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.