In our regular feature, authors from different walks of Manx life offer a personal perspective on #MyBiosphere. This month, Sue Woolley writes:
I was born and brought up in the Isle of Man, as were my parents and forebears for many generations, so I feel I have a vested interest in its future.
I am delighted, therefore, that we have been afforded UNESCO Biosphere status, which recognises the importance of protecting this unique environment.
I am not exaggerating when I say that almost every square inch of the Manx countryside is precious to me, steeped, as it is, in memories, family lore, history and tradition.
I have walked its glens, tramped its fields and climbed its hills, north, south, east and west, to the point where my greatest delight is to discover somewhere I have never been before.
If asked to write about my favourites places, it would stretch to many columns. Instead, I’ll take a sentimental journey back to my childhood in Peel, when endless carefree hours were spent roaming and exploring unspoilt territory – river banks, home to heron and moorhen; fairy dells filled with primroses and violets; rock pools with tiny crabs and sea anemones.
Some of my earliest memories are of helping my father pick spuds on our farm, Close y Garey. At noon, we’d join the other workers for a picnic in the shade of Cronk Lhiannag. Many years before, the bones of the Great Elk were found in the hollow at the bottom of the field.
On Sundays afternoons there would be walks along the bank of the River Neb, past Glenfaba Mill, as far as the Red Dub, where we would splash in the water and try to net minnows, working up an appetite for kippers or boiled eggs with bread and butter for tea.
Occasionally, we would venture further afield to the beautiful White Beach, Dalby. Bottles of Irving’s pop would be buried in the sand at the water line to keep it cool.
Sometimes, we’d visit relatives on the farms: Aunty Isobel and Uncle Walter at Ballacarooin, Braddan, or Uncle George and Aunty Marty at Ballavell, Malew, where, tucked away in the corner of a field, lies the Chibbyr Unjin – a holy well guarded by an ash tree, venerated in times past for its supposed healing properties.
In about 1930, my mother and her brother were building hedges with their father when they uncovered the end of a hollowed-out log. They sensed it was of some significance and notified the Manx Museum. It was subsequently excavated and found to be a well-preserved bog oak canoe, dating back to pre-Christian times. Like the Great Elk, it, too, is displayed in the museum.
One place that is special to all our family, far and wide, is Dreembeary, now a lonely tholtan on the north side of the Beary Mountain, above the Blabae River, German. It was here that my grandfather, Joe Wood was born.
In our twenties, my husband and I were lucky enough to rent a cottage in Maughold – and we lived there for nearly 18 years. Ballaglass Glen was right on our doorstep. It is still very close to my heart and has never lost its magic.
Although not an expert in any way, I am interested in the broad spectrum of what constitutes Manx culture including its history and folklore....
According to myth, it is the fairy folk, the bugganes and fynoderees, who are guardians of this precious isle. They will surely welcome a benevolent new presence in our midst – the protective spirit of the Biosphere.
Sue Woolley is a former reporter with Isle of Man Newspapers and author of several books including ‘My Grandmother’s Cookery Book – Traditional Manx Fare and Celtic Customs’ and ‘Peeps into the Past’. She lives in Ramsey and is a well-known yoga teacher.