Final Day of 2020 – Glen Helen

We had had snow overnight and a sudden flurry of hail, causing some chaos on the roads. By the time I went out today the situation was much improved. It was a bright day with extensive views in all directions. On the way home I could clearly see Snowdonia (hello Ros!) and Anglesey (hello Ian and Valerie).

Over Foxdale to Snaefell

On reaching South Barrule I stopped along the Round Table Road to get a view of Snaefell in its winter wonderland. Then onwards and upwards, with the roads getting just very slightly slippery as I neared Glen Helen.

It is months since I have been here, so I thought it would be a good place to meet up with my friend, Jill, for a short walk before lunch at Greens in St. Johns. It was still quite cold, even though it was midday, so we wrapped up warmly to accommodate the chilly weather.

There were few people about and no-one else stopped and stared at the things we spied: the necklace-like spider’s web shimmering in the light, the russet colours of the beech and oak leaves lying on the ground; the sphagnum moss clinging for dear life to defunct tree trunks as they toppled down the hillside; some broom in flower. The colours were suprisingly bright for mid winter.

The path has recently been renovated and this is one of the better paths that is pleasant to walk on, with plenty of room for pushchairs and wheelchairs. New sturdy wooden bridges have been created which give wide views of the river, which was furiously scrambling over rocks, pebbles and collapsed trees on its way to meet the sea. At one point a new bench had been positioned looking away from the river back up the hillside – very odd, especially as there was fencing behind it to stop anyone from falling into the river!

In no time at all we were at the waterfall which was putting on a special show just for us. The water-scuplted rocks made interesting shapes. About 5ft above the level of the water was an unusual ball-shaped space, looking as if it might have contained a large boulder at some time, and which had long ago tumbled into the water. You can just make this out on the photo below. The alternative is that the waterfall may have changed its course, so that was my cue to continue upwards to investigate. I left Jill admiring the waterfall and took off up a grassy, muddy path with some slippery stones to negotiate. There were more waterfalls at the top and I concluded that it is possible that many aeons ago the waterfall would have been a lot higher and the bowl shaped sculpture could have been made by a previous waterfall, though we shall probably never know. Maybe the elves spend the winter carving out the stone for their palace in the woods.

So, from there it was the same walk back, although we did cross the river to view a throne on the other side. There is nothing to indicate its significance but that is something more for me to investigate another time.

This was a short walk of only 2.3 miles and a coupleof hundred feet of ascent on my extension, so it really is a basically flat walk that anyone can enjoy. You can walk right to the end and return on the other side and the total distance would be no more than 3 miles.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. I had planned to do a Sunrise Walk in the hills, but with potentially icy road conditions forecast, I have decided to give that a miss, but there is nothing to stop me doing the same thing up Meayll Hill, stand in the stone circle and watch the new year come in from the east.

I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Whatever it may bring, the countryside remains accessible and open to us all to renew our souls and bodies, so let’s take advantage of the natural beauty wherever we live. So far, it is the one place that coronavirus has not colonised and we can breathe.

Eairy Beg Birthday Walk – 22nd June 2020

Is it really midsummer? Rain, drizzle, mist, gales – we came across all of these on our short walk to Eairy Beg. We had hoped to get some views from the Cairn at the top, but it was all we could do to see one another never mind a view. Even so, what else can you do on a miserable day but to go out and enjoy a forest walk where at least there is some chance of keeping dry.

The River at Glen Helen

We set off from the car park at Glen Helen. We had the Wardens Walk no 5, which we thought would be a bonus, but within a few feet of starting off we realised it was quite outdated. For instance, a new bridge has been built meaning that there is no gate as mentioned on the instructions to go through. This could have been an ominous start, but by and large and with a bit of imagination the instructions mostly matched the paths on the ground.

Path through the woods

The track uphill is relatively straightforward. It is described on the iom gov website as ‘Moderate’ and a ‘Muscle Stretcher’, mostly as it is a persistent walk uphill with a few level places on the way. The maximum height reached on this 2.75 mile walk is 904ft from a starting point of 125ft, with of course the usual ups and downs in between. The path uphill is easy with no difficult rocks to cross over. If you have walking poles, you may find these useful on this walk, not least for the steepish sections both up- and downhill. The forest looked a little bare as they are mostly larch trees reaching up into the canopy with a few deciduous trees beneath. The lack of rain means that the undergrowth is very light to walk through.

Mossy Wall

Some of the paths do not exist on the ground but there are clear paths fairly close to where they should be, so it might suggest walking on one side of the wall but you end up walking on the other side of it where there is a clear track.

First ‘view’ of the moorland

On coming out of the forest, you come to a clearing with what would be really nice views of the moorland hills above Glen Helen. But today, we could only see a few hundred yards, and as we reached the cairn, our highest point of the day, we could barely see a thing and there was a howling gale wrapping around us. Thankfully, we were not on exposed ground for very long, and the path goes alongside the outer rim of the southern slopes of the hill and then steeply downhill. It is definitely best to walk this route the way we did, otherwise you would have quite a steep climb to the top without many resting places. The walking poles were useful for keeping our balance on some slippery downhill parts.

The Cairn on Eairy Beg
The view from the top!

Towards the end of the route there is a choice of paths, one going slightly uphill and the other forking to the left and going downhill. In other places there are footprint signs on the trees indicating the way, but there was nothing at this junction. I strongly recommend you continue on the upper path, which would soon join a real track downhill. You can guess we took the lower path, which was certainly the more adventurous of the two as it was extremely steep in places and we were hanging on to trees and branches for dear life. On reflection, it was probably a path made by children messing about in the woods and not intended for OAPs – though our little party were not all in that age group yet!

It was only on this lower stretch that the rain really settled in, so although we had experienced some drizzle, wind and a lot of mist, we had without knowing it had the best of the weather for the day.

We then went to Milntown for a birthday dinner, before setting back home in time to enjoy delicious cup cakes which were delivered to me half an hour after I returned home – thank you to my daughter, Sarah, for the lovely surprise. My day had begun with a different kind of surprise – a visit from an old friend, who also celebrates his birthday today, bringing me a punnet of strawberries from his garden, so I finished the day as I started it with strawberries on my cup cake.

‘Best’ of the rest, in poor weather conditions: