Cameo’s Two and Five

Camping Cameo 2 01

Dear Reader, if you read of Charlie’s travels in the Isle of Man, you will recall that he twice refers to different Camping Cameos.  I have pleasure in repeating them here to save you searching through your books of Charlie’s.

A farmyard is hardly an ideal campsite, but when a farmyard is the only available place other considerations must go overboard.  It so happened during the wetter part of September 1930, that I found myself wandering around Castletown, Isle of Man, at 11pm.  A farmer’s boy took me home with him and gave me the alternative of a large field containing a fully grown bull, or the farmyard, which was detached from the farmhouse and surrounded on three sides by the field; the road and the shippons covering the fourth side.  I dislike bulls, so I chose the farmyard, found a spot that boasted a patch of grass amongst cobbles, and there set up my outfit.

Whilst preparing supper and persuading myself that a farmyard is not half so bad as it is painted, a terrific snorting just over the wall announced the presence of the bull.  For some minutes I ignored it, uneasily hoping that he would go away, but he worked himself into a frenzy, and I arose to chase the brute away.  It was a dark night but I could see that bull.  He was the largest and ugliest specimen I ever want to meet, and he went mad when he saw me, butting the wall, rattling the gate, and roaring like a cyclone.  I retired to the farthest point in the stockade to debate my future action, then the farm lad came to assure me that the beast was too heavy to get over the wall and returned to his supper.  I was not convinced.  The wall was not high; when I again moved forward to reason quietly with him, the monster placed his forefeet on the coping, and pushed a large stone onto my bike, bellowing murderously at me.  For quite a minute I braved him, then he tried the gate again, turned and dashed away.  There came about half a minute’s terrible suspense, wondering what the dickens he was up to next, till, from the far end of the yard came a fearful snort and another great rattling.  He had found another gate.

No ordinary town-bred mortal could stand that racket for long, so off I hied to the farm and told the boy that there was no room for the two of us there, and either the bull or I would have to go.  He gathered his brothers together, and with dogs went off to round the animal up.  From the darkness came a whooping and a barking, a snorting, a thudding of hoofs, and then – I saw the tremendous shadow of the bull come charging through the open gate.  The beast and I eyed each other for a moment.  I would have flown but my feet wouldn’t obey the impulse, so I just stuck there.  Happily the dogs came just then and the brute thundered off into the far recesses of the farmyard.  From the darkness arose a mighty pandemonium of sound then the boys came and announced that all was well, their prize monster was safely shipponed.  I returned to my supper in a better frame of mind, and as the muffled sounds of the imprisoned fiend died down, I lapsed into tranquillity.

In the warm comfort of my eiderdown, I was slipping into blissful unconsciousness when there came to my ears the thud of hoofs, a snort, and the gate rattled!  I swallowed quickly or my heart would have got out, then I awaited the worst.  The bull again!  Thinking that he must have broken out of the shippon, and even at that moment he must be sniffing at the tent or preparing for a mighty onslaught,  I spent an aching period of dreadful quiet.  The gate rattled again, so at that I arose to sell my life as dearly as possible.  I crept out.  Two horses stood by the gate, and one whinneyed gently at my approach…………      I turned in and went to sleep.

Camping Cameo 5 02

In The Isle of Man Part 3

A sea-side road runs back to Scarlet; along it I went, searching for a campsite, which would have to be a farm, as this part is flat, populous, and waterless.  I found a dilapidated place near the water’s edge, where everyone was out, but a passer-by advised me to wait.  I waited till 11.30, till the night air came cold across the sea, before anyone turned up.  I was fixed up at length – for the story of how, see my short story ‘Camping Cameos 5 – The Bull’.

The next morning I was up betimes, and away quite early, to take advantage of this last full day in the Island.  The weather was dull and windless; the warm air seemed to be wanting a breeze, and a yacht in the sandy bay lay with sail drooping, that, too, expectant of wind.  In the harbour ships were crowded, amongst them two steam packet boats come to rest the winter, their season of traffic and conviviality over for half a year.  Over the narrow harbour the grey walls of Castle Rushen stood, the only thing unchanged after centuries of ships.  I was struck by a large sign bearing the words ‘Herring Manufacturies’ in a crowded street.  Until then, in my land-lubbers profound ignorance, I had believed that herring was a fish that grew in the sea, but now I perceived it to be manufactured by man.  Had I not seen the very place it is made?  Pondering on this new discovery, I hugged the coast, and then, crossing a flat strip of land (the isthmus called Langness which projects into the sea like a foot), I came to Derby Haven, a meagre-sized hamlet on a cupped bay, sand-choked and reefed at the out-tide.  At the edge of the bay, near two houses called Ronaldsway, the road abruptly turns inland to Ballasalla.

