Carisbrooke –Tennyson – Shepherds Circular Ridge Walk

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Carisbrooke –Tennyson – Shorwell - Shepherds Circular Ridge Walk

The walk begins at Carisbrooke Castle, where Charles 1st was imprisoned during the English Civil War. As one would expect, the castle dominates the local landscape, with good views all round. Before setting off enjoy them, particularly those westwards across the valley towards the ridge and the route ahead. The first descent brings you to a ford with bridge and in a few more steps, the only serious road crossing. Within ten minutes you reach open countryside and very easy navigation. The path follows the Tennyson Trail, the Worsley Trail and the Shepherds Trail, with a few detours to stick to the ridge theme.   

Farming and forestry dominate the landscape in the first half of the walk, but wild nature is never far away. Most of our breeding birds can be seen in spring and summer, but there is still much avian interest outside this season including all the finches, skylarks, buzzards and game birds such as pheasants and partridges. An evening walk to Brighstone Down rewards one with the haunting sounds of nightjar. Mammals are represented by rabbits, hares and foxes, although the latter are usually only evident from their calling cards.

Dominated as it is by chalk downland, the walk passes many Bronze Age barrows or burial mounds, although some have been ploughed out or planted over. 1:25,000 scale OS maps are a good source for finding these.

The village of Shorwell is well-placed at the approximate halfway mark and here one can find a nice pub serving food, a little shop, nearby accommodation and buses home or along the coast to Freshwater.

Good views of the Solent and the mainland are had in the first quarter of the walk and minor detours off-route, usually no more than 50m, are always worth exploring. As you approach halfway and leave the Tennyson Trail, the southern panoramas of the island open up, framed by The English Channel. At several locations, almost the full 23-mile width of our diamond isle can be seen.

The marks of modern humans are seen in the impressive Rowridge and Chillerton TV masts. Stop off and have a look at the supporting cables about 50m off the path at Chillerton. Rather earlier humans have left evidence in the form of chalkpits and marl-pits on most ridges. Some of the tracks are worn deep through the pounding of countless hooves over the centuries, especially parts of the Shepherds Trail.

The walk is quite long at 19km (12 miles), but once the ridges are achieved one can relax with long flat sections. There are no particular hazards, with only a few short road sections totalling about 500m. Exposed chalk can be very slippery if wet, but these few 'bald patches' are easily avoided. Unfortunately, the week before our walk saw heavy rain and some images give the impression of a rather boggy walk. Nothing could be further from the truth. Often these chalk downs are the best place to walk after downpours as they drain very quickly.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Countryside

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Castle, Church, Flowers, Food Shop, Gift Shop, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Museum, National Trust, Nature Trail, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, River, Sea, Tea Shop, Wildlife, Woodland

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