Friday, 17 October 2014

The Welbeck Wally with The Welly

Now anyone with even a passing interest in the England football team will remember Steve MacLaren, the Wally with the Brolly who stood in his suit watching his team drown, with more of a parasol to shelter under. Well now he has competition, 'The Welbeck Wally with the Wellies .'

I knew the forecast was decidedly dodgy but I had to do at least 15k walking training yesterday to keep up with my schedule, so I set off at about 4:15pm luckily during a break in the weather.

However, my good fortune didn't last very long because by the time I reached the bridge at West Quay, it had already started to rain. By the time I hit the Old Castletown Road, this had developed into a cloud burst and approaching Port Soderick Village, I was wading through ankle deep water.

It would have been almost possible to surf down the hill towards the railway station!

Although it relented somewhat by the time I hit the coast, by the time I returned home, I was just a dripping mess.

I jumped in the shower because I only had about half an hour before I was due to judge the walking race at Isle of Man Veterans Athletics Club Autumn Handicap.

The one certain thing was that I was going to be dressed for the occasion, so there I was, looking like the Michelin man, wearing tights, leggings, two pairs of socks 15 jumpers and a waterproof jacket. But my Wellington boots were nowhere to be seen.

With a rare flash of inspiration, I realised they had been in Irene's car for the last six months from when she and my son Terence had borrowed them to visit my chum Richard Creer at Ballabunt Farm.

The blood had only just returned to my feet, following my earlier drenching, so there was no way I going to let them get wet again. I grabbed the spare key and drove to her gym where I located her car and quickly grabbed the footwear as I was now running in my usual edge of late zone.

After stopping in the Quarterbridge car park, I took my shoes off and slid the right foot straight into the boot but the left one wouldn't go on. Therefore, I stood and stamped before realising I had picked up one of Irene's, my poor toes were totally squashed! The twylight exposing the state of my diminishing eyesight.

And you've guessed it! The rain had ceased and didn't return until our race had long since finished and the runners were lining up!

Had we been filming our attempts to remove the offending welly, I'm sure we could have sent it into one of the TV programmes and let my stupidity finally earn us some money but in the end all we had from it were sore sides from laughing and a rather bemused cat.

The runners cop a soaking

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Dine in Style with Isle of Man Railways

Irene & I were lucky enough to be invited to the Isle of Man Railways Dining Car in August and we are extremely grateful to 'Inside Track' (our longest standing tour company who have been bringing us railway enthusiasts since 1997) for enabling us to experience it.

Boarding commenced at 18:30 and we were able to relax for half an hour with a drink before the train departed whilst we perused the menu and the Beverage List.

The 'Hooded Ram' mentioned on there, I was surprised to learn was actually hand pumped real ale, brewed in Hills Meadow Industrial Estate, just a few metres from the railway line and I for one was certainly impressed. To me the dinner choices were well balanced:
Irene chose the Corned Beef Hash and the Seafood Pie, whilst I plumped for the Leek & Potato Soup and the Shoulder of Lamb.

The starters were served during the initial journey from Douglas to Port Soderick and my soup was really tasty if not quite hot and then the train pulled up before the station, so we all had a view of the coast as we ate our main course.

Irene's pie was huge and after I had demolished my lamb, I reluctantly came to her aid and enjoyed both meals.

Our trip continued down to Castletown where we were given 45 minutes or so to enjoy the surroundings. You'll be amazed and shocked to learn that Irene & I took Clive (Tour leader) to the 'Sidings,' formerly 'Ducks Nest,' to further sample some more local ale (Bushys in this instance.)

The return journey was very atmospheric although my photograph probably doesn't do it justice I'm afraid and by this time of the evening in August, we'd lost the views. We both had a lovely rhubarb crumble for our sweet.

Isle of Man National Transport has invested considerably in converting the carriage and restoring the beautiful bar area, so I hope the venture is a success and that I am able to make a small contribution by publicising it in this medium. It does have its fair share of critics, including a close chum of mine who is very financially switched on but it really is a marvellous experience, so I would urge you to give it a try whether you are a local or one of my readers from further afield.

They are also still running the 'Pie in the Sky' (astronomy nights) and sunset dinners on the Mountain which I think I have previously recommended on my blogs.

If you are a railway enthusiast and enjoy being in a tour situation, the company to come with is 'Inside Track' who whilst perhaps not being the cheapest option on the market, their Tour Leaders have a depth of knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to 'Go the extra mile,' for their clients that you won't find anywhere else.

Below is the link to their website:

Thursday, 25 September 2014

There's A New Star in The Welbeck Sky

It's possible that you won't believe this but I have on occasion been accused of hogging the limelight, being a self-publicist and even being a local celebrity (z-list ;) )

Most of which is usually associated with my racewalking feats.

