A Trip Around the Calf – Saturday 17th October 2020

It might not be easy to get on and off the island just now, but there are ways, and this was one of them. I had seen a post on FB saying that Shona Boats would be offering boat trips to the Calf of Man, either landing and leaving you there to have a wander, or giving you a full onboard tour of the the whole island to show off its wildlife and spectacular scenery.

I knew I was unlikely to see much wildlife, but I thought there may be seal pups at this time of year, but perhaps not too many birds or cetaceans. One of my fellow passengers was hoping to see puffins but I knew that was out of the question, and we didn’t even see the decoy puffins designed to lure real life puffins on to the Calf.

The weather was mediocre, an overcast day, a little cool but not too windy, so we could expect a fairly calm boat ride. Our trip was delayed slightly by one of the passengers getting held up by a road traffic accident in Douglas which meant a detour for them of some distance to reach Port Erin. Soon we spied their car zooming along the promenade eager to catch us before we left. We were a little short of time, as we found out when we returned. Had we been much later we would have missed our landing berth on the Raglan Pier but as it was all was well and we disembarked using the last possible steps.

I had attired myself suitably for gusty winds and spray, and was wearing various layers and had hat, scarves and gloves in my rucksack, all of which got used during the trip. We set off around the buoy that marks the edge of the old pier where once upon a time cruise ships would unload their passengers who would then spill into Port Erin to see the wondrous sights our lovely bay has to offer. This jetty has long gone, and I have only ever known this area to be a mass of rocks that spew up water magnificently in windy weather in winter and serve as a perch for shags and cormorants.

I have walked this coastline to the Sound from Port Erin many many times, but it is interesting to see the gullies and rifts in the rocks from a different perspective and to see how the land at the top mirrors or does not mirror the lower reaches of the cliffs. We were soon at the Sound and Kitterland where we saw our first seal, and another popped its head out of the water curiously wondering what we were looking at. Then we followed the eastern edge around the Calf to the Drinking Dragon, and from hereon, this was new territory for me as I have never gone all the way around this tiny island. It was here that the wind picked up and everyone reached for their winter woollies. I would tell you some facts about the Calf but unfortunately I couldn’t hear the guide as I was perched on the outer edge of the seating area and everyone else was in the middle, so naturally enough he talked to them and his words were lost in the waves to me. I wasn’t too concerned as I will do this trip again sometime and then I will remember to sit in the right place. It would have been good if he had used some kind of headset, but he didn’t. However, I caught a few words here and there about the shipwrecks in these treacherous waters and the longtails swimming across to the Calf.

There were quite a few seals and their pups, but there was very little else except Choughs, Oystercatchers, Gulls and Shags. We had some good and unusual views of the 4 old lighthouses and a few cliffs later we left the island and made our way back to Port Erin, feeling considerably cooler than when we set out. Even so, it was such an enjoyable experience to see the Calf in its autumnal state, and I had a sense of getting away from everyday life and an opportunity to be off the island for a couple of hours.

We were so unlucky. The group that went out the next day were escorted by some bottle-nosed dolphins back to Port Erin; instead we had the quiet of the sea and the gentle rocking of the boat as we reentered the harbour waters.

Last post before quarantine – 28th July 2020

I write this from my hotel room at Manchester airport. Last week the Manx government relaxed the border entry rules for residents so we can now leave the island and return as long as we quarantine for 14 days. This has caused some commotion in certain quarters but I am delighted as otherwise I should not have been able to see my son who is returning to El Salvador today. I had been resigned to his being in England since March and not seeing him, so you can imagine my joy that I was able to travel over yesterday, spend the evening with him and see him off this morning. I return home this afternoon to complete isolation for 14 days, where I am not allowed out, except in my own garden, and no visitors at all.

Knowing I would be holed up for 14 days on Sunday afternoon I took my final stroll from home down to the Sound and along the coast back to Port Erin, a total distance of 5.75 miles. As usual I tarried long and stared at all things natural, especially the abundant wildflowers. They seem to be having a late flourish this year, no doubt the early summer display having been muted by the many weeks of dry weather in the spring. Since lockdown was eased on the Isle of Man it seems to have done nothing but rain, which is great for the farmers and brought on all the flowers in gardens and hedgerows alike, though not so good for our Guernsey visitors. I enclose a gallery of some of the beauties I came across on this ramble, along with some general views of the coastline towards the top of this post, and – something I have never seen on this stretch of coastline – a couple of people rock climbing.

