Greeba Mountain – 2nd October 2019

1a. View across to Greeba Mountain

Greeba Mountain is not technically speaking a mountain as it doesn’t reach the giddy heights of 600 metres. In fact, it falls well short at 422 metres and is the peak you can see above the plantation, looking rather apologetic. This was our second ‘peak’ of the day, our first being the traverse of Slieau Roy at 479 metres. I notice the word Slieau contains the word ‘eau’ which is of course, french for ‘water’, which is very apt considering the boggy nature of the peat hills. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We started out from Crosby village, the visitors arriving on the bus and the locals arriving by car. We took the A23 out of Crosby – sounds as if it’s a proper road doesn’t it, but actually it is just a minor lane with little traffic. The road climbs gently from the start all the way up to and around Cronk my Moghlane. It doesn’t take long before you can see the full extent of the valley between Douglas and Peel, and what strikes you most of all is the distant views, the lack of housing and the large amount of patchwork green fields. We are so used to travelling down that valley with its numerous villages dotted along the way,  that it doesn’t seem at all remote, but once you get up on the hills you have a completely different sense of island and what it’s all about.

We continued gently uphill following a grassy track full of humps and hollows made by the bikes in former years, now forbidden on this path, and contoured around the  eastern side of Slieau Ruy, which gave excellent views of the neighbouring hill called Colden (487 metres) and its shoulder The Creg – ‘creg’  meaning ‘rock’. I don’t know what Colden means…  now I do. It comes from the Scandinavian word Kollrinn, meaning the ‘top’ or ‘summit’. Just to complete the Manx lesson Slieau Roy means ”Red Mountain’, supposedly taking its name from the heather. In former times, many flowers were called red even though they were pink or purple; and Greeba is also of Scandinavian origin from the word ‘Gripa’ meaning ‘peak’.

 

11. View of x from my point

It was a little blustery but we so relieved to see the sun after yesterday’s torrential rain that had completed wiped out Laxey and caused landslides on Snaefell. As we reached the col, we turned back along the ridge to the top of Slieau Roy.  It might have been time for lunch, but the weather was not conducive to sitting on boggy ground with the wind whistling past our faces, so we continued undaunted if a little hungry on to the lesser Greeba Mountain. The views in all directions were wonderful and we could spy the wind turbines at Morecambe, Black Combe and the other mountains of the western Lake District and in the other direction we could see the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland. Who cares whether or not Greeba mountain is a real mountain. It is lovely place to stop and stare.

After this we descended off the moorland into one of many plantations in this area, this one with the unimaginative name of Greeba Forest, also known as King’s Forest. Believe it or not, there was an unusual battle here as late as 1937 between police with firearms and feral sheep, who were slaughtered to prevent the spread of sheep scab. I wish I had known that little trifle of knowledge as I was walking down the hill.  As it was, I was very happily engaged in very pleasant conversations with visitors who were part of our walking festival. You can see them below – how many different ways of smiling (or grimacing) can you spot?

18. The top

As we had made good time, we finished our walk by crossing over the ever so busy St John’s road and made our way to the heritage trail, which was formerly a railway line between Douglas and Peel. It has recently been upgraded and totally spoiled (in my opinion) in order to accommodate cyclists and possibly wheelchairs. It is now a wide uninteresting shingly type of path that won’t make anyone want to go for a walk. It has lost all its character and there is no longer any sense of its history. But times move on, and so must I.

I leave this blog on a high note. I had a wonderful day, and met some really interesting people. It is so wonderful to share our love of this island with visitors and to hear their stories of their travels. Thank you so much to the Walking Festival, and to our leader, Ken and assistants Belinda and Gayle, who have given up their time to take us out for the day. I can’t join them for their other events this week, but I hope the weather holds up for all the walkers.

Distance: 9 miles; Ascent 1408 ft; Descent 1424 ft. I will attach a short slide show of other photos from today after the map.

Map1a

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Ridge Walk Snaefell to Ramsey – 30th September 2019

This was a first, at least for me. For the last twenty years I have visited the Isle of Man and the last five years I have been living here, yet in all that time I had not done this spectacular ridge walk. We could have hoped for a sunny day, but this is the Isle of Man where we are more likely to encounter strong winds and rain or the dastardly Mananan’s cloak, but we could be lucky…

It all started out so promisingly as I drove to Laxey in bright sunshine, and the forecast promising not to disappoint until 4pm. The other walkers arrived at the station and it was still just about sunny as we hopped on the tram up to the top of Snaefell. As we reached Bungalow we realised the weather had other intentions as the top became swirled in mist. I could almost feel my fellow walkers psychologically putting on hats and wet-weather gear in anticipation. I did feel disappointed for the visitors to the island who might have hoped the see the seven kingdoms of Man, but it was not to be. However, you can see what a cheery lot we are as we set on down the mountain.

