mean a long uphill section at the end.

I started where the road turns to the right and a farm track continues to Dalby close to the top of Cronk ny Arrey Laa ( a regular parking spot for walkers), then descended south along the permissive path to the Sloc. It was interesting to see that the heather and gorse on the eastern side had virtually finished, whereas it was still in full bloom on the south side. On the eastern side, several shallow drainage ditches have been dug, and even though we haven’t had a lot of rain, every one on the eastern side was working well, with water in them flowing off the hillside.

When I reached the Sloc, I decided to blaze a trail to the top of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, taking in the hillocks on the cliff line – cliffocks? – which are avoided by taking the standard path.  Clearly others have done the same from the footprints and loosely made  paths that I followed from time to time, but this was entirely new to me. It was quite thrilling and provided me with views that are usually unattainable. I did see one gentleman on the traditional path looking quizzically up at me. I couldn’t decide whether he thought I was just bonkers or whether he quite fancied traipsing through the heather himself. For me, it was worth the extra ascent and descent, but as he didn’t join me he obviously thought I was bonkers.

 

 

On reaching the highest point of the day, Cronk My Arrey Laa (437m), I descended via the steep coastal footpath which, once off the stony Manx group, crosses the wide and boggy moors towards Eary Cushlin and Dalby Mountain.

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Here I was meeting the Manx Wildlife Trust again, this time to assist with the project “Bouncing Bogs”. I say “assist” but I am really not a lot of use, but I am learning a lot, and in time I may be of some use! I was late because I had got the time wrong, but it was neither here not there, as is usually the case with Manx time-keeping, and they hadn’t started. Dawn showed us bog asphodel in its orange burst of autumn glory, bog cotton, sheep’s bit scabious, eyebright, tormentil, purple knapweed to name but a few. She showed the children how to strip the soft rush to create rush lights and plucked and flicked thelicopter seeds from the nearby sycamore trees providing amusement for the children, though it has to be said the most fun was had by jumping about in the bogs. The gooiest thing of the day was a very ugly and slimy slug, which rather delighted Dawn. One thing we sadly didn’t see was the sundew which is common here, but maybe a little late in the year to show itself off. I havent included this section in my walk stats as this was an extra.

I then proceeded along the Bayr ny Skeddan towards Glen Maye, another route I had never walked before. It was just lovely, with continuous changing views across to South Barrule. The path is easy and flat until the end when it descends steeply to the river Rushen. This path is accessible from Eary Cushlin /Dalby Mountain car parks and is worth a walk on its own. You can see the mines, the river valley,  and the moutains  from a unique angle. Unfortunately, at this point, I ran out of battery – again – but I will revisit this area another time I am sure and take more photos.

 

I stopped for ‘lunch’ when I crossed the river Rushen. There are a couple of good places to have a picnic lunch here, either at the bridge sitting on the stones, or if raining, just a little further upstream there is a gate leading to a grassy and tree-d area where there is a confluence of streams. I sat by the bridge for a while. The sun was beaming down and the water trickling over the rocks, and I didn’t want to move.

From here, I ascended using the farm track to Round Table. It is reasonably steep initially and then becomes a softer climb, but it is all up hill. From Round Table, I continued across the moorland which does seem to go on forever, although it is no more than a mile or so. You can see the cars parked at Cronk Ny Arrey Laa from Round Table and they look deceptively close. This path was quite boggy and slippery and of course, still uphill.

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I can throughly recommend this walk; you maybe don’t want to do it all. If you did the first half of the figure of 8 to Eary Cushlin you could join the Dalby track back to the car and this would be no more than 5 miles. Or, you could start by walking down the Dalby track and just do the second part of the figure of 8, and that would be about 5 miles too.

So that’s my long walk for this week. I am off on my hols to Majorca in a few days and work has to take precedence now until I go. I shall have my Garmin watch with me on my walks in Majorca so I may do a Majorca blog while I am away if I have an internet connection.

