Guernsey Day 4 – coastal walk 29/08/20

This was my last full day of walking, so I started out early from the hotel finding a new route down to Petit Bot Bay.

Others had already arrived by the time I got there, mostly children and their parents who I think were about to go kayaking. There was already one group in the water. There is a cafe here, but as it was not yet 10am it had not opened.

The climb onto the cliffs is fairly strenuous, with something like 160 steps. I tasked myself with counting them today. Over the full day, I think I climbed 800 steps as well as encountering the standard undulations. It is worth the climb as the views are terrific and you get a sense of accomplishment too.

The coast path goes inland to cross streams in a few places and the paths weren’t always easy to find. To make matters worse ( or better), the Guernsey National Trust has purchased various areas around the cliff path and there are numerous routes within these areas, should you decide to veer off the regular track to explore. On one such occasion around Les Corbieres I did not quite end up back on the right path and found myself on a path slightly more inland than intended. Not that it mattered. This was a fairly long walk anyway of between 9 and 10 miles and I was more interested in reaching my destination than being pedantic about which path I took. However, because of this detour I did not visit the German Observation Tower at the top of this post, though I saw it for many miles thereafter.

There are only two places on this section of the coast path where you can get drinks so make sure you take plenty with you in case they aren’t open. It hasn’t been very warm for late summer but even so my stocks of water were getting low towards the end and I was concerned about getting dehydrated. There is a cafe and a bus terminus at the end of this walk, so it is easy to replenish your stocks and get back to your starting point, although buses are only once a hour. I had thought of going to see Little Chapel as I had finished by 2pm, but there were no buses going to that area at all on a Saturday.

The paths look very similar to the walk I did the other day, so instead of describing the route, I will leave you with a gallery of photos of the walk. I must say, I think this south western point is prettier and quieter than the eastern side around St Peter Port, and the houses I saw were much less showy.

Tomorrow, I shall walk to Little Chapel and return to my hotel for afternoon tea before my mid afternoon pickup for the airport.

Overall distance: 9.17 miles; total ascent 1414 ft; total descent 1762 ft

Guernsey Day 2 – La Villette to St. Peter’s Port 27/08/20

I had been warned by the taxi driver that this is quite a strenuous walk with a lot of steps, so I knew what to expect.

I set out early in the morning and was on the cliffs shortly after 9am. I decided to miss out Icart point and start with a gentle route down to Saints Bay, following another gladed valley. I soon hit the coast path contouring around several small bays, including Bon Port to Jerbourg Point.

At Moulin Huet car park, be careful to follow the map and descend along the road. The path then takes you through some light woodland before you ascend once again on the open coast path. There are one or two ins and outs on this stretch giving some variety to the walk, but whenever you turn a corner, the views are splendid. Renoir created some of his masterpieces here and there are several information boards showing you the view he was capturing. Below is one such scene.

There are two viewpoints mentioned on the map on the Jerbourg peninsula and it is worth taking your time here. The close up view of Les Tas de Pois d’Amont (translates as Pea Stacks) which have been visible all the way around this large cove is magnificent. The path continues around the point to join a lane which leads to the Jerbourg hotel. If you have had enough of steps by this point you can while away your time in the hotel having a cream tea, and then catch the bus (no 81) which will take your on a tour of the island back to St Peters Port.

 

I do not say this lightly, as the next section begins with a lot of descent and more steps, in the sure knowledge that you will have to ascend the same amount before long. This is a kinder path and slightly more undulating than straight up and down and you get the first views of Helm and Sark and the Castle at St Peters Port.

I had set off in fine sunshine, and pleasantly warm. I was also aware of dark clouds looming over the land and I was forlornly hoping that I might escape rain. This was not to be, but thankfully there was some tree cover and I waited patiently for a gap to appear in the lashing rain before I continued. Patience was clearly not a virtue and was going to make no difference, so I set off again for Fermain Bay, where I could see a cafe beside the beach. It was just about noon and I had walked 6 miles. I enjoyed some warming cups of coffee, had a chat with a local who had been swimming and I think wished he hadn’t bothered and ate my packed lunch. The tide was almost in but it looks to be a lovely beach and on a nice day I bet the locals come down here.