A footpath hugs the dunes along the foreshore, and as my map promised a through way, I took to the path.  The coast began to take on a rugged appearance; with cornfields and barley crops up to the edge of my path, which in turn came near the cliff-edge, I proceeded, stiles and gates at every field barring free travel.  Then came a point of beauty, the coast assumed tall cliffs lapped by the gentle waves, and quite suddenly I came to the edge of a sheer-sided gorge, at the bottom of which rushed a stream.  Higher up there were woods, ravine-setted, lower down-stream the cliffs came to the water, and by the sea a strand of silver sand sloped gently into the green.  The cliffs on the coast across the ravine were a hundred feet tall, indented with many caves, fissures and detached rocks of fantastic shapes stood in the tide.  The name of the place was like music, Gaelic, perhaps, with a touch of the old pibroch……. Cass-na-Awen….. does it not linger at the edge of the tongue, like the pibroch lingered in the windy halls of Vaternish?

A hundred yards above the mouth of the ravine, I left the bike and scrambled down with difficulty.  It was in my mind to swim, for not a soul was within sight, and as if to urge me on the sun sent golden warmth down.  Where a ledge hung over green depths I dived, down to still waters where green weed hung as if in mid-waters.  The sudden cold of it shot through me like electricity; colder seas I had never felt, but there was a strength and energy to be drawn from it, and long strokes took me through deep waters into a cave where the light was tinted green from the filtering of the sea.  With a swift drying, I went about an exploration with the leisure of a long day before me, and when I climbed back to my bike, I hesitated to leave that lonely, lovely valley.  Half a mile higher the ravine had assumed a green gentleness, and my path crossed it.  There was a farm there where strangers are unusual, for the kiddies came running out in excitement, and the woman stared and smiled

A green-turfed lane led me over a hill with once a glimpse of the sea, and joined the road to Douglas.  In half a mile I paid an excursion down a glen to Port Grenaugh, where people bathed and sat on the rocks, and where a modern café on the sea-edge captured wireless waves and dispelled their music across the gentle sea-waves.  The Douglas road was undulating, with little to see, but quiet enough for three miles or more, when, at a toll-gate I was invited to ride around the Marine Drive for 3d, which I paid and swooped down a white road to a tramway line, where cliffs fell down to a lazy sea, and Port Soderick’s commercialism, a little hoarse at the season-end, sprawled itself half-a-mile below at the sea-edge.  I turned away, along the Marine Drive.  The road surface was atrocious, but there is some wonderful engineering about the Drive, which is hewn out of solid rock for many miles, and is fairly well graded.  Below, 300ft, the sea washes the cliff-foot; ever-changing views round headlands, coves (where the road takes great twists and crossed bridges of tremendous height), or out to the open, where the sun shone and all was a-glisten.  There is a headland called Little Ness, where the rocks jut out in ugly teeth, coves like Horses Cap, Nuns Choir, Pigeon Cove, and every high-span bridge bears a fanciful name.  Finally, Douglas asserts itself, with blatant signs, and as the road falls to the Old Town, the road is full of booths to catch the coins of visitors.

