Friday, 21 September 2018

IOM - Tynwald

After our expeditions taking Al to places that he hadn't been to before, it was his turn to ask us if we knew about the original Tynwald Site.  No, we didn't.

Tynwald is the parliament of the Isle of Man (IOM) and is over 1,000 years old, dating back to Viking times.

Tynwald Hill is the ancient site located at St Johns which hosts Tynwald Day each July.

We weren't aware that there was a previous Tynwald site.  Apparently the current site has only been in use since the 13th century.....only.....

Once again we had to find where to go.  Al had a rough idea, so I got out the map.  We were joined on this expedition by Al's next door neighbour.  She used the  maps on her phone. As it turned out, it wasn't far from the reservoir we had visited previously.

We parked the car at St Lukes Church, Baldwin and walked up a little dirt road for a bit.

Before long we came to a lovely old stone stile.

The site was just up ahead on the top of the rise.

What a magnificent place.  We were surmising as to why the site was in such a remote place, as everyone would have to travel by horse or foot to attend Tynwald.  The only thing that we could think of was that, when you look at a map, it is fairly central on the island.

Emily pointed out the plants growing in the rock wall.  They are bilberries.  I'd never heard of them.  

The ripe fruit are like tiny little blueberries.  We only found a couple of ripe ones, but did find a few that weren't ready to pick.

After we'd soaked up the view for a while we walked back down the hill and had a little look at the church.

It was another wonderful outing, and once again a new place to all of us.

Did you notice that the weather played nice?

Oh, and there were blackberries....loads of them......and we didn't have a container with we just had to eat our fill. Mmmm!

If you have a mo, have a look at the links.  The information is really interesting.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

IOM - Bridges

I had a few things that I wanted to see while we were on the Isle of Man (IOM).  A couple of them were bridges.

The first ones related to fairies.  You see, the Manx people take their fairies seriously.  The purists don't call them "fairies", rather they are the "little people".  We were told by one lady that her 2nd class teacher informed them that if they called them "fairies" they would grow two left feet and forever walk around in circles.  This was not an elderly lady, she was only in her 20s!

The Fairy Bridge is located on the road between Douglas and Castletown.  Whenever you cross the bridge you have to wave and say "Hello" to the fairies.  We have heard several stories of people who failed to do this and had terrible things happen to them shortly afterwards.

We were first made aware of how seriously this was taken on our very first visit to the island.  We caught the bus from Castletown to Douglas and there was a young woman sitting in the seat in front of us.  She was dressed as a punk and looked like she would snarl at you if spoken to.  As we crossed the bridge she gave a sneaky little wave and quietly said "Hello" to the fairies.

We always stop for a photo here.  Many people leave trinkets and make wishes to the fairies.  This is a relatively new trend, which a lot of the locals don't really like.

A little while ago I read an article about the "The Old Fairy Bridge".  This I had to find.  We asked Al if he knew where it was.  To our surprise, no, he didn't.  He had a rough idea, but had never been there.  He called a couple of mates, they didn't either.  At the time, he couldn't contact his font of knowledge on all things Manx, as she was at work.  No worries, I would look it up.    The next day we both had found the information, so off we went exploring.

We walked down a little lane.  Mmm, blackberries - just make sure that  you only pick ones above dog pee level.

Until we came to a little bridge across the Middle River. (The name makes you think of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings, doesn't it).

Don't cross the bridge, but walk along the path beside pretty little river.

There she is, hidden away in the greenery.  Once again it was a misty, moody day, which added to the magic of the place.

There is a little niche for offerings to the fairies.  Unlike the bridge on the main road, these offerings were sweet, child like ones.  There was  a plastic container on the ledge with a note to "open me", so we did.  Inside, there was a notebook and pink sharpie.  It had been placed there by a seven year old, who wanted you to write that you had visited.  So sweet.  We were surprised to see a couple of other people visiting as well.  Not as unknown as we had thought.

Mick was chuffed that we had brought Al to somewhere he hadn't visited before.

A couple of days later we dragged Al off on another expedition.  This time I wanted to see a little bridge that has been revealed as the water level of Injebreck Reservoir has dropped due to the hot dry summer the island had experienced.

