Exploring the ancient sites – end of Sept 2018

What is the point of being a semi-retired OAP if you can’t take advantage of wonderful sunny autumn days? That is what I told myself on Friday. My four day visitor had arrived yesterday and we had already visited Cregneash and other local tourist spots. I had warned him about our winds, which persisted unabated for the full time of his trip over. Today, he was recapturing elements of his youth by hopping on the steam train, electric train and tram to experience Snaefell without fog, mist, rain and just a little wind to see the seven kingdoms in sunshine. I was gardening and working, when I could bear it no more. I got into the car (a rare event in itself) and hotfooted it to South Barrule, which was looking so enticing from the kitchen window.

I ventured up and over South Barrule intending to find the path beside the quarry on the other side and contour round back to the car, but there was no clear path after a while so I had a change of plan and returned via the same route towards the car, before continuing and chasing paths through the Cringle Plantation. There was a wonderful dappled light coming through the trees and the paths are easy to follow and well made. I followed the blue track for a couple of miles. Indeed, the footpath was so good and I was enjoying myself so much, I decided to jog all the way, which was fine up (down?) to Cringle Reservoir, but then there is nasty final few hundred feet slog uphill back to where I started. I felt as if I had achieved something that day, and I was back home in no time, back marking my Psychology papers and back planning dance classes. My friend also arrived back in the nick of time to have tea and then we went to listen to the Regal Singers at Ballafesson, which made for a very jolly evening.

IMG_0235Photo: The sunset over Ireland as we drove to Ballafesson

Saturday we spent on a tour of historical or religious places on the Isle of Man. My erudite friend has a keen interest in history, religion and archaeology and had discovered Jurby church had an exhibition of the Saints of the Isle of Man, so having packed our sandwiches we headed off there. On the way, we called in to view evidence of the collison of the North American and European tectonic plates at Niarbyl, which was largely covered in seaweed but still visible, and we visited Peel where my friend searched in vain for a comprehensive book on the mines but where I found a nice second hand book of Isle of Man poems. The parishioners of Jurby had done a fantastic job providing information and displays on the all the churches’ Saints on the island, in immense detail. My friend was in heaven as he spent a good amount of time reading every one or them. I bought a聽 woolly hat for 拢2, and a jar of marmalade while I waited! We then looked in the churchyard and examined the ancient mounds therein.

Later that day we made our way to Maughold. A.S. had bought a very detailed book giving information about the many many keills around the island and other interesting features, of which he made plenty of use as we toured the churchyard looking at the ancient inscriptions and burial places. I learnt a great deal that day. We then climbed the little hill fort on the coast which gives a broad outline of the expanse of hills to the west. There was just time at the end of the day to visit the Quaker graveyard, which was so different from anything else, being unassuming and surrounded by trees. The owner of the land has very kindly opened up areas either side of the bridleway for people to sit and meditate in this peaceful countryside, even positioning ravens to guard the site.

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The Quaker Graveyard and resting place and ravens

On Sunday, we had a walk around Scarlett with its varied geological formations – though we didn’t manage to find the pillow lava we had hoped to find – , then visited Balladoole which greatly interested my friend as he had not seen such a ship burial before. We spent the afternoon at Peel Cathedral for Evensong, which was sung quite beautifully by our local group “Voces Insulae”.

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So, here we are on Monday; there was just time this morning to potter around the cliff to the Milner Tower at Port Erin before he returned to England, enraptured by the wonderful landscapes and history of the Isle of Man. Another convert, I suspect 馃檪

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

It was聽 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鈥檛 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 馃檪

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.聽 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 馃檪 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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Douglas and Laxey Sat 22/9/18 – The Tourist Route

Autumn has definitely arrived, and I for one am grateful to be away from the blistering heat of the Mediterranean. This week’s windy and wet weather certainly is more typical of the Isle of Man than the sweltering two months we were treated to in June and July. Port Erin beach has a new shape to it, as the gale-force winds have created mini dune-like effects and swept the sand over the stones at the far end of the beach. Today, as I wandered around the bay, the same beach had changed again and the far end looked like the pebbly remains of a torrent of water that had gushed from a hillside dispelling its contents – not true of course, but it emphasises the power of the natural elements.

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On Thursday 20th September I played table tennis at the NSC (National Sports Centre for the uninitiated) in Douglas, and walked the short distance from there to M&S, following the river and walking alongside the Marina, about a mile and a half altogether. This is one of those walks that only odd people like me or locals will do as it does’t take you far and it is much easier to get a bus! I stand corrected – in fact, if you did the walk the other way round you could continue on a pretty track all the way to Port Soderick. I did think you might be interested in one small aspect of my town ‘walk’. It starts by Pulrose Power station with its ugly steel buildings, car parks and railings, but as soon as you turn a corner you are in a different world, one of trees and green and mystery. What struck me this day was the sweet smell coming from the trees and nuts only on the green side. Two contrasting worlds separated by a fence! The views below are literally fractions apart.

One one side of the hedge, grey steel and angular shapes; on the other side, soft green trees, leaves and nuts strewn across the footpath.

On Saturday, I went back in time. When I first visited the island in 1998, I didn’t have any transport of my own so used public transport for all my walks, no matter where they were on the island. This can make for long – but very enjoyable, days.

I got the 10am steam train at Port Erin, which left 15 minutes late as it had to wait for the incoming train before we could leave. No matter, I had plenty of time as I wasn’t due to be at Laxey for a Friends of Manx National Heritage event until 2pm. Arriving at the Douglas railway station I walked along the Marina up to the ferry port so that I could get a photo to show you to full extent of Douglas’s wonderful promenade, with its wide walkway and horse drawn tram (the longest running horse drawn tram in the world I believe). I was a bit ahead of time so popped into the shopping centre for a coffee, then walked up to the far end of the prom to catch the electric tram to Laxey. The prom was full of people, a chap on his bike, a lady and gent taking a stroll, another person doing their fitness routine and a lady with her children and pushchairs, and me walking very briskly as I had completely forgotten just how long the prom actually is – 2 miles end to end!! I needn’t have worried as the tram was late too. I thoroughly enjoyed this second journey by public transport, more so than the steam train. It goes along the coast to Ramsey and the views are tremendous. The further you go around the bay, the more it seems like a seaside resort and you can smell the air and see the views.聽 I could see Black Combe across the water in the Lake District and the many wind farms of Morecambe Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo above: Spot the join; the two photos should overlap slightly.

I got to Laxey expecting to visit the Glen, but sadly the walk took us in the other direction down the old road to the Woollen Mills, through the beautiful old village to the beach. Our guide told us about the history of all the different mills, flax, paper, flour, and the pipe factory, although the only one of these historical buildings currently in use is the very large flour mill where we started at Laxey Glen. She also showed us secret waterfalls, leats and ponds (dips in the ground that you would walk past in an instant usually) that had been used in the processing of the various materials and an old delapidated brewery tucked away in a hidden spot. It was a very interesting tour. At the end I had to go in the opposite direction and explore the Laxey Glen itself. This is beautiful – one I had never visited – and a complete contrast to the main river valley leading down from Snaefell, with the famous Lady Isabella Laxey Wheel and the Washing Floors. Despite being heralded for its fame, I learnt that mining came late to Laxey but it was a thriving town long before that, mainly due to its plentiful mills. However, the number of lovely houses is thanks to the miners, not for their achievements in Laxey necessarily, but our guide told us that many people were sent to seek their fortunes in South Africa and they sent money back home that allowed them to extend their properties.

This is the only photo I managed to take of Laxey and is of the washing floors. Worth a visit in their own right. Laxey is a fascinating village with a lot of history. If you have never been here, it is well worth making a special visit and there are walks in all directions, which you can reach by the electric train , tram, bus, or walk. I am thinking of Dhoon Glen and Snaefell in particular.

Laxey Glen can be found to the west of the main road and is enclosed and very green with large trees. There is parking immediately on the bend by the mill. The river running through the glen is beautiful, with banks and groves on either side. As you climb higher into the plantation it becomes quite steep and muddy and as it was getting late and I didn’t know where it would come out or whether I would be able to find a new return route, I cut my losses first of all finding myself a sturdy stick to help me negotiate the steep downhill parts and I returned back by the route I had come. I hoped to reach the visitor centre to see if they had a map of the Glen but when I got there it was closed (4.45pm)

I had completely forgotten to charge my phone this time, so I will post photos of this area another time.

The walk around Laxey was a total of about 4.5 miles, and 2 miles altogether from one end of the prom to the other, although I managed 10 miles overall for the day one way of another. I shall revisit Laxey Glen as there look to be some interesting paths through and around it up to the mountain, some without the need to go to the very top and I should like to investigate.

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Another blowy walk – Port Erin 19/9/18 – 4 miles

If I thought yesterday was blustery, it was not a patch on today. I wanted to kick start my Garmin watch into registering my intensity minutes as it had gone on a go-slow, so decided to take the long route to the dentist this morning. And what an exhilarating walk it was. It might all have been on roads until the final 2 miles, but I was getting pushed and pulled by the wind, almost lifted off my feet at times, so it had some exciting moments.