There was a brief respite so I set off again, yes, you can guess it, uphill again through woodland at Ozanne Steps and past some houses that had the most scenic and uninterrupted views of the sea. Leaving that path, it takes you to the Clarence Battery at Les Terres Point, an outpost that has guarded St Peters Port for centuries. From there it was a steady descent along La Vallette into St Peters Port.

I didn’t spend much time here today. I wanted to get back to the hotel, dry off and catch up on some sleep! So I boarded the bus, which showed me the delights of the area and dropped me off outside my hotel – very convenient.

I don’t know how many steps there were altogether, but it must be hundreds as there were usually about 30-40 minimum on each ascent. The total distance was 8 miles, descent 1726ft and ascent 1427ft. This walk started with descent, and it is this combination that makes it a little tiring. But it is so rewarding, and if you have a fine day, I would recommend it.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is not great, so I am thinking of doing a hop on hop off bus tour to the other side of the island and maybe do a bit of shopping.

Continue reading “Guernsey Day 2 – La Villette to St. Peter’s Port 27/08/20”

Air-Bridge Guernsey – Arrival Day 26/08/20

What an eye-opener! From the sky Guernsey looked to be a highly populated possibly overcrowded little island. In the taxi, I was struck by the amount of traffic, but once I got to my hotel south of St Peter Port at La Villette, I discovered a different world, of long lost lanes, attractive stone cottages, cows(!) and a most magnificent coastline only a mile away.

From what I have seen in the few hours I have been here, this is an island that cares for itself and looks after itself. The houses in the villages are well maintained and look as if they follow tradition. There is evidence of many former farms dotted around and even the new houses are made to blend in with the natural stone of their predecessors.

Typical former farmhouse on Guernsey

When I arrived it took me a while to get my bearings as I thought the airport was near the main town, when in fact it was in completely the opposite direction. This being so, my first amble took me in a different direction from that where I wanted to go 🙂 Thankfully, my trusty Garmin watch knew where I was going, so I soon discovered my error. It would have been useful to find out where I was staying before I went on holiday, as I was guessing from the word ‘go’, and usually I am better prepared. On this occasion, I hadn’t given my short break a moment’s thought beforehand.


So here I was, an hour and half after arrival and three hours left before the restaurant closed. Time to explore. This time I went in the right direction and after a mile I was on the cliffs admiring the sea and shoreline. I couldn’t stop there, so after a cursory look at the map I decided to head westwards or if looking at the sea – to the right! The cliffs were so inviting – so inviting I would break into a hop and a skip or even a little jog every now and again. The sunlight was glinting behind the cliffs in front of me me and I made a mental note that this walk would be best undertaken left to right in the morning another time.

There are a number of ups and downs on this stretch of path but nothing too demanding. The paths are very well maintained and look natural (note IOM govt), and there are many sections with stone and sandy steps which are easy to traverse. The path reminded me very much of sections of the South West Coast Path which I did with my third son, Matthew, when he was a teenager.

The cliffs are interspersed with shady glens leading down to the little beaches. I am looking forward to exploring more over the next few days, but I know it will be over too soon.

I am trying to extend my holiday to 5 days. The hotel has room for me but the flights are fully booked, so I must make the most of my four days here.

Total distance: approx 3.5 miles, 489 ft of descent, 500ft of ascent.

Carnanes 24th August 2020

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, we had wall to wall sunshine, today the rain is pelting down and the wind attempting to uplift anything not securely attached.

I had arranged to meet my friend at the ‘lower’ car park for a walk around the Carnanes. Only deciding which was the lower car park proved interesting on the day, and I had to drive back to the car park with the benches and the amazing aspect over the southern coastline.

