Silverdale and Grenaby (again) with more history

This walk has a lot of stiles as commented on by many of my group but by compensation such a lot of beauty – a tranquil river, spectacular spring flowers, historical features and distant vistas. Having walked this route twice recently as I was leading a U3A group along these paths yesterday, I am amazed how a single week can make such a difference. The wild garlic are now out in full force, whereas last week they were just appearing. The field grass is about a foot tall in places now and the meadows of lady’s smock (cuckoo flower) were even more beautiful and the orange tip butterflies were enjoying their abundance.

I think my wildflower and historical notes really inspired my walkers as it took us an hour and a quarter just to walk a mile up the glen to Athol Bridge as we would stop at anything interesting or unusual. Perhaps I should have publicised it as a nature walk.

We began by grouping together on the bridge by the ford while I gave them a short history of the river and Ballasalla, with the aim of showing that river, albeit fairly small, has played a significant role in this landscape. There have been numerous mills over the centuries mostly involved with the cotton industry (rather than a flour mill). As yet, we don’t know quite where the cotton came from, whether or not it was grown on the IOM. Most interesting, for me at any rate, was the wide number of occupations that were found in Ballasalla in 1837 – two blacksmiths, 3 boot and shoe makers, one brewer, 3 joiners and carpenters, 2 millers, 2 milliners and dressmakers, 8 shopkeepers (!), 3 tailors, 1 tanner, 4 taverns etc etc. You can read more here if you are interested. https://www.gov.im/media/633197/silverdaleappraisalwithpicsv2.pdf I guess today there would still be variety but not closely linked to the natural environment in the same way.

We walked along the riverbank to look at the violets, alexanders, celandine, herb robert, red campion and wonderful wood anemones that were just beginning to go over but still looked fab. There were bluebells and a few wild garlic here and there in this section, but much more wild garlic further on. Deeper into the glen we saw wood sorrel, stitchwort and masses of wild garlic that would challenge Wordsworth’s view of golden daffodils. In the photos I have included my painting of the mineral water factory, which is really part of the old Cregg Mill buildings. Just before the mill where there is the boating lake is the old water wash ladder, presumably for cleaning the cotton, seen in the middle photo below.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this walk is that the river footpath on the other side of the Ballamodha is closed necessitating a short walk up the hill. Suprisingly there were more wildflowers on the embankment, inlcuding ivy-leaved toadflax and bugle, the latter not usually considered to be a wild flower, and some distance from any habitation. We even saw some trailing St. John’s wort – that wasn’t out last week, neither was the garlic mustard that we saw at Grenaby bridge.

As we crossed the road, we took a farmer’s grassy track. The pussy willow looked beautiful, and the lamb’s looked delightful gambolling in the fields. We stopped for a very belated lunch (2 miles and 1 and 3/4 hr of walking!!) at the creepy doll’s house on the corner at Grenaby. It is in a desperate state of repair but it is a fantastic location and is up for sale at £500,000.

Normally, I don’t like road walking, but we had a walk of about 15 minutes along a very quiet lane. What was particularly nice about this was that we could walk and chat alongside each other and it was very pleasant. We then took field paths, saying hello to some beautiful bay and black horses who seemed pleased to have some company, passing over many rickety stiles across fields with massive clumps of lady’s smock, a mound to negotiate and surprisingly beautiful gently sloping hills to the north of the quarry, and finished by taking the back path by Ballahott into Ballasalla with a ‘surprise’ ending. Having started by walking through masses of wild garlic, we were able to walk a less frequented path that took us round the back of the stunning art and craft houses above Rushen Abbey, that led into woodland brimming with wild garlic in flower right by the car park, just after a most beautiful field of dandelions.

The walk was actually 5.5 miles and would usually take about 2.5 hours but on a day like this, with so much to see, allow yourself lots of time. We took 4 hours and it wasn’t a minute too long.

To finish, here are two maps of this area. The first shows just how narrow the glen really is and what a micro climate it creates for itself and the second is an old map showing how tiny Ballasalla was in days gone past.

Silverdale and beyond 13th March 2022

This is always such a delightful walk, especially in the spring. Give it a few more weeks and the wild garlic and bluebells will be out.

I started out from the Abbey Hotel car park in Ballasalla. There is a large public car park here in addition to the private car park for the hotel. You find yourself beside the picturesque ford over the Silverburn, a popular spot for photographers and children alike, as they have fun crossing from one side to the other. If you do this, just be careful. It can be a tad slippery.