Crossing the bridge into Douglas proper, I provisioned at a confectionery shop, and immediately joined the Peel Road, for little more than a mile took me to Kirk Braddon, where a road right began to climb towards the hills.  At this point I had completed the full circuit of the Island, following the coast by road and path as closely as it was possible for me to go with a bicycle.  Now it was my intention to do as much of the mountainous inland as possible without re-traversing the same road.  In a quiet field I lunched magnificently, then pushed on, constantly uphill into the glen of the river Glass.  As I mounted higher, another phase in the variety of this compact little island began to show itself.  Pine-trees, great moorland slopes with heather a-bloom, and little ravines contributing cascading streamlets to the clear river, itself little more than a stream.  The Baldwin reservoir, Douglas’s water supply lies wedged high in the glen; thereafter the road seems to lose its caste, becoming steep, rough and un-hedged.  Injebreck river, a streamlet, and wild moorlands, up, up, till it joins the high-road near Snaefell at 1303 ft.  The high road is well surfaced though gated, climbing to 1406 ft, from where I saw the Island stretched below on three sides, and made out the coast-hills of two lands, Ireland and Scotland, far across a shining sea.  On the fourth side Snaefell mountain itself rose like a blister, blocking the view.  There is an hotel on Snaefell summit, and a railway line all the way up.  I could see the trams like yellow worms crawling up the brown slope and the dark, tiny patches of humanity on the summit.  No doubt the view from Snaefell on a clear day is magnificent; no doubt the tramway is a boon to decrepit old gentlemen and invalid old ladies, but as I approached the Sulby fork-road, near where the line passes, I saw a tram with half a load of people who ought to be revelling in the use of their legs and sweet atmosphere out of town.  Though I could have climbed the extra 600 ft of Snaefell in less than half an hour, I preferred to leave it to the trams and hotel-people.

I drifted down Sulby Pass instead.  First steep and rough, Sulby Pass is as glorious a stretch of wine-red ‘col’ as any in our Yorkshire and Derbyshire of the mainland.  Below the Pass the winding road down Sulby Glen was heavy with foliage, and cottages nestled where there was room in the narrows.  At Sulby, on the Lowlands again, I sprinted along the TT course to Ballaugh, and the Peel road of yesterday again, having tea by a sparkling stream in Bishops Court.  The Tourist Trophy Course, ready laid out for the morrow’s Senior event, was beribboned and be-posted.  The thought struck me that I would have to fix my camp tonight in such a position as to make Douglas accessible in time for the afternoon boat next day.  As the road that rings the northern half of the Island is closed to public use while the race is on, it behoved me to make for the southern half, the better to allow me further exploration to the limit of my available time.  Accordingly I made for Kirk Michael, and still continuing along the marked road, turned up Glen Wyllin onto the higher ground, semi-moorland, fringing Sartfell.  The road was quiet with sea-views and an undulating roll like our fellside roads about the Lune.  From a summit at St Johns Chapel, I began to descend a beautiful glen called Craig Wylly’s Hill.  Dusk was coming when I reached the elaborate hotel at the entrance to Glen Helen.  I had heard much of Glen Helen, so I decided to see it for myself, paid the entrance fee, and entered.  I walked sharply in the dusk, along a deserted footpath that steadily climbed through deep woods to Dhenas Fall.  By that time the light had almost gone, and the fall hung like a white fleck down the dark recess of the rock.  Another path down the Glen beside the river was not so well kept, and in places I had some difficulty.  By the time I reached the road the hotel was a blaze of light, sounds of merriment coming from within.

I lit my lamp and pushed on, intent on getting south of this race-course with its coming racket and crowds, passing a large camp of motor-cyclists, and reaching St John’s , where I bought ‘in’ at a tiny grocery store, and, crossing the TT road, climbed steadily up Foxdale.  At the cottages of Ballahig, I enquired for a campsite, by a stroke of luck meeting a farmer just as I was about to seek his place.  I obtained ready permission, choosing a sheltered and cosy spot by the river.  Of my subsequent wanderings in pitch darkness I have already written [Camping Cameos 5, titled ‘Lost’]

My awakening on this Tuesday morning was hastened by the twin sounds of rain and motorcycles.  Apparently the distance was not far enough.  I went up to the farm for milk and eggs, and settled down to a leisurely breakfast, whilst the rain came in a hard drizzle, and the aspect was thoroughly hopeless as far as clearing up was concerned.

The thrill of the race half a mile away was without interest to me; I packed up still in driving rain, and climbed to Foxdale, a mining village where derelict buildings spoke plainly of trade now departed for ever.  From Foxdale mines I tangled myself in a maze of hilly lanes, white with mud, through tiny one-house hamlets like Renshelt, Braad and Cloughbane.  At a place called Cooil, a short walk from the old Kirk Braddan, and no more than three miles from Douglas, I had tea in a cottage attached to a rather weary-looking mill.  In the tiny parlour swarmed myriads of big flies, turning me from my food.  However roughly and simply campers live, they demand some measure of cleanliness.  At 1.30pm I departed in a fury of rain, making my way to Douglas, and embarking of the Fleetwood boat, due out at 3pm.

