St Boniface Down, Devil's Chimney and The Landslip

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This is a walk defined by its geology and geography. Beginning with a steady climb, the walk takes you past the site of Cook's Castle. Built as a romantic ruin on a promontory to be seen from Appuldurcombe House nestling below the down opposite, nothing remains but a stone plaque to commemorate the site. Continue to climb past splashes of wildflowers, rare Chalkhill Blue butterflies and soaring skylarks to Shanklin Down and magnificent views across the heart of the island - as well as both ends! A lovely chalk downland walk leads to the highest point on the island: St Boniface Down at 241 metres.

Now follow the high down past recent history. Ventnor Downs were chosen as one of the sites for the first radar stations and by 1939, Ventnor Chain Home Station had become fully operational, with high towers rising to 350 feet. Although the towers have gone, the huge concrete bases still remain visible today. From here, the route takes you to a spectacularly steep slope leading down to the former site of Ventnor Railway Station. Now an industrial estate, the station was cut from the chalk and you can still see the entrance to the 1312-yard tunnel which passed under the down at the far end.

Now to one of the most beautiful and magical places on the island, The Landslip and Devil's Chimney. After a dizzying descent through a huge cleft in the rocks (which at its narrowest is only 16 inches or 41 cms wide), the walk now takes you through wild romantic woodland as you pick your way between huge boulders, ancient trees and mysterious hollows. The whole area was formed after the last Ice Age as a result of land slipping due to underlying clay, appropriately called 'Blue Slipper', forming an impervious layer over which the overlying rocks of pervious sandstone could slide. Great blocks of land either slipped or broke away, sometimes completely or merely by a few inches which, over time, resulted in the features and scenery you see today.     

An easy stroll through Luccombe old and new leads to the pretty church of St Blasius and the final climb up to and along the edge of an inland cliff - the same rock formation that created Devil's Chimney and the promontory where Cook's Castle once stood. Much of the island's landscape, as well as its best walks, are connected to this combination of rocks and its subsequent erosion.   

Descend the near-vertical steps over The Cliff to an easy stroll back along the dismantled railway track that once carried The Isle of Wight Railway from Ryde through to Wroxall, then Ventnor. Completed in 1864, the line from Shanklin to Ventnor (including the tunnel) closed in 1966, along with the end of steam trains on the island. However, there are still some signs of its past glory visible in bridges, cuttings and embankments along the way.       

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Countryside

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Castle, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, National Trust, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, Tea Shop, Wildlife, Woodland
10/10/2018 - Richard Nash

Walked this afternoon - no major changes to add. However, I would recommend a stick or pole(s) to assist in some of the precipitous and narrow parts or after inclement weather. Author

30/12/2009 - Robin Philpott

I did this walk on 26/12/09 and it's a treat. It's not easy - some good climbs along the way - but well worth the effort. The "narrow path above a row of houses" referred to in point 4 is very bad in the wet - churned up by cattle and ankle deep thick mud. A tough stretch. Otherwise a great walk.

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