I’m going a long way back for this walk. So long in fact that I don’t have any digital photos of it. Instead I was using a cheap point-and-shoot film camera with cheap film which I have now scanned in. All of which means I don’t have many pictures (film was expensive) and they are a bit blurry. However I did re-walk the coast from Shanklin onwards more recently, which I shall cover in a future post.
In 2001 there was a major outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. This meant many footpaths (especially those over farm land) were closed in England (probably Wales and Scotland too, I don’t remember) which meant planning a walk was tricky and frustrating. Except thankfully the disease did not make it across the Solent and so the Isle of Wight remained free of the disease and the footpaths remained opened. So I found myself visiting the island quite often that year. This was one of those occasions.
I took the train from my local station to Portsmouth Harbour, taking around an hour although back then it was on a clattery old slam-door train. Once at Portsmouth I continued from the end of the platform into the Wightlink ferry terminal. I reached a long queue of people. It moved forward a bit but the display showed the next departure to be half an hour later than I had expected from the timetable. It turned out that lots of other people had had the same idea about visiting the island and the previous ferry was now full, so I had half an hour to wait, not daring leave the queue in case I could not get on the next ferry either.
I did make it over albeit half an hour later. On arrival at Ryde we all had to step on a disinfectant mat. Not the best of welcomes, but I suppose it is a sensible precaution. I had bought a through train ticket to Lake as this station is closest to the coast on this part of the island so I joined the ancient 1930s Underground train which took me on the bumpy but fun ride around the east coast of the island to the little station at Lake (which is just a single wooden platform).
From here I made my way back to the promenade. The station at Lake is located close to the cliff top so it only takes a minute or two to reach the sea. The cliff path here is a wide tarmac path right along the cliff top separated by railings. I suspect this dates to Victorian times when the island was very popular with visitors and the Victorians built many of these promenades and beach paths.
It is an easy walk and I’m soon descending down into Shanklin, a pretty town.
Shanklink is a sheltered bay with the high cliffs at Knock Cliff dominating the view (well that and that lurid “Pink Beach Hotel”, but it has since been repainted in a less bright pink). I can see that beyond Shanklin things are going to be a bit more challenging.
As I approach Shanklin, the coast path continues slightly back from the beach. This is odd because you join the road (Hope Hill) and can follow this road as it bends round and runs right along the coast, so I find it odd that the Coast path is routed inland here. So I follow the road down instead right along the back of the beach passing the crazy golf and the usual seaside arcades. Shanklin is one of 4 of the main resorts on the island (Sandown, Ventnor and Ryde being the others) and so has quite good facilities. Facing east and with high cliffd behind, it is sheltered from the usual westerly winds which no doubts helps it’s popularity. I walk along the promenade past more pubs and restaurants. I would prefer to walk along the beach, but the groynes make it tricky.
At the end end of the promenade there is still glorious beach ahead but the road soon ends and turns into a path.
It then passes the entrance to Shanklin Chine. These Chines are a features of this area of coast. They are steep sides natural valleys and mostly called Chines only on the Isle of Wight and parts of Dorset and Hampshire (such as in Bournemouth). Unusually this one charges an admission charge to walk though it, so I don’t bother.
As I expected the path now climbs steeply out of Shanklin but I get a lovely view of the beach south of here to Knock Cliffs ahead through the trees.
The path now leaves the coast and heads a little inland on a minor road through the older part of Shanklin. Although the coast does not go through it I headed a little off the route briefly to see the lovely Shanklin Old Village I remembered from previous visits to the island. This is the more historic centre of Shanklin, before it developed as a resort and the street is lined with pretty thatched cottages.
As it happens I was in Shanklin Old village again less than a fortnight ago so here is a similar view some 15 years later. I’m pleased to see that very little has changed (a few different signs and the tree behind the pub at the back is now much taller).
And here is another one a bit further up the road (also taken much more recently).
Returning to the coast the coast path now mostly continued along a minor road although there was briefly a parallel path next to the road. The road is now a dead-end leading to Luccombe Village. I’m pretty sure the road did once continue further south to Bonchurch but has been lost to erosion. Luccombe is quite a pretty place but not somewhere I would want to live. It is high on a cliff top, but the land around here is very unstable and many of the houses are very close to the cliff edge.
