List of walks in date order, with links
Date Walk Distance
14 June 2009 Shanklin to Sandown Pier and back 5.7 km (3.6 miles)
13 June 2009 St Catherine Down 11.0 km (6.9 miles)
12 June 2009 St Boniface Down 17.2 km (10.8 miles)
11 June 2009 Bembridge Down 10.7 km (6.7 miles)

11 June 2009: Isle of Wight long weekend, Bembridge Down

10.7 km (6.7 miles)

Fort on Bembridge Down
Fort on Bembridge Down

This year's annual LUL old lags summer walking weekend is being held in the Isle of Wight. In other years we have done the Yorkshire Dales, the Brecon Beacons, the Howgill Fells and Dartmoor. We wanted to stay centrally near Newport, but then found we had picked the weekend of the Isle of Wight festival (which Dan had attended in 1971), so we are staying in Shanklin instead. A late start saw us (me, Dan, Bernie, Ian, Ted and Phil) meeting up at the Portsmouth Wrightlink ferry mid-afternoon, and getting to our hotel in Shanklin late afternoon. I suggested a short walk over Bembridge Down to start the holiday, so we took the Island Line tube train from Shanklin to Brading Station.

Yarborough Monument
Yarborough Monument on Bembridge Down

From Brading we crossed the River Yar (the eastern Yar), and climbed the ridge to the fort on the summit of Bembridge Down. The fort is a Palmerston Fort, from the 1860's (these forts were also known as Palmerston's Follies). We then carried on eastwards, hoping for a pint in the pub above Culver Cliff (the Culver Haven) - but unfortunately, it wasn't yet open, so we continued the walk along the costal path to Sandown. At the pier, demands for beer interrupted the walk, and we went to a pub Dan remembered from an earlier visit, the Castle - a peculiar mix of welshness, patriotism, goth decor, dogs and OAPs, and very enjoyable. After a couple of pints, most people decided to take the bus back to Shanklin, but Ian and I continued along the coastal path, back to our hotel.

Cliffs between Bembridge Down and Sandown

Our hotel is the Mayfair. Cheap, ideally located, reasonably comfortable rooms, but obviously struggling, and with undrinkable coffee. In the evening we found the Plough and Barleycorn, a pub in the centre of Shanklin that described itself as being under new management. Excellent food, good beer (Goddards), nice staff, sensibly priced wine. We went there every evening of the holiday - there didn't seem any point in looking for anything else, because it suited everyone.

Sandown Pier
Sandown Pier, looking towards Bembridge Down

creeping thistle


12 June 2009: Isle of Wight long weekend, St Boniface Down

17.2 km (10.8 miles)

Shanklin Cliffs
Cliffs beyond Shanklin Chine

I had walked up St Boniface Down last year, as it is the highest point on the Island, and is a Marilyn. I remembered it as a really good walk, and as it started from Shanklin, I recommended it as our main walk of the holiday. We took the Coastal Path from Shanklin to just beyond Luccombe Chine, and then climbed to meet the A3055 just above the Landslip. We then climbed over Nansen Hill to reach the eastern corner of the radar station that occupies the summit of St Boniface Down.

Nansen Hill
View from Nansen Hill back towards Luccombe. Bembridge Down in the distance

We then walked almost completely round the radar station, picking up the trig point (235 m); the plaque 'In memory of the passengers and crew aboard Channel Airways DC3 'Dakota' G-AGZB lost near this monument in dense fog on Sunday 6th May 1962 during a flight from Jersey to Portsmouth'; and a point as near to the highest point as we could reach. The highest point is usually cited as being at SZ567785, 241 m high.

Group photo
Group photo on St Boniface Down

We then headed north over Luccombe Down to the trig point on Shanklin Down (235 m). Lovely ridge walk, great views. Then over St Martin's Down and into Wroxall Village. The last stage of the walk into Wroxall was difficult to follow on the map, and we ended up taking a lower bridleway, rather than the higher footpath (following the Worsely Trail) I had wanted to take.

Shanklin Down
Trig point on Shanklin Down

In Wroxall, we had a drink in the Four Seasons Inn (which had previously been called the Star). Good beer and a good pub lunch.

The plan had been to then just follow the disused railway from Wroxall back to Shanklin - it is now a cycleway. However, Ian got to reminiscing about an early holiday on the Island, when he and a friend had been followed the disused line the other way, towards its terminus at Ventnor, and had found they were able to walk through the old tunnel under St Boniface Down (after first having returned to the village to buy a torch), because a door in the grill sealing off the entrance was open for some reason.

Bernie thought it would be nice to have a look at the portal, so we extended the route by walking down the lane to Wroxall Manor Farm (where the portal is located) and then back to the village by following the footpaths just to the north of the old formation. Unfortunately, the portal is now covered by vegetation, and the formation is boggy and overgrown, so we failed to actually see it.

Bowling club
Bowling club, Shanklin, seen from cycleway

Once back in Wroxall, we resumed the planned route, and returned to Shanklin by the cycleway along the old railway formation. Just beyond the church in Wroxall, the route seemed to peter out in a yard, but there was a gate to the left with a faded sign threatening to have the gate locked if people failed to close it.

The walk along the old railway formation not particularly interesting - but then, walks along old railway formations that have been converted into cycleways are almost always dull - unvarying gradient, unvarying surface and vegetation obscuring the views. But the rest of the walk was excellent.

White dead-nettle


13 June 2009: Isle of Wight long weekend, St Catherine's Down

11.0 km (6.9 miles)

Yar Source
Source of the Yar

Tim had joined us the previous evening, and Bernie had to leave to go to a party. Ted wanted to see Osborne House, and Ian and Dan decided one day's walking was sufficed, and went on a pub crawl round the Island by bus. That left me, Tim and Phil in the walking party - but Tim and Phil only wanted a short(ish) walk.

St Catherine’s Point
St Catherine’s Point

The map suggested St Catherine's Down would be interesting - an oratory on the summit, and a distinct (but not overlong) ridge leading northwards. We therefore took the No 2 Bus from Shanklin to Ventnor, and changed in Ventnor onto the No 6 to start walking in Niton.

St Catherine’s Point
Cliffs near St Catherine’s Point

In Niton, we briefly followed the Yar River Trail along the A3055 to the source of the Yar - little more than a roadside ditch, but with a modern stone monument close to the spot. From here, we took a footpath south, and climbed up a short steep scarp to cross a meadow and join the Coastal Path.

St Catherine's Hill
Oratory on St Catherine's Hill

We followed the Costal Path to Blackgang, with fine views over St Catherine’s Point and its lighthouse - although a sea mist kept blowing in and occasionally obscuring the view. From Blackgang we crossed the A3055 and made the short climb to the top of St Catherine's Hill. At first, we couldn't see how close the top really was, as it was obscured by mist - which occasionally lifted to reveal a strange rocket like shape on the summit. This proved to be an octagonal tower with fin-like buttresses - the remains of the oratory. Nearby were a radio mast and the stub of an incomplete sea beacon, and the trig point (236 m).

St Catherine's Down
View westwards from St Catherine's Down

From the oratory we walked north along the ridge of St Catherine's Down, the mist clearing rapidly to give superb views over most of the Island. Near the north end of the ridge is the Hoy Monument, erected by one Michael Hoy to mark a visit by the Emperor of all the Russias in 1814.

Hoy Monument
Hoy Monument on St Catherine's Hill

From the Hoy Monument we descended eastwards past the Hermitage to Southford, where we followed the Yar River Trail south into Whitwell. Fortunately, the White Horse in Whitwell was still serving food when we arrived, so we had a pint and a ploughman's. Then back to Niton (again following the Yar River Trail), stopping briefly just outside Whitwell to look at the formation of the other disused railway line into Ventor (terminating at Ventnor West). A short walk, but worthwhile.

Yar River Trail waymark

From Niton, we returned to Shanklin by the No 6 bus, changing to the No 2 bus in Ventnor.

Pyramidal orchid


14 June 2009: Isle of Wight long weekend, Shanklin to Sandown Pier and back (and a visit to the steam railway)

5.7 km (3.6 miles)

Sandown Pier
Train on Sandown Pier

The last day of the holiday, with a trip to see the Isle of Wight Steam Railway on the way home. I'm not a steam enthusiast. The others are.

Sandown Pier
The end of Sandown Pier, St Boniface Down in the distance

However, Ian thought it wouldn't be proper to leave without walking to the end of Sandown Pier, so after breakfast he and I walked along the promenade from Shanklin to Sandown, and then to the end of the pier, returning the same way.

As we only had an hour before the agreed train to Smallbrook Junction, it was a rather rapid walk.

Steam train
Train on Isle of Wight Steam Railway

Bee Orchid