This was perhaps the slowest walk I have ever done, but also one of the most enjoyable as we pottered around the hills, stopping to enjoy the sights at various points and having a natter over a sandwich or two. It is such a joy to have time, when the hours don’t matter, and as long as you are home before dark no-one will notice how long you have been out.

We set off from what I call the top car park, but is in fact the lower car park and took the farmer’s track onto the heathland of the Carnanes. The sun was strong and bright so we decided to walk south to north to avoid squinting all the way along the tops. 

 

We contoured around the southern end of the Carnanes peaks, which afforded us terrific views of the Calf of Man, Bradda Head, the sea and skyline, and we took the first of our many stops at this point so that we could take it all in.

The heather and gorse were out displaying a wonderful variety of pinks, purples and yellows, but not quite as dramatic and colourful as other years. The bees and butterflies were out in abundance, buzzing and flittering around the heather. This section of the walk is one of my favourite places on the whole island. There are a few rises and dips in the terrain and a handy cairn stopping point for lunch, before a steady walk along the top to the highest point with a dramatic cairn and the wonderful title of Lhiatteeny Beinnee (301 metres), which translates as ‘side of the summits’. This seems slightly odd as this is the highest point and the slope that follows down to the Sloc is called Gob ny Beinn, which translates as ‘point of the summits’. But what a view of Naribyl and Peel.

It was on Gob Ny Beinn that we felt the wrath of nature as the midges attacked us with full force, and both of us were bitten on any part of our neck and face that was left uncovered. I have big wheals in several places on my neck today. I remembered, too late, that I have had this problem here before, though why they like that area of the path I don’t know.

On reaching the Sloc(200 metres), our lowest point of the day, we turned north along the ruptured green road, favoured by cyclists of all descriptions, a group of whom passed us on their afternoon ride. This path contours around the east side of the hills, gradually increasing in height, and gives fine views across the meadows and countryside around Colby and Ballabeg. From here you have a panoramic view of the south east of the island as you pan down from the Chibbanagh Plantation at the Braid, close to Douglas and peruse the eastern coastline past the airport, down to Castletown and Ballabeg and the fine expanse of Carrickey Bay.

View to the south from the green road

As we reached the Carnanes, two smaller peaks with Cairns, not necessarily marked on the OS map, we went to the top, this being our last high point of the day. This is an interesting geological feature with intrusions of quartz. Interestingly, less is know about the geological structure of this section of our island.

We stopped to admire the differing displays of heather, gorse and ling at the various points on the hills. Ling seems to be very prevalent in certain areas. Until today, I had not realised that Ling is a separate subtype of heather, being called Calluna Vulgaris, whereas the true Heathers are a type of Erica. We have two types of heather, the Common Bell Heather with its bright purple flowers and the Cross-Leaved Heather, which is more usually found in boggy areas, such as Eary Cushlin or South Barrule. Manx gorse is a low growing gorse, often found interspersed with the different heathers and ling.

So, here our afternoon stroll and a very pleasant afternoon ends back at the same car park. Tomorrow I go to Guernsey on our airbridge. This is a place I have never visited and I am very excited to be taking my first holiday there. I shall go armed with my camera and sketchbook and hope that we dispense of today’s foul weather and it holds up for the few days I am there so that I can make the most of it.

Distance 4.13 miles; Total Ascent about 1000ft; relatively easy walking.

 

Last post before quarantine – 28th July 2020

I write this from my hotel room at Manchester airport. Last week the Manx government relaxed the border entry rules for residents so we can now leave the island and return as long as we quarantine for 14 days. This has caused some commotion in certain quarters but I am delighted as otherwise I should not have been able to see my son who is returning to El Salvador today. I had been resigned to his being in England since March and not seeing him, so you can imagine my joy that I was able to travel over yesterday, spend the evening with him and see him off this morning. I return home this afternoon to complete isolation for 14 days, where I am not allowed out, except in my own garden, and no visitors at all.

