Freshwater Bay, The Needles and The Long Stone

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From Freshwater Bay with its distinctive chalk sea stacks, past Dimbola Lodge Museum and its life-size statue of Jimi Hendrix and the thatched St Agnes Church, a steady climb leads past ancient Nodes Beacon to Alum Bay with its famous coloured sands. Continue to The Needles Old Battery and its Victorian fortifications and dramatic views over high chalk cliffs to The Needles Lighthouse and mainland beyond, plus more recent relics of Britain's defence: the huge concrete test-beds for the Blue Streak and Black Arrow rocket programmes from the 1950s and 1960s. A short climb from there leads to the magnificent high ridge walk along West High Down and up to Tennyson's Monument and the sweeping views it affords across land and sea. The memorial was erected in 1897, five years after Alfred Lord Tennyson's death, replacing the ancient Nodes Beacon. Follow the wide grass downland track back to Freshwater Bay and a chance for refreshment.    

Leave the bay and follow the cliff edge towards Compton Bay and the Military Road. Constructed in the late nineteenth century as part of widespread coastal defences, much of the road remains although here some parts have been by-passed, visible now as grass tracks, or have disappeared altogether as the coastline constantly shifts and changes, as evidenced by the massive land slippages.

From the coast, head inland towards Mottistone with its pretty church and lychgate, past the Elizabethan manor-house and through bluebell woods up to The Long Stone. This impressive standing stone and its smaller, recumbent companion are believed to be all that is left of a chambered long barrow from the Neolithic period. The smaller stone is not in its original position, having been moved by a local landowner looking for treasure! There was a more professional excavation carried out here in 1956, although nothing of great importance was discovered.

After a stiff climb up a chalk track, pause for breath at Five Barrows, a collection of Neolithic burial mounds set high on Brook Down and an ideal spot to refresh yourself! From here, take in the sweeping views; west towards Tennyson Down, Highdown Cliffs and beyond to the Dorset coast and Portland Bill, north-west to Yarmouth and over The Solent to Lymington and The New Forest, north-east to Cowes and Southampton Water and east, over the rich patchwork farmland of the Back of the Wight, to the distinctive hump of St Catherine's Hill and The Pepper Pot above Blackgang.

The final stretch back takes you along ancient tracks over Afton Down and past the scene of the 1970 Isle of Wight Pop Festival - a five-day marathon featuring The Doors, Hawkwind, The Who, Bob Dylan, Free and Joan Baez. Acts at the festival often played to a crowd of around half a million people - more than Glastonbury and Live Aid put together! Jimi Hendrix also played at the festival, just weeks before his untimely death, commemorated by the statue at Dimbola Lodge.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Coast

Features

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

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