No view at the top

We reached the TT course and crossed over to start our ascent. Although classified as a strenuous route, this seemed a misnomer as we were starting at the highest point, with a few ups and downs but mostly downs until we reached the sea.

The ridge affords some wonderful views even in this semi-cloudy state. Every now and again clouds would swell up in the valleys and filter across the shoulders of the hills and engulf everything in their path; in between we had some fine glimpses into the distance and occasionally saw the Lake District and even less occasionally saw Scotland. I waved to my son, James, who is wild camping in Galloway though I couldn’t see Scotland at all at that moment, and instantly I received a video text from him waving to me and saying he couldn’t see the Isle of Man either. Talk about coincidences.

Our first hill was Clagh Ouyr  (551 m), followed by two unnamed hills. I did think we should have given these demoted tops some appropriate names to identify them given them as they are still good heights for the Isle of Man, the first at 550 metres and the second 533 metres. The superior-minded North Barrule, which is only a matter of 565 metres seems to think it literally rules the place, which I guess it does. The pointy peak reminded me of Thorpe Cloud in Derbyshire. It’s not a difficult climb, being mostly on peat. It was rather boggy in places but easy walking along the ridge.

The peak route

As lunch approached, so did the clouds and we sensed a change in the weather. Our guide, who for some reason I keep wanting to call Steven, but whose name is actually Ken, pointed out that the formation of clouds showed that the rain was just being held at bay, and we hoped long enough for us to make our descent.

Spirits were still high as you can see, though I did wonder who was challenging who to jump off first.

North Barrule itself is a lovely hill and its one of those where you feel you want to abandon your rucksack and run up it and be a child again for a moment, but this was not quite the day for such frivolities.

The route down is a little tedious as it is very uneven, wet and boggy and therefore a little slippery. Even so, we did have some splendid view of cloud formations over Ramsey Bay.

Ramsey 1

We eventually met a green road taking up to Ballure Reservoir and Glen. The reservoir was completely dry, which is ironic as at this point the heavens opened. It is only dry for maintenance and it was interesting to see it without any water. We proceeded down the glen amongst the trees and finished on the beach.

It was a really great walk and one that I can imagine I shall do many times in the future. Thanks to the Isle of Man Walks Festival for putting this on and many many other walks every day for a week. I look forward to seeing you again on Wednesday for Greeba Mountain if you will have me after I was telling what an unsociable walker I usually am!

Distance 7.39 miles; Elevation 854 ft; Descent 2734 ft

Snaefell

A short walk around Peel and Glen Maye

I had been to Peel Cathedral for Evensong. It was a very special evensong, with the very musical group Voces Insulae providing the choral repertoire. It was absolutely beautiful and the bible readings too stood out above the norm for some inexplicable reason. The cathedral was particularly resonant today.  I guess some days are like that.

Having started out as an inconveniently wet night and morning, it had now brightened up, so I strolled down to Peel beach where the wind had whipped up froth that looked like candyfloss. I then did the circuit of the exterior of Peel Castle, passed the spot on the point where my grandchildren, son and I had had a memorable picnic about this time last year. As I came round to Fenella Beach you could imagine St Patrick’s island cut off from Peel as great swathes of sand seem to almost continue seamlessly from one side of the harbour to the other.

I then traversed the low route contouring around the east side of Peel Hill back to my car, intending to get home in good time to cook my tea before the ‘Strictly’ results show,. Peel look very colourful and appealing in the soft late afternoon light.

I just had to pop in to my favourite glen on the way back for a bit of magic. And I was not disappointed. As you can see the fairies had made their ring to dance around, though they hid in the undergrowth when I turned up.

Fairy Ring

I could hear the waterfall well before I could see it. It was spewing out copper and peat coloured water and although there was quite a torrent it was nothing like I had witnessed a month or two ago.

On one side of the ravine, the water was dripping down the side of the rocks looking life hanging vines.

Rain drops
Rain drops looking like hanging vines

I managed to watch Strictly – no surprise as to who was sent home there then – then settled down to watch ‘Millionaire’ as well, when I decided to make some fruit cake to take out tomorrow on my first walk with the Island Walking Festival’s Weeks’ Walks, so I dodged out in the intervals and I now have a full stock of food to take with me tomorrow.

I shall be walking from Snaefell along the tops to Ramsey, and on Wednesday doing a circular route taking in Greeba Mountatin, before I leave the island for a little while to visit family and have a week’s holiday with HF in the Lake District. I will try and write a blog about each of these walks that I haven’t ever done before!