Knowing I would be holed up for 14 days on Sunday afternoon I took my final stroll from home down to the Sound and along the coast back to Port Erin, a total distance of 5.75 miles. As usual I tarried long and stared at all things natural, especially the abundant wildflowers. They seem to be having a late flourish this year, no doubt the early summer display having been muted by the many weeks of dry weather in the spring. Since lockdown was eased on the Isle of Man it seems to have done nothing but rain, which is great for the farmers and brought on all the flowers in gardens and hedgerows alike, though not so good for our Guernsey visitors. I enclose a gallery of some of the beauties I came across on this ramble, along with some general views of the coastline towards the top of this post, and – something I have never seen on this stretch of coastline – a couple of people rock climbing.

Previous to this walk, on Saturday I had taken the train to Castletown to join a wildflower event run by Manx Wildlife Trust at the Scarlett Visitor Centre. Unfortunately, my mobile battery was almost out of juice so I had to leave early, as at this stage I did not know when or whether I would be able to see Matthew and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Normally, this kind of event would be heaving with people of all ages, but there was just the dedicated few this time, no doubt a result of the COVID-19 effect. The photos below are of Castletown, firstly the wonderful wildflowers bordering the Silverburn, followed by the floral borders at the Bowling Green Cafe, the Keep, Canon and Moat of Castle Rushen, and the glorious swathe of beach that leads up to Scarlet.

So, for the next two weeks I sign out of writing about walks on the Isle of Man, though I may surprise you with ‘posts from quarantine instead’ if you can bear them 🙂

Colby to Port Erin 7th July: 3.7 miles

Not exactly a hike, more like a brisk walk home from Colby following my excellent afternoon Pilates class with Sara (@saraszestforlife). I had caught the bus to Colby, paid a visit to the house I look after for my friend in England, popped into the local shop and bought some italian flour for making italian pizza before going to class.

It wasn’t the best weather for a walk home but I was reasonably well kitted out, though waterproof walking shoes would have been better than my trainers, so I discovered walking through wet and muddy undergrowth through the meadows. By the time I had finished, my socks were wet through.

I followed the railway line from Colby football club to join the path I frequent often, which goes beside the Colby river, through meadows and an informal wilderness. I didn’t take any photos of this part of the walk as I have described this section many times before. Instead of going past Kentraugh Mill, this time I turned left on reaching the road which would take me to the main coast road. I always enjoy the first glimpses of the sea which you get as you approach.

I followed the coast road around Carrikey Bay and Gansey Point, around the bend and up the road to the Coop in Port St Mary to get a pint of milk before continuing along the back road home. Port St Mary was quite broody this afternoon.

It was a wet walk, but who cares. I certainly don’t. I only mind when the rain lashes down for hours or the wind lifts me off my feet, but most of the time I can enjoy whatever the weather throws at me. The total walking time was actually only a bit over an hour 1 hr, 5 min, 44 secs to be precise so a good antedote to the stretching and strength work of pilates. Incidentally, the times on all of my Garmin maps are the total times spent on the activity which may include stopping / taking photos and in the case of yesterday’s walk, having a coffee in Costa!

There are two maps today because I noticed at one point my watch was giving me measurements of aerobic activity – quite why, I don’t know, but as you can see it did record the walk as well.

Ballasalla, Castletown coast and river circular 6th July 2020 – 7 miles

We had a choice of a few walks today, and my friend selected this beautiful walk for our afternoon stroll. The weather was sunny although it was quite blustery, one of those days when you are not quite sure what to wear, and I wore far too much.

We parked at the Abbey Hotel in Ballasalla, crossed the footbridge in the old part of the village whilst we watched a man wade through the ford while his family crossed on the bridge behind us. We followed the road until we reached the first main footpath which leads east out of Ballasalla and behind the Balthane estate. We wondered if this right of way will remain once the new road is built, and assuming so, it will need an underpass or a bridge if one is not to take one’s life in one’s hands in years to come to cross over the new bypass. This new road is currently under construction and is about midway between the existing main Ballasalla to Douglas road and the farm on the low hillside at Ballahick.