Previous to this walk, on Saturday I had taken the train to Castletown to join a wildflower event run by Manx Wildlife Trust at the Scarlett Visitor Centre. Unfortunately, my mobile battery was almost out of juice so I had to leave early, as at this stage I did not know when or whether I would be able to see Matthew and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Normally, this kind of event would be heaving with people of all ages, but there was just the dedicated few this time, no doubt a result of the COVID-19 effect. The photos below are of Castletown, firstly the wonderful wildflowers bordering the Silverburn, followed by the floral borders at the Bowling Green Cafe, the Keep, Canon and Moat of Castle Rushen, and the glorious swathe of beach that leads up to Scarlet.

So, for the next two weeks I sign out of writing about walks on the Isle of Man, though I may surprise you with ‘posts from quarantine instead’ if you can bear them 🙂

Cregneash and The Sound – 1st June 2020

The first day of summer was a gloriously sunny day, continuing the theme of many weeks now. We have barely had a drop of rain since lockdown. This week would have been TT. It is such a shame we cannot share our island with visitors, but as we have just one active case now our borders are closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future to keep it that way. All the more for the locals to enjoy.

We have much more flexibility in what we can and cannot do now – far more so than the UK that is lagging a long way behind us. More people are venturing out as all our shops are open. We can go to restaurants that can serve outdoors and even go and get our hair cut. In a couple of weeks time, it is suggested that our social distance measures will be relaxed a little too, but even now, from tomorrow we can take a passenger from another household in our cars for a ride. So life here is good and we have a lot to be thankful for.

Today, after I had finished my load of predicted grades and spoken to students it was time for a late afternoon walk. If I timed it just right I would make it before the Sound Cafe closed at 4pm. Walking from the house, I walked from the house along Truggan Lane to Glendown Farm and took the lane up to the Howe. I followed the road all the way to Cregneash. This wasn’t a day for walking boots. I was just in my sandals and was content to follow tarmac-ed ways. There were only a few walkers that I passed on the way to Cregneash, and after that, there were no walkers at all and just a few cars passed me.

Cregneash
Views of the Calf

On reaching the Sound I was surprised how few visitors there were. I didn’t have to queue for my take-away cup of tea and cake. They have made a waiting area and they call you when your order is ready. All very efficient, except the toilets close at 3.30pm, but who needs toilets when you are surrounded by fields.

The Sound and The Calf

I spent a very pleasant half hour or so watching the waves, listening to the seals humming to each other and the birds having an argument, then I walked back up the road to Cregneash, around Mull Hill and back to Port Erin.

Sheep May Safely Graze

The views were tremendous today and the highlight was being able to clearly to see the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland. A visit there is on my wish list, which may come sooner than I expect as our borders with Ireland are more likely to open earlier than those with the UK, maybe with some kind of air-bridge as is suggested for countries with low numbers of coronavirus.

The Mountains of Mourne in Ireland

The wild flowers normally very prolific at this time of year looked a little sad and were not plentiful, perhaps due to the paucity of rain, so there was a lack of colour on this walk. I saw a couple of butterflies but very little wildlife other than sheep, cattle and rabbits. The views never disappoint though and I did get a nice view of Milner Tower. It always surprises me how far to the west it is coming down the hill!

Milner Tower
Port Erin

This was a very pleasant stroll and reminded me that I really must get out more! A trip to the north is in order.

Total distance 5.4 miles; 849ft of ascent; 846ft of descent. Interesting that the distance for each section was identical despite being different routes and almost the same amount of ascent and descent on each section too.

Port Erin Circular Coast route – 7th Feb – 10 miles, variable

With Storm Ciara threatening to curtail activities in the next few days and a free day, I decided to catch up on my old favourite and walk from home around the coast, taking in the Sound.

I started from the beach at Port Erin. It was not a particularly nice day, overcast and rather gloomy and a little chilly, but it is always good to get outside and dust off the old cobwebs.

DSC02620
Bradda Head and Milner tower from St Catherine’s Well

I walked up Ballfurt Lane to St Mary’s Lane and turned left to walk along the top road to Port St Mary. At this point I decided to call in home (!) and pick up a woolly hat, and as the day progressed I was so glad I did. The sun wanted to come out but it wasn’t trying very hard and it became very blowy, giving me a taster of what was the follow at the weekend.