What some people don't know is that Irene and I started racing together back in 2003 and this year was the first time since then that she didn't enter the 85 mile (137k) Manx Telecom Parish Walk because she had promised to support our chum Caroline Cain.

So when people exclaim in surprise, 'Oh you walk too?' she is usually too modest to point out that her first finish in the aforementioned race was faster than mine by a good 15 minutes.

However, all this might now have changed because while I stopped after 22 miles of last Sunday's Ramsey Bakery 'End to End Walk,' she completed the entire 39 miles and won her age category (21 - 25 I think.)

Irene at Bride near the start of the race.

On an absolutely beautiful (though a little hot for some of the athletes) 129 of the 218 starters completed the course which is surely the most scenic point to point course used in the British Isles.

Irene and Andy Fleet of Altrincham finish at the Calf Sound.

Congratulations to Richard Gerrard and Michelle Turner (Who also set the women's record) who were overall winners.

As well as being the top male athlete in the event, Richard also works for the secondary sponsors Royal London 360 and here he is in his other role representing his employers giving Irene her prize and certificate.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Costa Del Blackberry & The Tram Horses Trot Off On Sabbatical

We had a day off yesterday and couldn't quite decide what to do with ourselves, both Irene & I having been out training early in the day.

Both our ideas had been thwarted, Adventurous Experiences had no places on their kayaking expedition and Manx Sea Quest was doing a full day trip to Port Patrick, so having spent much of the last month walking past this years early and plentiful supply, we opted for blackberry picking.

Although they are all over the Island, we fancied a coffee on the Promenade at Peel afterwards, so we went on the coastal path, just South of Knocksharry.

Having failed in our attempts a couple of weeks ago when our bag collapsed and we had to eat them all (that's our story and we're sticking to it,) this time, we managed about two pounds each, so I think it will be blackberry clafoutis on the menu tonight and hopefully, soon we'll have apple & blackberry crumble.

Having finally scrubbed our purple stained hands, there was just time to return to Douglas and catch the last horse tram until 2016*. It was with great excitement that I saw it was the double decker as I have never been on it but it was short lived because once again, we hadn't organised ourselves quickly enough and it was full.

It was very atmospheric down at the Derby Castle Terminus, so we stopped, had a drink, took some photographs and then went for a look around the stables. They had brought down about 20 horses and they really are impressive beasts.

* For those who haven't heard, it would have been possible to maintain the horse tram service next year but this would have doubled the length of the Promenade regeneration scheme, so the decision was made in order to keep the considerable disruption to a minimum.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Chasing Salmon in Laxey

Laxey is a picturesque, former mining village whose name, derives from the Norse word for salmon.

Therefore, I suppose it made sense when it was decided to create three walks around the village to call them the Salmon Walks and they are colour coded as to their degree of length (10k or 6.2 miles, 7k or 4 miles, 3k or 2 miles) and difficulty.

There is a leaflet produced by the Laxey Commissioners (Commissioners are Manx local government organisations elected by the people of the towns/villages usually taking care of parks, public housing, street lighting etc. Only Douglas is a corporation with a town council,) that can be picked up from, Tourist Information Centre.

It is written by local historian and Blue Badge Guide, Frank Cowin, shows the routes and also points out any places of interest that you may encounter along the way.

On the day that we decided finally to explore them, Irene hadn't been too well the previous day and the weather was looking as though it might break, so we chose to do part of the most difficult one.

They are circular, so you can choose to pick them up where you please but the start of the blue and the red walks are only a 200 yards from the aforementioned TIC, so quite handy really.
Our journey began by taking the short cut onto the Baldhoon Road, across the tram tracks and by the Snaefell Mountain Railway sheds. This area is pretty hilly and we trudged up the steep hill towards Glen Ruy. It has to be said that the Salmon Walks at this stage are not particularly well signed, so be careful not to miss the turn down to Axnfell which is a public footpath just after the house with the small wind turbine (don't worry there isn't a big one but I didn't want to confuse it with one of the huge white monstrosities.)

It is fairly steep descent and difficult underfoot, so this path isn't for everyone but eventually you get to a white bridge across the river. By this time, our fears about the weather had proved totally mistaken and the sun was beating down.
There is a very pretty trail that brings you to Laxey Glen, then you cross New Road (the Village's main road) and then back down to rejoin the river.

I 'm not sure what led me to choose this route but amazingly having stopped for refreshment earlier at the Queens Hotel, we had now found ourselves in the car park of the Shore Hotel, a pub complete with its own micro-brewery.
Such was the beauty of the day, we were able to sit by the river and watch the ducks play.