I believe there was a pact made between the developers and the planning department whereby the builders, Dandara, were granted planning permission for 283 houses if they agreed to build the by-pass for the village. Planning permission had been turned down several times previously regarding the by-pass, so it looks to all the world as if it’s a ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ planning decision. Given the population of the Isle of Man is static at best, I do wonder why we need quite so many new houses.

Reaching the farm, we followed an old track which takes you alongside the perimeter of the airfield. There is a quarry on the coast and the old wartime gun emplacements prominently positioned on Santon Head and Fort Island remind us that the Isle of Man has not always lived in peace. Excavations for the airport (which was only developed in 1928) found a mass grave of men who were thought to be soldiers from the 1275 Battle of Ronaldsway!

If you haven’t visited the island for a while, you will remember the coast path hugging the low cliffs all the way around the sea-end of the airport. Since then, the airport has been extended out into the sea and massive boulders now act as sea defences keeping it firmly in place. The view of the eastern coastline to the north and Derbyhaven to the south is lovely and the air is always refreshing on this part of the island and there is wide sense of space.

We continued along the road, past the imposing King William’s College, the result of a generous gesture by Bishop Isaac Barrow in 1663, who felt there was a need for an educational institution on the Isle of Man, which would serve the clergy and improve pastoral care. It was a further 200 years before the school was erected. This monumental building is made of slabs of grey limestone and cost £6000 to build in 1833, £2000 of which came from funds of Bishop Barrow. Within 11 years, there was a massive fire that did away with many of the internal structures, sadly including an extensive and ancient library. Amazingly the school was rebuilt immediately and started functioning again within a year of the fire.

We stopped at the newly developed Costa at Castletown, which has spacious outdoor seating beside the harbour, then continued up the Silverburn river back to Ballasalla. This played havoc with my hayfever and I spent most of the night sneezing and with a tickly throat rather than sleeping.

This is an easy stroll with virtually no uphill at all, with views of countryside, rivers, the sea, meadows, a quarry, a fort and gun emplacments, Hango Hill (you can guess what took place there) and a superb castle at Castletown. So much our doorstep to admire and enjoy and a 5 minute car journey or 15 mins bus ride from home.

Best of the rest:

Around St. Johns: 5th July 2020, 6 miles

It was a toss-up between evensong at Peel Cathedral or a walk in God’s countryside and this afternoon the natural world won, which in a way is as it should be as it all belongs to God (if one believes in a divine being). What better way to spend an afternoon than surrounded by rolling green hills, listening to birdsong, watching butterflies and following the different trails made by man and nature.

This is a walk involving four different disused railway tracks, some road walking, some green tracks and some amenities, so a walk that can be done by anyone who can manage 6 miles. It can be shortened at various junctures, making it 3 or 5 miles if you want a shorter distance.

I parked by the old bridge at St Johns and walked along the road towards Patrick having a nose in people’s gardens and noticing the little things that you miss when you drive, such as the riverbanks being quite deep in places and a second stream joining the main river. There are two bridges close together and at the second one the path is clearly marked to cross the bridge and follow the river on its north side. The fields were magnificent colours, with wild flowers and grasses in abundance, seemingly very natural.

After about 10 minutes walking, you leave the river and join the Heritage Trail, which is the old railway track from Douglas to Peel. I walked the full distance of this years ago and I won’t be doing it again. With good intentions the path has been relaid to allow cyclists and wheelchairs and others needing level ground to enjoy the walk through this valley, but it doesn’t work for me. Having been walking on soft turf in the meadows, my feet really noticed the hard clinker on the wide open path with no character. I want to like it, and plenty of people were strolling down the track so it must work for a lot of people. For me, I couldn’t wait to get off the track, although my plan was to walk back along it to St. Johns.

