25th – 29th October 2021
Walk Day 1, from Freshwater Bay to Yarmouth and Return (Short Walk)
Author: Sarah Wallace
On our first morning at the beautifully located HF Holiday hotel at Freshwater Bay, we gathered overlooking a sloppily filled bay, as the rain clouds vanished. The advantage of choosing the shortest of the walks on offer was that we started last, so did not need coats on at the start.
Paul was our leader and gave us a few minutes to introduce ourselves to other members of the group; before we set off, hugging the coast as we briefly walked round the bay. Then up towards the golf course passing the memorial to two airmen, from opposing sides, from WW2.
F/LT. JOHN C. DUNDAS, D.F.C. & BAR OF 609 SQN.
On the 28th November 1940 he shot down Major Helmut Wick, a Luftwaffe
Ace Fighter Pilot, to the South of the Island. He in turn was shot down by
Wick’s No 2 immediately after. Neither body was recovered.
Unlike with many golf courses, this path, the Freshwater Way, remained well clear of golf balls and we threaded along a path still displaying a few late lingering wildflowers, even the white bindweed trumpets looked attractive, interspersed with the last moon daisies of the season.
We arrived at the east bank of the River Yar, within sight of the Freshwater church tower, where we paused briefly to watch the plethora of swans gathered on the river.
Originally, before the Isle of Wight separated from the mainland, and when that was still part of the continent; we were told, the River Yar, rose in France before flowing to the area we see now. It is an attractive river with plenty of water plants, birds, trees, and boats closer to Yarmouth.
Entering the outskirts of Yarmouth, we passed and old building, now residential, that had been a tidal powered mill.
We looked around St James’s church ancient origins but twice rebuilt after the town was burnt to the ground twice by the French. Because of these attacks, Henry 8th had the castle built, the remains of which still stand and are looked after by English Heritage.
Yarmouth pier is the longest wooden pier in England and was well worth a visit, as it gave interesting views out over the Solent, as well as back to the town.
Shortly after leaving Yarmouth to return south along the western edge of the Yar, we stopped at the edge of a wood overlooking attractive fields, for our picnic lunches. Very varied, enjoyable lunches we had each chosen the day before, assembled by the Holiday Fellowship kitchens that included all sorts of tempting titbits.
Easy walking then took us south to Freshwater coming to the road by the church where many of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s family were buried. It had a huge 5 acre burial ground, now an informal nature reserve.
Along the walk we also passed two plaques about Robert Hooke 1635 -1703 (along the Robert Hooke trail there were apparently about twelve such plaques. He seemed to have been a polymath, as he was noted as a scientist, inventor, astronomer, engineer, architect and London City Surveyor, who published an influential scientific book entitled ‘Micrographia’ in 1665, that was praised by Samuel Pepys.
The final part of this walk, the easiest on offer the first full day of the holiday, was a little muddy, but led us back happily to the hotel again. Several of the group then enjoyed an ice cream bought at the RNLI shop close by and eaten overlooking the sea; a perfect end to a lovely day’s walk, of about seven miles, and all in fine weather.
Walking Day 1: Walk 3 (12 miles)
Author: Mike Wallace
OK, it is October, towards the end of October, so we were all ready for wind and rain. Wind – plenty. Rain? Just a teasing drizzle as we assembled and that disappeared not to return all day. How lucky were we? An excellent leader, Mark, who (in conversation) revealed that not only does he normally lead 12 times a year, that his wife also leads for Holiday Fellowship, but that he is Vice-chairman of the Board of Holiday Fellowship. Someone clearly deeply involved with and committed to the organisation. Also, as we progressed, someone who knows much about the area we were walking in – the western end of the Isle of Wight.
This is still the time of Covid restriction, so no transport to the start of walks. All walks start from the HF house, but there are sufficient paths on the Isle of Wight that this is not an issue, and looking at the routes planned for the week, there will be almost no duplication – even at the start and ends of our walks. The Holiday Fellowship hotel, Freshwater Bay House is immediately adjacent to The Albion Hotel, a haunt of J B Priestly.
We set off in an easterly direction from the hotel, down the steps and dodging the waves crashing around, walking at the foot of Compton Down. A group of 12 of us, 8 from Petersfield Ramblers. We had been warned to bring poles, there would be muddy patches, and we were not disappointed. Nothing like, or as bad as, Selbourne or West Sussex Burgess Hill clay/mud, but enough to make the path slippery, and boots very dirty. In fact, this happened throughout the day – always followed by stretches of clear path or long grass where boots cleared. As we progressed, superb views of the north cost of the island, the Solent and the south coast of the mainland appeared – quite stunning. Mark interrupted progress from time to time with local snippets. We were able to see and survey the site of the first Isle of Wight Festival in June 1970 (600,000 people, Jimmy Hendrix, Uriah heap, Joe Cocker, The Who amongst the names to appear) and were able to speculate on what someone with a metal detector might discover buried deeply in the rolling countryside.
