Around the Wight (Part 4): Brighstone to Luccombe

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Grange Farm Caravan and Campsite is a smashing site to start any expedition along the back of the Wight. It's just a shame that like so many they are not open all year, as this part of the island can be a spectacular place in the autumn gales. One can appreciate why there are so many wrecks along here. Look out for the signs of the keen fishermen who still clamber up and down these cliffs. Atherfield is a popular place for shore fishing.

Soon you arrive at the second chine on the walk, at Shepherd's Chine. Actually it's the third, as there is an unnamed chine about 200m before it. The next one stands out as being quite different from all the others. Most are pretty gradual descents to the water's edge, but Whale Chine looks as if it was cut with a knife and dives vertically along its edges. I can only guess that the generally soft rocks are a bit stronger here. Sadly, the steps are now blocked off and access to the beach is denied, although this doesn't seem to prevent some intrepid mountaineers from getting to the nudist beach.

As you approach Blackgang Chine, the undercliffs which have been insignificant up to now, become the norm right through to the end at Luccombe and up to 500m wide. These landslips that have accumulated over centuries exist where harder strata has slumped over softer clays, giving rise to irregular landscapes of peaks, gullies and slipped blocks, that have become densely vegetated due to their isolation and change of land use. There are similar structures in Devon near Lyme Regis. They are great shady places to walk on a very hot day. By the geography of the island they are also warm, sheltered microclimates and Ventnor Botanic Gardens takes advantage of this to grow plants that have no right to survive at our northerly latitude. Im sure that the Gulf Stream plays a supporting role too.

Returning to the walk details, St Catherine's Lighthouse marks out the most southerly point and reminds us of the dangers to seafarers. The path on the upper cliff overlooking the lighthouse is one of my top five views and the walk from Blackgang to Niton is interesting over its entire length. A recent cliff fall here has made the old undercliff route between the two villages difficult, but the last time I did manage to walk it there were still some inhabited dwellings there. On a return visit with more time, it's a super area to explore, but we have an appointment with Ventnor. We stay on the upper cliff between Blackgang and St Lawrence, where a rather cryptic descent is made to the sea cliff and the stroll into Ventnor. I always feel a bit sorry for unsuspecting visitors to Ventnor who plan to stroll around the town. There are so many steep hills. Our contouring path through it is by comparison, easy. The town begins our gradual reintroduction to the present era and the island's collection of seaside towns.

Next we have our final taste of the undercliff with its shady, serpentine meanderings and oddities on the way, like the Wishing Seat and the Devil's Chimney (SZ 581786, a short 150m but steep detour off-route).

Cliff Safety:
many of the cliffs and their edges are unstable on this leg of the circuit, so give them a little respect. In some places linear depressions, often caused by tensile stress in the ground under your feet, form within a few metres of the edge.

Note to Wight circumnavigators:
having walked the entire coastal path every year for the last ten or so, I feel reasonably well-qualified to express my opinion on it, having seen it in mostly baking sunshine, some howling gales and last year (2010), in deep snow. (I left it a bit late). Hares do the whole circuit in three days and tortoises, as slow as they like. I used to be a hare, but now I prefer to enjoy it, usually with my home on my back. I can recommend camping or B&B. Each has its own merits, generally predetermined by the weather. Anticlockwise is preferable in my opinion, especially if you start at Ryde and intend to do the whole circuit.

England - South England - Isle of Wight - Coast


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

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