A walk on the wild side – Saturday 1st September 8.6 miles, 583 ft elevation

I was awoken by the sound of cows mooing this morning – which is a little strange given that I live on a housing estate. Little was I to know that cows would feature prominently in my activities today. Or maybe I was hallucinating having had so little sleep thanks to Homestay guest, who after a night of liquid indulgence and jollities had thought fit to walk some complete strangers home up to Bradda and then take a rest on the way back to listen to the waves crashing on the beach from a wall at Spaldrick. He was so relaxed, recumbent on his hammock wall, that he fell peacefully asleep there until the early hours, unknowingly perched precariously next to the significant drop leading down to the beach. My text message at 1.37am appears to have woken him up, so he drowsily got himself together and staggered back to his lodgings where he indulged in a couple of slices of toast and jam at 2am and regaled me with his stories until 3am.

So, the morning started slowly as neither of us had any get up and go, though go he eventually did to Jurby. I had planned out a short walk for myself. It was a dull damp day with nothing to commend it, so I opted for a low level country route. It started promisingly with an unexpected trip on the steam train to Ballabeg. This did add on an extra 1/2 mile but that didn’t bother me as I was only doing a short walk, but you could get the bus to Ballabeg and get off at the corner.

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Walking up the road out of Ballabeg I had spotted what looked like a tiny circular road on the map which looked interesting and it would get me off the ‘main road’. I followed this track for about half a mile before it then gave up the ghost and did not continue on where it was shown on the map. Being the explorer that I am, I thought if I hop over this fence and walk to the edge of the field then I should be able to join another footpath. It was quite misty so no-one would see me, except the minute I got in the field a herd of cows came over to say ‘hello’. Having convinced them that I was not of any interest to them they trotted off  into the mist. I was now in a large field and unable to see a thing, so I got my compass out to at least make sure I was going in the right direction. When I got to the edge of the field there was no exit and the many cows reappeared and were keen to enquire as to what my business was in their field. It was daunting having 15 or so cows staring eyeball to eyeball with me and I did not feel inclined to test their humour by taking any photos of them. It was a case of who could stare the other out for longest. Eventually they got bored and went off, so I made a fairly hasty retreat as soon as I knew I was incognito in the mist. I climbed back over the fence and retraced my steps all the way back to the road. Interestingly, the Garmin map showing my route does not show the path that is on the 1:25000 so the latters appears to be out of date.

It was now raining quite hard and I followed the road until I met the footpath/track I had been trying to locate earlier. This is not an interesting path, but I did see my cows again, this time from the safety of being the other side of the hedge. In fact, this is a very boring path, but it does have its moment. At a farmyard, there were dozens of squawking ducks and geese which came as quite a surprise.

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The footpath here was shown to deviate from the main track at this point, but it looked so overgrown that I thought it wasn’t going to be possible to continue. But the map showed the footbridge and this being the way,  I tried again and ignored the wild boar in the enclosure. I found a very very rickety stile completely overgrown leading into the ancient woodland. How ancient it is I don’t know, but it wasn’t one full of conifers.  This became my lunch stop out of the rain. Coming out of the boggy woodland I was surprised and delighted by the river winding its way through the enchanted trees. I could imagine this being a place for story-telling and fairies.

 

Crossing the bridge led to another fence /stile to climb over that was even more unstable than the last one  – the gate didn’t open and the wooden structure swayed as I stood on it. I was now on the track up to the Grenaby / Ballabeg road. I turned right and walked a short distance to the marked footpath on the left that would take me to Billown. This was waymarked but not easy walking as the turf had been dug up by the cows’ hooves, and yes, you guessed it, some more cows thought I was the most interesting thing they had seen today and started to move rapidly towards me. This time, though, I was one step ahead of them and stood on top of the stile to take their mugshots.

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I couldn’t find the exit path from this field, that thankfully had no wildlife in it, so I opened a gate rather than climbed over it (there’s a novelty) and another, and walked through Upper Billown farm.  I followed the track, but being tired and dim from the last evening’s festivities I took a wrong path. It didn’t take me long to discover my error and I was soon back on track and eventually joined the Ballmodha Straight for a very short distance before turning left by the milestone onto the track that would take me to Ballasalla. And of course, a dog had to come out to greet me very noisily at a farm, and more cows followed my every step before my day was done.