Our eastward progress came to an end when we reached the Hamstead Trail, one of 8 trails that crisscross the island. Here we turned north, still in rolling countryside, heading for the costal path. When we left the Hamstead Trail, a small unmade road took us passed some amazing modern houses built in amongst tiny very old dwellings – really interesting modern architecture. Arriving at the coastal path – no sign of the sea! There are a number of places where the path has to move inland, sometimes as a result of coastal erosion, sometimes as ownership and access issues prevent a true sea edge route, so paths through the woods, all looking for red squirrels – none to be seen today, but there is always tomorrow … However, before long, through the trees we gained sight of the Solent and the English mainland beyond. Lunch was held as we finally reached the shoreline in a sheltered spot with amazing views. We also could see Hurst Castle and lighthouse across the Solent on the English coast.
Thereafter, we followed the coast to Yarmouth, at times walking along the top of the sea wall. Yarmouth itself is a small and attractive town (founded in 1175!), with an interesting church (the spire has been extended to allow a better view of the attacking French in past times), England’s longest wooden pier and much more. Our route then took us along the eastern side of the Yar estuary and River Yar, through local nature reserves and back to Freshwater House. On route, we met with both other groups who had spent the day on 7 and 9 mile walks.
An amazing 12 miles of pure pleasure – also pleasant to get back to a cup of tea and a hot shower. Faces were glowing because of the wind – we were all left with that happy feeling of achievement and anticipation of more to come tomorrow.
Yarmouth/Needles/Freshwater, 13 miles, Day 2
Author: Lynne Burge
As all walks on our ‘Go Lightly’ holiday on the Isle of Wight, it began at the HF Centre in Freshwater. A grey start to a windy day as those who had chosen the longest walk for the day set off. Dropping down towards the beach we were able to see the waves crashing on the beach, driven by the force of the wind. Climbing away from the beach the path led up a track and around the back of the golf club, leading us into fields sheltered from the gusts. We came across the bridge we had walked past yesterday overflowing with swans, it was the bridge that first joined the main section of the Isle to the island at the western end. These days we think of the island as an entity, but years ago the River Yar divided the western end from the rest.
The route took us past Freshwater church with its roots in the 6th century. Leaving the church behind we continued on until we reached the outskirts of Yarmouth. From here we followed the coast path westwards past a holiday village for adults only, arriving at Fort Victoria. This afforded us grand views across the Solent, especially of Hurst Castle. The place was busy with families enjoying the half term and the different activities provided at the venue.
The path took us slightly inland away from the coast as erosion, as in many parts of the Island, means the original coast path has disappeared. As Monks Lane led us past a large holiday park of chalets, we attempted to walk down on the beach again. Defeated by the high tide we had to retrace our steps and walk along the main road before we could head for the coast again.
A short stop for lunch then we were off along the coastal wall, enjoying the sea bouncing off the walls. From our vantage point it was clear to see why Hurst Castle had been built where it was. The strategic position of it was obvious and would have been able to repel most would-be invaders.
A sharp climb up from Widdick Chine took us up to a side road that continued upwards. Disappointingly we had to stay following the road as the expected path had been shut due to erosion. Then it was off the road, onto a path that took us up onto Headon Warren. This area was once a breeding area for rabbits that were used for food, but on our walk today not one rabbit was seen.
The route went steeply down into a valley that led us towards the Needles Play Park. The car park was full, fortunately we were quickly able to leave the noise behind and begin the climb up the other side. A quick stop for refreshments gave us the energy to climb up to the Coastguard Cottages situated above the Needles. A further uphill section took us onto the start of Tennyson Down, the most spectacular part of the day’s walk. The grass was soft, the wind was blowing a gale and the views across the island were stunning. Gradually we walked up towards the monument at the height of Tennyson Down.
Tennyson moved to the Island in 1853 along with his wife, Emily, living in Farringdon House for nearly 40 years. Here he wrote many poems and often visited Osborne House at the invite of Queen Victoria. From the monument the path took us gently back down towards the HF house and the inevitable refreshing cup of tea.
Author: Lynne Burge