Eary Cushlin Round 23rd Nov 2021

If you only ever do one walk on this island, this is the one to do. There is nothing more beautiful and I never tire of it. There is no walk that offers such variety, with a valley walk, a moorland walk and a coastpath, with fine views to all aspects of the island. Yes, you can see the four nations from Snaefell but on a good day you can see all these from the top of Cronk ny Array Laa as well.

This is a very accessible walk with no steep climbs. The coastal footpath is very worn in places and therefore there are some claggy steps down that require careful attention, but it is all passable and if this does deter you, there is an alternative route back to the car park at Eary Cushlin.

The walk starts at the picturesque car park of Eary Cushlin, half a mile down the track from the main road. There is room for about 8 cars here, and if full, you can revert to the car park beside the road at Dalby Mountain. It really doesn’t matter as you either walk the track at the start or end of the walk. Crossing over the main Peel road we take the designated footpath that contours around the side of Dalby Mountain and through the forest before descending to the bridge over the Glen Rushen river. It is two miles from Eary Cushlin to the bridge. All along this route there are tremendous views of the valley, and at this time of year the colours are magnificent, especially the rust coloured bracken and the green spruces. Notice the lone erratic rock left in the valley from the ice age. In the distance South Barrule stands magnificent and there are views of the mines to the north and looking over Dalby Mountain site of special scientific interest (the largest peat bog on the island) Cronk Ny Array Laa competes for our attention. The footpath is straightforward, mostly grassy or soil. Towards the bridge it becomes a little steeper downhill but is easily manageable.

There wasn’t much water in the river today. Crossing over the bridge I followed the wide farmer’s track that ascends steadily but surely up to Round Table, passing a large tholtan which has the most spectacular views in each direction. I have been here many times but never taken the time to look around the tholtan. It has many interesting features and it also gives an opportunity for a coffee stop after the climb up the hill.

Continuing on the same track we go through the South Barrule plantation to meet the road junction from Peel / South Barrule / Colby. This makes a good lunch stop as there is a nice flat grassy area with views of both South Barrule and Cronk Ny Array Laa and the moorland in between. After lunch, we continue across the moor in a south westerly direction, which is mostly flat and is a good path. I am always surprised how long it takes to walk this as the destination looks so close. It is a minimum of 20 mins walk across the moor only to be thoroughly enjoyed. Every now and again you come across small clumps of quartz shining brightly against the black peat. The picture below shows the easy path over the moor.

Reaching the corner, the walk continues up to Cronk Ny Array Laa at 1567ft. Most of the uphill has now been completed, but if you are unsure of foot and don’t wish to do the craggy sods of downhill footpath on the coast path to Eary Cushlin you can take the track (it starts as a road) that has a smooth descent and takes you back to Eary Cushlin car park. You can see this track on the map just to the east of the 5 mile marker. However, if you do this you miss some of the finest views you can have on the island, so if it is a good day when you do this walk, I would strongly recommend this last section. It only adds on another half mile and a few hundred feet of ascent. It was cool, dull and slightly windy day when I did this walk, so gloves, hat and scarf were in order when I got to the top, but I have done this on warm days in bright sunlight and spent many moments scampering happily around the top of this peak and exploring…

As it was, I quickly followed the coast path down the hillside, at all times admiring the extensive views to the north and west. The descent is a little steep in places and worn as I have said, and poles are very useful on this section for balancing as the steps down can sometimes be a good foot down, or more. It is possible to walk on the heather in places, but not recommended as you can’t see the dips and hollows very easily. It is a relatively short descent taking about 20 mins and once you reach the wall the path is more amenable going over the grassy terrain, where we treated to a surprise view of the Carnanes and the Calf in the distance. We join the footpath that leads to Lag Ny Keilly, a hermit’s ancient stronghold about half a mile down the path at the foot of Cronk Ny Array Laa. However, this walk does not visit this and I turned right and took the path to Eary Cushlin house, now self-catering accommodation. From here it is a very short walk back to the carpark. I can’t emphasies enough how beautiful are the views on this descent.

This is not a walk to be hurried. You do need to pay attention to where you are putting your feet and there are a couple of tholtans to visit, as well as spend time simply being and immersing yourself in this wonderful countryside. This 6.4 mile walk with 1293 ft ascent and 1227ft descent took me over 3 hours on my own, so I would recommend you treat this as a day walk and take your time. It is sensible to start fairly early to be assured of a space in the car park, but if you are unfortunate, there are other starting points, such as the lunch stop, or the track by Cronk Ny Array Laa. Enjoy 🙂

Santon Circular Coast Walk (U3A)- 2nd Nov 2021

You could be forgiven for thinking this walk might not have gone ahead given the torrential rain we had had over the previous weekend. Indeed, by the time I actually led this walk I had created and mostly walked four different routes to give my walkers the most pleasant and least muddy walk.