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Not a great walk; not one I shall do again in a hurry, but it did have its moments, especially the enchanted forest where the Silverburn really begins its epic venture to the sea. If you were to do it in a straight line, without unnecessary detours, it would probably be about 7 miles altogether.

Tomorrow, I am on duty at the Scarlett Visitor Centre so no danger of any intimidating cows there!

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Slideshow of Milner Tower and Bradda Head, 4 miles Wednesday 29th August 2018

A stunning evening walk around Bradda Head, just 4 miles or so from my house. Do you need any other reason to live here?

There is quite climb up to Milner Tower which might not suit everyone, but there are other options to reach the top. If you take the car to West Bradda you can take a gentle sloping path with barely any ascent all the way!

Check out this video I took last night – I can’t upload it here, so have a look on my Facebook page:

Castletown to Langness Golf Links (No 19) and Fort Island – 4 miles (return 2.5 miles), Tuesday August 28, 2018

This short walk may be mostly on road and only a relatively short distance, but it is nonetheless spectacular in its simplicity, its peacefulness and breathtaking distant views in all directions, not forgetting the sea breeze that might sweep away any lingering cobweb at any moment. The bonus is the start and end point at Castletown, with its fine buildings, windy streets, castle and teahouses.

I was meeting some friends who had had an apartment in the Brambles at Port Erin when I was living there. They had moved to Anglesey and they were unexpectedly visiting the island for the Grand Prix, so we arranged to meet at No.19 for lunch.

For me, this meant I could get the bus to Castletown and then walk along the various beaches and shore lines with their different ambiences and if time walk the perimeter of the Langness peninsular. Today, this was unlikely as I had to get back to teach dancing but one can but dream…

I had thought of visiting the Castle first but decided I wanted to visit Fort Island and there wasn’t time for both, so I grabbed a takeaway coffee and walked round some of the quaint streets that comprise Castletown before visiting the loos on the bridge (worth knowing where they are, as there aren’t many that are open every day in Castletown). The loos in the Town Hall are closed at weekends.  I walked down past the Peggy Museum onto the coast road. I sat on some steps overlooking the bay and watched the tide whilst I drank my coffee, then resumed my journey stopping briefly at Hango Hill opposite the King William’s College and continuing on to Derbyhaven.

 

Photos: Derbyhaven Bay, Hango Hill and King William College

Here, rather than taking the road I continued on a very very short distance to the bay and walked along the beach. The tide was coming in and this is always the best time to see Derbyhaven. From there it is only a stone’s throw, say half a mile, around the Bay to the Golf Links and No 19, but I wanted to continue along the coast path as I still had an hour to spare.

And what a great hour I had, messing about on Fort Island. I haven’t been here for years. You walk across the causeway, which now prevents the island from being separated from the mainland.

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It is quite a nature reserve here, and the sea so very clear and clean, and having rocky outcrops as opposed to the rest of Deebyhaven bay which is sand and pebbles, I could scramble about the rocks and have fun.  There is the old chapel and of course, the Fort, but most of all the views are simply terrific and you can really open your eyes and let your long distance vision take over. My thoughts were that my grandchildren, Emily and Joe would enjoy it here, so I must bring them when they come over next.

 

And that was yesterday’s walk as I had to return via almost the same route, except in Castletown I walked through the Bowling Green, where there were bowlers and spectators alike enjoying the sunshine. There is an excellent cafe here, where you can sit inside or out, and appreciate not just the bowling but beautiful landscaped flowerbeds. I also wanted to walk along the Crofts with its stunning houses. I reached Castle Rushen school and waited patiently for the bus, which was running late due to the Grand Prix, and got home just in time to spend the next three hours teaching ballroom dancing.

Although I walked this route, you can take the car all the way to the Golf Links and even on to Fort Island, so this is suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities. You could start your walk where I ended and walk round a variety of paths on Langness, but I will save that for another day.

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