I followed the path north beside the river up to the ancient Monk’s Bridge and continued taking the winding path beside the river up to the Mill, passing Cam’s tree. There are a number of different paths, but most are likely to be muddy at this time of year. There are various things of interest on this river walk. It was noticeable that the storms have wreaked havoc with a number of trees having had to be felled.

After about half a mile there is a cafe and duck pond at the Mill; today model boat enthusiasts were out skimming their boats across the water. If you have time on your hands you can have a look at the pretty river to the right, as we have digressed from this path. We continue past the old dairy and into the woodland where we rejoin the river. Here there were masses of daffodils, Wordsworth would be proud.

Reaching the Ballamodha Road, usually the route continues beside the river, but at the time of writing (and for some time) this path has been closed. I believe the bank beside the river has deteriorated and is unsafe. This necessitates a walk up the road for about 5-7 minutes to join a higher path leading to Grenaby. I have walked this in the opposite direction many times, but never this way. It is absolutely delightful and has wonderful views towards South Barrule and the south and you can pick out the route of the river below you. As well as crossing through fields, this takes you through and interesting woodland, and you eventually find yourself at the bridge with the doll’s house beside it. This is for sale if you are interested.

Crossing the bridge and turning left up the hill for a short distance, the road then leads to the right. Had we been able to walk by the river that path comes out just above the junction. There is no choice but to walk along this road for about 15 minutes, but it is a very quiet lane and once on the top (our highest point for the day) you can literally see for miles – the southern uplands to the right as on the cover photo and the sea to the left.

I took the first public footpath to the south. Unfortunately the gate collapsed as I tried to open it as the post securing the gate was rotten. Down it went and being on my own there was no way I could life a heavy steel gate. Hopefully when the entrance is repaired the farmer (or whoever is responsible for it) will consider putting in a stille or kissing gate for walkers. Fortunately, this does not lead into a standard field with sheep but more of a track around a field. The path goes left, almost parallel with the road. Keep left over a bridge and stile and continue to the next one. When you reach a large field head for the H shaped pylon as it is difficult to see the exit from this field initially. The route continues across another field to a kissing gate in the left corner.

Here you meet a horizantal track. Turn left and follow the track for the short distance bearing right at the next junction. You will see a mound of rubble obscuring the entrance to the next footpath, which is clearly signposted. You can just about get around the side of the mound of rubble. You will be surprised by the lovely view you get. There is a small stream winding its way down the slight hill to the left and a smooth hill to the right. The path takes you down to the left corner, through some more mud at the gate, and following the stream to a bridge where the stream diverts to the right.

At this point you are nearing the quarry. I have never walked on this section of the path. If you have an OS map the path originally went in a more direct fashion to the main road, but now you have to skirt around the quarry, at times getting glimpses into it. There are two or three ladder stiles, all of which are quite steep and it is absolutely essentially to go down them backwards. After the last stile (still circling the quarry) you enter one final field, where you turn right to join the road at Cross Four Ways. There is a pavement on the other side of the road, but you may be surprised to learn that there is a lake opposite, completely hidden by trees and inaccessible. It must be a haven for migrating birds.

There is a choice at this point, either to continue walking along the pavement back to Ballasalla or to do as I did and walk up the unpaved Ballamodha road for 5 mins to turn onto a footpath taking you through a farmstead, across fields with fine views to Rushen Abbey. From here, it is a short walk back to the cars, either by the river or the back road whichever you prefer.

This is an easy walk, but muddy in the glen and when crossing the fields, so you do need boots. You get extensive views and variety of scenery without very much ascent. What ascent there is is gradual. However, there are quite a few stiles, some which are a little tricky to negotiate, so if you have difficulty with stiles, this may be one to miss out. But for everyone else, it is pure joy, especially on a sunny day. Distance 5.75 miles, 593ft ascent; 643ft descent.

As always, if you want to look at one of the photos in detail, just click on it and you will be able to see the full view.

Silverdale in the Fall – 29th October

This should have been a wellie walk and would have been had this not been a spur of the moment decision to catch the bus to Ballasalla to admire the trees beside the Silverburn before they lose their leaves for the winter. I was lucky. It was pouring with rain as I left home to go to the post office so had already donned my waterproof trousers and waterproof trainers. I was midway from home to the village when I made my decision and what a good decision it was. The trees were magnificent in their autumn glory and the river was flowing with all its might, furiously tippling and toppling over stones on its way to the sea.

