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.

La Palma, Canaries – January 2020: Walking Day 1 – The Southern Volcanoes

La Palma is a walkers’ and geologists’ paradise. For my first visit to the Canary Islands I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew it contained volcanoes and it was billed in the HF brochure as being very green, but in reality this small island – almost the same size of the Isle of Man, is very dramatic, with old and new volcanoes littering and influencing every tiny part of it and hints of all types of natural change occurring over geological time.

Day 1 walks are generally designed to ease walkers into an unknown terrain and to get the feel of what they are capable of achieving. The other walkers all opted for the ‘harder’ route which involved a small amount of ascent contouring around the side of hills with coastal views and a descent into Los Canarios. I opted for the ‘easier’ route, which meant I would have time to explore the small town, but more importantly I would have time to have a good look at the volcano visitor centre and take a walk along the crater rim. From there, both groups would walk through the extensive lava fields and past the latest volcano to erupt down to the sea.

dsc02321.jpg

The view of the volcanic ridge to the north of Los Canarios, adjoining the Cumbre Vieja ridge. Below the small town to Los Canarios viewed from the San Antonio crater.

If anything, although there are other competing highlights, this was my favourite day. I walked along the San Antonio crater rim following the tourist route, but I was also able to explore the other side of the crater and have it entirely to myself. The light was better on this side and there was a greater sense of isolation and wonder at the achievement of the natural world. This volcano erupted in 1677 and therefore few plants and trees have had a chance to colonise the interior. The circumference of the crater is about 1 km, the depth 100 metres, and it’s height is 663 metres (2175 ft), so about the height of Snaefell.

The island is host to tens of volcanoes old and young, maybe more, and according to the Express in Jan 2019 it is already overdue another major volcanic eruption on a massive scale! It also hosts a myriad of astronomical telescopes on the ridges of many of the volcanoes and there is a miniature one at the visitor centre pointing to the Polaris star, which rather amused me.

Once we were all together again it was an continuous walk steeply downhill for over 2000 ft. In some places, the lava fields were tiny grains of pica, in other areas soft ash or small loose rocks and in others we were stepping over cobbles or bigger stones. We passed the Teneguía volcano which was more rugged than the San Antonio volcano with many more boulders; little natural vegetation has had a chance to grow yet, since this volcano only erupted as recently as 1971, following a previous eruption in 1949.

To the west we were able to see how the locals are making use of the new land created by these magnificent lava flows. Although the soil is very thin its temperate climate lends itself to growing grapes and wine is becoming relatively big business. The vineyards are evident all around the south, which also happens to have the sunniest and warmest weather of the island. There are several places where you can sample their wine, even in Los Canarios.

 

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I sat here, alone with my thoughts, relishing the peace and quiet around me.

The descent from San Antonio was very steep and rocky in places, and always interesting. The next photo shows we have descended a few hundred feet and shows the San Antonio volcano standing imperiously in its environment.

We had stopped to look at some hieroglyphs on the rocks at the suitably named Roque Teneguía. This is an outcrop of rock containing phonolite which is pale and contrasts with the surrounding grey basalt gravel (called lapilli).The meaning of the symbols is unclear, and is thought to be ancient artwork; similar patterns are found on the rocks in other places too, so most likely some form of communication. They are usually positioned near a water source. Some say they resemble Celtic hieroglyphs, other says they resemble water or fertility, but in truth, no-one knows. We do know that they are at least 500 years old, so were there long before the volcanoes in this region.

Ancient Rock Art

From here the terrain changes as we walk along the eastern side of the Teneguía volcano. Large lumps of rock and awkward looking shapes were abundant and the descent here was arduous in places. The paths look deceptively easy, and they have been thoughtfully designed and maintained, but often the rocks are very loose and it was easy to lose one’s footing any day of the week.

 

Compare this with the lunar landscape on the eastern side as we descend further towards at Fuencaliente in the coast, which of course is all  new land.

You can just see the salt pans in the photograph above. It is possible to walk around them, or visit the lighthouse, or have a beer in the cafe. For those who don’t want to walk you can get a bus from Los Canarios and save your knees! Not that I had a problem with knees; my problem was toes, but I will tell you all about that another time.

None of the other walks we did have such a sense of spaciousness. Every walk was beautiful in its own way, but maybe because I am an islander myself and spend a lot of time looking up at the sky and out across the sea, this day will remain in my memory for ever. And of course, we finished at the sea.

Distance – my full day was about 8 miles, much of which was messing about around the volcano; ascent: 600ft; descent 2400ft

To follow: Day 2 was a testing walk in the hills north of Santa Cruz, with a lot of steep ascent and descent with lovely wooded valleys and steep ravines to cross, but well worth the effort. A memorable day.

Greeba Mountain – 2nd October 2019

1a. View across to Greeba Mountain

Greeba Mountain is not technically speaking a mountain as it doesn’t reach the giddy heights of 600 metres. In fact, it falls well short at 422 metres and is the peak you can see above the plantation, looking rather apologetic. This was our second ‘peak’ of the day, our first being the traverse of Slieau Roy at 479 metres. I notice the word Slieau contains the word ‘eau’ which is of course, french for ‘water’, which is very apt considering the boggy nature of the peat hills. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We started out from Crosby village, the visitors arriving on the bus and the locals arriving by car. We took the A23 out of Crosby – sounds as if it’s a proper road doesn’t it, but actually it is just a minor lane with little traffic. The road climbs gently from the start all the way up to and around Cronk my Moghlane. It doesn’t take long before you can see the full extent of the valley between Douglas and Peel, and what strikes you most of all is the distant views, the lack of housing and the large amount of patchwork green fields. We are so used to travelling down that valley with its numerous villages dotted along the way,  that it doesn’t seem at all remote, but once you get up on the hills you have a completely different sense of island and what it’s all about.

We continued gently uphill following a grassy track full of humps and hollows made by the bikes in former years, now forbidden on this path, and contoured around the  eastern side of Slieau Ruy, which gave excellent views of the neighbouring hill called Colden (487 metres) and its shoulder The Creg – ‘creg’  meaning ‘rock’. I don’t know what Colden means…  now I do. It comes from the Scandinavian word Kollrinn, meaning the ‘top’ or ‘summit’. Just to complete the Manx lesson Slieau Roy means ”Red Mountain’, supposedly taking its name from the heather. In former times, many flowers were called red even though they were pink or purple; and Greeba is also of Scandinavian origin from the word ‘Gripa’ meaning ‘peak’.

 

11. View of x from my point

It was a little blustery but we so relieved to see the sun after yesterday’s torrential rain that had completed wiped out Laxey and caused landslides on Snaefell. As we reached the col, we turned back along the ridge to the top of Slieau Roy.  It might have been time for lunch, but the weather was not conducive to sitting on boggy ground with the wind whistling past our faces, so we continued undaunted if a little hungry on to the lesser Greeba Mountain. The views in all directions were wonderful and we could spy the wind turbines at Morecambe, Black Combe and the other mountains of the western Lake District and in the other direction we could see the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland. Who cares whether or not Greeba mountain is a real mountain. It is lovely place to stop and stare.

After this we descended off the moorland into one of many plantations in this area, this one with the unimaginative name of Greeba Forest, also known as King’s Forest. Believe it or not, there was an unusual battle here as late as 1937 between police with firearms and feral sheep, who were slaughtered to prevent the spread of sheep scab. I wish I had known that little trifle of knowledge as I was walking down the hill.  As it was, I was very happily engaged in very pleasant conversations with visitors who were part of our walking festival. You can see them below – how many different ways of smiling (or grimacing) can you spot?

18. The top

As we had made good time, we finished our walk by crossing over the ever so busy St John’s road and made our way to the heritage trail, which was formerly a railway line between Douglas and Peel. It has recently been upgraded and totally spoiled (in my opinion) in order to accommodate cyclists and possibly wheelchairs. It is now a wide uninteresting shingly type of path that won’t make anyone want to go for a walk. It has lost all its character and there is no longer any sense of its history. But times move on, and so must I.

I leave this blog on a high note. I had a wonderful day, and met some really interesting people. It is so wonderful to share our love of this island with visitors and to hear their stories of their travels. Thank you so much to the Walking Festival, and to our leader, Ken and assistants Belinda and Gayle, who have given up their time to take us out for the day. I can’t join them for their other events this week, but I hope the weather holds up for all the walkers.

Distance: 9 miles; Ascent 1408 ft; Descent 1424 ft. I will attach a short slide show of other photos from today after the map.

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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.

Cregneash

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.

Sheep and the Tower

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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