Niton Coast and Downs

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From the well-appointed inn, a short walk leads to a spectacular, high cliff-edge walk, taking in both geographical and historical events, ancient and modern.

The Undercliff below 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 1,000BC (rockfalls and mud-slides still continue to the present day around Blackgang). Further along the cliff-edge, catch your first view behind you of the distinctive white octagonal tower of St Catherine's Lighthouse, the most southerly point of the island. Also along your walk, look out for square concrete blocks close to the cliff-edge far below, the remnants of part of Ventnor Chain Home, a radar station built at the start of World War II as defence against the expected Nazi invasion.    

Now cross the well-worn St Rhadegund's Path and start to head away from the coast towards the downs. Rhadegund was a German princess, captured by the Franks at an early age but who, at the time of her death on 13th August 586, was one of the foremost religious figures of the age. She was also the patron saint of the de Estur family, the local Norman lords.

A steady climb along an ancient track leads to one of the highest points of the island and one of the best views! From here, look west towards St Catherine's Hill and Down, The Oratory Lighthouse (known locally as The Pepper Pot), Hoy's Monument and beyond towards Tennyson Down and the Dorset Coast; then north-west to Chillerton Down and Brighstone Forest. As you continue, look out for evidence of prehistoric settlements carved out of the chalk below, before a steep and sometimes treacherous descent along tracks thick with the wildflowers and birdsong in spring and summer, or the colour and solitude of autumn and winter, to one of the last vestiges of the island's once extensive railway system.

A brick bridge abutment at the end of an embankment once formed part of the line which carried The Isle of Wight (Newport Junction) Railway between Merstone and Ventnor Town at the turn of the last century. Closed in 1953, little remains today of this picturesque line which once connected the island's capital to the popular seaside resort, apart from these occasional isolated monuments.   

A quick traverse across the valley now leads to a stony path through a bluebell wood (reminiscent of many of those lower Dales, Lakes or West Country tracks), to your last view north across the heart of the island, before a gentle descent back to the village and that inn.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Coast

Features

Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Church, Flowers, Food Shop, Gift Shop, Great Views, Industrial Archaeology, National Trust, Pub, Public Transport, River, Sea, Tea Shop, Toilets, Wildlife, Woodland
24/08/2011 - IAN LITTLER

We did this walk on 20th August. It's a great walk with superb views. There has been an official path change to NT23 at start of walk. Also the waymark seems to have disappeared. So sentence should perhaps say "follow NT 23 along a narrow path to a "T" junction, turn right."

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