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.