I was walking at a cracking pace anyway, but I was definitely wind-assisted. It was such fun :-). I walked from home to Ballafesson and up the top road to East Bradda, where the wind tried to push me back down the hill! Then down to Bradda Glen and along the cliff path towards the Milner Tower. As I went through the glades, the wind howled through and jostled them about. It was quite deafening. There was one tree looking distinctly dodgy so I made a snappy move to get past that. I didn’t fancy a tree bonking me on the head. And then I had a jog along the cliff path, quite why I don’t know, but I was enjoying myself.

Having gathered speed there was no stopping me and I made short shrift of the cliff path back to Port Erin and the beach. I got sand blasted as gusts of winds tore up the beach. I did over 4 miles in 1hr 5 minutes, good going by anyone’s standards, especially given there was 670ft of ascent and 760ft of descent altogether. And yes, it did register my intensity minutes.

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Look at the map. Even that has entered into the spirit of the day and looks like a windswept head 馃檪 馃檪

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A blustery day in the South – Port St Mary & Port Erin 5.4 miles

I haven’t had much chance to get out since I returned home, but I have managed my 10,000 steps each day to keep my serial record alive. I am now at 69 consecutive days of 5 miles or more per day.

Today, I had to force myself out. It was a dull, cool day and I could quite easily have had a pyjama day, given that Tuesdays are my day off. It is something of a change from the hot and humid weather of Mallorca. Having caught up with all my marking in the morning, I went over to Tynwald Mills to check out waterproofs, and again bought nothing, but this was enough to convince myself I needed some fresh air.

I walked from home over to Port St Mary. On the home side of the hill, it was quite calm but when I hit the south coast the winds blew and my hair blew all over the place. The seas were in full motion, doing what they do best, whipping up the waves and splashing against the rocks. They were fun to watch, and still there was 90 mins to go to high tide.

As soon as I turned the corner the winds abated and normality resumed. It is hard to believe that the picture taken below is only about 200 metres from the ones taken above.

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I walked around this bay to the other side, up to Carrikey Bay and Gansey, where some kayakers were riding the waves.

From here, it was all road-walking home, more than planned as I had to do a detour into the village to post a letter, only to discover that we now have only one postal collection per day anywhere in the south. I could have posted my letter anywhere. We used to have an early morning collection but apart from Mondays, that has now ceased and we only have one collection late afternoon!

This is an easy walk on good roads and paths. The 5.4 miles took me 1hr 34 mins walking at a brisk pace. If you were starting in the heart of Port Erin, parking by the railway station, follow Drogadfayle Road to the footpath linking this to St Mary’s Road. There are alternative ways back, but it is still a good walk however you do it.

And breathe…

Sunday 16th September: I knew it the moment I set foot on terra firma. I could feel the sea breeze brushing over the tarmac and I could sense the salt in the air. I looked around from the steps of the plane and wondered at the mass expanse of sky and wide vistas. I was home.

I was right in my perception of feeling hemmed in by the Mallorcan mountains. The Isle of Man may not have the biggest mountains or the most rugged scenery, or many trees, but it has one great asset – it allows you to breathe and be refreshed on a daily basis. Its seas and cliffs, hills and valleys tease you into venturing out and exploring and although you may be alone you will never feel alone in this countryside. It is warm and welcoming and once you get to know it, it becomes an indispensable friend and one you long for when parted. One whose changes you notice when others don’t.

So, having lugged my suitcase up the hill to my house, I hurried back to enjoy the last moments of the day while the sun still shone. I went to my favourite spot on the beach which a couple kindly vacated for me without my asking and I listened to the tide rushing in and out and banging against the rocks.

The photo above shows the white house on the cliff which is now the set of apartments I lived in when I first moved over here in December 2013. You can imagine its sea views and the sunsets I witnessed. I had planned to have a cup of tea at the Cosy Nook at the foot of the bay but this had already closed its shutters for the day, so instead I walked around the bay and watched the changing weather approaching from the west.

My holiday in Mallorca was wonderful, spent with engaging and interesting people, taking me to heights I would never reach on my own. It was a thoroughly enjoyable week.

My life on the Isle of Man is even better!

This was a short circular walk from home, just over 2.5 miles. What more can I ask for?

Mallorca – final days

This blog has two days in one, and that will be it until I return to the Isle of Man. And, although I have only been away less than a week I am homesick for the varied vistas and landscapes of the Isle of Man. The mountains of Mallorca are beautiful but one walk looks much like another and all our guided walks have led us around the mountainous outskirts of S贸ller and there is only so much of that an IOM islander can take, however stunning the views may be. For me, variety is the spice of life.

And it has been so so hot, I have spent every day soaking wet from head to foot, so, today I have abandoned the group and elected instead to do nothing – although, as you well know, doing nothing does not sit well with me, so I shall no doubt engage in my usual wanderings at some point.

On Wednesday, I forewent the boat trip to the next cove, feeling a need for solitude. My Garmin watch is also playing up so I wanted to see if I could get a replacement battery in S贸ller. It was great to get the boots off, give the feet an airing and wear sandals for the short walk around the hills to Soller. I called in at the Port de S贸ller tourist information to find out which paths to take – only they weren鈥檛 much use as they couldn鈥檛 furnish me with any sensible footpath maps. I was however pointed in the direction of footpath no 4, De Figuera, an ancient track leading past a 400 year old house with a tower created for the woman of the house, and featuring many terraces of olives groves, lemon and walnut trees.

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At this point, my track left the tarmac and went to the right, through more olive groves. As I dropped off the hillside I was delighted by a surprise view and the path changed from a wide dirt track to a normal single person footpath.

The footpath was well-marked right up to the roundabout on the main road at S贸ller, but what I wasn鈥檛 warned about was that although the footpath itself is 3 miles there is still a further 1.5 miles of road walking into the centre of S贸ller. I often feel it is interesting to see the hidden suburbs of towns, and in this case, I seemed to be walking through the car repair area! There was garage after garage, more than we have in the whole of the south of the Isle of Man. I went past a museum and made a mental note to return once I had found the battery shop, though by the time I had done that, the museum had shut up shop for the day – at 1pm! I didn鈥檛 get my battery though the shop assistant was very helpful and told me what to do. I couldn鈥檛 find any park to sit in to have my lunch so sat by the tram station to eat and then returned to Port de S贸ller. S贸ller does have rather splendid plane trees.

Yesterday鈥檚 harder walk started from the hotel with the focal points being the Mirador, a popular scenic viewpoint overlooking the coast and S贸ller alike,and Fornalutx, an impressive well-kept village only a stone鈥檚 throw across the valley from our drinking hole in Binianarix a couple of days before.

We started on another footpath from Port de S贸ller adjacent to the one I had taken on Wednesday, only this one was a lot prettier, a stony footpath with wet vegetation overhanging in many places. This might often be considered a hindrance, but given how hot it was, it was a welcome relief when the leaves brushed onto the skin and clothing and dropped its load on us. This was a shorter path than the one I had taken, but surprisingly the two joined up once round the hill. After stopping for a refreshing orange juice, we started our climb.

Nothing is especially steep or difficult, it鈥檚 more that the ascent just goes on and on, and in this heat it was necessary – at least for me – to have several drink and wipe-down stops. Others too were finding it heavy going, and yet others were happy to continue at a reasonable pace without a break. The leader ordered a 10 minute break which was well received by those of us in less of a hurry. To me, if we are out for a full day, there is no reason to rush, especially when it is so very hot and humid.

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I want to stop and stare and not walk blindly on without gazing from side to side, as in the photo above. Taking a step away from the path I was able to appreciate this particular view all by myself. Most of the ascent was along stony tracks through light plantations of holm oaks as we gained height. At the Mirador, the views were enthralling in all directions. There is a restaurant here with a wide terrace and equivalent views.

From here is was all downhill on good paths to the pretty village of Fornalutx, with its colourful flowers and sandy stone houses. It has a small central square and you can imagine this having been a meeting point for locals and lovers for centuries and now for tourists in the two bars.

From here it was a short walk into S贸ller and the tram back to Port de S贸ller. We passed another washhouse, so I gave my hair a good soaking and it felt great; goodness what I looked like, but I was past caring. 聽And as the sun went down on our walk, we had a final peek of our high peak of the week as we made our final descent, shown peeping over the slightly lower hills in the cover photo.

It was a good walk, final distance about 10 miles with about 1800 ft of ascent and the same amount of descent.

I shall sign off now from Mallorca and normal service on the Isle of Man will resume next week. I hope you have enjoyed this short interlude. If you want to read the Isle of Man blogs just click on the Easy, Medium & Harder buttons on the side and you will find only Isle of Man walks!

Adios de Mallorca.