Thus ended a four day trip to the Isle of Man.  I had gone there expecting to find commercialism over-running natural beauty, as weeds over-run a hearty crop, and I received a pleasant surprise.  Commercialism is rife, no doubt, when the season is at its height, though even the spots can be found where the trippers never go.  Isle of Man has gained its name by a certain type of holiday-maker.  That same type may have saved it from complete eclipse, by its own bone-laziness.  Places like Jurby, where the coast is quiet, The Niarbyl and the Calf of Man are too inaccessible for those people.  Cass-na-Awen, I am sure, has never changed since the days when the Isle of Man was only served by a once a week boat, Injebreck is too toilsome a climb for these people, and the glens, though popular, have to be paid for.  In September the Isle of Man is lovely and almost lonesome.

The rain never ceased that day.  When the slow negotiation of the Lune deep and the sand-banked channel had been accomplished, we berthed at Fleetwood, and made a good hard run home, I and the two Boltonians I had met at Niarbyl Bay, and met again on the ‘Lady of Man’.  I had left Foxdale in the rain, I reached home still in the rain.  Two brilliant central days, an indifferent first day and a thoroughly wet final day.  Variety is the very spice of life !


In The Isle of Man Part 2

Dusk was creeping up, and the last traces of the day’s rain still hung over the hills.  The glory of that rural road to Jurby is in the views of the hills.  The mist lent them remarkable grandeur.  At one time I was startled into a belief that I was really looking across the lowlands to snow-puffed alps and glacial rivers; at another I could easily imagine myself gazing into the mysterious highlands when the grey mists boil up from the glens to lend their shrouding grandeur to those heathery island hills.  I hardly saw the sea, but a furlong away on the north side of the road, yellow dunes betrayed the end of the land, and there were houses on that near horizon, sometimes spaced at lonely intervals of half a mile, sometimes clustered into hamlets like Ballall, Cronkbreck and Sartfield.

A mile beyond tiny Jurby, the Carlane River runs under the road and enters the sea.  A sandy track beside the stream went past two houses to the shore, and along that track I passed at dusk.  I was very fortunate to chance that way, for behind a sheltering dune, but with the tide at my feet, I discovered a perfect stretch of turf, and pitched my tent there.

Can you conceive of a pleasanter thing than to camp within sound of the sea, to cook your supper as you look out across darkening waters, and to go to sleep as your ears make music from the plash of sea-waves !

The tide was up.  As I lay half-awake, I could hear it, pounding on the shore, not six yards away.  The strong tang of ocean was on my lips – my face had a pleasing smart.  With my bathing costume, I jumped out and saw the sea there, restless and reflective, laid out to a dim horizon where sea and sky joined, and not the bare shadow of earth to break the ocean plain.  The sea was cold – exhilarating for a quick splash and out again – to breakfast.

At 9am I was on the road again, hugging the coast as much as I could, though the road turned inland for a time to Ballaugh, with its old church of the type particularly Manx, and its bridge made notorious by the ‘TT’ motorcycle races.  At Ballaugh I came onto the TT course, a broad highway, and pleasantly quiet that morning, running towards the coast again to Kirk Michael, where the course turns away into the hills.  From Kirk Michael to Peel, the road abounds in seaward views, running almost along the coast, which itself is neither sandy nor rocky, but quite good to eyes that love the places where land and ocean meet.

In The Isle of Man003

Peel is a show-place.  If you have not been to Peel, you have not seen the Isle of Man: if you have been to Peel you have – to argue in the same strain.  If you have been to Peel, you went on St Patrick’s Isle to the Castle, listening to, and looking at, mummified history touched up with pretty legends.  The day I was at Peel the show had ended for the summer, and though a cool pleasant breeze blew, people wrapped themselves up as they walked the half-deserted promenade.  I didn’t go to the Castle; didn’t even set foot upon the ‘Blessed Isle of Patrick’, but the docks, wherein flows the little Neb stream, were interesting, and smacked of fishing.  My road negotiated narrow streets, and then went round the back of Contrary Head, where someone has stuck a monument and called it Corrin’s Folly, presumably because one Corrin was foolish enough to build up there for no reason whatever.  I can record countless  cases about people credited with good sense doing things daily that put Mr Corrin’s folly in the shade.

