A Shapely Walk Around Douglas and Summerhill Glen- 4 miles

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The natural entrance to Summerhill Glen

Douglas is a surprisingly attractive town to walk around as long as you turn a blind eye to the less appealing aspects of its make-up and areas that look lost and forlorn or where some car park or development has emerged from nowhere and taken away all the character of the area. The Isle of Man does itself no favours by not caring enough about its heritage and there are too many derelict buildings or hideous erections that should never have seen the light of day, not even in an architect’s mind let alone in practice. It is too quick to destroy what history it has, as in the pending doom of the lone 18th century cottage which is being demolished to make way for a new ”by-pass” in Ballasalla, only approved by short-sighted politicians because Dandara promised to fund it as long as they could build xxx number of houses at the same time. But I digress…

You might say Douglas is much like any town. But look up, out, about and around the many old buildings¬† of the later 19th and early 20th centuries and you will see interesting shapes and objects that will surprise you. Roadnames with fingers pointing you in the right direction, canopies over shops that look as if they belong in Tunbridge Wells Pantiles area, attractive iron railings separating the Edwardian properties, squares of parkland and a crescent of housing reminiscent of Bath (though not as grand). Lots and lots of substantial Edwardian properties built to last, reminding us of the Isle of Man’s heyday when B &B’s sprung up in abundance to cater for the wild tourism that would swarm in on the ferry in the summer months.

I had been to the dentist on Woodburn Square and instead of walking back to the bus stop I went in the opposite direction, down roads I have never walked before, around the back of Nobles Park to the top of Summerhill Glen. The house styles are very varied and many are attractive with double fronts or bay windows, a row of chocolate box houses, one with a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden and sometimes very unusual houses. There were two houses side by side with windows in the upper elevations that looked as if they belonged in the 16th century as their small windows protruded out above the main house. There are many established trees in this area and it feels quite luxurious in places. There must have been a large country seat where Laureston Manor remains, now afflicted by the ever terminal illness of living apartments, but it still has its grounds and other houses have been built around the edge of its land, so the pathwork of land still retains its rich flavour.

I reached an area where most of the roads bear the name Victoria or similar, signs of anticipated grandeur and nobility – Victoria Road, Victoria Crescent, Victoria Avenue, Dukes Road, Upper Duke’s Road, Palace Road, Castle Hill – you get my drift, and here the roads are at the top of the wonderful cliff that skirts the whole of Douglas Bay and from where if you could only see through the trees there must be a wonderful view of the Bay. There are several very large buildings around here, many now converted for business use, again indicating that Douglas has at times been very wealthy.

All this was unexpected. This was not a planned trip but an idle walk through Douglas to get some fresh air with the idea of walking in daylight down Summerhill Glen. My first visit to this Glen was just two week’s ago when my son Matthew stayed with me for Christmas and we went to enjoy the illuminations which we did thoroughly enjoy in spite of the rain.

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Reaching the top of the Glen I followed the path down to discover a second more interesting path that enters the glen from the other side of the stream. I know most people are very happy with the modernisation of the paths in the glens but for me wide tarmac paths lose all the natural feel and magic of walking down a forested glen, so I was very happy to wander along the section that had not been tarmacked and watch the water meandering its way across the flat and boggy terrain, creating new rivulets here and there as it jumped over minor hazards on their way to join the main stream.

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The glen itself is very natural at the top and I found several interesting shapes in the stream and in the vegetation that sparked my interest. The stream is pretty with minor waterfalls along its ever downward and slightly winding trajectory. In the centre there is a flat area with wooden seats neatly positioned to enjoy the display the children (and adults) have created. It is not possible to follow the stream all the way to the sea as it goes underground whilst still quite elevated, but when I reached the shore to see where it finally entered the sea, I could hear a rush of water where it comes out behind the houses on Strathallan Crescent.

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The tide was out so I walked out into the bay and again I looked up at the lovely aforementioned cliffs and noticed houses half way up holding tightly on to the side of the cliffs, a pink house I had never noticed before with a curtain of trees behind it. Looking in the other direction out to sea, I walked out as far as the sand would allow me and came across boulders and seaweed that were as tall as me. I walked the mile or so back into town, and if you wished you could make a full circle of this walk.

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So, if you come to Douglas, take a bit of time to venture into those parts you don’t usually go and I’m sure you will find hidden treasures.

Below:  A slideshow of some shapes in Summerhill Glen

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I regret to say I did not take photos of the interesting properties I saw, but I will retrace those steps another time when I am armed with my camera and not just my mobile phone.

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Douglas and Laxey Sat 22/9/18 – The Tourist Route

Autumn has definitely arrived, and I for one am grateful to be away from the blistering heat of the Mediterranean. This week’s windy and wet weather certainly is more typical of the Isle of Man than the sweltering two months we were treated to in June and July. Port Erin beach has a new shape to it, as the gale-force winds have created mini dune-like effects and swept the sand over the stones at the far end of the beach. Today, as I wandered around the bay, the same beach had changed again and the far end looked like the pebbly remains of a torrent of water that had gushed from a hillside dispelling its contents – not true of course, but it emphasises the power of the natural elements.

