Trails and trials of the writer who walks
On my long distance treks, it’s almost become a tradition to lose something between my house and the railway station (about 200 metres). Last year I lost the waterproof cover from my rucksack, noticing it only when I lifted the pack from my back in preparation for boarding the train. This year I lifted the rucksack from my back 4 minutes before the arrival of the train and saw to my horror that the outer pocket where I’d stashed my phone charger and two other items was unzipped. The other two items, fortunately, were still in it. But no phone charger. I dashed back home, scanning the pavement for it, convinced it must have fallen out, but there was no sign. Perhaps I’d forgotten to pack it at the last minute and it was still sitting on the hallway table? No. Locked the house back up, legged it back to the station. Another poor start to a trek. I often think that’s a sign of good luck. I mean, get all the bad luck over within the first ten minutes, and it can only get better. Right?
A whacking great breakfast at Wetherspoons, Lancaster, saw me through the day. The train to Heysham Port was on time, the ferry did what ferries do without sinking, the beer on board was bland and expensive but I managed to make two pints last the whole crossing, and here I am in the Isle of Man.
I’ve decided to do the coastal path clockwise. As the ferry terminal is at the southern end of Douglas, it’s only half a mile or so before I’ve left the town behind. The ferry landed at about six, so dusk is already beginning to settle and I haven’t a clue where I will be spending the night. The hillsides on my right are thick with gorse but well fenced off. On my left the cliffs soar and tumble into the sea. I’ve just come round Douglas Head. A stone archway declares the road to be Marine Drive. It seems this was once a B road which is now closed to traffic due to erosion but remains popular with cyclists and dog-walkers. The gorse-covered hillside to my right is largely perched above a vertical cliff and quite inaccessible. Where the hill does come down to meet the road, it’s fenced but in one or two places I’ve seen curiously well-worn steps leading up to the fence that stops you going any further up the hill. It’s as though there was once a right of access up the hill (a few hundred years ago judging by the condition of the steps). Dusk has turned to darkness now. I think the only option is to use those steps and climb over the fence. The hillside is well covered with tall leggy gorse bushes which will provide privacy if not comfort. Here goes.
About halfway up, I spot a small flattish clearing in the gorse trees which will have to do. At least it’s out of sight from the road (in case the land-owner happens to be a midnight cyclist, and there are plenty going up and down with lamps bobbing in the dark). I’ve lost my glasses already: they were dangling around my neck but must have been pulled off during the scramble over the fence. Second thing lost. Actually the phone charger wasn’t lost after all, I must have changed my mind about where to store it at the last minute because I found it in the bottom of my rucksack.
Tent goes up in the dark using my trusty head torch. It’s a new tent this season but I’ve had several practice runs in the garden plus a two night stay near Pendle Hill in February which was also to find out if my ludicrously expensive sleeping bag was going to keep me warm. (It did!). I feel deliciously secure in my hidey-hole in the gorse bushes.