What a weekend!
Ian Martin Coordinator for the Solent Group laid on another first class walking weekend to the eastern side of the Isle of Wight for a group of 11 members of GOC mostly from the Solent and Dorset groups as well as a couple of members from the Berkshire and Mid Thames group. This follows his previously very successful weekend held on the western side of the Isle of Wight last year.
On Friday the 13th at the start of the weekend the weather was not looking good, ominous grey skies and squally showers. But after the ferry ride from Southhampton to Cowes and a stop at the Griffin Inn at Godshill for a hearty breakfast Ian led us on a circular 5 mile hike up towards Stenbury Down which involved clambering up some fairly steep chalk paths passing fields with sheep and distant views of the sea. Once on top the wind increased and soon the rain beat down on us but undeterred we soldiered on. Soon the rain stopped and we were able to descend back down towards Godshill passing Appeldurcombe House, a masterpiece of English Baroque architecture, and once the grandest house on the Isle of Wight but now more a shell of its former glory. It is owned by English Heritage. The day ended with a good meal out in Ryde.
The following day, Saturday, we were greeted with sunshine and our spirits were uplifted. Bernardo led the group on a longish 10 mile circular hike up hill and down dale initially climbing steadily upwards from the NT Brook Chine car park from where we headed upwards to Brook Down and then on to the Tennyson trail to Mottistone Down with its ancient Bronze Age barrows. Descending via Limestone Down we eventually reached the village of Brightstone walking along bracken strewn sandy paths. This was a walk that took in some beautiful countryside including a walk along the isle of Wight coastal path from which there were great views out to sea which sparkled in the sunlight. In the evening we all, by kind courtesy of our hosts for the evening, Ian, John and Peter, had a very enjoyable communal supper which was much appreciated.
Sunday dawned fine again and the sun shone and Ian took the lead as we headed up a fairly long uphill trek from Blackgang Chine to St Kathrine’s Oratory- the only medieval lighthouse surviving in England. A gentle stroll across the downs and we then walked down hill passing the Hoy Monument which commemorated the visit to the Isle of Wight by Czar Alexander the 1st of Russia in 1814. We continued our walk passing through National Trust land at Wydcombe and the pretty village of Niton thence returning to our starting point on a very enjoyable walk along the cliff top path. This 6 mile walk was followed by a traditional Sunday lunch at Godshill. Much appreciated by all!
Our final day was spent exploring the countryside near Bembridge. Setting off for this 6 mile circular walk starting at the Lifeboat station at Bembridge Steve, our leader for the day, first took us past a hotel with its manicured gardens which was once owned by George V’s Lord in waiting. Now owned by Warners Holidays.
Thereafter we then headed out of the village and walked along the Coastal path. This provided a number of good photo opportunities particularly as we walked uphill to the monument at the top of the hill overlooking Bembridge airport. This commemorated the the life of the First Commodore of the Royal Yacht Club, the Earl of Yarborough. Walking downhill and towards the west of the village passing the small airport we came across the Bembridge Windmill built in 1700 and said to be the only surviving windmill on the Isle of White. Nearing the end of our walk we headed seawards and hiked along the beach back to our starting point. A hike memorable for the unexpected high tide and the rough shingle which certainly kept us on our toes endeavouring to avoid the swirling sea. Some of us were more successful than others!!
This was indeed a memorable weekend. Not only for the excellent walks that Ian had researched and offered to us but also for the many conversations and laughs we had both on the walks and also on the various social occasions we spent together.
So finally a big thank you to Ian for arranging the weekend and also to those who kindly led the walks. And also for the companionship we experienced and enjoyed.