A dip and a nasty bend nearly precipitated me into Glen Maye, but my brakes are good, and I paid tuppence to walk down.  Glen Maye has an attracting name, and it attracts worthily.  This side of the island is facing east, [sic] so, naturally, this is the colder side, and already the woods are faintly brown.  The waterfall in Glen Maye was in spate – one grand leap, as though the flood was determined to make my tuppence worth while.  As in Dhoon Glen, the stream enters the sea by a fine little gorge at a point called in Manx ‘Traie Cronkan’, where a good stretch of the rocky Contrary Head is visible.  At  Glen Maye Hotel I had seen a magnificent car drawn up with a chauffeur within dressed faultlessly.  Halfway down the Glen I met what I guessed to be the possessors of the car.  Incongruous is the word for that party.  A stout lady dressed in expensive clothing was panting along under a load of furs in a manner that reminded me of the early days of motorcars.  With her came a painted doll, bejewelled and mortally afraid of speckling her shoes with Glen Maye mud; an elderly man Bond St tailored to a collar so deep that his chin had a permanent tilt, and a young blood of the Dandy class, who gave me an unsolicited glance of such hauteur, as to make me long to punch him well and truly under his lifted chin.  They seemed utterly out of place in Glen Maye.

I climbed uphill, just as the sun broke out and the sea shone as if polished.  At Dalby, a long, straight lane led towards the coast, and down it I went to have my lunch by the shore.  The road ended dead on the beach at two white-washed cottages. Magnificent!  Niarbyl Bay is the greatest bit of coast in all the Isle of Man.  There was a coastline worthy of a mighty nation, a rugged series of headlands, one behind the other, of wild solitudes where the gulls swoop and soar and scream to each other, and no other sound is heard but the ceaseless boom of ocean breakers battering creeks and coves in the tall cliffs, and gurgling in long caves.  I couldn’t leave the Niarbyl for a long time; I had lunch there; I played about on the rocks: I sat down and dreamed out across the sunny waters; I collected pretty shells and threw them away again.  I walked back slowly up the steep road, with many a backward glance.  There was no way along the cliffs, so I had to return to the main road.  Just as I emerged, two figures came up in cycling clothes, and I recognised them as two of the Bolton CTC.  There was the usual surprise on both sides, a long talk, and I gleaned the information that they were camping at The Niarbyl.

Immediately we separated, I plunged down another steep lane to a farm in a glen, across a ford, and up again.  The sun got hot, the climb was steep and heavy on a track that grew dense nettles.  I was nettled on my bare knee till the blisters rose like the gradient, until I reached a height of 1189 ft.  The sea was far below – across I made out the Irish Coast quite clearly (the Mourne Mountains), and to the north the Scottish coast at Stranraer was visible.  Three countries, to include the Island!  I passed round the back of Cronk-ny-Iray Llaa, which, on the far side falls an almost sheer cliff of 1449 ft to Niarbyl Bay.  At the summit another track joined, and the two proved somewhat better together than they had been separately.  Rolling moorlands inland changed to sweeping fields of green, and as I reached The Stack, the whole foot of the Island lay out below like a map, the tongue of land to the Calf, with the sea on each side, and Port St Mary and Castletown model places beside a deep-blue sea.  Surely, there is nothing dull on the Manx coast !

A steep descent and a puzzling set of roads took me into Port Erin.  If I wished to spend a holiday in a seaside resort, I should go to a place like Port Erin.  If this place wishes to expand, the growth will have to be at the back of the town, for the two headlands, on each side of the town, effectively block the way.  The town is not blatant like so many resorts; neither is it too pretentious, but snug in its deep bay, with Bradda Head, a magnificent headland to the north, and Kione-ny-Garee, rugged and rocky at the southern end.  I stood on the stone jetty, watching the bathers and longing to join them.  My ‘lightweight’ costume was insufficient to fulfil the rather strict conditions laid down for sea bathing at towns.  As the day was Sunday, I missed my opportunity to visit the aquarium and fish hatcheries, which, controlled by the Manx Fisheries Board, are, I believe, well worth seeing.

