Silverdale and Grenaby (again) with more history

This walk has a lot of stiles as commented on by many of my group but by compensation such a lot of beauty – a tranquil river, spectacular spring flowers, historical features and distant vistas. Having walked this route twice recently as I was leading a U3A group along these paths yesterday, I am amazed how a single week can make such a difference. The wild garlic are now out in full force, whereas last week they were just appearing. The field grass is about a foot tall in places now and the meadows of lady’s smock (cuckoo flower) were even more beautiful and the orange tip butterflies were enjoying their abundance.

I think my wildflower and historical notes really inspired my walkers as it took us an hour and a quarter just to walk a mile up the glen to Athol Bridge as we would stop at anything interesting or unusual. Perhaps I should have publicised it as a nature walk.

We began by grouping together on the bridge by the ford while I gave them a short history of the river and Ballasalla, with the aim of showing that river, albeit fairly small, has played a significant role in this landscape. There have been numerous mills over the centuries mostly involved with the cotton industry (rather than a flour mill). As yet, we don’t know quite where the cotton came from, whether or not it was grown on the IOM. Most interesting, for me at any rate, was the wide number of occupations that were found in Ballasalla in 1837 – two blacksmiths, 3 boot and shoe makers, one brewer, 3 joiners and carpenters, 2 millers, 2 milliners and dressmakers, 8 shopkeepers (!), 3 tailors, 1 tanner, 4 taverns etc etc. You can read more here if you are interested. https://www.gov.im/media/633197/silverdaleappraisalwithpicsv2.pdf I guess today there would still be variety but not closely linked to the natural environment in the same way.

We walked along the riverbank to look at the violets, alexanders, celandine, herb robert, red campion and wonderful wood anemones that were just beginning to go over but still looked fab. There were bluebells and a few wild garlic here and there in this section, but much more wild garlic further on. Deeper into the glen we saw wood sorrel, stitchwort and masses of wild garlic that would challenge Wordsworth’s view of golden daffodils. In the photos I have included my painting of the mineral water factory, which is really part of the old Cregg Mill buildings. Just before the mill where there is the boating lake is the old water wash ladder, presumably for cleaning the cotton, seen in the middle photo below.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this walk is that the river footpath on the other side of the Ballamodha is closed necessitating a short walk up the hill. Suprisingly there were more wildflowers on the embankment, inlcuding ivy-leaved toadflax and bugle, the latter not usually considered to be a wild flower, and some distance from any habitation. We even saw some trailing St. John’s wort – that wasn’t out last week, neither was the garlic mustard that we saw at Grenaby bridge.

As we crossed the road, we took a farmer’s grassy track. The pussy willow looked beautiful, and the lamb’s looked delightful gambolling in the fields. We stopped for a very belated lunch (2 miles and 1 and 3/4 hr of walking!!) at the creepy doll’s house on the corner at Grenaby. It is in a desperate state of repair but it is a fantastic location and is up for sale at £500,000.

Normally, I don’t like road walking, but we had a walk of about 15 minutes along a very quiet lane. What was particularly nice about this was that we could walk and chat alongside each other and it was very pleasant. We then took field paths, saying hello to some beautiful bay and black horses who seemed pleased to have some company, passing over many rickety stiles across fields with massive clumps of lady’s smock, a mound to negotiate and surprisingly beautiful gently sloping hills to the north of the quarry, and finished by taking the back path by Ballahott into Ballasalla with a ‘surprise’ ending. Having started by walking through masses of wild garlic, we were able to walk a less frequented path that took us round the back of the stunning art and craft houses above Rushen Abbey, that led into woodland brimming with wild garlic in flower right by the car park, just after a most beautiful field of dandelions.

The walk was actually 5.5 miles and would usually take about 2.5 hours but on a day like this, with so much to see, allow yourself lots of time. We took 4 hours and it wasn’t a minute too long.

To finish, here are two maps of this area. The first shows just how narrow the glen really is and what a micro climate it creates for itself and the second is an old map showing how tiny Ballasalla was in days gone past.

Silverdale and beyond 13th March 2022

This is always such a delightful walk, especially in the spring. Give it a few more weeks and the wild garlic and bluebells will be out.

