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Friday, 26 July 2013

Walk 100 Isle of Wight. Ventnor to Brighstone

 Walk  100  Isle of Wight- Ventnor to Brighstone

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 15 miles or 23 km approx.
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: Mainly footpath and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Possible but tricky, two buses via Carrisbroke or Newport – check Traveline website.

Start walking on the coast path west out of Ventnor. You will come across a large sign of ‘VENTNOR’ carved into the Cliffside. This marking first appeared in 1934. When war broke out in 1939 it was removed for obvious reasons but it has been refurbished several times since then.

About a mile further along is Castle Cove. This is one of a small number of bays caused by the erosion of soft rocks between headlands of more resistant materials. Steephill Castle was built here in the 1830s and was demolished in 1910 - hence the name of the cove. It was a mansion built in the style of a castle.

On this walk a number of thatched cottages can be seen. Also on this path there is a derelict building in the shape of a hut – perhaps it was a fisherman’s cottage or possibly a fish smoking hut.

Soon after St Lawrence, the path goes across the downs with good view of the sea. The start of this walk is called the Undercliff – a narrow strip of land-slipped terrain between the sea and the high cliffs. After a few miles, following The Pilgrim’s Path, (not quite sure why it is called this) there is a good view of St Catherine’s Lighthouse which was built in 1840. It is one of the most powerful lighthouses in the UK with a range of 26 miles.

After Blackgang Chine (where there is an activity centre, rides and Victorian cliff-top gardens) follow the path and road to Chale. At this point the path leads back to the coast with views of Chale Bay and its red sand. The path goes past Atherfield Point then Shepherd’s Chine. A chine is a deep cut ravine. Views near here of Compton Bay.

When I walked this section much of the coastal path was closed due to erosion and I had to walk mostly along the main road to Brighstone. During this long, boring and dangerous walk (no pavements) I came across a bus stop with the name ‘Middle of Nowhere’ – the X40 bus stops here. I agree with the description but wondered who on earth gets off in the middle of nowhere!

The walk finishes at the old village of Brighstone (previously known as Brixton – where I was born - but in London). St Mary’s Church has stood for 8 centuries and there is an old shop and museum owned by the National Trust. It displays information about village life in the past and celebrates the achievements of the Brighstone lifeboats. The pub (tried and tested and gets a tick), The Three Bishops, is named after three rectors from here who went on to become famous bishops.
Snaps show: Shepherd's Chine; Castle Cove; two views across  Chale Bay including the red sand.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Walk 99 Isle of Wight Bembridge to Ventnor

 Walk  99  Isle of Wight- Bembridge to Ventnor

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 10 miles or 17 km approx.
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: Mainly footpath and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: a bit long, bus 8 from Bembridge to Ryde then Bus 3 from Ryde to Ventnor - (takes about 1hr 30min).

Start on the coastal path at Bembridge, this cuts inland on the map but I managed to find a way along the sea front. After about a mile you get an attractive view of Whitecliff Bay. The cliffs here are made from soft clay and they are constantly crumbling and slipping. Be aware that path diversions are possible here and on other sections of the walk around the Isle of Wight.

During the 1920s and 1930s huts and chalets were built above the beach at Whitecliff and people lived in them during the summer. Boys’ Brigade and Girl Guides have been camping around the area since the 1900s. As can be seen, there are many caravans here now and this has been the case since the Second World War. I understand some of them are quite luxurious.

The next major landmark is at Culver Cliff on the edge of Bembridge Down. An impressive monument to Lord Yarborough cannot be missed. His ship, The Falcon, a 20 gun ship of war, was launched in 1926. In 1827 he was involved in the battle of Navarino and in 1835 he was badly injured in a gale when on the ship. He bought a smaller ship later but died suddenly in 1846. He was Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes hence this memorial on the island. 

The walk continues along cliffs with views to the town of Sandown. The town grew very quickly after the railway was built here in 1864. Its charms had been recognised by famous celebrities of the day including Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, George Elliot and John Keats. Sandown remains very popular with holiday makers with its sandy beaches and pier. Look out for the Dinosaur Museum which celebrates the fact that this is a good place to look for fossils. The pier dates back to 1879 and despite a major fire in 1989 (why do piers suffer from so many fires?) is now thriving with indoor attractions. Some good photos can be taken from the end of the pier which is open all year.

The next town is Shanklin. It became a fashionable spa after the arrival of the railway in 1864. Its waters were found to be rich in iron salts with considerable healing powers. If you have time, it is worth a visit inland to the old village of Shanklin with its picturesque buildings.

The path to Ventnor is inland and follows a road for some of the way. The path returns to the coast near Monks Bay. Nearer to Ventnor are some intriguing conical type rocks that look like they are sea defences. I have not been able to establish why they are this shape.

Ventnor stands on terraces below St Boniface Down which, at 785 feet, is the highest point on the island. The resort was established in Victorian times. The area has its own microclimate and experiences more sunny days than much of the UK. This has led to the establishment of the Botanical Gardens which are able to support sub-tropical plants. Worth a visit if you are interested. Brian Murphy the man who played George in George and Mildred on TV was born here.

Snaps show: Sandown Beach; Whitecliff Bay; Lord Yarborough monument; the sea defences at Ventnor; Ventnor front.