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By Net Zero's Digital Engagement Officer.

During the summer of 2023, a group of friends and I decided to walk the Raad Ny Foillan. We had done well so far, walking from Douglas to Castletown, Castletown to Port Erin, on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.  

On a warm sunny Sunday in September, the heat was beating down reaching highs of 18 degrees. With clear blue skies, we set off with good intentions, packed lunches, and several litres of water between us. Little did we know this would quickly run out and the challenge we had set ourselves would be much harder than anticipated.  

The walk started like every other walk. We consider ourselves to be ‘walkers’ and we enjoy doing this as a group activity at the weekend. However, the steep hills, heat and humidity, meant we depleted our water stores pretty quickly. Thirsty and burning in the sun, we continued to Niarbyl, and without any water, we were getting desperate. We were totally parched. It was becoming hard; morale had faded, and the once cheery walkers were gone. 

As we walked, spotting Niarbyl Cafe in the distance, we were savouring the potential for an ice cold drink or cold refreshing ice lolly. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The sweet taste of hydration kept us going. Trekking through the overgrown hedges, up and down the steep hills. This dream was short-lived, the cafe was shut. The tap was dry. We had no options. 

At this point, the dehydration had gotten bad. We were reminded that this leg was only supposed to be to Niarbyl and we had achieved greatness by getting this far. But the next bus out of Niarbyl wasn't for 2 hours! It was a Sunday after all. And in that time, we could have made it to Peel and be on the bus home back to Douglas. It was a fork in the road that divided the group, and we were too worn out now to think straight. 

Do we sit and wait it out for the bus, or do we carry on as planned, walk on the main road in the hope of finding water from a kind resident on the way, and redo the coastal element later? 

It was at this point I had a bright idea; I downloaded the Refill app and searched our location. Refill is an environmental campaign that connects people to places where they can eat, drink and shop with less plastic. Using a free location-based app, Refill provides a network of points offering the public free tap water to fill your water bottle. It was an app that I had seen in my work in the Net Zero team, and recognised the logo from the multiple stores around the island who advertised their free Refill service.   

We found that the local church was open and welcomed weary travellers like us to use their facilities! We saw it as a divine intervention! We were saved, hallelujah! By gosh we felt thankful to the lovely people of St James' Church and Dalby Hub that day. We found the strength and merrily made our way to the church, crossing our fingers it was open as advertised. The door to the church was open, we refilled our bottle at the tap in the kitchen and left a donation of all the change we had in our pockets. We felt revitalised and set off on our way to Peel.  

Six hours after we set off, we arrived in Peel, sank a pint at The Creek and hobbled to the nearest bus stop before heading home to Douglas. Little did we know, we had all burnt to a crisp and now resembled a cooked lobster. 

The Refill app saved the day, the app was so easy to use, and the map directed us to safety. 

We went on to complete the Peel to Kirk Micheal leg in the summer of 2023 and plan to have the final stages under our belts in 2024. We all love this story and retell the tale fondly when preparing for the next stage when we will have the Refill app tightly in hand and plenty of sunscreen!

Download Refill - supported by UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man and Manx Utilities. As of 17 June 2024 there are 150 Refill stations in the Isle of Man.