From Port Erin (I was still assiduously following the coast) I joined a path leading uphill onto some rolling, down-like moorlands.  There was a Druids Circle near the path, and a little beyond was a refreshment hut.  To my dismay I discovered that I had only a little brown bread left, as I had made the mistake of neglecting to buy sufficient on Saturday.  Sunday is a dead-letter day on the Island.  I bought my tea, saving my meagre stock for the morrow’s breakfast, and afterwards joined a branch path going right.  Further along there were stiles and gates, and then the path reached St Patrick’s Footprint.  A slab of rock had a concrete box arrangement cemented to it.  On top of the box was a spy-glass, and by paying a penny into a slot an electric bulb inside was lighted.  Then, I suppose, St Patrick’s Footprint comes into view.  I surmise the ‘footprint’ is the shape of a foot water-worn in the rock.  All around are outcrops where water has worn hollows.  I didn’t fall for this absurd catch-penny, which seems to be about the limit in trading on those people whose religion has made ready to swallow any old yarn, so long as it is associated with the saints, or heaven.

Soon after I reached the edge of the cliffs.  My pen is inadequate to the task of describing my walk by Aldrick Bay to the Calf Sound on that perfect September evening.  The varied beauty of recurring cliff scenery kept me in constant enjoyment, and when I came to the waters-edge at Calf Sound, and saw the tide racing past the two tiny islets of Kitterlan, and through the narrow channel, I just stuck there, as I had done earlier in the day at Niarbyl Bay.  The Calf of Man, that great lump of rock, barren and deserted except for a lighthouse and a hut, is an easy swim from the mainland; so close, indeed, that a notice board placed on its shore warning people that it is private property, is clearly readable.  As I could not proceed by the coast, I had to turn inland on the one road from Port St Mary for a mile to the exposed hamlet of Cregneish, from where a grass track goes seaward again.  I came to the edge of the tall sea-cliffs again at ‘The Chasms’; paid tuppence, and was allowed to see the natural curiosities.  ‘The Chasms’ are many great fissures where the sea and natural erosion has found the softest places in the rock.  Here the cliffs are 400ft, so it will be realised how deep some of these narrow, lateral fissures are.  From ‘The Chasms’ I could see Spanish Head, a fine promontory, where, I believe, a ship was wrecked, and still lies at the mercy of the elements.  But the finest thing I saw at ‘The Chasms’  was a gorgeous sunset, slowly diffusing sea and sky in a crimson glow.  Crimson to amber, and, as it sank below the horizon, the fan-spread colour in the sky melted and withdrew, as also withdrew the long red track along the smooth waters.

I dawdled past the great cone shaped ‘Sugar Loaf’ rock stuck out of the sea, by ‘Fairy Cave’ and the serried headland called Kione-y-Ghoggan to Perwick Bay and Port St Mary, with its quaint old town and its modern one.  Port Erin is more in my line.  Here the coast flattens out at Chapel Bay, a small bay within the greater sweep of Poolvash Bay, and the road hugs the water’s edge to Poolvash Hamlet.  Dusk had set in; I left the road (which here turns inland), and kept to a cart-track along the shingle to a farm, where the sole occupant was an ill-behaved dog who set up a protracted howling.  The track ended, so I had to turn back, heading inland across the rear of Scarlet Point to Castletown in the dark.

In The Isle of Man Part 1

In The Isle of Man001 September had reached its wetter and colder half when I found myself toying with the idea of a long weekend before Winter proper set in and brought the end of camping.  The worst of weekends is that they are never long enough, even when extended from Friday until Tuesday.  In that year of grace, 1930, many erstwhile two-day trips had been stretched into double that time, and my pocket as well as my employer had suffered in consequence.  The material result was an alarming slump in financial status and industrial confidence, but neither of those caused me half so much concern as would the frustration of one weekend.  Such is my material debasement.  Mentally I felt as though the intellectuals were near me, and were it not for my sheer neglect of study and things classical, I sometimes thought I might aspire to some lowly pinnacle of knowledge.