A little further on from where this photo was taken I spotted a gate on a bank beside an old tree and a signpost to the left and I realised that this was the start of the disused railway line going to Kirk Michael. On the spur of the moment, I decided to take this track and see where it led me. This was so different. It is a normal soil track just the width of the former railway line with bushes either side. Yes, it was uneven in places and wet and muddy in others but I felt closer to nature on this track. I came off the track at the railway bridge, visible some distance away by its marker trees.

There is a little bit of road walking on Poortown Road, but I turned off right down a mostly disused lane just before the quarry. I have driven along this road in the past and I remembered there is ford, whicb lead to some excitement in my mind. Although a tarmac road, it has a quiet feel as if it is intrinsic to the farming life in this part of the island, with grass growing a full 2ft in the centre of the lane. The ford turned out to be less dramatic than I remembered as there is disappointingly a substantial bridge for pedestrians. There was some water in the ford and I could imagine in the depths of winter this might become impassable to ordinary vehicles.

From here, I took the minor road that leads to Tynwald Mills, past some lovely houses with stately gardens, giving an idea of what I might see in the Arboretum just up the road. This area has a warm feel about it. The trees look cared for, if managed, and I always enjoy the roads around St. Johns. I called in at the aforesaid arboretum, which now has many boardwalks, which don’t detract too much from the overall effect. This is a nice place for a picnic and you can get up to the church from here, which I did. Preparations were being made for today’s Tynwald Day, which due to coronavirus, is reduced to a shadow of its usual self and the pomp and pageantry and the fair will be missing this year.

I walked up to the Ballacraine crossroads, down to the railway track on the other side of St Johns. There is a new sleeping policeman where the track crosses the road, which is very attractive, with the swirling emblems reminiscent of Gaelic designs. At this point, the rains had started and my only complaint was that this crossing was a little slippery in the rain. It needs to be roughened up a bit, but I do think it looks rather classy.

At this point, I was expecting to walk along the railway line back to the car, but as I reached the bridge I saw a path on the left leading up to the top. Why I have never seen this path before, I don’t know, but it leads to another old railway line that used to run up Slieau Whallian, and joins up with another railway track that used to go to Foxdale. This was a very attractive way to get back to the car, as it meant I could go through the Garey Ny Cloie gardens on the opposite side of the road, albeit in the rain.

All in all, this was a very pleasant afternoon. Our island has such variety, there is something for everyone and for every mood.

Best of the rest:

Eairy Beg Birthday Walk – 22nd June 2020

Is it really midsummer? Rain, drizzle, mist, gales – we came across all of these on our short walk to Eairy Beg. We had hoped to get some views from the Cairn at the top, but it was all we could do to see one another never mind a view. Even so, what else can you do on a miserable day but to go out and enjoy a forest walk where at least there is some chance of keeping dry.

The River at Glen Helen

We set off from the car park at Glen Helen. We had the Wardens Walk no 5, which we thought would be a bonus, but within a few feet of starting off we realised it was quite outdated. For instance, a new bridge has been built meaning that there is no gate as mentioned on the instructions to go through. This could have been an ominous start, but by and large and with a bit of imagination the instructions mostly matched the paths on the ground.

Path through the woods

The track uphill is relatively straightforward. It is described on the iom gov website as ‘Moderate’ and a ‘Muscle Stretcher’, mostly as it is a persistent walk uphill with a few level places on the way. The maximum height reached on this 2.75 mile walk is 904ft from a starting point of 125ft, with of course the usual ups and downs in between. The path uphill is easy with no difficult rocks to cross over. If you have walking poles, you may find these useful on this walk, not least for the steepish sections both up- and downhill. The forest looked a little bare as they are mostly larch trees reaching up into the canopy with a few deciduous trees beneath. The lack of rain means that the undergrowth is very light to walk through.

