Around the Wight (Part 2): Cowes to Yarmouth

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Cowes is a fitting start with its sea-going connections. The first mile is in close company with the waves, underlining great sea-level views out over The Solent. Grab a breakfast or an ice cream, but most definitely a packed lunch in Cowes or Gurnard, because there are very few chances now until Thorness and even that is seasonal. The walk to Thorness however, is superb.

After the compulsory road-walking of the first walk in this series, Ryde to Cowes (ID 5964), at last we can enjoy a true coastal path. The path climbs, falls and meanders with the terrain and each turn can bring something of interest into view, from Solent sailors to winter waders. Watch your step though, this section like much of the north coast of the island, is constantly on the move, attacked on two fronts by the sea and the underlying soft clays, which can sometimes be seen to extrude out of the cliff. Sometimes it is hidden under the very veneer of sand you walk on. Don't worry unduly though, it is never deep such as is found on some beaches on the north coast of the island.

The short, crumbling cliffs between Gurnard and Thorness reveal complex sedimentary layers and the beach levels are constantly changing as soft rock ledges are eroded out. This is a beach option. After the transit through the caravan park we are forced inland through Porchfield. Our reward is the pub and a chance for in-walk refuelling. On a poignant note, I am always struck by the memorial at Porchfield. The ten names from such a tiny hamlet remind us of the immense magnitude and human cost of World War 1.

The return to the road at Porchfield marks the resumption of another lengthy (5km) piece of road-walking (albeit quiet back roads). This is partly thanks to the military, who have firing ranges between Thorness and Newtown Creek, but equally due to the spidery geography of the waterways of the creek. Newtown is a shadow of its former self, being the first island borough and once a thriving town. The minimalistic grandeur of the town hall will give a hint of its history as you walk past.

Shalfleet provides another long-awaited refuelling station at The New Inn. Take advantage as there is another lengthy section approaching, with no facilities right through to Yarmouth. A final short road-walk out of Shalfleet, then a lovely walk almost entirely traffic-free to the end.

A mostly shaded woodland walk carries us down past Hamstead Farm to a nice surprise. A final tunnel of trees gives a dramatic reintroduction to an old friend, Newtown Creek, on the west side now. Only a few hundred metres to your east as the crow flies lies Newtown. As the walker just walked it's over 5km. It's one of my favourite spots to pause awhile at this quiet, unspoilt harbour where wildlife still flourishes. It's a fabulous place for winter birds and sailors looking for a sheltered resting-place. Another memorial at the west side of Newtown Bay reminds us of the darker side of coastal life in recording the sad deaths of three young men lost at sea off Hamstead Ledge. It's quite easy to miss, even though it is only a step off the path. Look out for it just past Waymark 47.

The path climbs a shady farm vehicle track for a while, then cuts across fields briefly, to rejoin another unmade road or lane. If you are looking for a nice namit (lunch) spot you could do a lot worse than the seat just after Waymark 57.

A large section of Bouldnor Forest has recently been harvested and the strangely un-harvested and now redundant finger-boards pointlessly point the way through what was not long ago a cryptic path in very dense, dark pine trees. However, the benefits of opening up sections of forest are manifestly evident with many species of bird now in summer residence. Don't forget our little red-tailed, bushy hoppers, Bouldnor, Hamstead and Walters Copse and Town Copse at Newtown being hotspots.

**** Note to Wight Circumnavigators ****
Having walked the entire coastal path every year for the last ten or so, I feel reasonably well-qualified to express my opinion on it, having seen it in mostly baking sunshine, some howling gales and last year (2010), in deep snow. (I left it a bit late). Hares do the whole circuit in three days and tortoises, as slow as they like. I used to be a hare, but now I prefer to amble along, usually with my home on my back. I can recommend camping or B&B. Each has its own merits, generally predetermined by the weather. Anticlockwise is preferable in my opinion, especially if you start at Ryde and intend to do the whole circuit.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Coast

Features

Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Church, Flowers, Food Shop, Gift Shop, Great Views, Mostly Flat, National Trust, Nature Trail, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, River, Sea, Toilets, Wildlife, Woodland
08/08/2012 - Walkingworld Admin

Our thanks to Kevin West for his updates for this walk. August 2012. Adrian (Admin)

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