Sunday, July 1, 2012

UK Trip Part VI

One of the first things I noticed as we drove down the Promenade in Douglas, Isle of Man, was the horse-drawn tram carts. I'd heard about these from Grant and Kevin so while we had lunch near the Manx Electric Railway depot, I watched the horse being brought from the back of the tram (which was the front on the up-street trip) and hitched to the front, (which was the... you get the idea!) The horse' was called Douglas! There is also a milk-maid's stool in front of the first seat. As I wondered what this was for, the driver placed the stool on the tarmac near the front of the horse. He then lifted a little child onto it, and showed him how to gently reach up and stroke the horse's muzzle, while proud mom took a photo.
Douglas, a regular cat-horse drawing trams along the Douglas Promenade as transportation for tourists

*The Douglas Horse Drawn Trams are the world's oldest surviving horse tram service, dating back to 1876. The trams are fitted with roller bearings to ease the load on the horses bred to pull them. The trams link the two-mile distance from the Manx Electric Railway and depot at Derby Castle along Douglas Promenade to the Sea Terminal and Port. The line was opened by its creator, Thomas Lightfoot, a retired Sheffield civil engineer.

In 1882, Lightfoot sold the line to Isle of Man Tramways Ltd, which came later to be known as Isle of Man Tramways & Electric Power Co Ltd. In 1902 the Douglas Corporation purchased the lines from its bankrupt owners. The trams have been running ever since, only seeing brief breaks during World War II, and are a popular form of transport for locals and tourist. *

As you can see by the photo of Douglas drawing the tram, the weather that day was a peach. I mentioned to the men that I wouldn't mind having a ride at a later stage. Well, that day came soon enough!

 A cold and wet day. I took this photo from the car as we were cruising the street looking for parking! 

Tuesday was our second wet day! (On Sunday it mizzled all day; I stayed home until much later when the sun made its appearance, Grant, Kevin and Clive became bored with their own company and insisted I came out! 

This day, however,  Grant and I drove down to the promenade and as parking is at a premium anywhere in the UK, we left our little Nissan at the bottom end of the road. We were looking for a shop selling tee shirts. Although Grant insisted it was just a block up the street, we seemed to walk for ages past the hotels until we reached it. He bought a selection of shirts for friends and colleagues back in Africa while I huddled between the racks, pleased to be out of the freezing wet weather!

After Grant's purchases were completed, we braved the elements again.  The rain was now teeming down, and we needed to get to our parked vehicle two miles down the promenade, we headed for a sign with a horse and tram. If you stood near one, the tram driver, who was on the lookout for passengers, would stop and load you up. We were thrilled when a tram approached within minutes. But it didn't stop! The same horse works for a maximum of two hours a day pulling the trams up and down the promenade again. We knew that within about fifteen minutes it should return, so we dashed through the traffic to other side of the road.

We huddled in a bus stop (no horse and tram sign here!) where we met and struck up a conversation with a man, his wife and teenage son. They'd come from England to spend the long weekend on the Isle of Man and were regular visitors to the TT and we all discussed the astronomic ferry prices, the lack of parking and of course, the weather! Presently we spied the horse and tram coming down the street, and the lady and I rushed out of the shelter onto the sidewalk,  waving our arms frantically to make sure the tram driver saw us this time. He stopped and we gratefully hopped on board. 

Even though I'd wanted to ride in the tram, it was not the day to be doing this. With open sides and the cars overtaking spraying water up, I almost froze. I took a photo of Grant who looked like a frozen  "Ole Sea Dog" !   I, like Grant, also wore a knitted beanie. When I first pulled it on, I thought, "Mmm, Ali Mc Graw (Love Story), eat your heart out." Until Grant took a photo of me: suffice to say I deleted it!
 One very cold South African !

I also kept standing up in my seat to check if the horse was coping. When you're inside the tram, it feels very heavy and creaks and clanks along the rails and I wondered if the horse was having a hard time pulling us! 
 A view of the interior of the tram and the horse ahead

Of course, the horse, built for this type of work - and used to the weather - easily managed  to transport us to the Sea Terminal. We were only a few meters from where we'd left our car and where Kevin and Clive were waiting for us. As I jumped out, I took a photo of  Steve almost getting run over by a car in the process! 
Steve, who drew the tram we took from the top of the Promenade to this point at the Sea Terminal (visible in the background)

The horses are really very well cared for; they only work for two hours a day and are fed and stabled in town. Those that have become to old to "work", spend their retirement on a farm which houses a "Home of Rest for Old Horses" 

*The Home of Rest for Old Horses came into being in 1950 when Mrs Mildred Royston and her sister,Miss Kermode,  realized   that old,  albeit fit working horses were being shipped from the Island to a doubtful future.