I won’t bother you with the details but will leave you with some photos to enjoy. Maybe they will give you pause for thought, that bad weather can bring moments of joy and enlightenment that never can be anticipated, and to try would be to spoil the occasion.

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:

Ballasalla to Crosby (almost): 9.3 miles, 597 ft ascent

What to do during TT (other than watch the racing)? Walk some of the Millenium Way of course.  At a risk of putting some of you off attempting it, the southern section is a mix of some lovely scenery, as in Silverdale Glen and some super views to the south, but a lot of road walking and, as it has been raining a lot in the last 10 days, muddy footpaths.

I met up with a friend who I had met when I hosted the Facebook U3A walking page for the Isle of Man, and we boarded the number 12a bus at Port Erin railway station which took us to Ballasalla for the start of our walk. From here, we walked down to the Ford, where a biker walked into the water, stood in the middle for a second or two, then retraced his steps to the other side! Strange…

DSC00574We followed the lovely Silverdale river past the Monk’s Bridge (above) up to the boating lake where we had a short break, then continued past the old waterworks – or more correctly, the now defunct spring water factory to the main Ballamodha Road.

This is the first stretch of road walking,  which in itself is not unattractive – it affords great views of South Barrule – but the road was relatively busy by Isle of Man standards.

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We were quite relieved when after a mile or so, we turned off the road onto the footpath, that would eventually take us to St. Marks. At one point, we went through a farm yard where a friendly dog kept yapping at us to the consternation of its owner. At the far end of the farm was a sign pinned to a barn, saying in no uncertain terms that persons should “shut and fasten the gate, or be liable to a fine of forty shillings”. We duly shut the gate, not having forty shillings on us, and continued on the path, which appeared to peter out shortly afterwards. We continued northwards across a field, before I thought this was wrong route and we retraced our steps to find a very clear sign pointing across a different field, which we had missed completely because of the angle of the sign on approaching it. Here started the mud, and many gates that were only fit for very skinny people and not people with rucksacks. The grass was long and wet which helpfully cleaned our boots intermittently. As we went over a shrubby stream, Ros saw a frog. At various points on our walk we saw a small copper butterfly, a female common blue butterfly and a number of dead birds! As we approached Crosby we did see a bird of prey but could not identify it.

On, over the grassy meadows and reedbeds, we finally reached St. Marks where we had lunch and visited the absolutely delightful church; simple and unassuming, warm and welcoming. You can even help yourself to tea and coffee, but as we had brought ample supplies for ourselves, we did not partake.

From here it was more road walking, but this time on quieter roads that barely see traffic, but do bring with them views to the north and the valley in between.  This walk makes one aware of what a watery place the Isle of Man is, with streams at the end of every few fields. There is no doubt that even walking along roads makes you aware of the local scenery in a way you wouldn’t otherwise see it.

 

DSC00611As we came closer to Crosby we could hear the buzz of the motor bikes and saw what we thought was a TV helicopter following the racing. On this stretch of road, Ros found an abandoned egg shell. It was almost the size of a hen’s egg, was buff coloured and very slightly speckled, as you can see in the photograph. If anyone can identify this, please add a comment to this blog.

Unfortunately, I have had a problem with my Achilles tendon for the last month – I know, nothing stops me walking until I am forced to face the problem – and as we reached Marown old church, where we were due to turn right to go to Glen Vine, I was forced to take a break. At the same time, who should come out of the church but a friend from choir who happens to live just down the road from me! What a happy coincidence. Ros and I had a half second discussion and decided we should ask if he was going back to Port Erin. And, of course, he was. My poor ankle was so very grateful. We had been intending to walk another 4-5 miles along the railway track back to Douglas, but my foot clearly thought otherwise. Someone up there was obviously watching over me today, as I can be my own worst enemy.

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This opportune event allowed said friend and I to catch up and Ros and I passed a very pleasant 20 minutes sitting comfortably in his car listening to stories and finding out what is happening elsewhere. He dropped us off at our respective houses and continued on his way to Shoprite. And I, for once, did as I was told and bathed by ankle in ice cold water. So, probably no more walks for a bit – sad face – and a holiday in Crete – happy face – but I do have a short but interesting walk to write up from walking around and inside the cliffs of Port Erin this last week, so another blog to follow shortly.