Around the Carnanes and Lhiatee ny Beinnee – 8.5 miles

I can see this group of hills from the back of my house and they are very inviting on bright sunny day. There are many options to start this walk from a number of different places and a number of different ways of reaching the tops. However, today, or actually yesterday as I write this, I chose to walk from home. I didn’t have a specific plan other than to reach the highest point on these delightful mounds of hummocks, which is Lhiatee ny Beinnee (White Hill, due to the quartz I imagine) at just under 1000ft. Of course, there are undulations along the way so your total climb will be more than this, and in places it is steep, especially if you start at Fleshwick.

My route took me along the outskirts of Port Erin to Ballabeg and up the quiet lane to Surby. I noticed what appears to be a well just to the side of the road on someone’s forecourt. From here, it is a green lane following a stream which is full of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Some traditional cottages can be seen on this path and as you climb out of the valley you are rewarded by tremendous views to the south. The lane eventually peters out into a footpath, which today, or yesterday, was looking a little sad as the gorse has been severely pruned leaving a mini wasteland compared to previously. This is only a short section and a stile and gate inform you that you are now on the lower edge of the moorland of the Carnanes.

As you glance northwards it is impossible to avoid seeing the many cairns on top of the hillocks, many of which I have clambered up in the past, and some never until today. There is a good reason to stick to the paths between the cairns as I shall explain later, but for now take a look at the undergrowth in the photo to the right above and you may guess what’s coming. For now, I followed the northerly path which gradually veers to the west and gives you tremendous views of the Irish Sea and on a day with good visibility Ireland. Adjusting your eyes to the right it is possible to sea Scotland too, and Black Combe in the distance across the water to England in the opposite direction. Now you know why we have our three legs of man.

Can you spot Anglesey and Snowdonia in this photo?

I stopped for lunch (a sandwich of chicken, chutney, fresh sage and thyme – yummy) at a small cairn overlooking Bradda Hill towards Fleshwick Bay, Port Erin and Port St Mary. I could also see out way beyond Port St Mary and in the very far distance I could see Anglesey and Snowdonia. It was one of those days that provides exciting views on all directions. I had thought of heading south at this point, but instead I went as I had promised myself to the top of the big hill so that I could see Cronk Ny Array Laa looming out of the sea and a bit further along the shoreline, Niarbyl peeking out from under its cliffs and even Peel Hill in the far distance. This ‘detour’ meant that I had to return along the same path back to my lunch cairn. By an incredible stroke of coincidence I bumped into someone I met last summer on this very same part of the hill, so we had a socially-distanced chat for a few minutes. He was walking back to PSM via Port Erin if, as he said, his legs were up to it (i.e. the steep climb up to Bradda Hill).

I had already decided my route. The Bradda Hill circular is a regular walk for me, so this time, I decided to give that part of the coastal footpath a miss, and instead went craghopping from cairn to cairn around the Carnanes. Sounds great until you try to find a different path off it. I could see the main path only 50 metres away, only between me and it was thick gorse and heather. Any sane person would have retraced their steps, but this is me, and I waded through scratchy gorse sometimes 3ft deep. I did think at one point I had taken on more than I could chew, but I persevered and finally met the path. There were other walkers on this bit of path and I think they wondered what on earth I was doing!

From here it was only about half a mile to the eastern edge of the moorland, still up high but grassy now rather than gorse and heather. I crossed the Sloc road that leads slightly downhill to a car park and picnic site with unbelievable views then carried on a hundred metres or so to take a path left into the farmed countryside. This was something of an obstacle course. The first stiled wall is about 5-6ft tall, with just two stones to clamber up with an equally deep drop on the other side, followed immediately another rickety wooden stile(!). At the end of the next field is a kissing gate which is about all you can do if you are wearing a ruckscack unless you are very skinny. Then after traversing a muddy field there is a high ladder stile to cross. Anyone would think they didn’t like walkers. At least the bikers won’t take this route. If you don’t like stiles or are quite short (!) consider the path the same distance in the other direction from the picnic site, which takes you pretty much in the same direction but starting further north.

On reaching the farm at Scholaby, it is then an easy walk down the lane for about a mile to The Level, passing cows posing for their photo and the old chimney that I can see from my house signifying mining from days long past, or if you fancy a longer route, you can turn left just after the farm and visit Colby Glen (worth a visit if you haven’t ever been) and get a bus back. I followed the main back road to the roundabout and had a rest at Ballachurry Nature Reserve before finishing my walk by crossing the fields behind the Ballahane Estate.

A great day out and I felt a sense of achievement when I got home, having successfully avoided TV and the incessant coverage of the very sad death of Prince Philip (RIP) for a number of hours.

If you use the data above for any reason, the time includes rest times and meal times. Actual walking time was 2hr 50mins.

Incidentally, you may or may not know that I started painting for the first time in lockdown. I have updated the recent Cregneash / Chasms post so that you can see my latest effort (no.5). Bit of a curate’s egg, but I’ll use the correct type of paper next time…

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.

 

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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