Even on the day the plan in my head changed as unbeknown to me and anyone else for that matter the railway staff were doing some major works at the railway station and were expecting heaving machinery to be delivered to the station car park where we were to meet. This scuppered plan 3, which had been to get the bus to the start as everyone then had to find a suitable spot to park on the very narrow lane at the other end of the station road.

So back to plan 1 ++. I was really disappointed as the route I had finally selected is by far the most scenic route, as the views to the north along the coast are more spectacular than the views to the south and we would also end up on an elevated route giving fine views of the sea towards England as well the inland countryside. And, we now had to walk the mile on a road down to Port Grenaugh as well, never my favourite terrain.

No-one minded. I could have done anything and they would all have politely followed me. Thankfully, this day was fine and even sunny, a vivid contrast to Sunday when I walked my preferred route with howling gales and sharp downpours all the way! Having said that, I was blessed with the most beautiful rainbow as I hiked away from the coastpath. I have some photos to show you, and I shall make them into a slideshow for you at the end. Fortunately, the weather on Monday was breezy and dry in the south and I cannot get over how much difference one day had made to the levels of water on Tuesday to Santon burn and the sodden tracks. Apart from a few sections it was fine, but then this new route did avoid the muddiest sections.

So, my small group of 10 set off down to Port Grenaugh and along the windy coastpath, via Port Soldrick to Santon Gorge. There are no surprises on this part of the coast path and as long as you can cope with uneven paths and sometimes walking on the side of a slope it is accessible for most people. It’s only about 3 and a bit miles from Santon itself to the Gorge and there are plenty of stopping points for a rest. The path does need some maintenance. Most of the boardwalks are a bit dodgy, and there are a lot of them as there are numerous springs falling off the cliff on this section of the coastpath which have been boarded to make it easier for everyone to walk over. There were quite a few mushrooms and toadstools and lots of shags drying their feathers on the rocks. Port Soldrick is an attractive bay and was actually a harbour in times gone by and as you reach the southern end of the cliff you can see the Smugglers Cave, very well placed for unloading contraband.

Not too far from here we reach Santon Gorge itself, which is beautiful. It is part of an ancient woodland of oak, ash and alder mainly and we spotted some good specimens as we made our way down to the bridge. On another occasion, and a different walk, it is possible to hop down to sea level, straddle the burn and hop up the other side and come out by the fort. We may do this another time as apparently there is an igneous dyke that I would be quite interested in finding. We were standing on the northern side of the Gorge which is Manx slate, and the fort is on the southern side which is Castletown carboniferous limestone, and the gorge marks the fault between the two. There is a very small steep section on this walk where care is needed and most of my walkers decide to slide down on their bum, but you don’t have to. It is a very short section and then you follow the trail through the tree-lined gorge to the burn, crossing through some wetlands that have wonderful species of insects and butterflies in the summer.

From the bridge, we followed a green track up out of the gorge to join a very minor road (this was the new section). I had done my research and discovered the lovely ancient church of St. Sanctain which is about a mile away from the bridge. There is no way of avoiding the uphill section but there is no rush and we all get there in our own time. Once you reach the top there are fine views in all directions and from hereon it is downhill or mostly level. Just as we reached the church it started to rain. We all went inside and I gave the sermon on the mount (choirstall in my case), told them all about the origins of the church and some of the artefacts contained therein, including two stone crosses and a roman slab, yes roman, a rarity on the Isle of Man, which was found during excavations and is believed to be part of an ancient grave. It is a really really interesting church, and much loved, judging by the number of donations over the centuries and the ambiance in the church. You can find out more by reading this document. It is fascinating and I can only thank the people who put it together: http://www.santon.org.uk/history.html

The churchyard would have been interesting to visit, and it is large, but time was against us and we needed to continue our walk. It is only a short distance to the Old Castletown road. We followed this south west for about a third of a mile, before turning onto a farmer’s track that follows the stream again, but higher up this time. It was a little muddy in places, but what’s a bit of mud between friends. This path ends up by the motorcyle museum on the new Castletown road right next to Santon railway station. This is where we parted company, the walkers to get their cars and me to get the bus back to Port Erin.