I started out from the Abbey Hotel car park in Ballasalla. There is a large public car park here in addition to the private car park for the hotel. You find yourself beside the picturesque ford over the Silverburn, a popular spot for photographers and children alike, as they have fun crossing from one side to the other. If you do this, just be careful. It can be a tad slippery.

I followed the path north beside the river up to the ancient Monk’s Bridge and continued taking the winding path beside the river up to the Mill, passing Cam’s tree. There are a number of different paths, but most are likely to be muddy at this time of year. There are various things of interest on this river walk. It was noticeable that the storms have wreaked havoc with a number of trees having had to be felled.

After about half a mile there is a cafe and duck pond at the Mill; today model boat enthusiasts were out skimming their boats across the water. If you have time on your hands you can have a look at the pretty river to the right, as we have digressed from this path. We continue past the old dairy and into the woodland where we rejoin the river. Here there were masses of daffodils, Wordsworth would be proud.

Reaching the Ballamodha Road, usually the route continues beside the river, but at the time of writing (and for some time) this path has been closed. I believe the bank beside the river has deteriorated and is unsafe. This necessitates a walk up the road for about 5-7 minutes to join a higher path leading to Grenaby. I have walked this in the opposite direction many times, but never this way. It is absolutely delightful and has wonderful views towards South Barrule and the south and you can pick out the route of the river below you. As well as crossing through fields, this takes you through and interesting woodland, and you eventually find yourself at the bridge with the doll’s house beside it. This is for sale if you are interested.

Crossing the bridge and turning left up the hill for a short distance, the road then leads to the right. Had we been able to walk by the river that path comes out just above the junction. There is no choice but to walk along this road for about 15 minutes, but it is a very quiet lane and once on the top (our highest point for the day) you can literally see for miles – the southern uplands to the right as on the cover photo and the sea to the left.

I took the first public footpath to the south. Unfortunately the gate collapsed as I tried to open it as the post securing the gate was rotten. Down it went and being on my own there was no way I could life a heavy steel gate. Hopefully when the entrance is repaired the farmer (or whoever is responsible for it) will consider putting in a stille or kissing gate for walkers. Fortunately, this does not lead into a standard field with sheep but more of a track around a field. The path goes left, almost parallel with the road. Keep left over a bridge and stile and continue to the next one. When you reach a large field head for the H shaped pylon as it is difficult to see the exit from this field initially. The route continues across another field to a kissing gate in the left corner.

Here you meet a horizantal track. Turn left and follow the track for the short distance bearing right at the next junction. You will see a mound of rubble obscuring the entrance to the next footpath, which is clearly signposted. You can just about get around the side of the mound of rubble. You will be surprised by the lovely view you get. There is a small stream winding its way down the slight hill to the left and a smooth hill to the right. The path takes you down to the left corner, through some more mud at the gate, and following the stream to a bridge where the stream diverts to the right.

At this point you are nearing the quarry. I have never walked on this section of the path. If you have an OS map the path originally went in a more direct fashion to the main road, but now you have to skirt around the quarry, at times getting glimpses into it. There are two or three ladder stiles, all of which are quite steep and it is absolutely essentially to go down them backwards. After the last stile (still circling the quarry) you enter one final field, where you turn right to join the road at Cross Four Ways. There is a pavement on the other side of the road, but you may be surprised to learn that there is a lake opposite, completely hidden by trees and inaccessible. It must be a haven for migrating birds.

There is a choice at this point, either to continue walking along the pavement back to Ballasalla or to do as I did and walk up the unpaved Ballamodha road for 5 mins to turn onto a footpath taking you through a farmstead, across fields with fine views to Rushen Abbey. From here, it is a short walk back to the cars, either by the river or the back road whichever you prefer.

This is an easy walk, but muddy in the glen and when crossing the fields, so you do need boots. You get extensive views and variety of scenery without very much ascent. What ascent there is is gradual. However, there are quite a few stiles, some which are a little tricky to negotiate, so if you have difficulty with stiles, this may be one to miss out. But for everyone else, it is pure joy, especially on a sunny day. Distance 5.75 miles, 593ft ascent; 643ft descent.