We actually became impromptu marshals for the 'Lighthouse Challenge,' a cycle race which took the athletes around the length and breadth of the Island. Unfortunately, some wally had pinched the sign (more IOM navigational problems!) directing them to the the pier, so from the luxury of our pub table, we were shouting instructions to stop them whizzing past the turn off.

For a small village, Laxey is actually quite spread out, so the Commissioners in association with Bus Vannin are now providing a hopper bus that runs every half an hour. On this occasion, we hadn't quite had enough to drink to necessitate using it, though we had had enough to leave the rest of the walk for another day, so we walked back up Glen Road to catch our bus home.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Manx Nostalgia - At the Welbeck with Rodney Smythe

I am going to post a copy of this blog into the pages of a Facebook Group Page called Manx Nostalgia but I thought it may also interest a portion of the select few that follow my musings especially as I know not everyone is on Facebook or that particular group.

The FB group can be really interesting and I've learned a huge amount about the Island about which I would have had no idea, though from time to time, members are prone to looking at the past through the largest pair of 'Rose tinted spectacles' in history.

A couple of months ago, I received a telephone call from an Irish gentleman, a Mr. Rodney Smythe whose father had recently passed away.

While sorting through his effects, he found several invoices from the Welbeck Hotel from his family visits to the Island in the late 1950s and early 1960s and he wrote me a very nice letter (see at the bottom,) listing some of the memories which the souvenirs had evoked. You will have to double click on them to read properly.

The Welbeck in those days was run by the Corkill family and one of their sons, Philip still lives just a couple of miles away in Onchan.

Mr Smythe has promised to send me some photographs when he finds the time to sort through his father's collection, so I will post them here when they arrive.

I may also reproduce my potted history about the life of Alexander Gill who built this Hotel (and half of Douglas) at some stage and if anyone has any documents or photographs, they think might be of interest, please feel free to send them to me either by e-mail or hard copy.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Beyond the Church - Santon Gorgeous

One of the questions that I've repeatedly been asked over the years by people from the bigger Island and beyond is 'Don't you find it very claustrophobic living in such a small place?' or words to that effect.

At risk of repeating myself, nothing could be further from the truth as I seem to be constantly finding new things to do and places that I have yet to visit and we have a wealth of venues to enjoy music, theatre and arts. Acting on a tip from a chum of mine (i.e. pinching the idea off his blog. Thanks Murray Lambden ) Irene and I set off for Santon Church.

Despite the fact that I have finished the Manx Telecom Parish Walk eight times, I have rarely ventured beyond the gates of many of them and to be truthful, even on this occasion with having done no research, I expected it to be a ten minute potter to the sea.

In fact, had we turned North East when we had the opportunity, this might have been the case but instead, we headed South and along a lane running almost parallel to the coastline.

It took us past Arragon Moar, a very strange modern, circular building, built by John Taylor, inventor and one of the owners of the local firm Strix which at one time was one of the World's biggest thermostat manufacturers, making them at several factories on the Island. Sadly like most of that type of industry, they are now being made in China. It has beautiful grounds and farmland, although we found the gateway to the house surprisingly understated.

Just past there, we met four other hikers who were somewhat sceptical about the claim in their guidebook that stated their entire circuit was only supposed to be 3 miles (5k.) It was a real shame they hadn't carried on just a little further because they missed some of the real highlights.

Eventually, you pick up the the Raad-ny-Foillan (Road of the Gull. the Island's 95 mile coastal footpath) though at this point it takes you along some very boggy paths where you have to traverse wooden planks to avoid being swallowed even after the long spell of dry weather.

This is a really beautiful area where you walk alongside the Santon burn which runs down to Cass-ny-Hawin an inlet much favoured by sunbathers when the weather is conducive.

From there the path follows the coast along to Port Soldrick and Jackdaw Cave which was much utilised by the Manx Running Trade (smugglers) of yesteryear. I believe you can actually sail into the cave and there is a hole in the roof where you can drag your illicit cargo.

The bird life should be amazing and there are promises of choughs, fulmars and cormorants in the guide book, though we were a little disappointed with the numbers and apart from the latter we do have to profess more than a little ignorance. We have actually bought a book but we never seem to have it with us. Like me the feathered population must have winged it for the day.

Confession time: It was the day after the Parish Walk and as I intimated earlier, we had only expected a gentle saunter, so by this stage, we were already late for our rendez-vous at the Woodie (The Woodburn Hotel to give it its official and overly grand title) to hear the tales of 'daring do' from our walking chums, so we ran the gauntlet of flies and marshland with a 'Michael Special Shortcut' across the fields.

Had we more time, we would probably have taken the route displayed in the 'Isle of Man - A Walkers Guide' by Terry Marsh to which I have provided the link below and carried on to Port Grenaugh which is another picturesque little bay. There is now little trace of the chalets that were there in the 1970s.