Brading, Bembridge, Beach and Downs

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A walk that captures the island's character in miniature, from historic Brading, which can trace its human habitation back to the last Ice Age, past medieval buildings and more 'modern' landmarks, across active and disused railway lines to a long-lost quay and harbour wall.

The path follows the top of a wall from Brading Quay to Centurion's Hill which was constructed in 1594 in order to re-claim (called Inning) the ancient Haven for valuable farmland. However, it was not until the arrival of the railway and subsequent control of water-levels in the 19th Century that the Haven eventually 'dried up'. Much of the area is now an RSPB nature reserve, with a wealth of interesting flora and fauna, which leads to perhaps one of the most iconic of island landmarks.

Bembridge Windmill is a Grade I-listed building now owned by The National Trust and the only surviving windmill on the island. Built around 1700, it has been an inspiration to artists like J M W Turner and was last used following the harvest of 1913. The stone-built tower with its wooden cap and machinery has subsequently been restored and visitors can now explore its four floors. From there, an easy walk leads to the beach or cliff-edge on to Whitecliff Bay and a geological phenomenon. The chalk cliff and associated rocks were laid down in shallow seas some 65 million years ago. Subsequent folding and erosion have resulted in the distinctive landscape found today across most of the Isle of Wight and particularly Whitecliff Bay. Do not be tempted to walk beyond the point - the base of the cliff is wider than you think and you can easily be cut off by the incoming tide.    

A short scramble leads to Culver Down and another distinctive island landmark, Yarborough Monument, with panoramic views over much of the southern and western parts of the island. Follow the top of the down with its unusual windswept trees to the highest point of the walk, Bembridge Fort, with a direction plaque and more views of the island and mainland beyond. The Victorian fort and the sea forts visible in The Solent, were built as defences against possible invasion, but now only protect rare Chalkhill Blue butterflies, flowers, buzzards and skylarks.

As you descend to the road, look across to the hill opposite. In 2002, this was the site of an excavation by Channel 4's 'Time Team', when Roman artefacts were accidentally uncovered, indicating a high-status building on the site. The Second Legion Augusta, commanded by the legate Vespasian, who later became emperor, was the military unit that conquered the island during the Roman invasion and it is perhaps fitting therefore, that coinage from his reign was among the finds made at the site.

Now follow the edge of what was once an inlet to the Roman site from the Haven, back over the old harbour and summer hay-meadows alive with butterflies, birds and flowers, to ancient Brading.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Coast

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Church, Flowers, Food Shop, Gift Shop, Good for Kids, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Museum, National Trust, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, River, Sea, Tea Shop, Toilets, Wildlife, Woodland
26/05/2016 - Richard Nash

Walked today - no major addenda, other than more of the ancient harbour wall has now been exposed due to cutting back the vegetation. (author)

02/05/2015 - Richard Nash

The Coastal Footpath along the cliff edge has now been re-opened, so revert to plan A and follow the signs.

20/08/2011 - Richard Nash

The detour to this walk as described below looks fairly long-term, so I suggest the following; Walkers should continue with the original instructions, and have the option of either stopping at the "Crab & Lobster" (recommended), or continue on via the well signposted detour.

12/07/2011 - Patricia Daw

Tricia Daw - 09-07-11 We completed this walk on a glorious sunny day. The railway station at Brading is like a view from the 1950's - very twee. The walk itself is again well directed until you get to the point near the coastguard station where the path has been eroded and you have to take a detour. At this point (WM10) we got a bit confused and had to double back on ourselves a bit but we did eventually get back on the right path. The walk is great as there is the fabulous walk along the beach (check tide times); the windmill to explore (take your NT membership cards!) and wonderful countryside. We had excellent crab sandwiches at the pub right next door to the coastguard stn - The Crab and ? (I forget now) and an ice cream from the cafe near monument.

02/06/2009 - Richard Nash

The title kinda gives a clue to the different types of terrain likely to be encountered on this walk. Therefore, I originally included a link to local tide times in the body of information, giving one a clue as to when to attempt this particular expedition. I walked this route yesterday, and had no problems in completing it successfully, following my original instructions...     

25/04/2009 - Roy Davenport

On the day I tried this walk the tide was in and the beach unaccessible I therefore had to return to the road and locate the coastal path. Further along coastal erosion close to a caravan site also means finding your own way and passing through part of the site RD

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