As always, if you want to look at one of the photos in detail, just click on it and you will be able to see the full view.

Braddan Bridge to Douglas 12th Mar 2022

I hadn’t intended to have any sort of walk today. I was supposed to be helping with the Manx Wildlife Trust’s ‘Watch’ group, only I discovered I had the wrong time down in my diary and I had missed the event. Only, I didn’t find out until I had arrived at Braddan Church when no-one turned up. So, there was nothing for it, but to get the bus home again!

The walk into Douglas from Braddan Bridge by the river is very pleasant. The birds were clearly delighted it is spring and were busy singing in the treetops and the sun had come out after a dull start to the day. I was also able to walk better than usual so I too was feeling quite chirpy 🙂

The route goes alongside the main road to Peel, but you could avoid this by taking the back road which brings you out at pretty much the same place on the Castletown road. Crossing over the main road, I took the cycle track that goes round the back of the NSC. The river is now on your left and it curves round towards the power station where the new Pulrose Bridge has been built. Looking at this, I wonder if it will cope with any massive swell or a flooding situation. The space under the bridge looks quite small.

From here, I crossed the bridge and took the first road left. This is not the most exciting part of the walk through the electricity complex (as you can see on the photo) but you are soon into the grounds of the Nunnery and once again following the river. The trees here are magnificent and this short walk along here is beautiful. When I play table tennis at the NSC on a Thursday I often take this route into Douglas. It is particularly useful if you want to get the steam train to Port Erin as it is very close to the end of this route.

I couldn’t renew my season ticket as I hadn’t got it with me, but the assistant let me on the train anyway. I was so delighted. I haven’t been on the steam train during the covid pandemic and I had forgotten how beautiful the route is, and how calming it is taking the train rather than the bus. So thank you for your kindness there.

The walk from Braddan Bridge to the railway station is barely 2 miles, but it is much better than getting the bus or driving and you spot things you have never spotted before, so give it a try sometime.

Glen Wyllin, Glen Mooar and Cooildarry

This short walk is spectacular, especially if you do it after rains as I did today. The walk starts at the Glen Wyllin campsite, or if you prefer you can park in Kirk Michael village. There is a path right behind the cafe with steps that take you to the old railway line. This path has not been dug up and widened as has happened to the railways tracks in other parts of the island and it still retains its natural charm. Incidentally, if you do park in KM you will have to descend into the valley and ascend the other side as the stone platform of the viaduct has been removed and only the pillars remain. The path is mainly enclosed but every now and again you catch a glimpse of the sea to the west and the hills to the east.

We follow the railway line until it meets a small lane after about a mile just before Glen Mooar. Prior to this, you will go under a couple of bridges. At the lane, the footpath sign tells you to cross over the road and continue through a gate. The path continues for only a short distance, as guess what, the viaduct has been removed at Glen Mooar and again just the supports remain standing, bringing you to a firm standstill. A path downhill has been created. This is a fairly steep descent, but only for about 60ft or so. As you descend you enter another world, away from the farmland and distant vistas of hills and sea. Now we have a tree-lined river with steep banks on either side. The lower path is closed so unfortunately this necessitates more undulating ascents with minor descents and more steps. The gains are great though, as the woods are so very pretty and there are some very large beech trees guarding over the valley. It will look lovely when the spring flowers come out. The cover photo shows the view through the trees to the hills.

At one point you will reach a high grassy area where there are the clearly visible remains of a 10th century keeill (Patrick’s Chapel), priest’s cell and graveyard. It is a very peaceful area for contemplation, meditation or prayer while you listen to the birds singing in the trees.

A little further on and the sound of running water becomes louder and louder, although it isn’t easy to see anything. The path takes you to the top of the waterfall called Spooyt Vane (White Spout), where all you can see is where a small stream begins to gurgle down the rocks. Take the permissive footpath left, down more steps (sorry), and you find yourself in a dell with the wonderful waterfall at its head, with water gushing down into the pool below in a sequence of stages. To the right the area is hollowed out, which probably suggests the waterfall has changed direction over the millennia. I have rarely seen the waterfall so full and it was captivating.