It was a really delightful walk with excellent company. If you are interested in walking with the U3A, they usually walk once a month on a Tuesday. You can find out more information here https://u3asites.org.uk/isle-of-man/page/19385 At the moment it refers to this walk, but this will be updated with details of the December walk shortly.

This walk was about 6.5 miles, with a total ascent of 643ft and 604 ft descent.

The slideshow below is the ‘wet walk’, though it looks quite nice here!

I would like to thank Ian of the U3A for inviting me to lead this walk. I have a couple more in mind that I think the group will enjoy and I shall start planning them for outings in the spring 🙂

Tales of Glen Helen and an Autumn Feast, 12 Sept 2021

Well, I don’t know if it might be a healthy feast but there certainly was a host of fungus along the banks of the Glen Helen river two weeks ago. I had friends visiting and Glen Helen is a sure-fire winner for an absolutely beautiful walk, with variety and interest and it was an area they hadn’t visited before.

Over the last year or so, the paths have been widened to enable wheelchair uses to have easy access to the main waterfall and to benefit from these wonderful views. To me, this is our bit of Switzerland on this island, and perhaps because it is so niche and has a different ambience to the other glens it is even more special. There are some magnificent trees which stand proudly at the entrance to lure you in.

This is not a difficult path to walk along. It follows the river at just a height so that you can look down into it but not have to negotiate any slippery stones. There is a bench half way along, which for some reason has been placed with its back to the river, presumably to enable those in wheelchairs to stop and take a break, but it would have been far more sensible to turn it the other way round so they could actually see something. We Manxies do have our idiosyncracies – though I cannot count myself a Manxie, being a stop-over from only 7-8 years ago. It takes a lifetime to be called a true Manxie!!

The actual waterfall was a little lame on this occasion as we haven’t had a lot of rain, but still lovely as are all waterfalls. From here, there is a choice of paths. You can either go straight up a very narrow path which takes you to the top of the falls, or you can take the steps to the right that lead uphill into the woods. We chose the latter option. If you deviate very slightly from this you will see another section of waterfall, which is very lovely and makes you want to look around the corner and see where it goes. Retracing your steps, you climb gently upwards until you reach a roughly level path with follows the river all the way back to the car park. I cannot understand how I have never taken this path before, but I did enjoy it and it was on this section that we came across the ‘hundreds and thousands’ of different types of fungi. I could become quite absorbed in looking at these, but as I know nothing about them at all, I satisfied myself with taking photographs of them, some better than others. They were an array of colour too, not just boring beige or grey toadstools. The images below are a few of the very many we came across. There may be a few duplicates as they look very different as they decay.

This whole area was once pleasure gardens, created and designed originally by the philanthropist Mr. John A Marsden, who developed all the footpaths in the glen to highlight the natural beauty of the area. Where there are bridges now were stepping stones, so the falls would not have been accessible to anyone except the sturdy of foot, but would have been fun for children to cross.

There was so much to entertain you in the 1870’s, as long as you had a spare fourpence to enter the grounds – yes, you had to pay. Then you and the family could amuse yourselves with swings, skittles and croquet, and if you had a full 1 shilling you were allowed to fish in the river. At one point there was an aviary, a monkey house, seals(!), a bowling alley and even a small zoo. Sounds rather good. I think they should reinstate it as pleasure gardens, although now the glamping phase has taken over in the section close to the car park.

The car park has an interesting history too believe it or not. Just up the road from here is a white cottage called Sarah’s cottage, and you will notice a small stream runs beside it and then disappears, never to be seen again. Well obviously it has to go somewhere, and it goes under the road. Not so long ago there stood a hotel in this location and the stream flowed beneath it in its cellars. The hotel was knocked down and a car park concreted over it until… one day in 1980 a lorry driver (you could get them in 1980!) parked in an unfortunate spot, the driver hopped out of his cab for a call of nature, to simultaneously watch his lorry sink into the ground and a gap of 18″ opened up under one of the back wheels. In trepidation he moved his lorry and rang the authorities, who promptly arrived with a digger, but as they started to operate the machinery a whopping great chasm appeared 14ft deep and the whole car park disintegrated. I wonder what happened to the engineers who had initially designed the car park? Needless to say, there is now a reliable culvert underneath the existing car park, but do take care, you never know what may happen next. 🙂

As you can see from the map below this is only a short walk of about 2 miles in all, maybe 3 and perhaps 150-200 ft of ascent in all. For once I didn’t measure the distance or height. If you don’t know where this is, if you take the Douglas to Peel road, turn right at the Ballacraine crossroads where there are traffic lights (just before St. Johns) and Gleb Helen is a couple of miles up on a bend in the road. It’s always beautiful no matter what the weather or the time of year.