I enjoyed the experience of finding these obscure places.  Al texted a mate, I got out the map.  Between us we found our way.

You can see here how low the water level has dropped.   Don't you love that even the functional parts of the reservoir have been made to look like a little castle. 

At the other end of the waterway this little bridge has been revealed.  Apparently,  in the early 20th century a small hamlet was flooded when the reservoir was created.  A lady working at the Castletown Library told us that her ancestors lived on one of the three flooded farms.  She had been hoping that the farm houses would become visible, but they are too deep.

They are poor photos, due to the misty conditions on the day.  Rather ironic, given that they are on water restrictions.

I think Al was a little underwhelmed that we drove nearly to the other end of the island to see this.  However, it was a pretty drive to get there up narrow, leafy lanes........And when we got there, we found blackberries......yum!

You can see a better photo of the reservoir taken recently here.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

IOM - The People

One thing that stands out in our visits to the Isle of Man is the people we have met and the hospitality we have received.

This year there was one glaring omission, Loulee, who blogs as Manxgirl.  We first met back in 2009. Neither of us had met another blogger up until then.  It was the start of a lovely friendship with her and Tony.  Lou has since emigrated to New Zealand and we missed spending time with her on the IOM.  

We met Big Al on our first visit to the IOM back in 2007.  Mick was overlooking a card game being played at the local pub when Al explained the game to him.  He and Mick keep in touch all the time.  Since then, Al has been a wonderful friend on the island, taking us to some amazing places on each of our visits, teaching us so much about the island, introducing us to many of his friends and taking Mick fishing and trials riding.  His shed is a real tardis, so organised and compact.  

This year Al introduced us to some old mates of his.  They gather each Saturday morning at "The Smithy" for a brew (and the accompanying toddy of rum) and morning tea.  It is all rather civilised.  They are mainly old sailors and boat owners.  I'm sure they have solved many of the world's problems down here.   

I particularly like the old flags they have hanging up.  No polyester here.  

It was a privilege to be made so welcome.

Al also introduced us to his mate Lawrence, who is a very skilled craftsman in timber.  He works out of a small workshop above his garage.  In this small space he creates all sorts of things.  At present he is making timber window frames for a house restoration and making replacement timber work for a historic church.  If you look closely at the bottom left of the photo you will see a strip of carved timber.  This was his practice piece for the edge of a board room table.  He not only built the table, but the matching ten chairs.  Chairs and table all have carved ball and claw feet.  The entire project took nine months to complete.  He has even built staircases in this space.  He is a quiet, humble man, with his work being featured in magazines.  He also specialises in restoring grandfather clocks.  It was a pleasure to meet him.

The next person Al introduced us to was Jack Fowler.  Al has been a mate of Jack's dad Neil for years.  Neil used to race in the Manx Grand Prix and this is Jack's first year racing on the island.  It was great to meet him and to also have someone to barrack for in the racing.  He did rather well too, coming fourth in the Newcombers B race on his Kawasaki 600.

We got chatting to this old bloke and his wife at the back of the grand stand one day.  It turns out that he was the Guest of Honour for the Manx Grand Prix.  His name is Frank Whiteway.  Back in 1967, on a Suzuki, he was the first person to reach 90 mph on a 250cc bike.  We had a really nice chat.  I went on to read a bit more about him here.

While wandering around Ramsey one day we noticed that "Master Frank" was in town. (The Green one.)  This is the historic sailing vessel owned by Lou's dad, Joe. 

As we walked past, we noticed that he was on board.  It was lovely to briefly meet him. You can read a bit about "Master Frank" and Joe here.

Monday, 17 September 2018

IOM - And Now For The Weather

I suppose the easiest way to start with our time on the Isle of Man (IOM) is with the weather, as it does rather impact on what you do.

Europe and the UK had a very hot and dry summer.  We lost count of the times we were told we should have been on the IOM for the TT back in early June, as they had the best weather ever for the race fortnight.

There is currently a hose pipe ban on the IOM, which will be in place for some time, as the water reservoirs are so low.

