The Manx Wildlife Trust, founded in 1973, has 20 reserves on the Isle of Man. Its purpose is to conserve wildlife and the environment. The reserves cover 200 acres and vary from two small urban sites in Port Erin and Onchan to 72 acres of heather moorland on Dalby Mountain. There are 17 mountain and coastal glens, open to everyone. Twelve permanent campsites bring a stay within reach of all. Ayres Nature Reserve
A few of these reserves are:
Ayres nature reserve is a section of coast along the lowland in the northwest and is unique from the other coasts of the island. The reserve consists of shingle, dunes, and heath. It contains plants rare to the Isle of Man. A visitor centre (signposted on the Ballaghennie Road west of Bride, car park provided) gives the details on the ecology, geology, and history of the reserve. There is a nature trail from shore, through dunes, to lichen heath. Walking along the trail highlights how sand changes to soil to heathland.
Marram has stablised the dunes near the beach and allowed blue-grey sea holly and pink-flowered sea bindweed to take hold. Other plants that can be spotted are the Isle of Man cabbage, sea and Portland spurges, and the pyramidal orchid.
In sheltered heath areas mosses, lichens, wild thyme, common storksbill, dovesfoot cranesbill, rest harrow, western gorse, European gorse, and birdsfoot trefoil grow. In the summer burnet roses are in bloom. In the slacks other plants grow including the early marsh orchid, northern marsh orchid, adder's tongue fern, bog pimpernel, silverweed, and marsh pennywort.
Bogs provide habitat for invertebrates, useful as food for birds and frogs. Grasshoppers living in the marram contribute to the birds’ diet. Birds spotted here are mostly seabirds such as gannets, shags, cormorants, terns, and wading birds—oystercatchers, ringed plovers, and curlews. Land birds include the skylark and stonechat.
Basking sharks and seals ply the waters.
This reserve is an urban one, made up of part of a small valley with a stream and an elevated area of grass and shrubs on one side of it. A variety of wild flowers—harebell, vetches, yellow rattle, meadow buttercup, and red clover—have been planted in the grassland to create a small wildflower meadow. The valley is woodland cover for birds such as blackbird, goldcrest, robin, and willow warbler. Migrant birds stop here and include barred warblers, firecrest, pied and red-breasted flycatchers, and lesser whitethroat. Berry and nectar bearing shrubs are planted to attract the birds as well as butterflies.
Breagle Glen: reach from St. Georges Crescent, which makes up the entire north and west boundary.
Close Sartfield (meaning ‘enclosure’) is a large reserve, part of the Ballaugh Curragh wetland. A bird hide, reached by paths and boardwalks near the entrance, offers panoramic views of the area. The landscape consists of meadows and willow carr.
This reserve is a good place for bird watching. On the reserve are a number of breeding species: lesser redpoll, grasshopper warbler, reed bunting, sedge warbler, whitethroat, and curlew. Hen harriers are numerous. An occasional peregrine or merlin can be spotted.
A diversity of flora thrive in the variety of soil found in the reserve. Haymeadows come alive in late May and early June with tens of thousands of orchids that include heath spotted, early marsh, common spotted, northern marsh, and common twayblade. Yellow bartsia, yellow rattle, lousewort, purple loosestrife, and cuckoo flower also grow in the grasslands. Wet areas provide habitat for bogbean, marsh cinquefoil, devil's bit scabious, marsh arrow-grass, and cottongrass. Trees in Close Sartfield include downy birch, holly, sycamore, ash, and wych elm.
Close Sartfield is home to orange-tip and wall brown butterflies. Moths are numerous, as are dragonflies. Brown hare, rabbit, hedgehog, woodmice, pygmy shrew, stoat, polecat, the common frog, lizards, and bats are numerous.
Close Sartfield is reached from the TT Course (A3), turn on to the B9 between Ballaugh Village and Sulby Glen. Take the third turn on the right and follow the road for almost one mile. The reserve entrance and car park are located about 25m along a track on the right.
Cooildarry (meaning oak tree and nook) is a deep wooded valley in the upper part of Glen Wyllin. Glacial drift covers much of the area. A tributary of the river cuts into the deposits, and the Ballalonna stream creates a series of waterfalls over slate. The area was home to mills in past centuries. They processed fuller’s earth (a clay) to treat sheep fleeces. The water wheel used to power a small industrial railway, is one of the industrial remains in the area.
Most native wood was removed by the end of the 15th century. The Victorian created a pleasure garden here, and today’s woodland is the result. Tree varieties include oak, chestnut, lime, hazel, silver birch, hawthorn, blackthorn, and holly. Other species are rhododendron, Portugal and cherry laurel, and Corsican pine. Mosses, liverworts, horsetails, and ferns grow in the moist shady areas, as do over fifty species of fungi.
Spring is a good time to visit the woodland and see the carpets of
primrose, wood anenome, wood sorrel, lesser celandine, golden saxifrage, and bluebell. Boggy areas on the valley floor lend themselves to yellow flag, hemlock water dropwort, and branched bur-reed.
