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Gillian Street by Kate Owens

Gillian Street's #MyBiosphere

I fell totally and utterly head-over-heels in love and had no control over it. Either that or I was enchanted by the fairies under the Fairy Bridge or the great sea god, Manannan, or both.

After living on the Isle of Man for two years, I still fear that I may wake up and find that moving here has just been a truly wonderful dream.

Charlie, my partner, had a historic motorcycle racing team in Australia and we visited the Island in 2013 for the first Classic TT. I knew nothing about the Island except for the races and the tailless cats.

Landing in Douglas, I felt I had sailed into a beautiful and ancient children’s storybook, stepping back in time but having all the mod-cons, like flushing loos and WiFi.

I knew we were in a different world when the car hire people told us ‘you’ll find the keys on the seat of the unlocked car in the car park’, and our landlady, who had taken no deposit from us, said ‘the key’s under the welcome stone at the door. Just leave the rent on the table.’

My favourite hobby is walking and, for anyone who likes walking, the Isle of Man is a little taste of heaven. The terrain feels as if my three favourite walking places in the world – Cape Town, Cornwall and Yorkshire – have all been put together and I can explore safely on my own with no fear of snakes, poisonous spiders or being mugged.

I can be in the middle of a busy street one minute, jump on a bus and, 20 minutes later, I’m walking in the most beautiful countryside, with views that go on forever.

Even in the towns, there are quirky and beautiful surprises. I started with no map or plan and accidentally discovered the gems of Summerhill Glen, Glen Falcon behind the Villa Marina, Marine Drive, the Nunnery and more – and that’s just around Douglas.

Our been-there-done-that holiday became an annual pilgrimage until I just couldn’t bear to be away for 11 months each year and, in early 2017, we made a permanent move.

When walking on my own, I used to stick to sections of the Raad-ny-Foillan until I discovered the slieaus near Kirk Michael, and since then have moved between mountainous, coastal and urban walks.

As I am now working full-time, I don’t have as much time for my adventurous, unplanned exploration. Charlie bought me a wonderful waterproof walking map and I have joined the Manx Footpath Conservation Group, who have some very entertaining and informative members.

I don’t think I’ll ever get to try every beautiful walk there is on the Island, there are just so many. Long may that remain.

How wonderful to live in a peaceful, safe and beautiful country that has made a commitment to maintain the wellbeing of the natural world, the only country in the world to achieve Biosphere status.

I avoid pinching myself so that if I am asleep, I can stay in this wonderful dream.

Gillian Street, who worked as a nutritionist and health promotion officer in Australia, is a researcher on the Isle of Man.

Photo: Kate Owens

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