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On Thursday 20th September I played table tennis at the NSC (National Sports Centre for the uninitiated) in Douglas, and walked the short distance from there to M&S, following the river and walking alongside the Marina, about a mile and a half altogether. This is one of those walks that only odd people like me or locals will do as it does’t take you far and it is much easier to get a bus! I stand corrected – in fact, if you did the walk the other way round you could continue on a pretty track all the way to Port Soderick. I did think you might be interested in one small aspect of my town ‘walk’. It starts by Pulrose Power station with its ugly steel buildings, car parks and railings, but as soon as you turn a corner you are in a different world, one of trees and green and mystery. What struck me this day was the sweet smell coming from the trees and nuts only on the green side. Two contrasting worlds separated by a fence! The views below are literally fractions apart.

One one side of the hedge, grey steel and angular shapes; on the other side, soft green trees, leaves and nuts strewn across the footpath.

On Saturday, I went back in time. When I first visited the island in 1998, I didn’t have any transport of my own so used public transport for all my walks, no matter where they were on the island. This can make for long – but very enjoyable, days.

I got the 10am steam train at Port Erin, which left 15 minutes late as it had to wait for the incoming train before we could leave. No matter, I had plenty of time as I wasn’t due to be at Laxey for a Friends of Manx National Heritage event until 2pm. Arriving at the Douglas railway station I walked along the Marina up to the ferry port so that I could get a photo to show you to full extent of Douglas’s wonderful promenade, with its wide walkway and horse drawn tram (the longest running horse drawn tram in the world I believe). I was a bit ahead of time so popped into the shopping centre for a coffee, then walked up to the far end of the prom to catch the electric tram to Laxey. The prom was full of people, a chap on his bike, a lady and gent taking a stroll, another person doing their fitness routine and a lady with her children and pushchairs, and me walking very briskly as I had completely forgotten just how long the prom actually is – 2 miles end to end!! I needn’t have worried as the tram was late too. I thoroughly enjoyed this second journey by public transport, more so than the steam train. It goes along the coast to Ramsey and the views are tremendous. The further you go around the bay, the more it seems like a seaside resort and you can smell the air and see the views.¬† I could see Black Combe across the water in the Lake District and the many wind farms of Morecambe Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo above: Spot the join; the two photos should overlap slightly.

I got to Laxey expecting to visit the Glen, but sadly the walk took us in the other direction down the old road to the Woollen Mills, through the beautiful old village to the beach. Our guide told us about the history of all the different mills, flax, paper, flour, and the pipe factory, although the only one of these historical buildings currently in use is the very large flour mill where we started at Laxey Glen. She also showed us secret waterfalls, leats and ponds (dips in the ground that you would walk past in an instant usually) that had been used in the processing of the various materials and an old delapidated brewery tucked away in a hidden spot. It was a very interesting tour. At the end I had to go in the opposite direction and explore the Laxey Glen itself. This is beautiful – one I had never visited – and a complete contrast to the main river valley leading down from Snaefell, with the famous Lady Isabella Laxey Wheel and the Washing Floors. Despite being heralded for its fame, I learnt that mining came late to Laxey but it was a thriving town long before that, mainly due to its plentiful mills. However, the number of lovely houses is thanks to the miners, not for their achievements in Laxey necessarily, but our guide told us that many people were sent to seek their fortunes in South Africa and they sent money back home that allowed them to extend their properties.

This is the only photo I managed to take of Laxey and is of the washing floors. Worth a visit in their own right. Laxey is a fascinating village with a lot of history. If you have never been here, it is well worth making a special visit and there are walks in all directions, which you can reach by the electric train , tram, bus, or walk. I am thinking of Dhoon Glen and Snaefell in particular.

Laxey Glen can be found to the west of the main road and is enclosed and very green with large trees. There is parking immediately on the bend by the mill. The river running through the glen is beautiful, with banks and groves on either side. As you climb higher into the plantation it becomes quite steep and muddy and as it was getting late and I didn’t know where it would come out or whether I would be able to find a new return route, I cut my losses first of all finding myself a sturdy stick to help me negotiate the steep downhill parts and I returned back by the route I had come. I hoped to reach the visitor centre to see if they had a map of the Glen but when I got there it was closed (4.45pm)

I had completely forgotten to charge my phone this time, so I will post photos of this area another time.

The walk around Laxey was a total of about 4.5 miles, and 2 miles altogether from one end of the prom to the other, although I managed 10 miles overall for the day one way of another. I shall revisit Laxey Glen as there look to be some interesting paths through and around it up to the mountain, some without the need to go to the very top and I should like to investigate.

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