Blackgang Coast and Downs

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Blackgang - Niton - Stenbury Down - St Catherine's Down - St Catherine's Oratory - Blackgang

From the car park, a short path leads to the start of an exhilarating walk along the sheer edge of Gore Cliff with its clifftop flowers, seabirds, kestrels and peregrines, overlooking prehistoric landslides and rockfalls down to the sea over 160 metres below. Take extra care along this part during inclement or windy weather.

The Undercliff was formed by slippage of the land after the last glaciation and had attained its present form by the start of the Iron Age about 1000BC. Rockfalls and mudslides still continue to the present day around Blackgang. From here, catch your first view of the distinctive white octagonal tower of St Catherine's Lighthouse, the most southerly point of the island. The present lighthouse was first lit in 1840, but the elegant 120ft (36.5 metre) tower was affected by fog and so was reduced to the present height of 25 metres in 1875. Today, the light is one of the most powerful in Britain, with a light intensity of 821,000 candela and has a range of 26 nautical miles.

Further along the walk another high (140-metre) point at the cliff-edge gives a unique view of all three buildings, as well as down into the village of St Lawrence and more of The Undercliff, where the lush and varied vegetation thrives in an almost Mediterranean climate. Now cross the well-worn St Rhadegund's Path and start to head away from the coast towards the downs.

The steady climb to Stenbury Down begins along ancient byways, with superb views to the west on the way up. Once on the high track, look right towards St Boniface Down and beyond to Sandown Bay and the distinctive chalk hump of Culver Cliff. Look out for the unusually shaped trees as you reach the summit.

A steep descent leads to Stenbury Manor, a fine 17th Century moated house set in isolation at the foot of the down which bears its name. Mentioned in The Domesday Book of 1086 (although the site is much older), the house remains occupied to this day and together with the grounds and outbuildings, is private property.

As you leave Stenbury, follow the path until you reach a single-arch brick bridge, which once carried the Isle of Wight Central Railway line from Newport to Ventnor West Station. Closed in 1952, little evidence remains now of the line's existence, apart from occasional buildings and structures such as this. Ahead lies the final climb towards two prominent island landmarks - Hoy's Monument and St Catherine's Oratory.

The monument is 22 metres high and was erected in 1814 by Michael Hoy. St Catherine's Oratory (known locally as the Pepper Pot) was completed in 1348 by Walter de Godeton and is situated along a grassy hog's-back, affording spectacular views right and left and a wealth of flora and fauna along the way. Through the gate, a short scramble up a grassy slope leads to the summit and the highest point of the walk.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Countryside

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, National Trust, Public Transport, Sea, Tea Shop, Wildlife, Woodland
27/09/2018 - Richard Nash

Walked yesterday. Only minor detours & deviations to report. Author

13/04/2016 - Richard Nash

Walked yesterday - no major changes to add to the walk (author).

10/05/2012 - Richard Nash

Walked yesterday - no significant changes to add. (Author)

27/04/2010 - Adrian Perkins

Roy Davenport reports that he did this walk on 21/4/10 and all was OK. Thanks for this Roy. Adrian (Admin)

30/12/2009 - Robin Philpott

I did this walk on 27/12/09. It's very enjoyable - some steep climbs rewarded by great views, some very muddy stretches, and overall a great experience but slow going in wet conditions.

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