Glen Maye 23rd November 2018

Looking at nature today was like looking through a dirty window; the air was full of dull grey particles castinga shadow over everything, and the light was very strange. I had been to Douglas and having finished my errands called in at Peel, and Glen Maye. It was not worth taking photos at Peel because of this leaded air, coating the landscape in murk. Glen Maye is one of my favourite walks no matter what season and no matter what the weather, but I wasn’t prepared the surprise I got. After all the murk of Peel, it was as if nature had been spring-cleaning and had dusted off all the leaves from trees, and blown away all the dust and dirt, opening up the normally overloaded canopy so that I could see right up to the sky. In the summer months when the leaves adorn the trees in plenty, it is a much more closed and very green experience but today it was light and airy. It was a little slippery underfoot but still the magic of the glen pulled me in. You could almost imagine the fairies springing out from the undergrowth at any time.

As I walked along the river bank, it crossed my mind that when my time comes, I should like my cremated ashes to be sprinkled on this water, which would then wind their way down the river, through narrow gulleys, some sneaking into little holes in the banks, some going at speed others going slowly, all gradually making their way to the beach and expanse of sea. It would be like I have completed my journey, but not just yet. I have a life to live first and lots of walks to report on :-).

This is only a short walk, but as usual I found interesting rocks to clamber over to get a new view or to see rock formations I have never seen before. It was just perfect for a short afternoon stroll. We haven’t had much rain lately, but even so I could hear the waterfall thundering below well before I reached it. Here are some photos from this walk:

                            

 

Port Erin Bay 22nd November

I set off to Douglas for an appointment as the sun was coming up and was back in Port Erin by 11.30 having walked a couple of miles around Douglas and another mile home from Four Roads as for some reason the bus decided to drop me off on Church Road outside Southlands. It was beautifully sunny and I had plans to have an early lunch, do my marking, get on a number 28 to the Sound and walk back over the cliffs.

By the time I had finished despairing with psychology students who write overlong, onerous essays, the sun had gone in and I didn’t have time for my little venture, so instead I walked from home through Port Erin up to Bradda East, on to Bradda Head, followed the coast path back to Port Erin, up to the breakwater and then back home – a surprising distance of 5 miles. I am really glad that my back is not objecting to exercise as it makes such a difference to my quality of life. On the way, I met Dr Blackwell and we had a chat about gannets, which prompted me to do some research when I got home, as he raised the question of ‘how do gannets know where the food is in order to dive so precisely’? He made the point that the water is hardly clear and many fish do not disturb the water significantly, so it was a bit of a mystery. I was tempted to answer that it might be something to do with patterns of light, but as I had no good reason for thinking this, I kept my thought to myself. However, it appears there may be something in it. Firstly, gannets have binocular vision which gives them a clear focal point. Secondly, “birds that plunge-dive or strike at fish perform visual detection and location of submerged prey from the air under complex optical conditions, including variation in the reflection and refraction of light”. The article I quote from here actually goes on to talk about how gannets have different eye structures to ourselves and in air the cornea of gannets is more responsible for focusing than the lens, whereas the lens which is spherical comes into play when the gannet is underwater. If this topic interests you, you can read more about it here: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/279/1745/4118

Sadly, I did not see a gannet – it out of season for gannets, but I did see a Little Egret on Port Erin beach, the first time I have seen one there.

I also saw the fairy house that has been placed on the nook opposite the Milner Tower. It’s rather a shame it has been placed on a grotty wall rather than rock, but it is quite cute. It lights up at night apparently.

The light and clouds made interesting patterns over the Calf and Milner Tower. I still haven’t found a basic camera that can produce easy natural photos like my i-phone. I hope your enjoy these photos:

There may be more tomorrow as I have another trip to Douglas, followed by my flu jab, and if time, I shall have a trip to Dhoon Glen, which I have still never visited!

 

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  woolly hat for £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 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.  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 🙂 🙂

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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.