"Having John Dog as a guide made the walk one to remember. He knew exactly where to go, what to see and also seemed to have a story for every plant."
Tanya from Lovely Greens
Tanya from Lovely Greens
The format is usually the same for each group. We generally meet in the Wild Life Park car park between 6 and 7 o'clock. I advise that you all wear wellington or walking boots as it can be both wet and uneven underfoot and wear clothing that will both cover you from midgies and protect you when pushing past tree branches. I also advise midge repellent because muggy evenings they can be desperate. I always say that we will go if it’s wet and I don’t charge but I will take donations for the charity that I am supporting that year. This year it is ‘Water for Ghamrang’. If you would like to book a walk please email me through the contact page above.
A WALK IN THE BALLAUGH CURRAGH
Ballaugh Curragh is a place of wonder and fascination; it encompasses the last remnants of an ancient lake that formed in the lowland between the Bride hills and the Manx upland. From Ballaugh Curragh, the remaining wetlands, which in most cases are just damp meadows, extend through Sulby and on to the east coast of the Isle of Man at Dog Mills. Place names betray the route; the Gaelic words Lough (lake), Ellan (island) and Chirrym (dry) can be found along the course.
Beside the starting point for the walk can be found signage presenting the information that the last remaining area of large Curragh in the Isle of Man, where parts are administered by Manx National Heritage, are now under the protection of the International Ramsar convention on wetlands. The word Curragh is a Gaelic word that means marsh or wetland. There is a comprehensive network of boarded walks threading their way through the area. The boarded walks are complemented by the main pathway which, prior to 1965 and the creation of the Curragh Wildlife Park, was a public road. The ‘metalled’ road has been replaced naturally, over time, by flowers, grasses and tree roots.
A number of the official paths are directed along the tops of what is left of the ancient hedges that divided the old meadow system, created in the middle to the late part of the 1800’s. It is here that the Royal Fern, Rhenniagh reeoil, can be found in abundance. The hedges, being raised and therefore drier, are ideal for the Royal fern. When viewed from the air, the hedges are defined by the lime green colour of the fronds. The new growth starts as a rolled up coil, not dissimilar to a ‘fiddle head’, before unfurling to become a tall majestic fern. These in winter turn a wonderful russet colour.
The meadows that flood in winter are home to the Willow species Shellagh, but the old meadow hedges attract certain tree species that aren’t able to grow where the ground floods. These include Holly Cullyn, hawthorn Drine and Mountain Ash Cuirn. In the drier meadows there are large stands of Silver and Downy Birch Beih yial. There can be found, below these trees, fungi growing in profusion. Included is the intriguing Fly agaric and on the Birch tree trunks grow the hoofed shaped Birch bracket fungus, which was used in days gone by to sharpen razors.
The Killane trench winds its way through the centre of the Curragh beside the old road. This is the main hawking ground for the Large red damsel fly. For the most part the trench runs north/south and gets the best sun of the day. Winter maintenance provides clearings with many vantage points for Damsel flies, Dragonflies Snaid mooarey and the numerous butterfly species. Regularly seen butterflies are the Peacock, Red admiral Ardmarragh, Small tortoiseshell and one of the most common butterflies, the Orange tip. The food plant for the Orange tip is the Cuckoo flower or Lady’s smock Lheiney Voirrey which can be found there in abundance.
Beside every path and hedge in the Curragh are found the ditches; these have become clogged up over the years, but they provide a great place for the plants that like their roots in the water. They are full of Horsetails Arbyl yn eagh and water mint Minthey yiarg growing alongside the Marsh cinquefoil Queig-duillag churree, so called because of its five sepals and petals. Its seeds can resemble large strawberries.
Fortunately there are still some open meadows in existence supplying the evocative Curlew Crottag with nesting opportunities for its four sharply pointed, dark brown, very well camouflaged speckled eggs. Evocative, because I think the call of the Curlew sums up what it is to be a Manxman on the Isle of Man. On a summer’s evening when the Curlew is on high, its plaintive call will lift any Manxman’s heart. On occasions, Curlew, Willow warbler Drean bane, Reed bunting Pumpee ny cuirtlagh, Water rail Ushag ny shast and ‘drumming’ Snipe Coar chrattagh amongst others, can all be vying for attention. There is no better place on earth!
John ‘Dog’ Callister