Ballaglass Glen with the U3A – 7th Sept 2021

With visitors from the UK over for a week, this was the ideal introductory walk to show them a part of the island that they might not otherwise see. Indeed it did seem to take an age to get there down the twisting roads in the valley around Maughold, not helped by my missing a turning earlier on. It takes about 45 mins from Port Erin.

It is always a very green area, maintained well by the local farmers and with some stunning countryside. It is some time since I have been to Ballaglass Glen, certainly well before our first lockdown. We met our U3A group, all people well known to me, and my family visitors were delighted by the warm reception they received.

The route follows a recognised track pretty much all the way to the coast, through beautiful woodland that goes above the Glen itself. There are a few ups and downs but by and large it is a very straightforward path. As you descend to the mouth of the small river, the area opens up into some fine wetlands. It is a great place for either lunch on the beach or throwing pebbles into the river or sea, which themselves have been thrown up by the sea over centuries. It is quiet and peaceful here, though surprisingly busy for an arbitrary Tuesday, though I was reminded it was the last day of the school holidays which may account for the numbers of families there today.

The route follows a minor road uphill for almost a mile until we take another even more minor road to the right which will ultimately take us off road for 300 metres to Cashtal Yn Ard (Castle of the Heights), a site of archeaological interest. It is a group of impressive standing stones that have stood here for the best part of 4000 years. It was originally a lot larger, one of the biggest megaliths in the whole of the British Isles, being 130 ft long, and containing 5 chambered cairns in a ‘horned barrow’. It is thought it may originally have been for a chieftain, and then over time it has become a communal burial ground for his lucky family. As with many of these ancient sites, one has to imagine it completely covered with turf and soil with a majestic entrance at one end, in this case, the west end where there still stands two mighty stones which would have been the archway into the inner sanctum.

This was our lunch spot with tremendous views over the North Barrule on the western side and the sea on the eastern side.

From here, we carried on along the same road in the northerly direction until we came to the wooded stream that is Ballaglass Glen again. There are a couple of wonderful houses nestling in this glen, and one kindly has a permissive path that allows visitors to walk among the trees inside the glen and enjoy the mini and greater waterfalls along this short distance back to the car. There are a number of paths so don’t take the first one that goes off to the right as you will miss some of the wonderful views if you do.

This is a short walk of just about 4 miles with a maximum height around Cashtal Yn Ard of about 150 metres ( just under 500ft). You only need 90mins – 2 hrs to simply do the walk, so a pleasant morning or afternoon stroll for anyone.

Heather Walk on the Western Cliffs 18/08/21

I make no apologies for there being a surfeit of photos mostly of purple heather and yellow gorse, as this was today’s mission. The Isle of Man boasts a kaleidoscope of spectacular colours at this time of year but you will see none better than on the walk from Cronk Ny Array Laa to Port Erin. I can see many of these from my house and can watch the terrain change from green to purple and yellow from my bedroom window.

However, it was one of those days starting in sunshine, quickly fading into soft clouds. Then the clouds would part, leaving you tantalised by a glimmer of sunshine, only to have it taken away just as quickly and be replaced by the thick veils of Mananan’s cloak, meaning that a large part of this walk was undertaken in fog, not great for photos. As you watch the slideshow below, it does eventually brighten up and offer up some views. 🙂

I had grabbed a lift to my starting point with my friend Janet, who was travelling to Peel to do her stint at the Wildlife Trust shop. She dropped me on the corner in thick fog. Undaunted, I made my way to the top of Cronk Ny Array Laa. I wondered if I might be a little late in the season for my photographs as a lot of the heather on the eastern side of the hill was going over from what I could see.

From here, it is a steady descent to The Slock. There are usually fine views of the south, but given the weather, imagination was necessary. I hadn’t gone far when I met a lady carrying a very large rucksack up the hill. It turns out she is Portuguese and was hiking around the island. We had a very interesting half an hour talking about her journey, bus times and tide timetables before we each continued on our respective ways.