Mossy Wall

Some of the paths do not exist on the ground but there are clear paths fairly close to where they should be, so it might suggest walking on one side of the wall but you end up walking on the other side of it where there is a clear track.

First ‘view’ of the moorland

On coming out of the forest, you come to a clearing with what would be really nice views of the moorland hills above Glen Helen. But today, we could only see a few hundred yards, and as we reached the cairn, our highest point of the day, we could barely see a thing and there was a howling gale wrapping around us. Thankfully, we were not on exposed ground for very long, and the path goes alongside the outer rim of the southern slopes of the hill and then steeply downhill. It is definitely best to walk this route the way we did, otherwise you would have quite a steep climb to the top without many resting places. The walking poles were useful for keeping our balance on some slippery downhill parts.

The Cairn on Eairy Beg
The view from the top!

Towards the end of the route there is a choice of paths, one going slightly uphill and the other forking to the left and going downhill. In other places there are footprint signs on the trees indicating the way, but there was nothing at this junction. I strongly recommend you continue on the upper path, which would soon join a real track downhill. You can guess we took the lower path, which was certainly the more adventurous of the two as it was extremely steep in places and we were hanging on to trees and branches for dear life. On reflection, it was probably a path made by children messing about in the woods and not intended for OAPs – though our little party were not all in that age group yet!

It was only on this lower stretch that the rain really settled in, so although we had experienced some drizzle, wind and a lot of mist, we had without knowing it had the best of the weather for the day.

We then went to Milntown for a birthday dinner, before setting back home in time to enjoy delicious cup cakes which were delivered to me half an hour after I returned home – thank you to my daughter, Sarah, for the lovely surprise. My day had begun with a different kind of surprise – a visit from an old friend, who also celebrates his birthday today, bringing me a punnet of strawberries from his garden, so I finished the day as I started it with strawberries on my cup cake.

‘Best’ of the rest, in poor weather conditions:

Fleshwick and Bradda Hill – 20th June 2020

This relatively short walk – just under 6 miles from home – begins in very easy fashion. There is no short cut to walking along the edge of Port Erin. On reaching the golf course and the outskirts of Ballafession I took a path that is less used, maybe as it goes through someone’s garden, round the back of this hamlet. This takes you to an ancient monument, persistently visible from the road, but one that doesn’t require a second look very often. Today, it was sporting an Isle of Man flag, quite why I don’t know, but perhaps representing our pride in achieving Covid-19 free status, at least temporarily if not permanently.

Cronk Howe Mooar as it is today

It was at this point that I met up with some old friends – cows. What is it that cows find so fascinating about me? I am turning into a ‘cow whisperer’ in that I speak and they obey, but only until I turn my back. It was like playing ‘What’s the Time, Mr Wolf”!

Anyway, I digress. I did not actually go atop the mound, called Cronk Howe Mooar, which looks to all intents and purposes as if it was built by a large dog doing a very big bone scrape. On first excavation in 1812 it was thought to be a natural vestige of the ice age as it contains layers of rocks in a similar sequence to those found in the north. In fact, it is now considered that it is 900 man-made remnant of an ancient fort. Although difficult to see, there is a 10 metre ditch surrounding the motte and bailey castle.

Artist’s impression of Cronk Howe Mooar as it was 900 years ago, although the moat would have been fenced off too

I left the cows and walked both beside and in the stream which leads to the Honna Road (not the best path I have ever seen), then walked up Mill Road to join the pleasant walk down to Fleshwick Bay. This was about 2.5 miles by this stage. Fleshwick Bay is so pretty and unspoilt. It lies in a steep sided valley between Bradda Hill and the Carnanes, so whichever way you go thereafter, it will be uphill, and steep uphill. Before that, I clambered over the rocks and found myself a quiet place to have my picnic and watch a dog swimming in the water as its owner threw pebbles for it to chase.

I was walking back to Port Erin and I had a choice of a walk contouring around the east side of Bradda Hill, or taking the climb and walking along the coast. You can guess which one I opted for.

