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.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Paul Gives it Full Weller at the Villa

What a place this is to live! As with everywhere, there are times when I doesn't really appreciate my surroundings. Last night wasn't one such time. The culmination of a few weeks beautiful weather produced a fabulous evening in the Isle of Man.
Last night Paul Weller (formerly of The Jam & Style Council) played the second of two sell-out gigs at the Villa Marina
We were able to go for a walk before enjoying a drink on the top of the Villa Marina Colonnade and I'm ashamed to say that we missed the support act entirely because it seemed such a shame to go inside.
My advice to anyone coming over for a short break or holiday would be to check the website before you come to check if there is anything on, so the locals haven't snapped all the tickets up by the time you get here. If you would like to eat before you go, an early dinner or bar snack is no problem if you let us know beforehand.
It was a very good show, although I felt that he perhaps was punishing us oldies for not buying any of his new material for the last 30 years by leaving out many of the old Jam classics. That's Entertainment for you(or it would have been if he'd played it.)

Monday, 30 June 2014

Harry's Manx Sea Quest Adventure Snooze Cruise

There is more glorious weather at the moment, so as we had our 3 year old Grandson, Harry for the day, we decided to go to Peel where they were holding the London 360 Viking Longboat Races.
We parked the on the Promenade at about 10:30am and there was a freezing cold wind.

Therefore, we opted to go to Fenella Beach which is on the far side of the causeway to St Patricks Isle underneath the castle. We passed a sign for Manx Sea Quest and a quick telephone call later and we had booked for 11:45.

Fortunately, where we had chosen was sheltered and had top quality castle building sand, though our attempts to introduce Harry into the construction business this were somewhat unsuccessful, though the way he knocked down Irene's entire village showed potential for the demolition industry, we feel.

We spent nearly an hour paddling and watching the dogs swim before heading off to catch our boat.

Manx Sea Quest is run by Marlyn and Bob who were excellent hosts and we cruised South for a while, seeing several puffins, guillemots, shags and lots of other aquatic bird life.

By coincidence that you probably wouldn't believe if it was in a novel, Nobles Hospital anaesthetist and fellow Parish Walker, Keith Wilkinson was on the same trip and he had eaten the previous evening in the Welbeck Hotel Restaurant. His particular interest was photographing the bird life.

Harry had been on a day trip to Chester Zoo the previous day and by this stage, the excitement was just too much for him and this made for a very peaceful cruise.

All sorts of mammals can be spotted off the West coast, including killer whales, minke whales, dolphins and porpoises, not to mention the huge basking sharks but off course, the presence of Irene and me probably ruined it for the rest of the passengers because we saw only one seal and even the ones that usually populate Peel Bay were absent on this occasion.

We still however saw some stunning scenery.

The cost was £25.00 per head (they didn't charge the snoring one) and with waiting for traffic to come in and out of the swing bridge, it took in excess of 2 hours.

The website is (sorry I have days when I can do a link on /blogger and days when I can't)and they also have a facebook page and their phone number is 07624 450688.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Another Brilliant Manx Telecom Parish Walk but Without The Welbeck

A very strange feeling at the weekend, as for the very first time since 2003, Irene did not compete in the Parish Walk and for only the second year since then, I too, wasn't among the starters. There was not one walker from The Welbeck in this edition which is very unusual(sorry we couldn't fit you in Chris Moore a very good 17th ) , though Trevor & Linda McDermott did come over to officiate.

I had said I would do an 800m lap of honour in the number 1 shirt but I didn't get to the N.S.C. in the end. I'd like to say this was because I thought the focus should be on this year's competitors because I am such a good bloke but the honest truth is that I overslept and missed my opportunity to pose before the cameras.

Perhaps I saved myself the embarrassment.

I had promised to help the judging team led as usual by London Olympics Chief Race Walk Judge, Steve Taylor and in a moment of complete and utter madness decided the best way to do this would be by bicycle. I wouldn't have attempted to walk 85 miles without training but for some reason I thought doing it on a push bike would be easy.

Early leaders, Chris Cale & Brian Kelly. I'm not sure their early pace was especially wise but the former did hang on to finish 10th.

It was a beautiful sunny day, although it did become a little cool during climb to the highest part of the course in the Sloc and Round Table areas and after the sun went down.

Having made the ascent, huffing and puffing up the hills, I felt able, unlike the other 10 occasions I'd been there to avail myself of an glass of the excellent Bosun Bitter, brewed by Parish Walkers Paul Phillips & Dale Farquahar at the Shore Hotel in Laxey.

They weren't going to let me have one because they said I was cheating by using my mode of transport but I reasoned that actually, they owed me for all the times I hadn't drank one and they relented.

South African Support System. They were there to back up some of the 17 South African competitors rather than prop each other up.

By this point the eventual winner, Richard Gerrard had established what was to prove an unassailable lead, though even he struggled with the effects of the heat during the 3rd quarter of the race.

Winner Richard Gerrard with David Mapp and Sinethemba Bono

Sinethemba was the first African to finish Cape Town's 'Big Walk' in November and his prize, sponsored by Old Mutual Finance for such an achievement was to leave his homeland for the first time, come to the Isle of Man and suffer for 85 miles. He was sucked along with the pacemakers to Rushen and I feared for him when I passed in on the infamous Ballakillowey only less than a quarter of the way into the lap but with much bravery, he toughed it out to finish 16th in 17:46.

First lady home was Janette Morgan who confounded the pundits by easily (though I'm not sure this adverb should be used in any context in a Parish Walk report) beating the champion Janice Quirk, though with her excellent efforts in Roubaix 28 hour 2012, last year's 100 mile walk and her progress over last winter in the shorter events, it should really have been no surprise.

Lighter moments of the day came when I popped into Kirk Michael Filling Station to be asked about the state of play. After I had relayed the first half dozen positions, he said, 'Where's Michael George?' And there I was. |

Just after the hell that is known as Ballajora, I caught another bike rider who was riding a strange contraption with 12" wheels and drop handle bars. It turned out that we were both chasing Richard Gerrard but for different reasons. I needed to be a witness to validate his performance but the other chap had followed the action in 2013 but had been half way along the Promenade when the winner crossed the line and he didn't want to miss the climax. On this occasion I kept quiet.

There are many businesses that remain open during the event, though I suspect it is more for community involvement rather than to make their fortune. One of which is the café at the Dhoon. As I waited for my cup of tea, the lady serving enquired about the leading positions. 'It that fellow from the Welbeck not doing it this year?' to much laughter from the queue.

I could write for many hours about this year's Manx Telecom Parish Walk but time has beaten me. There is lots of coverage on or buy this week's Manx Independent