Crossing the bridge, we follow the track along the top of the valley to join the road. There is a small parking place for those making single journeys and Glen Mooar is worth a visit on its own. At the road junction you will see an old chapel which was constructed in the 1860s as a Sunday School and Mission Room for children who couldn’t make the heady journey to Kirk Michael for schooling.

The route continues along the lane uphill past a few houses and farms. As you ascend notice the soft green hills on the left. The other side of these hills is where the recent archaeological dig has been going on for the last few years, unearthing remnants of people and posessions from the Bronze Age (over 3000 years ago). You can find out more about this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-48806185

At the top of the lane, there are panoramic views of the hills: Sartfell (454m) to the right, Slieau Freoaghane (488m) in the middle, Slieau Dhoo (420m) just behind this and Slieua Curn (351m) on the far left. They look so inviting on a sunny day like this and they make a fine ridge walk. These will be the subject of another walk at some point. Someone has thoughtfully placed some picnic benches along this section of the road so you can stop and enjoy the views as long as you like. You can even see Scotland from here if you look very closely – it was very clear in reality!

For now, we continue with our descent back to Kirk Michael following a track that becomes a footpath and leads to Cooildarry Nature Reserve (owned by Manx Wildlife Trust). It is possible to include an optional extra mile or two walking along the railway line north and then dropping down to the sea, for those who want a slightly longer walk.

There is such variety and interest in this walk, and as long as you don’t mind steps, you will find it a very rewarding experience. Altogether it is about 4 miles including the visit to the Nature Reserve and 545ft of ascent and descent., with an optional extra of 1-2 miles depending on the tides.

Clypse Reservoir 1st March 2022

I can’t believe that in all the years I have been walking on the Isle of Man, this lovely walk has escaped me. It was led by Ian for the U3A and it was a good choice of walk, given the very wet weather we have had recently.

We parked in a small layby (sufficient for about 10 cars) on the B20, a lane off the Ramsey to Onchan Road that leads to Conrhnenny Plantation. We walked up the road with pussy willow reminding us that it was the first day of spring; this road affords tremendous views of the hills around Laxey and the coast at Baldrine. As we reached the south-eastern edge of the plantation, we followed the mostly level track with Slieau Meayl inviting us forward until we re-joined the road at the western edge of the plantation. There are no footpaths on this section, but it is a quiet road, certainly at this time of year. It might be busier in the summer during TT as this is motorcycle country.

After a short distance we took a cobbly and awkward path that leads to the main carpark for the two reservoirs, Clypse (built 1876) and Kerrowdhoo (built 1893). Together they take up 562 acres. You really wouldn’t know you are just half a mile from Onchan as it feels quite remote, and indeed is one of our Dark Skies sites (we have 26 of these scattered over the island). These two reservoirs are excellent for fly-fishing and are stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Note, that you cannot just turn up and fish. You need to have a Government Reservoir Licence here. There are also limits on the number of fish you can catch.

Anyway, we weren’t here for fishing, but we did stop for lunch. It was a glorious day, if a tad windy, and I enjoyed watching the mallards swimming around whilst I ate my salad and chatted with my friends. The best part of the walk is still to come….

We left the reservoir at its northern end (we did not visit Kerrowdhoo today), which takes us beside the delightful Groudle River (stream) before we are forced to depart the stream to cross some farmland to join a track beside a small woodland.

I was busy taking photographs when I noticed that everyone was huddled round a puddle on the side of the track. once they left, I had it to myself and saw lots and lots of frog spawn. Someone must have had eagle eyes to spot this while they were walking and talking! A little past this spot we rejoined the now very small but pleasant Groudle River, which we followed uphill for a little way until we reached another plantation. The stream passes through unspoilt countryside on either side, with low vegetation, shrubs and trees. It is quite boggy in places and there are several boardwalks which make it easier.

We walked around the edge of the plantation until we reached a track, which then lead us back to the A20, passing by farms and machinery and the Equestrian Centre, reminding us that much as the countryside is beautiful it is also a living, working environment for many, who keep it just as it is for us all to enjoy. A very happy 5 miles with around 500ft of ascent altogether. Thank you to Ian for a good day out.

