Christmas Deliveries Part One: Port Erin – 5 miles

Today our postal workers are on strike, so I didn’t have to wait in for any spontaneous delivery. Instead, I decided to take a tour of Port Erin and deliver some of my Christmas cards by hand. You can tell winter is knocking on the door. The drafty winds and grey skies speak a thousand words, so I wrapped up warm in my cosy handmade scarf and hat and set out. Each day is so different; each tide brings in new spoils and smooths out the rough edges on the beach. Each day the sky changes, and even areas across the sky appear to send out different themes and messages. And in between the grey and white clouds, the silvery glows across the sea and the specks of sunshine, even the moon, all make their personal claim to the sea and sky. These stories are told in the photos below, so even if the walk itself was nothing remarkable, the skies let you in to their secrets and make every walk special.

               

 

 

               

 

                        

Ps. No matter how I set out the photos, they always arrange themselves in their own unique way 😉

An afternoon stroll for Christmas Day – Colby Glen

Yes, I know its not Christmas yet, but I shall be away then, and as I strolled through the lovely Isle of Man countryside today I thought this is the most perfect walk for families to get a breath of air after the indulgence of the Christmas turkey. My walk was just over 5 miles altogether, but it can easily be shorted to 2, 3 or 4 miles if you don’t have a lot of time. The best part is the first couple of miles anyway.

I got the bus to Colby, getting off at the river. It is necessary to follow the minor road for a short distance uphill but this allows you time to imagine who lives in the varied houses abutting this gorgeous if small river. You soon arrive at the entrance to the glen; the view comes as a bit of a surprise, as there is no reason to expect the steep sided, wooded valley that encloses the river. Colby Glen is one of our national glens and therefore protected. It isn’t very long; it would take no more than 20 mins to walk end to end and back, but it is very special. The footpath follows the river, sometimes high, sometimes low, but always keeping the river in sight. In summer it is impossible to see the sky but as with Glen Rushen, in winter the trees stand out starkly against the blue sky with the sun glinting through them every now and again.

    

If you enter the Glen at the southern end, you wouldn’t expect to see the wide flat area at the northern end where I am sure I have heard fairies chattering and seen elves darting about amongst the undergrowth. This enchanted place is very magical, calm and quiet, sheltered from the tearing winds that have been slamming against our coastline these last few days and the bustle of everyday life. It is place to stop, take stock or meditate, or sing: many years ago I attended a concert (Meadowside?) being performed on this natural stage. That was late summer and apart from the lovely singing I can only remember batting off mosquito after mosquito on a balmy night.

I followed the contouring bends of the river, drawn by the sound of strongly flowing water. I have been here many times before, but never before have I seen a waterfall! That is probably because I have always followed the footpath signs or simply sat on the benches, or been there in summer when there is little flow. We have had a fair bit of rain, so I imagine all of our many glens will tell a similar tale.

 

Leaving the glen I walked up to Cronk Y Dooney and over to Ballakilpheric, where the path goes through a fine mansion’s back garden. The views over the bay are splendid there. Then on to Scholaby, and Croit-e-Caley, before finishing the main part of the walk at the Shore Inn (about 3.5 miles). There can’t be many places in England where you can start at a river, find a waterfall, walk through meadows and finish at the sea. It is easy to think of this as an ordinary walk, but we are so lucky that our island has tons of walks like this.

 

   

Yesterday, or today, depending on how you look at it, was my 5th Anniversary of living on this island (I moved December 8th 2013), and thankfully I no longer need a work permit. However, I can’t get old yet, as I have another 5 years to go before I am entitled to sheltered housing – if I want it. To mark my 5 years, I set out on a very drizzly and windy evening to walk up to the Brambles (the flat on the cliff where I first lived) to recall the moment I arrived in the dark. On that day, 5 years ago, I parked up the car, with my cat Sam, and all I could hear was the waves crashing against the rocks. In my mind it is very memorable. Sadly, it was impossible to recreate that moment. The wind made it almost impossible to stand up and of course, I see these views and listen to the waves most days, so what was very very special at the time is now my normal way of life, but always appreciated.

That’s two night walks in three nights. Notice I say ‘walks’, not hikes, given that it was pitch black as you have noticed. Question is, can you recognise where I walked to? Hint – I was there only a few days ago. Yes, you’re right, this is Gansey Bay near Port St Mary. I walked to Port St Mary and back on Friday evening to attend an incredibly interesting talk by Neil Morris on Manx Birdlife, and I walked round Carrikey bay only a day or two prior to that.

I had really set out to buy a pint of milk and post a letter. I had had one of those days when I really couldn’t be bothered to get dressed, and had spent most of it in my jimjams knitting Christmas stockings and watching Formula 1. It was time I got out and aired those legs.

It was a very pleasant evening, not too cold and certainly dry, and in any case I was wrapped up warm. Having popped in at the Coop, I smuggled my carton of milk into my coat and went for evening walk onto the beach at Port Erin. There was no moon and as I don’t believe in using torches unless absolutely necessary I did splosh my way through several puddles and trip over the occasional pebble. The tide was quiet tonight. I walked up to the breakwater and noticed in the far distance a greenish light appearing every few seconds and I realised this must be a beacon from a lighthouse in Ireland!

It was just too nice out there to go back home immediately so I followed the main road from Port Erin to Gansey Bay, along Beach Road towards Port St Mary and back to Port Erin along the top road (Truggan Road). I was out altogether for about an hour and a half (distance 5 1/4 miles) and feel so much better for it.