How all this would end I knew not, and cared less.  When youth leaves my side I shall be speedily relegated to that industrial scrap-heap which is the abiding fear of nearly all working-class men of middle age, unless I pull myself up, and descend to that state of highly respectable humbug which is assiduously practised by most people.  I think I prefer to drift on as I am, and, as one eminent political irresponsible has said: “damn the consequences”.

I like to think that I have a fairly strong streak of the nomad in me.  If you are inclined to ask why I like to think so, I shall answer that I like to think of it, and that is enough for me.  Maybe I shall finish life as a nomad; I’d far rather do that than pass my days behind a bare wall of respect and convention, working a tortuous eight and a half hours a day, visiting equally tortuous friends and relatives o’nights, and wasting precious Sundays swallowing the haberdashery of professional religionists, and chanting silly recantations to a very problematical God.  The fools – spending so much time and energy in pursuit of an improbable future state, while the only world they are sure of, is waiting for them to enjoy it, to make it worth living in.

The idea of a weekend in the Isle of Man grew upon me.  Weekend excursions at cheap fares are issued by the steamship company, and I resolved to take advantage on the last weekend they were available, the second in September.  Thus I left home at 9pm on the Friday evening, to catch the midnight boat from Fleetwood.  The ride by night was eventless and pleasant, for the night was placid, moonlit, and devoid of traffic, and I boarded the new, one-class boat ‘Lady of Man’ with half an hour to spare.

On the ‘Lady of Man’ berths are free, taking the form of long couches in tiers of two at various points on the ship.  I chose an upper berth in the warmest part of the ship, composing myself to sleep.  The impossibility of this became apparent when an invasion took place, possibly from a railway train, and all the tables in the room became occupied.  The reason for this large, impatient company became obvious when, as the ship got under way, a bar opened directly opposite me, and soon Babel reigned.  Although I was sleepy and sleepless most of the way, the great interest I drew from studying the people who drank the night hours away kept me from boredom.  Even drink palls, for when the engines ceased, and the bar closed, there was a bleary-eyed silence all around.

The boat arrived at 5am and I was soon making my way to Douglas promenade.  The prom was hardly astir, darkly lit, and cold.  It was not my first visit, though there is a vast difference between visiting Douglas for a holiday and visiting the Isle of Man with cycle and camping kit.  I had resolved first to follow the coast until I reached Douglas again, and I soon began to put it into effect by climbing Onchan Head, not by the road, but by a footpath from Derby Castle by the Port Jack Camp to Port Jack, a fine little bay with a good bathing place.  While I had lunch there, dawn broke, and the sea became gradually suffused with light.  A fine bit of coast scenery, and the path among rock and bramble – difficult to drag the bike along – showing the bay to the best advantage.  My wanderings took me to a deep ravine on the coast, blocked up by a high concrete wall, on the top of which a path was made and protected by railings.  A series of iron ladders led down into the depths of the gorge which gave off a strong scent of brine.  I had half decided to descend to the bed of it and investigate the reason for this great prison, when a man with a uniform came up, bad me ‘good morning’, and with a sack over his shoulder, went down.  Reaching the bottom, he entered a small cave at the side, and shortly after came back with his sack empty.  He had been feeding something, it was clear, though what it was I knew not.  I afterwards found out that this deep gorge was used as a bear pit, and was glad I had not personally investigated.  A bear, confined like that one, is not an amenable animal.

I reached a road again, and by the coast enjoyed really fine rock scenery to Groudle Glen, at the mouth of which I picked out a rough lane which soared up behind the cliffs.  I was tired then, from a day’s work and a sleepless night, and obtained ready consent to camp for a few hours in a field by a cottage.  So I pitched before 8am and slept soundly until half past one in the afternoon.  The weather had broken: a heavy mist, full of rain, drove in from the sea, and I packed up in a storm.  The lane passed the ruins of St Lonans church, then a branch swung out by Clay Head, though the rain took the views away.  At Garwick Bay I struck the main road to Laxey, where a steep lane led me down to Old Laxey, with its quaint harbour at the river mouth, and closely packed houses.  The wind and the rain played fury there, but it was great to stand at the seaward wall and look over Laxey Bay at the half-obscured cliffs of Clay Head.  I crossed the bridge, climbed steeply, and joined the highway by the electric tramway, where both climb together by the side of Sliean Ouyr, 1483 ft, and again give lovely seaward views.  I came to Dhoon Glen hotel, paid my threepence, and inside the cape, walked down the Glen.