From small beginnings, hard work, dedication and a lean income, the Home progressed until 1955 when a fortunate legacy provided the means to purchase the farm, "Bulrhenny" where the Home is now.

Of particular concern, were the old tram horses, and today the rest home has "first option" on tram horses as they retire.
Since 1950 more than 280 animals have found happy retirement. Currently over 50 horses and eight donkeys are being cared for on the farm.

The facilities are well maintained by a staff of volunteers. The horses are not shy and really enjoy visitors. They will come right up to the fence in hopes of an apple, carrot or bag of feed (bought from the gift shop). The location is very picturesque with benches and excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors are able to get a drink or snack from the cafe and can enjoy the history of the place in the Museum.*

As you can imagine, I wanted to go to the farm to see the "retired" horses. The weather worsened steadily and as we turned into the driveway leading up to the stables, we had an  eerie vision of horses grazing in an emerald green paddock in the mist. 
 The beautiful sight of retired horses grazing in the huge, lush paddock on the farm

I managed to drag Grant from the car - Kevin and Clive opted to wait in the warmth - to accompany me to the stables.    
 The Isle of Man Home of Rest for Old Horses

 I wouldn't mind retiring here! 

Around the next corner, we spotted a lady feeding a trio of horses. She had her back to us, and I loved the way the horses' heads moved first one way, and then the other as she moved along feeding them nuts . (They reminded me of spectators at a tennis match!) A man stood in the stable doorway, photographing the scene. 
 The horses' heads moved from one side to the other as the lady moved along feeding them!

Then we heard the lady speaking, and as Grant and I turned to each other saying we recognized a South African accent, the man turned to look at us. It was our friend, Derrick from Barrydale in the Cape, South Africa!  The lady in the hoody was his wife, Lesley! We'd known that they were also at the TT, and were staying in Peel. However, with the crowds, and road closures during race times, we hadn't managed to raise Derrick on his cell phone.   

After hugs and squeals of delight at meeting up, we gathered  in the stable to catch up on our respective experiences on the island.  In time, Clive came to look for us, and said he'd followed the loud South African voices emanating from the stable! Derrick had been to Isle of Man with Grant in 2009, and met Clive, so once again it was another happy reunion! I immediately enlisted Clive's assistance to take a photo of us four friends.  
 Four very cold South African friends happy to meet up in a stable for retired horses on the Isle of Man! 

I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.  Thanks for the kind wishes and congratulations on the birth of our newest grandchild, Israel Hedges.

For more interesting animal posts, click here

Note: * - * information courtesy of Mr Google.  



  1. It's always exciting to hear about your adventures like what I said before. To us, it's educational, too. God bless you sister and protect you both.

  2. The horses are splendid and I love the idea of riding in the tram. Maybe not in the rain. So good you went to the stables and ran into your friends.

    Congrats on the new grandchild.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Jo. I was so pleased the horses have such a short work-day, and the retirement farm is a wonderful idea. Particularly great, however, is the fact you found your friends there!

  4. I didn't know there were any horse-drawn trams left in the world... That is so interesting...

    Sorry it was so cold. We are having a horrible heat wave here --so I'd love to see some of that COOL air right now.

    Loved your word, mizzled. Guess that is a cross between drizzled and misty.... CUTE!!!

  5. That sure was a heartwarming post!

  6. Jo, I love the horses. They kind of remind me of the Clydesdale horses used here and on the Budweiser beer commercials. They must be strong. Sorry about the cold wet weather during your trip. I did enjoy this post, glad you went out in the rain. The retired horses were my favorite, nice to see they are well cared for. Great post and photos.

  7. Despite the bad weather it seems you had a good time ! Love the Horse tramway, we had that here in Brussels too, now the carriages are in a tram museum. Grant looks like the Captain of ship, lol !
    I am sure you had your luggage filled with rain, while I could take some sunshine home, lol !

  8. Those tram horses are beautiful, and it sounds like they really like people, too. I love the idea of a Home of Rest for Old Horses. I'm glad they're cared for so well in their golden years. I would need an Alaskan-style parka to be warm enough in that weather--I'm always too cold when the temp is 60 F (16 C)or colder.


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