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Saturday, 29 June 2013

Walk 98 Isle of Wight - Fishbourne to Bembridge

 Walk  98  Isle of Wight- Fishbourne to Bembridge

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 11 miles or 18 km approx.
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: Mainly footpath and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: A little tricky, it involves getting a number 9 bus at Fishbourne and changing en route to a number 8 for Bembridge. Go to Traveline website for more details.

Public access to the coast between East Cowes and Fisbourne was not possible when I visited and no public paths are marked on the map. However, while in this area it is well worth visiting Osborne House designed by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was their second home and Queen Victoria died here. A good view of their private beach can be had from the house.

The walk starts on the coastal path near Fishbourne close to Wooton Creek. The ferries going into the port at Fishbourne can be seen from here. The path makes its way inland to Ryde with only brief glimpses of the sea (Ryde Roads). One distinctive landmark is Quarr Abbey. This was erected by French Benedictine monks between 1908 and 1914. It is built on the site of a medieval abbey dating back to 1132 and destroyed in 1536 at the time of the Dissolution.

The walk into Ryde passes a lake adjacent to the beach where some odd boats are made in the shape of very large swans! Ryde pier is half a mile long and is the fourth longest in the UK. A railways runs along the pier and there is an electric rail connection from the pier to nearby Shanklin. The trains are ex London Piccadilly underground trains. Ryde has been a point of strategic defence and was fortified by cannons against a possible invasion by France in Napoleonic times. The front is neat with a few attractive buildings. The beaches are sandy and very popular. On the way out of Ryde, and near to the beach, is Appleby Tower, a Victorian watchtower. You can go to the top of this on certain dates and you can also have your fortune told!

Continue round to Nettlestone Point where the beach is stony and there is a large wildlife park. The coastal path cuts inland soon after this and returns to the coast at St Helens.

St Helen’s Church, on the beach near St Helens, is a significant landmark. It was built about 1220 and ceased to be used in 1703 when it was bricked up. At this point it became a source for 'holy' stones which were taken by sailors to scrub down the decks of wooden ships. On the 14th September 1805 Lord Nelson boarded HMS Victory, which was anchored nearby, to sail to the Battle of Trafalgar.

Follow the path across Bembridge Harbour. I noted a very interesting guest house (4 star) formed from a houseboat and guarded by two statues of pirates! Bembridge village is inland up a hill. It is worth a visit if only to see the windmill – the only one surviving on the Isle of Wight. It was known to be in existence in 1740 but may well be older. Turner started a water colour of it in 1795 (not sure whether it was finished). There was at least one woman miller in the past. The mill was last used in 1913.

The beach at Bembridge is very picturesque although the infamous ‘Ledges’ lie off the beach and several ships have foundered on these. The Crab and Oyster pub is adjacent to the beach if you fancy a drink and/or a meal.

Snaps show: St Helen’s Church; Osborne House; Appleby Tower, Ryde; Bembridge Bay.

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