More than 50 species of bird have been spotted in the area and 35 species have bred here, including raven and sparrowhawk.
Cooildarry has two entrances: opposite the road to the Glen Wyllin campsite on the Peel to Kirk Michael Road and on the TT course, one mile south east of Kirk Michael.
Cronk y Bing Nature Reserve in Andreas
The reserve’s boundaries are the Lhen Trench, the high water mark, and the track from the Lhen Bridge to the shore. It is located near the southern tip of the Ayres, an area of heathland and sand dune. This reserve has a wide strip of yellow dune. Behind the dunes is a flat area (sand having been removed commercially) Coastal grassland, home to rabbits, has taken over this section. Marram grass, pyramidal orchid, sea bindweed, restharrow, common stork's-bill, bugloss, harebell, sheep's-bit, wild carrot, common cornsalad, burnet rose, wild mignonette, sea holly, and Isle of Man cabbage inhabit this area.
The Lhen trench in this area is a habitat for hemlock water dropwort, marsh woundwort, cudweed, angelica, marsh bedstraw, and figwort. The shoreline is a breeding ground for the little tern, oystercatcher, ringed plover, and meadow pipit. In the autumn grebes, sea duck, skuas, gulls, and waders are seen. Seals, basking sharks, and diving gannets can be spotted in the waters.
Cronk y Bing: On the A10 take the track to the beach immediately south of the Lhen Bridge. Car parking is at the seaward end of the track.
Dalby Mountain Nature Reserve in Patrick
Dalby Mountain reserve, is traditional heath moorland and is located between two conifer plantations. The A27 runs through it. 5% of the island's wet heath is found here. Dominant species are heather, purple moor grass, rushes, and bog asphodel. Other plants are devil's bit scabious, cross-leaved heath, and heath spotted orchids. On the dry heath can be found bell heather, ling heather, and western gorse. Snipe, curlew, hen harriers, and grouse inhabit the reserve.
Off road parking on the west side of the road at the beginning of a track to Eary Cushlin.
Earystane Nature Reserve in Colby
The reserve was originally part of Ballachrink ("hill farm" in Manx Gaelic) and was later used as a tip. This ended in the 1970s. The wetter, lower lying part of the site (never a tip) is favoured by willows. The tip area has been colonised by grassland, nettles, bramble, gorse, and rosebay willow. A path leads to a bird hide overlooking willows and the surrounding countryside.
On the site are 100 species of plants. In the meadows are grasses and wildflower such as knapweed, birdsfoot trefoil, and clovers. The wetland provides habitat for grey willow and plants that range from ground ivy to bluebells, marsh marigold, marsh woundwort, marsh thistle, rushes, and heath spotted orchid. Willows offer a home to mosses and lichens.
Common birds found here are blue and great tit, robin, blackbird, wren, and pheasant. In the countryside are hen harriers, raven, and chough. The area is on the migratory path of willow warblers, redwing, fieldfare, and chiffchaff.
Earystane Nature Reserve: follow the A7 from Ballabeg or Ballagawne and turn at Colby onto the A27 leading north uphill towards Ronague and the Round Table. Pass Colby Glen on your left and at the sharp right-hand bend beyond the last houses, a road sign points to Earystane on the left. The wooden entrance gate to the reserve is on the right hand side of this road. Park in wide section of A27 200 metres east of the site near the waterworks.
Onchan Wetlands, Curragh Kiondroghad
This reserve is surrounded by houses two minutes from the shopping centre in Onchan. Almost 100 species of flowering plants (wetland and woodland) thrive here. In the wetlands are willows, marsh marigold, yellow flag, reed canary grass, hemlock water-dropwort, woody nightshade, and cuckoo flower. Ditch banks are home to liverworts. Hedgerows support red campion, herb-robert, ivy, blackthorn, dog rose, hazel, field maple, and wild privet planted by man. Trees on the dry edges of the reserve are silver birch, ash, holly, and rowan.
Birds in the reserve consist of grey wagtail, goldcrest, woodcock, chiffchaff, hen harrier, and common garden species. Frogs breed here in the spring.
Onchan Wetlands: turn into Church Road from the A2 near Onchan. Park on the left as the road dips; cross a piece of land on your left owned by Onchan Commissioners.
The Purt Nature Reserve in Ballaugh
This remote reserve (the name may mean ‘boggy/marshy ground’) is in the deserted valley of Glen Dhoo near the confluence of tributary streams. The steep slopes of Slieau Curn, Slieau Dhoo and the area of Ballaugh Plantation define it. Above the reserve on the hill are hut circles, once used in summer when pasturing animals. The remains of a roofless house, water mill, and dam are in the area.
The grassland once served as sheep pasture but has been overtaken by gorse and bracken. Lemon-scented fern is found along the river. Hen harriers, ravens, stonechats, and linnets breed in the area. Peregrines and herons can be seen.
The Purt: Follow the road to the Ballaugh Glen, between the Raven pub and Ballaugh Bridge, driving as far as the forestry car park. The lane to the reserve is just below the car park. Walk the final mile along a green lane (Bayr Glass) which is roughly parallel with the river.
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