Isle of Wight Walk 1
Friday July 20th 2018
Shanklin to Ventnor
This walk did not start out to be part of our coast walk as we had made the decision right at the beginning not to cover offshore islands. However, lovely and interesting as it is, walking the Essex river banks is not seaside walking. The summer holidays began and we both felt a yearning to see the sea again so decided to head for the Isle of Wight. There is a coastal path running all around the island and we thought we would take a gentle stroll from Shanklin to Ventnor just to get some sea air and walk beside the sea again. It didn’t quite work out like that.
We travelled the familiar route down to Portsmouth Harbour but instead of turning right for the shopping delights of Gunwharf Quays we went down the slope to the Wightlink Catamaran. After several weeks of dry weather with very hot sun, it was a relief to find the weather cloudy and the temperatures forecast to be in the low twenties rather than heading for the thirties. The humidity was still up but we hoped the sea breeze would counteract that. The train was a few minutes late but that just meant that we had less time to wait for the ferry, which connected with the dear little underground trains which run on the Island Line. Shanklin is the end of the line and we arrived there at 1215.
An easy walk soon brought us to the end of Shanklin Prom and a rather lovely looking beach café. The food was good and seats on a terrace overlooking the beach promised a good start to the afternoon. Fed, watered and otherwise sorted we set off along the prom. The beach was not busy but there were plenty of people about and all the attractions were being well patronised. We were fascinated by this pirate themed crazy golf which has red water running from the top. Presumably meant to be blood!
After buying postcards at a beach shop full of very tacky souvenirs – vindaloo rock, anyone – and then finding a better one further along which had batteries for Jen’s dead camera we arrived at the end of the prom.
A short walk along the beach was followed by the challenge of Appley Steps to the top of the cliffs. It was a long way up but, luckily, there are plenty of benches at the top to rest and enjoy the view.
From there, the coastal trail followed a residential road slowly upwards with tantalising glimpses of the sea between large houses and blocks of flats. Several new buildings were being constructed right on the cliff edge which will have glorious views and no doubt price tags reflecting this.
The road petered out into a lane as we passed Luccombe. We were never far from the cliff edge or civilisation as here and there were large country houses with beautiful gardens. And every garden was filled with hydrangeas of all colours. They obviously thrive in the climate here.
The lane ended and the path went into woodland as we arrived at The Landslip. It wound up and down and round and although we could not see the sea we were aware that it was not far away. The landscape is stunning with rocks and trees and loose stones strewn in a higgledy piggledy pile. The landslip occurred in the early 1800s and the land that was left was made into a picturesque walk by the Victorians, making the most of the land as it ended up.
We thoroughly enjoyed following the path as it curved between the boulders and vegetation which has established itself ever since.
At one point we surprised a baby adder which had been sunbathing on the path and just managed a photo of it before it slithered into the grass.
We kept following the tracks up and down, with steps and handrails and twists and turns and suddenly came round a comer onto a tarmacked lane and there was a church.
It was a beautiful tiny church dedicated to St Boniface and known as the St Boniface Old Church. It dates from Norman times although much of the building is more recent, having been added in the 13th century. It was open and we enjoyed a few minutes rest inside the cool interior (and bought a postcard). Nearer the centre of the village of Bonchurch is the new St Boniface’s Church where the poet Algernon Swinburne is buried. This church has a delightful feeling of calm and permanency and it good to know that a building that has seen so many generations of villagers come and go is still intact and still used.
After the church, the lane turned into a tarmacked path which led gently downhill, ending at a flight of steps down to the concrete promenade at Horseshoe Bay. Here we found a fascinating solar system trail. It began with the sun and then along the path were the planets all in the right order and at the right distance from the sun but on a very small scale. By the time we reached Pluto, we were on the edge of Ventnor.
A handy bench was calling us for a break with a drink and a cereal bar. A glance at the watch and we were amazed to find that it was half past four. The walk had been longer than we had realised and we had taken it at a leisurely pace. We decided that we would just buy some food to eat on the way home and leave the exploration of Ventnor until another day.
A long climb up to the town was relieved by the amusement of this paddling pool below which was being enjoyed by lots of children.
We found a Co-Op for food and drink which was just round the corner from the bus stop. A bus for Ryde came in very soon afterwards and we set off. The roads are very hilly and in some places narrow but the drivers are used to them and we travelled at a good pace. Not long after we got on the people sitting at the front got off so we moved forwards and had glorious views all the way back to Ryde. The different transports connected beautifully, from the train to the end of the pier at Ryde, the ferry, the train at Portsmouth and the change at Guildford and we were home by 8.30.
We decided at the end that while we are walking in Essex we will do some more of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path as it was just so wonderful to be walking by the sea again.