The path sticks to the coastal side of the village and soon passes Luccombe Chine, where there are steps down to the beach. But it’s a dead-end and a long way down, so I stick to the coast path. This continues along a track and then soon enters woodland, the sight of another ancient landslip. It reminds me very much of the Undercliff between Lyme Regis and Seaton on the Devon and Dorset coast and I think the geology and circumstances are very similar. Certainly I can clearly see the land here is very unstable, with much evidence of landslips, new and old.
As I said I don’t think I would want to live in Luccombe with the land around so unstable. Indeed much of the south of the Isle of Wight suffers from very unstable land. In fact around here I am entering a historic large landslip. Much like near Lyme Regis this is where a huge chunk of land suffered a massive landslip, leaving cliffs almost half a mile inland and a large chunk of land below. It is on this land that Bonchurch, Ventnor, St Lawrence and parts of Niton have been developed. I believe part of the challenge here is there is a layer of “blue slipper” clay part way up the cliffs. When this gets wet, either by water soaking through from above or from the cliff face, it becomes soft and gooey and this causes the firmer and heavy ground above to slip. All in all it is not an area I would consider buying a house in!
Soon I emerge from the woodland and can see the first buildings of Bonchurch ahead.
The path now descends to a little beach called Monks Bay. It is so named because it is believed to be where French Monks from Lyra Abbey landed from Normandy.
The path now descends gently back down from the cliffs.
Clearly attempts have been made to reduce the erosion here, but I don’t know how successful they are. As you can see above ahead there was once again a promenade. Here a long concrete wall has been constructed below the cliffs I think primarily to help stabilise the cliffs (because the water no longer reaches them) but also to create a promenade.
I head down to the promenade which also acts as a private road to these houses.
Here the houses have been built right on the sea wall and below the cliff face. A lovely setting but I would not want to be in one during a storm! They look very vulnerable. Most of the village is behind the cliffs but there is a little area with a cafe along the sea front too.
The path ahead is now easy.
A flat promenade below the cliffs and now devoid of people. I can follow this all the way around the base of the cliffs to reach the small harbour area at the eastern end of Ventnor.
Despite my reservations about living here I can certainly see the attraction. Of the resorts of the island I thin Ventnor is the pretties, though the beach is very coarse sand and small shingle rather than the fine sands of Shanklin. It is south facing and below the Undercliff making it very sheltered and it has a sub-tropical climate.
Beyond the harbour there is a small promenade, but it’s a small promenade because Ventnor is a small place. The bay is only around 300 metres wide and with high cliffs at either end (the road down to it has some hairpin bends). This was not a long walk so I continued around the beach and enjoyed the view back over this pretty town.
I continued beyond to the edge of the Botanic Gardens where I saw an unusual sign.
I assume of course that it should say “Sheer Drop” rather than Sheep Drop, but it made me laugh. I continued to the end of the car park on the cliff top and took a last view back at Ventnor.
Whilst I had some energy to continue, I did not walk so much then so tended to cover less distance. I was not sure how much public transport there was further along or where it might go, so I returned to Ventnor to get the bus back to Shanklin. This is because there is no longer a station in Ventnor. In fact it might surprise you to learn that there once was (in fact, two). The main line from Ryde, which now terminates at Shanklin used to continue to via Wroxall to Ventnor. When you consider the geology around Ventnor this is a surprise and it was achieved by a a tunnel almost a mile long under St Boniface Down. It was sadly a victim of the Beeching Cuts. So now I had to take a bus. Given the steep roads down to the sea front the buses don’t depart from here but further up the hill. I accessed this via some zig-zag steps. I then had to locate Boots, as this is all the information the bus timetable gives (I wish they would include a road name, so it is easier to find), but it turned out to be visible as soon as I reached the top of the steps. I had about 10 minutes to wait for the bus which took me back to Shanklin. From here I returned by train to Ryde and onwards on the ferry to Portsmouth and home.
This was a varied and interesting walk which also turned out to be easier than I had expected with the low-level path along the base of the cliffs from Bonchurch to Ventnor. But there was also some spectacular scenery, especially around Luccombe and just south of Shanklin.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Southern Vectis route 3 : Newport (Bus Station) – Rookley – Godshill – Wroxall – Ventnor – Upper Bonchurch – Shanklin – Lake – Sandown – Brading – Ryde. Every 30 minutes seven days a week. Takes around 30 minutes to travel between Lake and Ventnor.