Shore to Shore (Colby River)

No matter how many times you do the same walk there are new things to discover – new sounds, new sights, new shapes. I have walked this walk many times before, usually a different way round. Today, I took the bus to the Shore Hotel at Gansey and started my walk there, following the River Colby to the top of the glen and back via a different route.

I followed the minor road around the back of Kentraugh Mill grounds, having a nosey in people’s gardens and the Mill gardens which are more visible through the trees in the winter months. Then I took the public footpath through the wetlands beside the river. I noticed for the first time ever, that there are two arches to the bridge under the road. Another time when I am wearing my wellies I’ll go and have a good look as to why there are two as it is such a tiny river I can’t see any reason for this. I also noticed what looks like a wooden track from one side of the river to the other. Again, I couldn’t see any purpose for this. If you have any ideas why it’s there please let me know. When I was pondering this, a small greenish, stripey bird flitted about in the undergrowth but wouldn’t stop long enough for me to identify it. There were a few flowers out. The double snowdrops which grace this section of the river are very beautiful, if indeed that is what they are.

It was a very windy day and I was glad once I was a little more inland to be sheltered from the fiercest winds. Walking the route this way round I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful shapes made by the trees and the great variety of landscape; sometimes I was walking amongst shrubs or on a narrow path; the next minute I was treated to a vast expanse of farmland with great views to the north. Turn a little right, and I was back on the timeless river path, the river becoming ever smaller, and eventually in the wooded Colby Glen.

At Colby, it is impossible to walk beside the river until you reach Colby Glen, but don’t give up. It is only a short distance up an attractive lane. Colby Glen is worth a visit at any time of year, and in winter at least you won’t be plagued by midges and the like. Storm Eunice and the other rcent nasty storms have brought down a few trees in many of our glens, opening up the canopy to the sky in places. Hopefully saplings will replace the old trees that are now lying recumbent on the valley floor and eventually fill in the gaps again.

Colby Bridge

If you have never been to Colby Glen, it is a narrow wooded valley with a stream that opens up to disclose a grand grassy theatre at its top end. Here, in the summer months, choirs will perform and it is a great place to bring your children for a picnic. Once you reach this peaceful spot, just stop, listen and look around, and you will hear water in the distance and after a little investigation see it bubbling around the corner and then you encounter a most delightful waterfall. One of the footpaths exiting the glen goes immediately past it and up to the small hamlets of Cronk Y Dooney and Ballakilpheric. This is a very pleasant path shaded by shrubs on either side, but it can be very muddy. You are no sooner past the waterfall and you can no longer even see the river or see where it goes. You would not even know it’s there. All you can see are hills to the right up toward South Barrule, hills to the left (the Carnanes) and the sea to the south.

There are a number of choices from the village so I followed the lane south that would lead back to Colby, taking the path to the right after about half a mile that leads to an old mill that is being renovated, past this and up a grassy track to join another lane at Scholaby that leads immediately down to Croit-e-Caley.

Crossing the road and the railway track, follow the lane south until you see a path a little way to the right that leads behind the house and back to the Shore Hotel across (very muddy) fields. Once there, I felt the wrath of the wind once more. The tide was in and blowing up massive waves across Carrikey Bay. It was quite splendid and a lovely way to finish the walk.

Atogether this walk was about 4.5 miles with a total ascent and descent of just under 600ft. If you are using a car, you would need to get permission to park at the Shore Hotel or park beside the nearby bridge or further along Shore Road. If getting the bus, you need the 12A or 2A to Port Erin. Should you be unlucky enough to get on the wrong Port Erin bus, never fear, you can start and finish the walk at Colby instead 🙂

Scarlett, 7th February 2022

I was treated to a tremendous light and wave display along the whole of this short 3.5 mile amble on the coastal footpath to Castletown. I shall never forget it.

It had been a last minute idea to get the bus over to Fisher’s Hill and walk along the coast. It wasn’t a particularly nice day, in fact, it had been raining and it was very blowy but I needed some air and to try and stretch my legs. Even on the bus I was having second thoughts as the rain started up again and there were dark grey clouds in all directions. What a reward I received for continuing!

