“Castle­town Bay note we in brief, Dou­ble-tongued with rugged reef Treach’rous as the mid­night thief;”

Landscape (UK) - - In The Home - Wil­liam Gell, ‘Man­nin Veg Veen’

Manx, the islet mea­sures ap­prox­i­mately 1½ miles long by no more than 1 mile wide. Ris­ing to a high­est point of 421ft (128m), the rocky cliffs around the Calf’s north­ern perime­ter are home to seabirds. In­land, the ground slopes away south­wards around a dish-shaped cen­tre grazed by Manx Loagh­tan sheep. Worked prehistoric flints and early Chris­tian graves found here point to its ear­lier oc­cu­pants. Farmed since the 18th cen­tury, it is now a na­ture re­serve and bird ob­ser­va­tory, owned by the Manx Na­tional Trust. Two war­dens live on site from March to Novem­ber. Their role in­cludes mon­i­tor­ing and car­ing for the is­land’s bird life, in­clud­ing the rare Manx shear­wa­ter, guille­mots and ra­zor­bills. Dessie Robin­son worked as a war­den on the Calf for two years. “Gan­nets from Ailsa Craig and Pem­brokeshire come to the Calf to feed. I could watch them all day long. When there’s a shoal of fish, to see them fall upon the water is in­cred­i­ble.” Of­ten cut off from Mann by bad weather, the war­dens must be en­ter­pris­ing and self-suf­fi­cient. “Living on an is­land like the Calf, money means noth­ing. The only cur­ren­cies are al­co­hol or some­thing sweet,” says Dessie, who now helps main­tain a va­ri­ety of Manx Na­tional Her­itage sites, in­clud­ing Creg­neash. “Once the au­tumn gales start com­ing in, it’s hard. Oc­to­ber can be un­be­liev­able with the wind. Sit­ting in the farm­house writ­ing up re­ports of the year with birds that have visited, you can be stuck in­doors for days,” he says. “What I loved about living on the Calf was that if any­thing goes wrong, you have to fix it. You have to be re­source­ful. I liked the self-suf­fi­ciency.”

Well pre­served history

Fur­ther along the coast, at the mouth of Sil­ver­burn River, is Castle­town, Man’s an­cient cap­i­tal. At the heart of the town ›

Look­ing across the Sound to the Calf of Man (far left). Dessie Robin­son was one of two war­dens on the Calf for two years. He learned to be self-suf­fi­cient while he was there, as the islet is of­ten cut off from the main is­land (left).

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