Bradda Head – 13th September 2019

You know what they say – you can’t keep a good dog, or in my case, woman down. Two consecutive days of walking. What a treat. Today, I had relatives visiting so what an opportunity to show them some of the outstanding scenery on our doorstep. On Thursday I headed south, yesterday I headed north from Port Erin.

We met at Bradda Glen restaurant, which is an excellent starting point for this walk if you don’t want to walk the extra mile from Port Erin. We followed the Coronation footpath to Milner Tower,  stopping at various points to describe the scenery, tell tales or just to enjoy each others’ company in the balmy autumn wind and sun. It was our warmest day for a while, and the sky was very blue.

The top

We didn’t pass a soul on our way to Fleshwick. The path down from the Bradda cairn was a little slippery and uneven, surprising considering the lack of rain, but by the time we reached the steep descent the path was dry and easier to conquer. We did meet a lady blackberrying with her dog and a group of holiday makers on a walk and a drone, i.e. a mechanical instrument, not a humble bee or rude name for a boring person!! The drone did rather spoil the ambience.

On the tops we had the splendid views towards Peel. I could stay up here for hours, with views of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on a good day. It is just perfect, well maybe a couple of weeks earlier would have been even better as the colour of the heather would have given the senses a real boost. But you can still imagine what it looks like in its rich colour, can’t you?

Towards Cronk Ny Arrey Laa

Our return route contoured around the base of the Bradda group on an easy footpath then joined the road through East Bradda back to Bradda Glen. This was followed by a lovely evening together at The Shore Hotel. The food was magnificent and rounded off a super day with friends.

Fleshwick Bay.JPG

Fleshwick Beach

And the start of the route down, which drops off steeply at this point:

What goes up must go down.JPG

Most of my photos were of my friends, so I can’t include many today.

Distance: 4.71 miles (Bradda Glen circular); ascent 1092 ft; descent 1060ft. Maximum elevation 732ft – not bad for cliffs.

68235

Cregneash, Chasms, Sound, Port Erin – 12th September 2019

This was my first ‘step out’ for some time, at least a couple of weeks, as I have been ascertaining the effect of hill walking on my metabolism. Having decided it was having no direct ill effect on my health, I am happy to report you will find me wandering out and about the local hills as usual, and further afield over the next six months.

This afternoon I stretched my legs and walked from home, up the Golden Road, which is not at all golden at the moment, but does have heaps of blackberries and Speckled Wood butterflies. I am pretty sure I also saw a Comma or a Fritillary, but you know butterflies they are gone before you have a chance to see them!

I started out in reasonable weather, but it wasn’t long before the rains came, but I was suitably attired and enjoyed my walk up Meayll Hill. The heather has mostly turned now but the gorge looked very sunny in the rain. On the top Meayll Hill I passed by the stone circle in the featured image at the top and veered slightly out of my way and found an old ‘bunker’ from the days of the WW11 radar station. Not sure what would have been contained here. Maybe it goes underground… there’s the start of a thriller.

Cregneash

Over to Cregneash, up and over the top and down to the glorious Chasms – and the sun came out. The sheep made their own stone circle shape and stood out very effectively against the scenery. This next section has always been one of my favourite parts of our wonderful island, round Black Head and Spanish Head. One of the Loaghtan sheep was poised like King Orry observing pirates out at sea simultaneously guarding his flock.

A little further on and I was down at the Sound in the early evening sunlight. There were few people here now but I stopped at the cafe to replenish my stocks then continued on past Rocky Valley over the hills to Port Erin. The low sunlight was casting wonderful shadows and shapes that gave distinctive images of the rocks with the play of light and dark, but goodness was it windy!!

More sheep – usually, as you know, with me it cows – but sheep it was today. The brown Loaghtan sheep looked wild and scruffy whereas the cream coloured sheep looked as if they had just been in the washer in time for their photo shoot.

Sheep and the Tower

I can never resist taking a photo of one of my favourite gates on the Isle of Man. As I walked around the bay I observed the light was reflecting on the sand and on the beach the lugworms had taken over from the children building sandcastles.

If you are a new visitor to the Isle of Man, this is a walk not to miss. You can start from Port St Mary and follow the coast, getting the steam train or bus back to Port Erin, or if you just want to best bits, take a car to the quarry car park at Cregneash and follow my walk to Port Erin. In summer there is a bus that will take you back to Cregneash.

Total distance 7.5 miles (home to home); 1339 ft of ascent, similar descent, probably a little more. Moderate walking. Highest point to Sound 501ft (no details of height of highest hill from Sound to PE).

Maps:

Other points of interest from the wildlife: Do let me know if you can identify the caterpillar.