Our arrival on the island heralded a change in the weather to cool and bleak!!  That is the tower of refuge in the bay of Douglas, the capital of the IOM, on the morning of our arrival.

We went for a drive a couple of days after we arrived and really enjoyed the scenery...... The island has some fairly high areas which are proned to hill fog.  Sometimes the whole island is shrouded in a fog, which is known as "Mannanan's Cloak".  Pop over to the link to read all about it.  It is fascinating, as are so many of the myths and legends of this wonderful place.

The foggy conditions do make for some lovely moody scenes and are part of the charm of the place.

We were at the end of summer and we did have a couple of t-shirt days at the end of the fortnight, but generally it was cool, reaching only the mid teens.  However, the overnight temperatures were quite mild also, being in the low to mid teens.

As a last minute thought, we threw some beanies in our bags, not expecting to wear them.  They did stellar service.  Any Aussie would have spotted me from miles away wearing my stylish Bunnings number, but it was lovely and toasty.  As silly as it sounds, I could have even done with my long johns as we sat by the races some days.

The days were still fairly long, which means you can achieve lots in a day.  During the two weeks we were there the days shortened by nearly an hour, which was so different from what we get over here.

They say on the Isle of Man that if you don't like the weather, just wait 20 minutes.  We had a great example of that on the Thursday after we arrived.  The following series of photos were all taken on the one day, in chronological order.

What a mixed bag we experienced, but it didn't stop us doing anything.

The weather this year did impact quite a lot on the racing.  The riders were really struggling to get enough time on the road during practice week, but more of that later.

As we had no set agenda or plan for our time, we just went with whatever was on offer.  There was always plenty to do and occasionally it was nice to sit in our snug cottage and do not much at all.

The Isle of Man

The catalyst for our visit to the UK was to visit the Isle of Man for two weeks to watch some motorcycle racing.  This was our fifth visit to the lovely little island.

I'll give you a little background before I start sharing what we got up to.

The Isle of Man (IOM) lies in the middle of the Irish Sea and on a good day you can see England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland from its highest peak, Snaefel.  It is about 30 miles long and 13 miles wide.  The area may be small, but there is so much to see and do.

There are two main motorcycle racing events.  The main event is the TT, which is held in early June.  We have travelled over to watch that event three times.  The course is 37 3/4 miles long and is marked in the bold red line on the above map.  The IOM TT is considered the most famous road race in the world and is also considered the most dangerous.  The best riders average over 130 miles per hour over the entire course, which travels through towns, villages, open high country and lanes edged by walls and hedges.  Rather extraordinary.  The event runs over two weeks.  The first week has practice every evening and the second week has racing every second day.  This allows for poor weather or other incidents that can stop racing.  The high country in particular is susceptible to hill fog, which not only limits visibility for the riders, but also the rescue helicopter.  Also, the weather can vary considerably over the length of the course.

The other event is held in late August.  It is the Manx GP (MGP).  Five years ago they expanded that event to become the Festival of Motorcycling and have added Classic TT races.  It is a more laid back event with less visitors but attracts more classic bikes.  Late August is also a nice time of year.  The course and format are the same as for the TT.

When we visit the IOM we stay in the township of Castletown, which funnily enough has a castle - Castle Rushen, which is still used for official administrative purposes.  You can even get married in the registry office there.  Notice the clock only has one hand.  That is how it was made in Elizabethan times.  Yes, it still works.

I won't share a great deal of Castletown as I did so when we last visited in 2013.  If you have a little look here and here you will get a good overview.  We always stay in the same cottage, in a row of three.  This year we stayed in the one in the middle, next door to our usual one, but it was basically the same.  You can check out the cottage here from when we last visited.

As you can imagine, having visited four times before, we have seen most of the obvious tourist attractions, so now we are a little more laid back and seek out more obscure and not so obvious spots to visit.  Believe me, there is a never ending supply of things to see and do.  I went with a few things in mind that I would like to do or see.  Some we achieved, others still remain for another time.

I'm not going to do these posts in a chronological order, rather just grouping bits and pieces together over the next little while.  I hope you enjoy tagging along.