Just before The Slock, I found myself below the cloud line and I was able to enjoy the magnificent colours all around me. It was then a short climb up to Gob Ny Beinn. The cairn is slightly further along the ridge. I stopped here for a late late lunch in the… fog… before continuing down to Fleshwick. This is usually the most stunning section for colour but the mist had the better of it for most of the walk. Even so, it was beautiful and moody and so very quiet. All I could hear was the wind under my ear muffs. Yes, it is August, but it was cold enough to wear a t-shirt, thin jumper, light fleece and waterproof at times!

Mission accomplished and numerous photos in the bag, once at Fleshwick I debated with myself whether to bother with the climb up Bradda Hill. I wasn’t feeling great and I knew really my body had had enough, but if I am presented with a challenge that is achievable I am likely to do it. There was an alternative, low route home from Fleshwick, but it is less interesting, so the more challenging route won.

The route up to Bradda Hill is known as a fairly ferocious climb, though not difficult as long as you take your time. It is 500-600ft, but it is only the first 450ft that is quite steep. And there are plenty of stopping places. It is then an undulating walk along the cliffs to Port Erin. The scenery changes a lot. There are still significant patches of heather and gorse but not the unbroken expanses of the Carnanes or Cronk any Array Laa. It is easier to see the effect of farming too, as where there might be moorland is grassland. At this point, the clouds decided to relieve themselves of their moisture, so I packed away my phone and stepped out to make my way home.

It was a most enjoyable afternoon, but it took its toll on me. I had to go to bed and rest when I got in, and I haven’t been a lot better today. But ask me anytime, I’ll just keep going until I no longer can.

I will leave the photos to do the rest of the talking. If you can get out in the next few days you won’t be disappointed. The hills all around the island look spectacular.

Distance on the hills 6 miles + 1 mile into Port Erin; Ascent 1200 ft

Around Staarvey and along the Switchback Road, 13th Aug 2021

The tree lined avenue between St Johns and Tynwald Mills always cheers me. The colours and the dappled light look attractive at all times of year. Following this minor road over the bridge you meet the back road to Peel. I have often wondered where the track went immediately opposite the junction, and today I decided to find out.

I had been helping Dawn at Manx Wildlife Trust at Cooildarry with the young Watch group. We were investigating the traps Dawn had set, and the children excited meandered through the wood looking out for flags and traps, trying to guess whether there would be anything inside the traps – which were mostly positive with single woodmice ferreting about inside. We weighed them and measured them and sexed them. Then it was the hedgehog tunnels, with ink stained paper in the centre so that their footprints could be caught on the white paper either side of the tunnel. Only, we didn’t find hedgehog footprints, just a cat(!), mice and possibly a stoat’s footprints. It kept the children absorbed for about 90 mins.

From there, I stopped at the car park on the switchback road, which is a long 2 mile … switchback… with fantastic views towards Peel. There is a footpath uphill on the northern edge of the switchback, another footpath I had never walked along. It is a stony track suitable for bikes and pedestrians but not pushchairs or wheelchairs. Just as you take a rest, there is a chance to enjoy this surprise view, which you might expect to see in a mediterranean country rather than the Isle of Man.

If you keep on this path it takes you over the side of Knockharry, but I took the path to the right leading to Staarvey. There are wonderful views to the east but only occasional glimpses of the sea to the west as the path goes through farmland below the top. If you look very very closely, on the top left of the photo below you can just about make out the marquees at Patrick, signalling the Royal Show is on. This photo was taken just as I came off the rise but this view would soon be masked by the hills. The map tells me there are cairns close to the path but I must admit I didnt see them. This is a walk across fields full of cows, which as usual were interested to know what I was doing, but finally left me alone. Guess they think this is their land, not mine.

I am always amazed at the different atmospheres and vistas that this island gives us in different places; places where we walk or pass by regularly look so different from just a few feet higher up. I enjoyed this walk across the fields as there was a great variety of colour and the hay had been cut and it is clearly a living landscape. Some of the stiles were a bit iffy, particularly the one in the last field before the lane. I was tempted to climb the gate but persevered but it was impossible to find the rungs on the ladder on the opposite side of the fence on the photo below.

From here, I joined the road which was still a very pleasant, quiet walk down to Laurel Bank and around the hillside which eventually turned into the aforementioned track that had originally interested me. There are great views of Slieau Whallian and St Johns here, but my phone was out of juice so I wasn’t able to take any further photos and none of the switchback road which is disappointing. Another time. I turned right at the main road – this is a fairly busy back road and although it is fine to walk along it as a single person or even two or three people, I wouldn’t recommend it with a group. Just past the right bend I turned off onto the switchback road and followed this all the way back to the car. It is slightly uphill for about a third of the road and from then on small humps and hollows but nothing difficult or strenuous; just a delightful walk on a narrow lane with passing places. There was the odd car and cyclist, but this road is safe for pedestrians.