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!

 

Local walks – November 20th 2018

It has been a while since I posted, mostly due to my pesky back problem which has meant I have not been able to do any great walks since the beginning of October. It is improving, but I still have to be careful and avoid too much uphill.

Yesterday, I managed a short walk around Port Erin bay then hopped on a bus to the Shore Hotel and walked home from there. No more than about 4 miles in total but it was refreshing and good to be out. Here are some photos from the last couple of days:

Port St.Mary: Tuesday 20 November

 

Gansey Bay: Tuesday 20 November

   

  

Port Erin: Tuesday 20 November

Port Erin: Monday 19th November

 

 

Body clocks, sleep and exercise

I have unfortunately been experiencing a painful back spasm this week which means I have been out of action (no walking) since I returned from the UK on Sunday. This has not been helped by teaching dance on Monday for several hours, but other than that I have had a sedentary few days teaching Psychology and Sociology, talking to online students and writing essays. One student was preparing some research on the topic of body clocks and exercise and there was a BBC program on this theme this evening, so it is very much in my mind.

Since I have been monitoring my fitness daily since May and done what I consider to be a ridiculous amount of fitness activity and intensity minutes, averaging about 5-7 miles of walking every single day and in addition averaging 210 i.m. per week as well as doing other fitness classes, I am aware of significant changes in my body clock, my mental health and in the way I sleep. Most of the time I feel great, I have finally started to lose a little weight though sadly very little 😦 , I eat less and I have a lot of energy.

I should say I am not an early bird, but then neither am I a night owl, but there has been a shift. First of all, I wake up now at dawn and feel relatively ready for the day – not necessarily for a jog, but I am awake and alert. I could easily do some mental work and often do. My body doesn’t seem to wake up fully and I can be quite sluggish if I have to have physical exercise until about 11am (as I found out in Mallorca) and then I can keep going all day, uphill, down dale, wherever or however long my walk or exercise takes me. I am usually out for a maximum of 4 hours, mostly over lunchtime. It is as if a switch goes on, the effect is so dramatic sometimes, especially if it is accompanied by a little food or drink. However, I think it is no coincidence that I am out in the fresh air when the amount and intensity of light at its greatest, especially during the summer and this is having a long-term effect on my circadian rhythms, so I am more active in the day and sleep better at night.

I have never liked exercising in the evening, say after 6.30pm, but I do find tea-time is a great time for muscular strength and flexibility work such as Pilates or Yoga. The body is warmed up through general movement during the day and hormones such as cortisol (stress hormone) are at their lowest so this is a good time to stretch out your body.  As darkness ensues the hormone melatonin increases to encourage you to sleep, which all sounds very sensible. When I had my dance school, I taught ballroom dancing most nights finishing about 10pm, so I didn’t experience the onset of darkness or relaxation until very late so my hormones didn’t kick in at the usual time. Not only was I very active all evening but the lights in the hall were bright, especially in winter; I had to eat at strange times and I found it impossible to sleep before midnight when I got home. I didn’t get up at dawn when I had that life. I used to complain to my doctor at Blisworth that I was always tired, but he dismissed me out of hand, as I always looked so well, and of course in every other way, I was very well and extremely fit, just very tired!!

I have also found that I have started going to bed earlier, about 9.30pm when I can. This means I actually get more sleep cycles, even if I lie awake for some time in the early hours. I think few people have problems with restorative sleep as that occurs predominantly in the first sleep cycles, but I am certain that in the past I have not had enough REM sleep, and when I have been zonked out from a lack of sleep I do notice that I dream more and for longer, and I always feel better for catching up this type of sleep. The length of dreaming sleep takes up a much larger proportion of a sleep cycle as the night goes on, and it is thought that this allows consolidation of memories, which may account for why I have such as lousy memory 😉

This week I have barely been out of the house and I do feel that my new healthy pattern is being disrupted. I have been surrounded by grey light all day as the days are getting shorter and there has been no sun, and the lack of physical activity is making me feel groggy and it is affecting my sleep. As you can see I am awake now at midnight, when I would normally be asleep.

This makes me think of those people with chronic fatigue and other disabling illnesses which prevent them from being active or getting outside. I wonder what happens to their various body clocks when are unable to get out and about. I suffered from a long term illness for 5 years; I learnt to live with morning tiredness but I would make sure I went out for an hour or two each day, no matter how painful or difficult it was. Maybe I did myself a favour that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. My concern was about losing muscle strength but maybe it also improved my sleep.

So for me, increasing my exercise and exercising late morning to early afternoon has had a significant impact on my sleep / wake cycle. This of course, is my story, and I am no expert in this field. Other people will have different but similar stories of how exercise at different times of day affects their sleep and body clocks. I would be interested to know how tennis players and formula 1 drivers cope will the rapid changes of time zones and sleep patterns and still manage to maintain their peak performances. For those with more usual occupations like you and me, some will find it hard to change their work patterns however much they would like to – nurses on shift work with a young family is an example that springs to mind, but it’s good to be aware of how your own body clock works and how to optimise it for good health and wellbeing. If you haven’t seen it, the programme below is well worth watching:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bn5ys4/horizon-2018-9-body-clock-what-makes-us-tick

Hopefully I shall be back walking again next week, maybe Tuesday – and normal service will be resumed.