 

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Conrhenny Plantation 25th August 2019

The view

What a glorious day for a wildflower walk, away from Port Erin that was bathed in Mananan’s Cloak for most of the day. Being Bank Holiday Sunday we were a small group but this only added to the enjoyment. I have walked through Conrhenny Plantation before with the U3A but I have never stopped and stared at the vegetation or wondered at the myriad of butterflies happily darting from Buddleia bush to another. We were also fortunate to see a most amazing insect, rather like an overgrown mosquito feeding on Angelica. Just look at that tail! One of my erudite and expert friends informs me that it is an Ichneumon Parasitic Wasp. If you want to know more about this not-so-angelic-as-it-looks creature take a look at this Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxHckvpbopQ

Mosquito

Insect 2

We started out from the car park having dowsed ourselves in sun cream to protect ourselves from the unrelenting sun. Just a few metres along and we had our first encounter with wildlife, looking at the tiny but well-formed Mouseear, so named because its petals are duple and each one looks like… you guessed it, a mouse’s ear. We also saw pearlwort, another tiny flower that you would walk over time and time again without noticing it.

We made our way through puddles and streams towards the man-made ponds – wish I had worn my wellies. I didn’t even know there were ponds here, and we saw some rare species, including Cape Pondweed. The yellow lesser spearwort and blue water forget-me-nots gave even more colour to the ponds. As summer turns into autumn there are fewer flowers and more seedheads, so colour turns from yellows blues and reds into more sombre browns and dull greens.

View 3

Water Forget-Me-Not

As we continued along the edge of the ponds, we came across a host of peacock butterflies, a few painted ladies and red admiral on the Buddleia. These are the first peacock butterflies I have seen all summer. The painted ladies were not looking their best compared with a few weeks ago when they all rushed in from abroad.

Peacock Butterfly

Simon, our fount of all flower knowledge, showed us some Japanese Hogweed – sorry, Japanese Knotweed – in flower and pointed out that its bad reputation is really not deserved and if left in peace it would spread, but so much more slowly than when the demolition team try to dig it up and scatter roots and stems in all directions.

Japanese Hogweed in Flower

The views are tremendous looking out toward the sea between Douglas and Laxey, especially when the grasses, sedges and wild flowers are allowed to dictate the scene, as in the photo below where the hogweed seed heads look as tall as trees against the distant horizon.

 

Majestic Hogweed

The pendulous sedge looked very proud along the forest edge, and in another view the willowherbs were the centre of attention against their backdrop of fields and hills.

Sedge

 

Amongst all this finery, I think my favourite species of the day was the humble Spear-leaved Thistle, looking showy with its nest of furry seeds. Following close on its heels was the equally humble Horsetail with it sporophtye standing proudly erect amongst the fronds of its plant.

Spear Thistle

Horsetail

And finally to add some colour to the late warm afternoon, here is some Yellow Loosestrife, often seen in gardens.

Yellow Loosestrife

Conrhenny Plantation 2

 

 

Postcard from Port Erin, 15th August 2019

Boat2

I shall be off island for a few days visiting my lovely daughter, Sarah, and her husband, so I thought I would send you a postcard to remind you just how beautiful our skies are here in Port Erin.

This wasn’t an intentional evening walk, but then they often aren’t with me :-).  I was forced to have an impromptu visit to Shoprite as earlier in the day I had bought a scratchcard and hey presto, I won a very welcome windfall of £100! How’s that for serendipity as it is one of those months when my cash flow is not flowing so well. I walked up to Bradda Glen Restaurant to book an evening meal for myself and two friends at the end of the month. The restaurant (set in a wonderful location overlooking the bay for those who don’t know the island) is under new management, so we absolutely must give it a try. It does look a little barren inside at the moment. It could do with some colour and character, but there were quite a few people there enjoying their meals, which is what really matters.

I walked back along the coast path. The tide was well out. It had been a warm day with a light, perhaps cool breeze, perfect for me at the moment. My doctor today informed me that it is possible I may have an autoimmune illness as well as a parathyroid problem, which together are messing about with my metabolism so I get very hot at the moment, and I have ‘sticky blood’ making everything I do very tiring. The breeze though was just lovely and cooled me down and I am always happy when I am out and about, as you well know. It’s always good to walk along the beach when the tide is almost fully out. You never quite know what creatures or shells you will come across. Tonight, there were a lot of lion’s mane jellyfish on the beach.

Walking past Spaldrick, the light was quite enticing, so I captured the bay for you.

View

Then I walked along the beach out to the end of the breakwater on the southern side that you can see in this photo, and back along the prom home, a total distance of about 3-4 miles. I feel so blessed to be able to live on this island and enjoy evening walks like this from my doorstep.

And now I must check my emails from my psychology and sociology students as it A Level results day, and then pack for my weekend away. See you on the other side of the weekend.