I don’t need to describe this walk to you. I have done this often enough in the past, so instead I am giving you a slideshow showing the spectacular views and vistas I experienced in the 90 minutes I was out walking. I hope you enjoy it and it prompts you to go out on those days when the weather is not inviting; perhaps you will experience the same kind of surprise and joy as I experienced today.

It started with light grey bloomy skies; then the sun would try to peak through turning everything silver; then glimpses of blue sky amid the dark clouds, and the odd bit of rain making shafts of light on the horizon, grey clouds turning almost orange, emblazoned by the blowy winds casting light in all directions and throwing up blustery waves as it reached high tide. In sheltered places the sea was like a mill pond, in others it would vent its fury. There was such variety it is hard to imagine.

When I ventured out I was tired and sore. When I returned I was still tired and my legs even more sore, so that I walked like a toy soldier back to the house, but my spirits were lifted. It is so important to feed the soul as well as the body, and this walk had done just that for me.

Glens and Old Lonan Church, 1st Feb 2022

There are stories in these glens, ones of murder, mystery and ghosts. The U3A walk started at Little Mill at the top end of Onchan. The path down into Molly Quirk’s Glen is always slippery so do take care. It is a very pleasant walk through the trees and over the stumps keeping a little height above the river. It is quite an open woodland here, no doubt helped by the numerous instances of thefts and vandalism over the ages, reported crimes occuring as late as 1964 and 1972. The biggest crime was the supposed murder of Molly Quirk, aka Margaret Emmeline Isabel Quirk, the one time rich landowner, but there has never been any evidence to support this. Even so, you might see her ghostly shape appearing from within the trees from time to time.

The river is small at this point until the bridge at Whitebridge Road. There has been a bridge here since 1634, impeding the transition from Molly Quirk’s Glen to Groudle Glen. This was rectified when a path was constructed under the bridge, mostly courtesy of the Onchan Rotary Club (thank you!) in a timely 3 months in 2001!

Groudle Glen (Glion Ghroudal to give it its Manx name) owns its success to local entrepreneur Richard Maltby Broadbent who created this lustrous woodland in the late 19th century, planting hundreds of trees – beeches higher up, pines and larch lower down, replacing a lot of marshy scrubland. In the spring it is a delight with numerous bluebells forming a blue canopy throughout the glen. It is therefore a largely manufactured glen, with the exception of its own noticeable natural feature – the slimline canyon, where the water topples over the Manx slate down to the sea. Not only did Broadbent create a natural haven he incorporated the Alton Towers of its day, with all kinds of attraction in the valley and along the coast. To think, in its hey day the glen attracted 100,000 vistors each season!

We followed the woodland path beside the river to the Little Isabella waterwheel and pumphouse (used for pumping water up to the Groudle Hotel, built by you-know-who). This has been restored in 2021 and is working again, and it looks very smart. Just beyond here is a small station, part of Broadbent’s legacy. We walked along the tracks up to the lime kiln and then took the old packhorse path (now lane) from Douglas to Ramsey on to the top of the cliff to make our way to Old Lonan Church. If we didn’t know it before, we knew now just how windy it was!!

It is good to follow ancient tracks and to imagine who has walked these paths before. Who knows? Maybe the Culdees from Ireland who founded the old church? The contrast of scenery is dramatic, from the closed-in valley to the rolling hills and distant mountain vistas. Old Lonan Church (aka St. Adamnan’s Church) is tucked away off the well-beaten track and its spirituality is rooted in antiquity. It was originally called Keeill-ny-Traie, which means Chapel by the Shore, though it’s hard to see quite which shore it is referring to, unless Port Groudle.

St. Adamnan was the Abbott of Iona between 679-704. He has a rich pedigree being the biographer of St. Columba. However, he liked to rock the boat and was excommunicated for translating the Mass and scriptures into Manx. I wonder if these still exist?

The church itself has seen several make-overs, and the archaeology tells us this is a very ancient site. It is believed that the Irish missionaries first made their mark here in AD447, which is only just after the Romans left Britain. It would have been a very simple site. In the grounds you will see the Wheel Cross, which is one of the oldest true Gaelic crosses in Britain. It is 8ft high and in these early stages of Christianity it would have been the central gathering place for worship, almost having the status of an altar.