In June, July and August, I can imagine Dhoon Glen to be a show-place almost always crowded with holiday makers on a trip from Douglas.  There are many seats placed on vantage points, where, throughout the summer days people will sit and rest, eating chocolates, sandwiches, smoking cigarettes, and throwing paper about.  The kind of people who usually spend their holiday at Douglas contain a great proportion of those whose regard for natural beauty is set at a low standard, and they go to Dhoon Glen and such places only because it is a welcome break in the journey by electric tramway to Ramsey.  If the summer happens to be dry or just ordinary, the Glen will be pretty.  But when I walked slowly along the well-kept path down to the sea, the rain had swollen the stream, and the leaves were falling.  Isle of Man gets an early Autumn.  Dhoon Glen was lovely, and the waterfall that races and plunges in channels, in leaps, and in broken ropes of white, was as magnificent as most of the North Wales show-falls at their best.  That such a small island can muster such a flow of water in a few miles speaks well for the quality of Manx rain.  Where the Glen comes down to the sea is like a gorge, and the coastline there surprised me by its grandeur.  In a few hours the sea had become storm-tossed.

Soon after retracing my steps, the highway offered me two alternatives, of which I chose the seaward, and came to Glen Mona, which winds for over four miles to the sea, and contains a waterfall.  I did not traverse the whole length of the glen, owing to the very wet and long nature of the footpath (a ten-mile walk would have been involved), but assiduously followed a narrow, evil-surfaced lane along the top of the glen, with, at whiles, glimpses of wooded ravine and grey sea, and a backward aspect of mist-soaked moorlands.  My effort to hug the coast was spoiled when the lane took a full sweep back to the main road, near Christ Church.  I crossed Glen Corony, and found another lane no better, that descended to the beautiful little hamlet called Cornah, built of stone with luxuriant gardens house-high.  There I paid a visit on foot to Ballaglass Falls, a wide cascade of three parts, not great or big, but of good effect.  The wet weather was making each fall a spectacular display.

At Cornah, I was not more than 18 miles from Douglas, but such was the nature of the varied attempts to see the coast and the best the glens could offer, that the time was now 5pm.  I had left Douglas 12 hours before.  While I ate tea by the wayside above the hamlet, the rain ceased, and I was able to put my cape away.  Still faithfully seeking the sea by the aid of my ‘half-inch map’, I joined a rocky road by the farm of Ballafayle to Ballygarry, a bleak little hamlet, and so reached Maughhold.  Maughhold is quaint, possessing a sundial and Saxon cross of antiquity.  But greater is the headland reached by a short path – 300 ft cliffs down to the sea, and a rugged coastline, headlands and promontories at the foot of which the spindrift whirled and the breakers rolled white-capped.  In truth I had fallen in love with Manxland !

In The Isle of Man002

Two miles beyond Maughold, the earth suddenly fell away before me.  Ramsey was below, on the edge of level pastures, and a golden strip of sand edged the great sweep of the bay.  From Tableland Point I descended into the second town of the Island, and stayed there just long enough to lay my stock in for the night.  I never saw the promenade, but passed through along a road as flat as the last ones had been hilly.  As I rode nearest the coast, the sun came out, and I could see the sea glittering on my right.  When the road took a twist away from the coast, I turned along the first lane, and then became involved in a network of treacly marsh-lanes that finally ended at a gate.  Not two hundred yards away I could see a road and people passing to and fro, but such an area of the bog lay between that I turned back and made my way through laborious mud to the small compact village of Bride.  A heap of stones called a road took me along a dreary, windy level to the sea and the single farm grandly termed Port Cranstal.  The lighthouse on Point of Ayre was only a mile or so away, but there was no attraction in the ride, so I turned back to Bride and took the Jurby road along Glentruan, which is not a glen at all, but only a name.  The Jurby road is quite level and of excellent surface; moreover the scenery is rural with that strange air about it that makes it not English.