I am used to this climb, but even so I tend to pause several times on the way up. It is steep, there is no doubt about it. You go from sea level to 200 metres in half a kilometre, with the bulk of it in one section. It is a good soil path and in some ways it is easier to go up than down it, especially if is has been raining.

A clear view of the ascent to Bradda Hill

What views you get from the top! Initially, you can see all the way to Niarbyl and Peel in the north- west then as you continue along the coast path the Calf and Port Erin in the south become visible and Castletown and Langness in the east.

Cronk Ny Arrey Laa with Niarbyl and Peel in the distance

I was walking along the fields before the climb up to Bradda Head where I met a young couple walking from Port Erin to Peel. At the time it didn’t particularly occur to me that it was quite late in the day to be only at this point. They would still have at least another 10 miles to go, including some steep uphills. They wanted to reach Niarbyl by 5pm when the cafe would close, and I thought that if they were good walkers and with a favourable wind they might just make it. As I continued my walk, I began to have doubts and I became quite worried about them. They didn’t seem particularly well equipped and they were already saying when I met them that they needed a drink. A sole walker caught up with me when I was on Bradda Hill and we both agreed that they wouldn’t make it to Niarbyl in time, especially as he informed me the cafe had closed at 3pm, not 5pm as they had believed. This lone walker had taken 3.5 hrs from Niarbyl to Bradda Hill and he was no slouch, he had been walking at a good pace and he seemed quite fit. I decided there and then that I would get home, which would take me about an hour, pick up the car and see if I could find them, and take them to their destination.

Milner Tower and the Calf

I enjoyed my brisk walk across Bradda Hill and Bradda Head, taking the route by Bradda Glen, then the quickest path along the promenade and back home. Going through my head was that if I didn’t find them, the chances of the bus running from Dalby was zilch and they would have no choice but to walk the full distance. The beautiful sunny weather was also just beginning to turn.

Heather just coming into bloom and Port Erin Bay

I dropped off my rucksack and picked up a couple of bottles of water and sped off in my car. The only sensible place I might see them would be on Cronk Ny Arrey Laa by this time. I did check as I went around the Sloc and there was no-one walking there. The only problem was that if they had gone the right way, then they wouldn’t come down to the bend in the road and I would miss them. But at least I would have tried. It was rather cool and breezy when I arrived there. It had been breezy all day but the weather was beginning to deteriorate. I looked up to the summit of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa and I could see a couple walking down towards the car. I couldn’t tell if they were my couple but I could ask whoever it was if they had seen them. And then they were down, and yes, it was them. Would you believe that, and I had only been waiting 5 minutes. They had missed the coast path that would take them to Eary Cushlin. The lady was really pleased to see me, she had had enough of hill climbs, but the man would have liked to continue. Realistically, he didn’t know where he was going or how long it would take them so it wouldn’t have been a good idea to continue. I didn’t give them much choice, and I bundled them in the car, gave them some water and took them to Peel where they were going to get a meal at the Creek.

When I got home, I temporarily had doubts as to whether I should have interfered, but then checked the timetable, and they would have missed the last bus, so they would have ended up tired, cold, miserable and very hungry had they had to walk the full distance. They reminded of a time when I was walking the South West Coast Path with one of my sons, and we came across a man who was completely dehydrated and had collapsed and passed out. His girlfriend had somehow managed to prop him up under a bench so that he wouldn’t roll down the hill (!) while she went to get help, but he was just left there on his own. We stayed with him until he came round, and even then he wouldn’t take our dehydration tablets. Strange what you remember isn’t it, but I think this was in the back of mind when I decided to help this couple.

We had a good chat in the car, and I have heard from them since and they would like to meet up for a walk in the south sometime, and the young lady would like me to teach her Psychology!! 🙂

Distance: 5.89 miles; Total Ascent 1220 ft; Total Descent 1093 ft

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