Total Pageviews

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Walk 103 Isle of Wight - Gurnard Bay to East Cowes

Walk  103  Isle of Wight- Gurnard Bay to East Cowes

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: about 5 miles or 8 km including exploring the towns
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: mainly pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Bus 1 runs from Newport to Cowes. Further bus connections at East Cowes. The walk involves using the floating bridge to cross the River Medina to East Cowes. 

This is quite a short walk that could be combined with a visit to Carrisbroke Castle in nearby Newport. This is the castle where Charles 1st was kept before his execution in London. A museum tells the story of the castle including that of the donkeys which still turn the water wheel (for demonstrations only).

Gurnard Bay has a small beach with a few beach huts. The view across the sea is quite pleasant with the not so nice industrial area of Fawley just visible in the distance. The walk into Gurnard and Cowes follows the road. Look out for some quite impressive houses on the way to Egypt Point. This part of the coast gets its name from a gypsy encampment that was nearby in the sixteenth century. Between 1897 and 1989 a lighthouse operated here and the structure is now used as a landmark for yachtsmen. Egypt Point was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite spots when she lived on the island. Look out for an impressive and elaborate water fountain with a carved open bible on its roof. I have been unable to find out the significance of this although it clearly has some religious origin.

Ferries coming and going to Southampton can be regularly seen on the walk into Cowes. The town is probably the most famous and fashionable yachting centre in the world. Cowes Week takes place during the first 9 days of August when there are several regattas. East and West Cowes are split by the River Medina. On the west side are some smart brass cannons pointing out to sea, these come from a fort built by Henry V111 to defend The Solent. During World War 2 Cowes was the centre of operations for the D Day landings.

There are several yachting clubs in West Cowes. The Royal Yacht Squadron founded in 1815 is regarded as the most exclusive in the world. There is also a strong boat building tradition in Cowes. Personalities who have a connection with the town include Ellen McArthur, George V, Edward V11 and William Arnold. The latter, who was the father of Thomas Arnold, fought against the pirates and smugglers active here in the 19th century.

The floating or chain ferry carries foot passengers and cars to cross the River Medina. Before the 1860s the ferry was horse drawn. During the 19th century Cowes was a fashionable spa town with bathing machines. Look out for the ‘unclaimed shop’ (if it is still trading) – this sells or sold lost property.

The walk around the Isle of Wight finishes here.

Snaps show: Southampton to Cowes ferry; the lion sculpture at Egypt Point; the water fountain near here; the chain ferry.