The Sunday sea kayak sessions just before Christmas proved memorable, putting on at Fleshwick to provide shelter from the increasing South Westerly...
The Intermediate group did a little exploring of the rocky playground before heading South to the old Copper and Lead mines below Bradda Head. After an exciting surf landing on the boulder beach, the group headed for grassy knoll at an entrance to a Copper mine for some well earned refreshments.
It was an ideal opportunity for a small foray into the mine itself, and the phrase 'entering a different world' was very apt. Many of the 'tunnel's in the rock (and judging by appearences, the confidence building timber roof supports) originally date back to the second half of the 18oo's. The delvings of this particular network had yielded relatively little amounts of minerals for the ore removed, leaving a small mine easilly explorable in the time we had. As a comparison, sections of Glen Rushen mine (often referred to as Foxdale mines) which predominantly extracted Lead (and a very small quantity of Silver) have tunnels below the depth of 600m!
The Isle of Man had peaked on its mining production, and mines began to close at the beginning of the 20th Century. By this point, the Island was resposible for 5% of all the Lead produced in the UK and Laxey provided an estimated 20% of the Zinc!
Having spoken to miners who worked in the extensive 'pits' in the UK and read what I can, i'm in absolute amiration (and not the smallest bit of jealousy) at the working conditions they endured and ability to deal with adversity on a daily basis. It puts into perspective what a 'hard day's work' is... and reinforces my belief that I have the best job in the world!!
Whilst negotiating unlikely looking 'well weathered' planks over shafts along our route, (or perhaps worse, the absence of them in places) elements of the group seems less interested in the topic of working conditions, and most interested in the quickest route out...
This little adventure had the very positive effect of making the surf launch back out into the now delightfully challenging surf and wind seem plausable in comparison! A following breeze ensured a rapid return to Fleshwick Beach.
Meanwhile the Intro-mediate session had been running in the bay, where Sarah and Jessica passed the new UKCC 2 Star Test in kayaks, so a big congratulations to them!
The new personal performance star awards from the British Canoe Union have been rolled out successfully, and being a BCU accredited centre we keep up to date with developments, offering the new Star Tests and Coaching Awards in 2008!
On a different note; Jeff Norville, my paddling partner on the Vancouver Circumnavigation Record, has confirmed his attendance at the 2008 Adventure Week, (along with many other entertaining coaches) where he will be our Saturday evening guest speaker, as well as teaming up again in the 'Mighty Triton' looking to set a record time in the inaugural 'double kayak' category of the round the Isle of Man Race...
The traditional Christmas Day paddle organised by Jan and Terry, from Port St Mary (made even more pleasurable by the addition of a drop of Scotch all round) ensured a fair appetite for the glorious repast on return to base. Then it was a 'early night' in preparation for the legendary game of Cammag!
For those new to this sport, it kicks off (literally) at 2pm every Boxing Day, on the Tynwald Fairfield, overlooked by Tynwald Hill and has been described as;
a Manx form of the Irish Game of Hurley, traditionally played all over the island, with matches beginning on 26th December 'Hunt the Wren' day.
Those who have played may also refer to it as;
a meeting of a great many people, armed with implements often made of wood, forming sides of 'The North' and 'The South', involving a scoring against the opposing side with a ball (but this is not necessarily the primary objective), there are no rules as such but there is a referee - John Kaneen - armed with a whistle, strolling about bellowing encouragement to the North side, and administering large measures of scotch at breaks between the three halves of the 'match', particularly as a painkiller for those on the receiving end of the rough and tumble..
The truth depends very much on the perspective and experiences of the viewer (or player). This year the South (whom I happily play for) won, although during the mass confusion and in some cases a combination of blood, sweat and tears, who was on which side was difficult to make out. The North originally held a complete monopoly on the Cammag trophy, but recruitment by the South in recent years (and the moving of boundaries between the North and South) has resulted in some excellent results for the South, culminating in the 2007 5:1 victory. There are varying levels of 'skill', many wide swings and attempts at the ball, with intermittant rugby tactics, often to no avail. The growing number of ladies and youngsters partaking has mellowed the game, from what was traditionally a men's sport. And as with any game played with good humour, those who want to challenge each other hard can do so, and a post match genuine shaking of hands displays the absence of malice on the pitch.
So for those who fancy an unforgettable adventurous experience of a different nature, 2pm, 26th December 2008! 'Proper' hockey and hurley sticks are frowned upon (a stem of gorse, suited to the player is traditional), although pots, pans, buscuit tins and lengths of 2 by 2 have been known! See you there...
Pics by Mike Wade