DSC02639

When I reached Port St Mary I followed the Underway which is always spectacular when the tide is in as it was today. The seabirds were having a field day as the wind must have whipped up fish close to the shore and they were competing for the best catch.

DSC02638At the harbour where one is no longer protected from the southeasterly wind the seas were swelling, fast and furious. I had walked about 2.5 miles at this point and had planned to call in at the Golf Course cafe for a coffee, but this was closed for refurbishment so I carried out on the path.

Dappled light at PSM
The calm side of the harbour

PSM Lightbhouse

Going round Perwick Bay I bumped into a friend who was monitoring the birds for a survey, today mostly shelducks and oystercatchers on that bit of the coast. I followed the route down the road to Glen Chass which ultimately leads to the Raad Ny Fooillan and grassy footpaths, which one has to share with sheep. There is an alternative route that takes you up higher and on to the Chasms, but I always like the low route as it gives wonderful views of the rocks around the Sugar Loaf and the opportunity for a tiny bit of scrambling.

DSC02673
The steep cliffs of the Chasms

DSC02676
The coastline around the Chasms, looking towards Black Head

By this time, the wind had really got going and I didn’t want to venture too close to edge once I was past the Chasms on Spanish Head. It reminded me of a time several years when I was following this route and the wind was so powerful I had to give up at this point and head to Cregneash as I could barely stand upright. It wasn’t like that today.

Chasms
The deep chasms

The day might be dull but the mountain gorse brightened up the walk significantly. It truly was this yellow and it was delightful.

DSC02686

Ascending the slopes to Black Head I followed the deviating route that hugs the coast. This gives on the first look at the Calf of Man, the small island detached from the Sound. Chicken Rock lighthouse looked cold and forbidding today.  I am including a photo to give you a flavour but it’s not one of my best as it is out of focus though it does create a chilling mystical feel. Even the Drinking Dragon’s head is right down.

Chicken Rock
Chicken Rock Lighthouse on a cold, windy day

 

DSC02706
Resting places at the Sound, with the Calf of Man in the background and Kitterlands in between. The cafe (and bus stop) is to the right, out of shot.

7 miles and it was lunchtime when I reached the Sound Cafe. It was reasonably busy. It is always a welcome sight on rough days, knowing that however cold or wet you might be, a warm coffee and hot food awaits (as well as toilets). For those not wanting to continue on, it is possible to catch a bus back to Port Erin, but they are not especially frequent.

For those of you who are new to my blog and I have quite a few new followers recently, thank you, I have a chronic condition which leaves me depleted of energy, and breathing and moving my legs can be a little tricky right now. The sensible part of me considered stopping here, but the outdoor and nature lover in me won the day and I carried on, it has to be said with some considerable difficulty along the cliffs to Port Erin. The weather perked up at this point, and although still windy the sun managed to creep through the clouds occasionally and I was well rewarded for my efforts.

CoastlineKamikaze sheep

Notice the Kamikaze sheep on the photo above. You feel if the first one jumps the rest would follow… like sheep! Quite why or how they had got themselves in that position I will never know. It wouldn’t be the most sheltered position.

t

Looking Back
The view back. The Calf is the final cliff in the distance.

Port Erin in the mist
Port Erin emerging from the mist.

Once back at Port Erin I went to the Health Food shop and had a pot of camomile tea before walking home. I was back at 2.15pm having had fish and chips at the Sound as well! The full distance was 10 miles, but that includes lots of ins and outs that you don’t need to do, such as calling in at my house. 8-9 miles is more common for this route. You can also get the bus or train to Port St Mary, which avoids almost all the walking through villages and allows you to concentrate on the footpaths. And you can escape off the cliffs at the Chasms and go to the lovely hamlet of Cregneash where you can get a bus back, or follow a shorter walk over Meayll Hill/The Howe to Port Erin. So, there are lots of options if you want shorter walks.

Port Erin Circular

Distance: 10 miles

Ascent: 1732 ft

Descent: 1572 ft

Maximum elevation 1,028ft.

Saturday’s ‘walk’ (yesterday) was a wander over the Snaefell Hills taking measurements of the peat. I am just awaiting some photos then I will tell you about that. Meanwhile, keep safe and warm and well away from Storm Ciara.