The oldest part of the church (12C) is that which is now derelict contains “poor holes” which the infirm or leprous could still receive alms without entering the church. In 1190 the land was given to St Bees in Cumbria, and there is evidence from the sandstone lintels that stones were imported from England to create the doorways. The old church is bigger than the new church which was restored by John Quine (vicar) in 1895. The location of this church was not useful for the parishioners which is why new churches have come and gone to cater for modern needs, but this church has been restored and is immensely peaceful along with its beautiful grounds, which contain a shelter with other simple gaelic crosses.

Having taken our lunch here we retraced our steps to Groudle Glen and the port. In the 16C there was a thriving Mill here and lakes with lily pads, but the Mill has gone and the lily ponds hard to find. The Glen was sold to Onchan Village Commissioners and the holiday village which still exists was sold to a private buyer.

We followed lanes and roads back to our starting point in Onchan. One really gets the feeling of housing threatening the natural countryside, being just a stone’s throw from the glens of Molly Quirk and Groudle.

A fascinating, easy walk, that can be done in about 3 hours, without too much ascent.

Sloc, Scard, Earystane Plantation and Cronk Ny Array Laa, 24th January 2022

It was so very quiet, not a breath, not a squeak coming from any direction as I set up from the Sloc car park along the road to take the path to Scard. It was a cool day with a heavy mist lurking in the air. It was one of those days when you don’t think of going for a walk but this was my only free day this week and I had been wanting to do this walk for a while.

Even on a dull day like today the views were still extensive, just not very clear, but it doesn’t matter. It almost gives you a different kind of sense of adventure, especially if it is a walk you haven’t done before. This one is a very accessible walk, mostly on tracks, a few fields, moorland and plantation tracks and although there is some uphill to do, taking this particular route you don’t notice the cumulative climb of 900 ft.

The walk begins with a downhill section to the point where a small stream goes under the path below one of the farms at Scard. I watched for a while as a tractor ushered the sheep into a field in the distance before continuing along the path in front of Bea & Blossom Farm (which has tourist accommodation). Just before this building the path turns to the right to the edge of the reservoir which is not accessible (or visible) to the public. The views from here are quite beautiful, with the Carnanes to the west and Meayll Hill sticking out in the south west. It is soft countryside and well farmed and makes you aware that the Isle of Man is largely a farming community, something that is easy to forget on the daily grind to Douglas. You will cross or follow numerous little streams running off the hillsides that will all end up eventually in the Colby River.

The path follows a stream to the left and terminates beside a cottage which is currently being renovated. If you continue straight on beyond the gate you will do a circular route to Lower Scard back to the Sloc but not be able to rejoin this route. This is a rope barrier at this cottage, which made me wonder if this was a right of way, but it turns into a road where there is a clear sign showing that the public footpath goes right in front of this cottage.

Continue on the private road past some other houses. At a sharp bend to the right, the path goes to the left, which does not look inviting as it contains many gates that are linked together. Just go through them and lock them up after yourself. It is the right path and at the top you will see the path then goes through the top of field behind a large house and across a very large open field. Don’t head for the open gate but instead look for the stile just in front of the house (see photo). This path through this property has been changed slightly but still meets the track leading to the Colby Glen road.

We follow the Colby Glen road northwards for a short distance before turning left at the junction and taking the track uphill that leads to Earystane plantation. This is the steepest section of the walk but it is not difficult and it levels out as you go through the forest, which is an exciting place to walk through with its knarled and knotted trees covered in moss, and little dells and dingles that you can explore in nice weather. It is quite a special place. It opens out towards the top as we come on to the moorland. Today, there were no views at this point as it was too foggy, but instead of looking up look down and search for the sphagnum moss lying among the peat, soaking up all the water.

Crossing over the road on a normal day you might head up Cronk Ny Array Laa, but today I couldn’t even see it. Instead I took the cyclists’ path that contours around the hill. It’s a lovely walk and as I got lower I could see everywhere I had walked earlier, including the triangular but previously-not-visible reservoir beside the farm. The cliffs of the Carnanes at the Sloc stood out with pride as I turned the corner.

