During January I wanted to set myself some challenges for the year ahead, challenges that would help me learn more about the world and about myself, push me out of my comfort zone a little, and help other people. My first challenge came easily after meeting up with some friends over Christmas; she was hoping to apply for a hearing dog but the waiting list was long and training new puppies is expensive.
I’d been wanting to walk the Isle of Wight for a while to see if I could handle the challenge of so much walking in one go, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to raise a bit of money towards the charity who trains hearing dogs – Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. So I set up a JustGiving page, started planning the trip, and started telling people I was doing it, which helped to commit me to doing it.
On Monday this week I got up early and headed to the Isle of Wight to begin the walk. In 5 days I had to walk 67-68 miles.
Day 1 – Fishbourne to Bembridge
I arrived on the island just before mid-day, and set straight off on the coastal path towards Ryde. The first part of the route was along nice quiet lanes through woods and fields, getting closer to the sea towards Ryde. Ryde made a perfect lunch stop before heading along the sea front towards Seaview, where my path began to head south. Towards St Helen’s the habitats started to become more varied, with sandy and shingle beaches and coastal wetland areas. Although the cloud had started to descent by the time I reached St Helen’s it made for a wonderful atmosphere. I reached Bembridge by about 5pm; luckily my accommodation was literally just off the coast path, so I could sprawl on the bed for a while before finding the energy to go for dinner!
Where to eat: Michelangelo cafe, near the western end of Ryde. Where to stay: The Crab and Lobster Inn.
Day 2 – Bembridge to Ventnor
This section of the walk was my favourite, heading south-east down the touristy part of the island, walking across grassy cliffs, along sea fronts, climbing lots of steps, and finding my way through muddy patches in between hedgerows next to more cliffs. This section worked my legs a bit more because the terrain is much more varied, but the scenery was worth it! Towards the end of the afternoon I came across a tiny pub just south of Shanklin Chine, The Fisherman’s Cottage, and sat next to the shingle beach enjoying a G&T in the sunshine. The last leg of the walk to Ventnor was quite steep but coming back down towards Ventnor revealed old woodland walks and tiny little coves and beaches.
Where to eat: Ventnor sea front, numerous cafe’s to choose from. The Spyglass Inn, Ventnor. Where to stay: Through Airbnb – lovely lady called Win!
Day 3 – Ventnor to Freshwater Bay
This was a very. hard. day. About 20 miles of walking along open cliff tops that were steadily falling in to the sea. It’s interesting in that after St Catherine’s Point, the southern-most part of the island, it’s part of the Jurassic Coast and there are many fossils of dinosaur footprints along this stretch, but scenery-wise this part of the walk is very tedious. It didn’t help that by lunch time I realised I still had about 11 miles to walk, and towards the end of the afternoon the clouds descended and it began to rain a little… I eventually made it to Freshwater Bay though, then realised I had another mile to walk to get to my accommodation because anything closer was fully booked up! The final stretch though was through a nice wooded valley near the Tennyson Downs, so I ended the day listening to bird song and falling over dogs.
Where to eat: Wight Mouse Inn, near Chale. Where to stay: The Highdown Inn, Totland.
Day 4 – Freshwater Bay to Shalfleet
Once the hard, long day was over, the fourth day seemed quite relaxing in comparison! It also included The Needles, the south-western most point of the island and under management from the National Trust. As well as being an old rocket engine testing site and WW2 battery, the chalk cliffs are pretty spectacular and there are good views along the north-western coast. Yarmouth is a small town but I really like it and seemed to be popular with tourists, even at this time of year. From Yarmouth the coast path takes you round the headland north of Cranmore, walking next to Newton National Nature Reserve for parts which is another coastal wetland and estuary habitat. And also quite muddy in places…
Where to eat: The Gossip, Yarmouth. The Horse and Groom, Shalfleet. Where to stay: Brookside Cottage B&B.
Day 5 – Shalfleet to Fishbourne
The final day! The final push onwards. Most of this later section of the walk is through built up areas and along roads, as there are many more mudflats and path diversions due to coastal erosion. It still had its nice moments but it seemed to be a lot more muddy – made things more interesting if nothing else! The headland before West Cowes wasn’t anything special, but as I noticed with many of the harbours’ along the north coast, Cowes itself was quite pretty and quaint. Another first for me, apart from walking on my own, was using the chain ferry to get across the river from West to East Cowes. It’s free for pedestrians and pretty cool! From West Cowes it was on to Fishbourne, and mostly along roads and built up areas – not the best part of the walk, but necessary to get back to Fishbourne!
Where to eat: West Cowes, numerous cafes and pubs to choose from! East Cowes didn’t seem to be as popular.
Not only have I managed to raise some money for a charity but I’ve discovered that I’m not the kinda gal to give up when your leg muscles are burning and your knees are cracking with each step. And it was great to know that I can rely on myself when the going gets tough, and not lean heavily on another person. I feel a great sense of achievement from walking around the Isle of Wight, so I’m already wondering what walk I can do next. I’m thinking the West Highland Way…
A #WeekendWanderlust post with Outbound Adventurer
A #wkendtravelinspiration post with Reflections Enroute
A #SundayTraveler post with Pack Me To