Wildflower Walk Port Soderick Glen – 15th May 2021

Another cool day with a blustery wind, very different from this time last year when we were bathed in warm sunshine for weeks. This was a short walk along the beautiful Port Soderick Glen to see what plants and flowers were coming into bloom.

I arrived early so had a brief walk down to the coast. I rarely see the cove when the tide is in so this was a (windy)treat. I was surprised to see a ‘new’ building nestling underneath the rocks, and our guide later informed us that there is more development planned for this area to include a resthome / apartments for war veterans. You can’t go further than the cove. This is not a coastal /beach walk at this point, though a short distance above you can walk to Douglas along Marine Drive. If you want to venture south, these days it entails a 1.5 mile detour inland before regaining the coastline, which is really disspiriting.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the glen. At this point we hadn’t had a lot of rain recently so the stream was fairly quiet. The trees are just coming into leaf and the spring greens are always refreshing, reminding us of new life and hope. And there are plenty of trees!

The first interesting plant we saw was a Garlic mustard, also called Jack-by-the-Hedge for obvious reasons. We were invited to taste it (along with several other leaves). It had a very pleasant taste, one that would be nice in salads. Other interesting plants were the beautiful Marsh Marigolds, standing majestically in their boggy terrain. The yellow colour was outstanding and you could see why the bees would make… a bee-line… for them. There were all the attractive spring flowers you traditionally expect to see in this type of woodland – golden saxifrage, wood sorrel, wood anemones, lady’s smock, bluebells in abundance. The native bluebells have a longer stem and the flowers seem to droop from the top. They also tend to be a slightly darker blue than the foreigners.

One plant that was pointed out to us to avoid was the hemlock water dropwort. There is plenty of this around. It is fairly tall and dark green with parsley shaped leaves, and it is poisonous. This one probably wouldn’t kill you, at least, not quickly, but there are others that do. This one would more likely make you vomit a lot and maybe hospitalise you, so please don’t eat it. Sorry, no photos but here is a picture from my book:

We learned of various plants that heal, from the common plantain to the woundwort, with the humble herb robert in between, that was regarded as a remedy for toothache, and the yarrow, seen all over the island, used to stop bleeding.

Then there were the more unusual species – the unique salmonberry, an imported shrub from the USA. This looks like an oversized raspberry. It grows in a couple of places along the glen. You really can’t miss it, with its long pendulous branches, shiny green leaves and at the right time of year its wonderful orangey-pink berries. Right now, the fuschia-pink flowers were just finishing and there were hints of the berries that would form beneath it.

The glorious pink flower of the salmonberry (Rubus Spectabilis)

To complete our walk, we followed the stream down to the sea, and there we found the omnipresent stonecrop, thrift, bittercress, stitchwort (looking beautiful at this time of year), and the less showy mousear snuggling amongst the grass. Simon pointed out some black lumps planted on some tree trunks. These are called King Alfred’s Cakes (look up the story if you don’t know it). They are actually fungi that survive for years on dead branches, mostly beech and ash. There was also plenty of sea scurvy. You will see this around the coast, looking like handfuls of dandruff on low stems. The other find was the sea beet, a relative of beetroot and swiss chard, also known as wild spinach, which is also edible. Again, you can’t miss it lining the pebble beaches. It only grows in well-drained areas and it doesn’t like shade, so the edge of the sea is a perfect location for it.

I do enjoy these nature walks. Simon Smith runs them. You can find details of his walks on Facebook (Wildflowers on the Isle of Man) or http://www.manxwildflowers.com

My next post will be rather different. On Saturday I did the first leg of the 26 peaks over 1000 ft on the Isle of Man. Look out for this in a couple of days.