This is a 6 mile walk that shouldn’t be hurried. Some of the paths are a little uneven, narrow, rutted or muddy and there are a fair few stiles to climb over, none too high. The total ascent is 899ft, with the highest point being 1220ft.

You could start this walk from the lane at the top of Cronk Ny Array Laa but personally I like the Sloc car park better as it means the uphill is about half way through the walk and you finish with a 30 minutes downhill section with views across the whole of the south of the island .

Please note that if you are inspired to do this walk and you are coming from the north, the road from St Johns’ to South Barrule is currently closed and you will need to reach the Sloc either from the Peel coast road, or via Ronague.

Agneash and Laxey 4th Jan 2022

I joined this U3A 5 mile walk at the curiosly named Ham and Egg Terrace on the bend of the main road at Laxey where the mountain railway begins its ascent. There is plenty of parking here. I had always assumed Ham and Egg Terrace was a nickname because of the numerous tea rooms that were at one time set up in the miners’ houses along this stretch of road, but as I walked along it, I noticed there is actually a tiny lane with this title beside what was previously – guess what? – a tearoom. Which came first, the road or the name ham and egg?? I was disappointed to see that this very lovely tearoom has now been converted into a fabric shop, but life moves on and things must change.

The walk followed the lane west past the Salmon centre and the Laxey Wheel (Lady Isabella) on the right – we didn’t visit this today. It is a fairly good pull up the hill all the way to the ancient village of Agneash, which is mentioned in documents as long ago as 1510. The name Agneash is thought to come from a norse word meaning “Ridge Cape” and refers to the shape of the hills immediately behind the village. The village itself is very small and quaint and mostly known for its attractive church which was constructed in 1856. The village comprises mostly white cottages, some larger than others and it gives the feeling of having its own individual identity, no doubt inflated by the large numbers of tales of white unicorns and fairies and darker tales of a child being spirited away in the night. It’s easy to imagine how such tales develop as the mists descend on the village and everything is shrouded in a damp white and eerie light.

Today the sun shone. It was cool and fresh and perfect walking weather. We took a path that went between the houses down to the stream and up onto the hills about half way up Slieau Ruy, past some old mill buildings and contoured gently upwards mostly on grassy paths along the edge of the hills towards the sea keeping Laxey village on our right (not that we could see it). These hills are quite steep and wooded so it pays to look up rather than down, and as we looked back towards Agneash, the snow-capped Snaefell stood clearly out with the softer and greener valley in the foreground. Splendid! In the south we could see across to Clay Head, invitingly peeping out into the sea.

Looking in a northerly direction we were on the edge of Slieau Ruy with Slieau Lhean and Slieau Ouyr sticking out of the moorland in the distance, separated by the stream we had crossed lower down coming off the mountains that would eventually join the Laxey river below Agneash.

We continued on the grassy paths with a brief stop to admire some shetland ponies before reaching the minor road above the coast road. We walked along this quiet lane back towards Laxey, visiting King Orry’s graves on the way. I have written about this monument before so I won’t write about it here, but the ancient sites on the Isle of Man are worth visiting, and one day if more excavations are done we might find out who this large grave expanse belongs to. As a minimum it must have been a significant chieftain either from Scandinavia or Ireland given the size of the graveyard.

The group walked a little way down Minorca Hill and then we parted ways as I wanted to go down to the beach, not that there was much to see or much to do. It hadn’t woken up from its Christmas sleep. It was deserted and the cafes closed, but the light was interesting. As the day had worn on, the light white clouds had thickened and darkened and a few flecks of snow flittered down temporarily and at the same time, the sun would shine through other parts of the clouds, so that in one direction it was bright and sunny and turn your head left or right and you felt as if you were in another world, which is quite appropriate as one part of this hill is called ‘The Dream”.

My walk was 5.45 miles, with 869ft of ascent, whereas if you did not visit the beach it would be 5 miles. It was a super morning walk and it provides other options. If you want to spend time on the higher hills there is a very straightforward path which would take you to the tops, you could walk along those to Clagh Ouyr and take the mining path back to Agneash – that would be great when the days are a little longer.