I haven’t been able to do much walking recently due to physical constraints (what’s new!) and jobs I have to do in the house, mostly putting things in the roof or decorating before my new carpets come. One job seems to create another. Then of course, I do have my ‘work’ teaching Psychology. I am thrilled to say that all my students, even those I assessed for another organisation, retained the grades I gave them, so if I have to assess private candidates next year I shall feel confident to help them all.

I shall be busy over the next couple of weeks with more Watch meetings for young people, helping at Ballachurry Nature Reserve and my usual duties at Scarlett Nature Reserve; and I still have more peatland to survey, so whether I can get out doing any serious walking we shall have to wait and see.

The walk I have just described shows how a short walk can be just as pleasant and rewarding as longer walks and revive the spirit.

Distance – just under 4 miles; total ascent 476ft; total descent 479ft

St Johns to Foxdale Circular – 8 miles

I planned this walk to save the best bit until last. This is one of the nicest of our disused railway lines that hasn’t been ‘upgraded’ and retains the natural wildlife around it. The rest of the walk is very good too!

I started at St. John’s and walked in an easterly direction along the railway track for about a mile. This is naturally flat, but this section isn’t especially inspiring, although some of the wildflowers waving in the fields looked magnificent. I crossed the Ballamodha Road, where there is an old station building and walked to the next road junction on the outskirts of Greeba. Here I turned right up the lane for a short distance and then the path leads off to the left. I had never walked this track before and it is very pleasant, providing excellent views of Greeba Mountain.

It is an upward path for about a mile, but not difficult. The highest point is 656 ft over this distance. It is a gentle slope on the side of a valley that eventually takes you to the Cornelly Mines. This makes a good coffee stop, and you can climb the stile and peruse the site if you wish. I declined this invitation, walking past the mines to go into the Archallagon plantation.

There are many routes through this, and I mostly took the track shown on the map, until I spied a field of purple wildflowers looking splendid against the backdrop off the mines. From then on I took a lesser path that would get me to the same destination. I came across some orchids beside the path, perhaps not at their best now, but nice to know they are there; and I watched as chaffinches flitted from branch to branch.

I left the plantation at the southerly car park and walked along the road for a short distance. I had noticed a short cut down to the hairpin bend at Foxdale, and this turned out to be a very attractive, if overgrown in places, footpath. It terminates just before the top reservoir. I kept to the less frequented lane to avoid the Foxdale main road, passing some lovely houses and the Kionslieu reservoir I visited a month or so go.

The reservoir at the hairpin bend

Now the wildflowers in this lane had changed from the meadow buttercup to cow parsley and harebells. This time, I took the lane at the top of the hill that leads down to Foxdale, passing by the towering Old Vicarage and church.

The lane leading to Foxdale

It was no distance from here to the start of the railway track that would take me to St. John’s. the old station building remains and the track leads below the houses on the top road, allowing us to see into their gardens and also appreciate that what you see of the houses from the road is only a fraction of the size they really are, as they are built into the hillside. The walk along here was just lovely, with the drop on the right deepening with every step. I could hear the water in the unspoilt stream bubbling away below, but there is not footpath beside the stream, so the vegetation has taken over and looks most attractive.

The track crosses the main road, though I continue to be puzzled as to why I had to climb the height of a bridge to rejoin it. Presumably it was in two sections at some point? From here to St Johns the path is sometimes more open, sometimes in trees, but giving you glimpses of the countryside in different directions. It was so pretty as the sun came out making everything look cheerful.

I saw very few people on this walk, just a few dog walkers in the Archallagon plantation and cyclists on the other footpaths. You can shorten this route in a couple of places, or if time is limited or you don’t want any hill-climbing, you could park in Foxdale, walk the railway line, and get the (occasional) bus back to St. John’s. All routes are beautiful. You won’t be disappointed.

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Tideswell, Derbyshire – final day

I have really enjoyed my few days in Tideswell. The countryside is a perfect example of the UK’s traditional green and pleasant land and it has a timeless feel to it, despite evidence all around of progress and technology, in the forms of masts and wires, a variety of road signs, and cars parked in every nook and cranny on the streets, at least in the old part of the village where the houses were originally built for living rather than housing transport. Some of the properties are very old and opposite the church is a house whose front door is dated something like 1542. What stories that house would be able to tell.

Today, I did a short morning walk of about 3 miles, starting with a trip to the pharmacy to get some nail varnish for my Aunty in Retford, who I am visiting tomorrow. (When I was in Castleton yesterday I asked if there was a pharmacy and was told I would either have to go to Chapel-en-le-frith in one direction or Hathersage in the other, so there are clearly some disadvantages in living in remote beauty spots.)

I took the path that runs behind the cathedral to the higher lane and followed it north. The cathedral itself is worth a visit and has a magnificent stained glass window amongst other interesting artefacts.

I had selected a particular road route because I was hoping to avoid mud for once, and the map showed the road descending between two hills, but in reality that was misleading, although the route was still very pretty and it was almost a dale in itself, with a small stream and meadows of wild flowers alongside the road. I turned off the road to take a very straight track that leads to Wheston. This was wide and easy to walk on, and it followed the top of the hill so the views were wonderful. I had to wait while a tractor went past as there wasn’t room for both of us. Wheston is only a very small hamlet but does lead to the entrance to Peter’s Dale, a dale I have not visited on this occasion but shall do another time.

The route back to Tideswell was along another minor lane, and I enjoyed seeing the village from another angle. It is also nice to have an undemanding walk every now and again. So, here terminates my few days on my own, though I did meet up with son James and his daughter Emily yesterday and daughter Sarah this evening, so not entirely on my own. It is so good to see the family after such a long break, and I am looking forward to spending more time with them, and son Matthew, after my brief sojourn to Retford tomorrow.

I shall definitely return here. There is so much walking to do either from the village or within 15 mins of driving. The paths are well maintained and they criss-cross the countryside to give you miles and miles of roaming, meaning that you can vary your route time after time within a narrow area. And Tideswell itself is lovely and less commercial than some other villages and towns in the Peak District. I can recommend it should you decide to visit Derbyshire, even on a rainy day.

Blue John Caves and Cave Dale, Castleton

Continuing my brief time away in Derbyshire, I decided to visit the Blue John Caves at Castleton. It is many years since I have ventured down under the ground, possibly thirty odd years ago, as I remember writing a children’s story about it at the time and my young son, Matthew, now with a child of his own, illustrating it. I still have his pictures tucked away in a drawer at home.

I was there early, so there was no queue. I paid my money, requesting an OAP ticket, which prompted the seller to ask me if I could manage the 245 steps down and up! As it was I managed them better than some of the younger people.

The caves are well lit, and the steps are a manageable height. There is a handrail all the way down, which the guide insists is used all the time, and photographs are only permitted when we stop. Some of the caverns are huge, others only moderately large, and you have to remember that the miners did not have the luxury of neat steps to negotiate and then they had equipment to lug up and down as well.

The mineral called Blue John, is a form of fluorite, a semi-precious mineral, and takes its name from its purple/ blue colour, unique to the two caverns here in Derbyshire (this one and Treak Cavern a mile away), and only found in China otherwise. It is still mined today, in very small quantities, and you can expect to pay quite a lot of money for blue John jewellery. Castleton has many jewellers selling the same.

Then, of course, it was raining, so what else to do but get wet and walk up another dale. This was after I had finished shopping.

Cave Dale is situated in the heart of Castleton itself and leads back up between the limestone hills. It is about a mile long and it is a glorious dale, and leads you to the top of the range of hills, from which you can get splendid views for a climb of about 500ft, so just a bit more than climbing from sea level to Milner Tower in Port Erin. It is a very gentle, grassy, stony climb, so do be careful on the rocks as limestone is so very slippery when wet.

On the right you can see Peveril Castle towering above you. This is a Norman structure, and woe betide anyone trying to attack. This steep sides were an excellent protection. Below Peveril Castle is Peak Cavern, also known as Devil’s Arse, the only natural cavern in the area, and this is worth a visit. Speedwell Cavern is also excellent, and includes a boat ride.

Cavedale was initially a wet dale, but today the water flows underground. Initially carved out by glaciers, it then collapsed further, creating the narrow gorge at the start. Even two hundred years ago, there was a ‘roof’ to the entrance. So, just think, when you walk through Cavedale, you are walking through history and over the top of an extensive cave system, much of which has still to be explored.

