Appuldurcombe House and The Downs

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Starting in the village of Wroxall, the walk takes you past Appuldurcombe House, a stately home dating from the beginning of the eighteenth century, once the seat of the Worsley family for 300 years, but now owned by the National Trust and open to the public. Carry on past the Owl and Falconry Centre through rolling parkland to the imposing Freemantle Gate. Now a short scramble takes you to the obelisk high on the down above and one of the best panoramic views on the island.

The obelisk, of Cornish granite and erected to the memory of Sir Robert Worsley, was originally nearly seventy feet (21 metres) tall. It was subsequently struck by lightning and nearly flattened, but was recently restored to its present state.

As you catch your breath, take in the landmarks: St Catherine's Oratory and Hoy's Monument on St Catherine's Down to Freshwater Bay, Tennyson Down and the Dorset coast and Portland Bill beyond to the west, Brighstone Forest and Chillerton Mast to Carisbrooke Castle, Newport, Cowes and Southampton Water beyond to the north, St George's Down to Ashey Down with its white sea-mark and Portsmouth beyond to St Helens and Bembridge Harbour to the north-east, Bembridge Down, Culver Cliff and Sandown Bay and beyond to Chichester and The South Downs, St Martin's and St Boniface Downs to Ventnor, the English Channel and Stenbury Down to the south.

From here, follow Stenbury Trail with views out over The English Channel before another steep climb to the open spaces of Ventnor Downs. In 1937, Ventnor Downs was chosen as one of the sites for the first radar stations and by 1939, Ventnor Chain Home Station had become fully operational, with high towers rising to 350 feet. However, it was attacked several times and subsequently destroyed and although the towers have gone, the huge concrete bases still remain today. Following a tragic flying accident in 1962 when a passenger aircraft crashed in dense fog, rules governing aviation communications and procedures were universally implemented to the standards applied to this day. Pass along a high chalk downland track cloaked in heather and echoing to the sound of skylarks to one of the other best views - St Martin's Down.

Now as you leave the downs comes one of the most dramatic parts of the walk. A near-vertical flight of steps twists and turns down through a crack in a high cliff. Although there is a handrail to assist you, the steps may become slippery during inclement weather.

Finally comes an easy stroll back along the dismantled railway track that once carried the Isle of Wight Railway from Ryde through to Wroxall, then Ventnor. Completed in 1864 (including a tunnel under Ventnor Downs), the line from Shanklin to Ventnor closed in 1966, along with the end of steam trains on the island. However, there are still some signs of its past glory visible in bridges, cuttings and embankments along the way.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Countryside

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Flowers, Food Shop, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Museum, National Trust, Pub, Public Transport, Stately Home, Wildlife, Woodland
02/05/2018 - Sheila Coe

Excellent walk for views and variety but the signing over Luccombe Down and St Martins Down is virtually non-existent and the mud towards the steep steps is treacherous.

17/04/2012 - Richard Nash

Walked on Sunday - no significant changes to the walk to report. Author.

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