In a year-long series of articles in Manx Life magazine, authors from across our Biosphere offer a personal perspective on #MyBiosphere. This month, we hear from Chris Callow:
I was very excited to be awarded a UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man Partnership earlier this year.
As a Manxman born and bred, I’m passionate about my home, but sometimes think those who have always lived on the Island become blasé about what they have always known.
In my case, spending seven years in France from 2007 to 2014 caused me to reappraise what was of value when I returned to the Island. I have also had my eyes opened during a three-year History and Heritage degree at University College Isle of Man. This course, one of the few worldwide to combine these subjects, has made me realise just how much history and heritage is crammed into our 227 square miles.
In spring 2017, I qualified as a Blue Badge tour guide and have now spent two blissfully happy summers introducing visitors (and also locals) to just how much our Island has to offer. It is a truism that you never know everything about the Isle of Man there is always so much more to learn. Last year, I gave two talks at the Manx Blind Welfare Society about Groudle Glen. After each talk, someone from the audience corrected some of my errors and added some fascinating information which I now have filed away for future talks.
My studies have also rekindled my love of historical research. We are so fortunate to have the archives maintained by Manx National Heritage at the Manx Museum in Douglas. Following training, I am now included on the list of independent researchers maintained by MNH library and archives and enjoy the strange paths public inquiries can lead me down.
One of my particular passions has always been industrial archaeology. It’s amazingly lucky just how much of the Island’s Victorian infrastructure has survived. All too often the Government is criticised for the subventions given to our heritage railways, and it was a heart-stopping moment last year when we came close to losing the unique and irreplaceable Douglas Bay Horse Tramway. Thankfully, wiser counsels prevailed and investment in the future of steam, electric and horse-powered lines seems secured.
It is also heartening to see volunteer groups coming to the fore in restoration projects, as well as operating lines such as Groudle Glen Railway and Great Laxey Mine Railway. These activities bring so many benefits to our communities.
Our railways and tramways are properly an integral part of anyone’s visit to the Island. I particularly enjoy building a trip on the Manx Electric Railway, Snaefell Mountain Railway or Isle of Man Steam Railway into a day’s walk. The combination of nostalgic travel and breath-taking scenery creates some wonderful memories and photo opportunities.
It is also wonderful to see so many locals now using the heritage railways. The Dining Car and Snaefell Summit events and the TT commuter services have been marvellous innovations and the extended horse-tram season and guided visits to the stables are being well-supported.
As a tour guide, I consider myself an ambassador for the Island and welcome every opportunity to explain what a special place it is to live and work.
Chris Callow is the proprietor of Island Heritage Tours and a member of the Guild of Manx Registered Tour Guides.