Having reached the top, and only wanting a short walk I followed the top of the hill leading steadily down the grassy pasture to the trees close to Peveril Castle, where the path turns into a fairly steep, stony and slippery path. They views are fantastic, even in the damp, foggy air.

At the most, starting from the car park by the visitor centre this is a 3 mile walk, so an easy walk to do at any time of day, and there are many places to eat and drink when you return to Castleton, and of course, the main other Caverns to visit.

Circular Walk around Tideswell, Derbyshire – 5th July 2021

I have been in the uk now for 6 days visiting my children and grandchildren. I have a few days off before continuing my visits and am spending it at Tideswell, staying at Rockingham Lodge. Tideswell is an ancient settlement, where Bronze Age remains have been found. It was originally called Tidiwall, relating to an enclosure created by the Saxon chief Tidi.

Tideswell Cathedral

Today, I walked via a back road to the edge of Litton, along a lane taking me to the heights of Litton Edge from where you can see views of Longstone Edge in the east and towards Buxton and the dales in the opposite direction – that is assuming you don’t get caught in a heavy downpour as I did, drowning out all distant views.

It’s worth taking a look at the organisation of the fields. The walls are located according to old farming practices and follow the routes of the plough drawn by oxen. They couldn’t turn easily at the end of the field ( rather like Jeremy Clarkson, if you’ve seen his farming programme), so developed specific patterns in the landscape, which were enclosed by walls in the Middle Ages.

At least I didn’t have thunder and lightning which we had for a couple of days in Matlock. As I set out, it did look threatening over Bill’s mother and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would have to don my rainwear.

I had never been on Litton Edge though I have been to Litton in the past. When I came off the sheep meadow I joined a lane to the left that would take me to the start of Cressbrook Dale. The Derbyshire Dales are always a surprise, being tucked in steep crevices in the otherwise relatively flat terrain. They began as a tropical lagoon 350 million years ago, with reefs, containing lots and lots of aquatic species, which died and lay embedded in the mud in the seas. Over these millions of years, the force of the underwater pressure created the limestone we see today.

Cressbrook Dale is very pleasant, and a walk you could easily take carrying your baby in a papoose or dragging your reluctant toddlers along the path. It is grassy and flat, albeit muddy in places. If you expect to see water in this dale you may be disappointed. There was certainly none in sight today, as it drains through the limestone until it hits the clay below. Only when the water table rises will dry stream become a wet domain.

The dry riverbed

It starts with open land engulfed by steep cliffs, looking very attractive, and Peter’s Stone sticks out like a sore thumb, enticing you to go and visit it. I was not tempted and stayed on the lower routes which soon after became a wooded valley, criss crossing through the dale, with birds singing in the trees.

Peter’s Stone, created by landslips

If you want just a short walk, you can turn off and up Tansley Dale which would take you back to Litton.

Route up Tansley Dale

Cressbrook Dale merges into Ravensdale at Ravensdale Cottages, and from here there is no direct route beside the non existent stream, although there is evidence of its hidden presence by the stepping stones across the riverbed. However, this particular path goes nowhere, so if you visit the stepping stones you have to return via the same route.

The path continues along a leafy lane until it meets a road, where it is most sensible to turn left, but I continued onward and upward as this appeared to be a pleasant path – and it was… only eventually you end up at the same place as you would have done on the lower route and missed out some pointless ascent.

So, I am now at Cressbrook, close to Home Farm. The footpath follows the River Wye, very much a river with lots of water – and is directed between some houses. There is a higher path if the river path is flooded. Keep right below the cliffs all the way to Litton Mill, via Miller’s Dale. In my mind, I had remembered Litton Mill as being a thriving place with a cafe and places to sit. Whether this is just my faulty memory or whether it has changed in the many years since I have been here, I don’t know, but it really is not an interesting place to walk through and you can’t walk beside the river (if you want to) until you are almost out of the village.

The river walk up to Litton is very pleasant, and today the reflections in the water were just beautiful. Be prepared for mud, there is plenty of it, and there are plenty of birds flitting about the greenery. Much of this area is owned by the Wildlife Trust, so designed to encourage nature to thrive.

As it was I was finishing my walk by going up Tideswell Dale. In many ways, this was my favourite dale of the day, possibly because it had a lot of wild flowers growing on the banks, and the stream seems very happy tumbling gently down the dale. It doesn’t have the steep sided cliffs of other Dale’s but it is just as delightful.

This was a reasonably long walk of 8-9 mile with just under 800 ft of ascent, mostly at the beginning and end. There are endless alternatives for shorter or longer routes.