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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Walk 101 Isle of Wight - Brighstone to Alum Bay

Walk   101  Isle of Wight- Brighstone to Alum Bay

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 13 miles or 20 km. approx.
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: mainly footpaths
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: A little tricky but possible with buses from Brighstone to Alum Bay changing at Totland.

The coastal path continues from Brighstone and runs parallel to the main road. Hopefully, there will be no further damage to the cliffs that necessitate walking along the road. From Brook Bay there is a good view of Hanover Point with its white cliffs and Compton Bay beyond. This area is famous for evidence of dinosaurs including the discovery of iguanodon footprints fossilised in the mud. This part of the coast is preserved by the National Trust.

Shippard Chine is crossed by a small footbridge and a further one at Compton Chine. The next main feature is Freshwater Bay. This is a picturesque cove overlooked by a hotel (with a bar!). The nearby village of Freshwater was the birthplace of Robert Hooke the famous physicist.

There is a climb out of Freshwater Bay on to Tennyson Down with its distinctive monument. This is dedicated to Lord Tennyson  (1809-1892) who lived near Freshwater from 1853 to 1868. It stands 482 feet above sea level and the air here was described by Tennyson in one of his poems as worth ‘sixpence a pint’.  The views from here are impressive.

Continue the walk around to the Needles. The iconic, instantly recognisable, view of the rocks is seen best from Alum Bay  or Needles Old Battery. The latter, now owned by the National Trust is worth a visit. It is a fort from the 19th century and was also used in both World Wars. Exhibitions in the fort explain its history and there is an underground tunnel which leads to a lookout.

Continue around to Alum Bay. A chair lift down to the beach is the best way to view the banded sandstone cliffs. These have more than 20 colours ranging from chocolate brown to strawberry pink. It is now prohibited to take sand from the beach or cliffs. However, glass containers with samples can be bought from the cliff-top shop.

At the top of the cliff there is a small amusement park with cafes etc. A memorial near to the chairlift marks the site of the Needles Wireless Telegraph Station. Marconi and his British collaborators carried out a series of important experiments from here between 1897 and 1900. In 1899 information for the first newspaper produced at sea was transmitted from this spot - to the ‘St Paul’ which was 36 miles away at the time.

Snaps show: Freshwater Bay looking east; the rocks at Alum Bay; The Needles from the battery; the chair lift at Alum Bay; Freshwater looking west; a cannon at Needles Battery.

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