The Southeast Isle of Wight: the Wee, the Twee and the Wowee

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Jun 29

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Distance is 22 km (14 miles); total ascent is 795 m; terrain is hilly with some steep ascents and descents; surfaces are dirt, grass and tarmac.

The Isle of Wight has a character all of its own, and the rugged south of the island ('The Back') doubly so. The climate is almost subtropical, and so, in the shelter and balm of The Undercliff behind Ventnor, glasshouse plants proliferate and bloom outside. The local stone and style of building are also distinct, with the result that the cottages and churches have more in common with Dorset than Hampshire. The Wee: The retro Godshill Model Village, with the places we'll be seeing meticulously miniaturised. The Twee: The model village and the cottages ornés of Shanklin Old Village; twee, but agreeably so. The Wowee: The prettiest villages on the island (Godshill and Shanklin Old Village), the highest hill and best view likewise (St Boniface Down) and the most wonderful natural feature (Shanklin Chine).

The sights:

America Wood: 27-acre woodland owned by the Woodland Trust. Mixed, but mostly oak. Local legend says the name comes from its use providing naval timber during the American War of Independence.

Godshill: The show village of the island with its mellow church tower rising above immaculate thatched cottages. All Saints Church, mostly 15th-century, perched on a hilltop. Spacious interior adorned with some notable features: Medieval wall-painting of Christ on a 'lily cross' - one of only two in Europe; 18th-century monuments to the Worsleys of Appuldurcombe; big painting of Daniel in the Lions' Den, perhaps by Rubens.

Godshill Model Village: The tourist traps of Godshill and Shanklin Old Village reproduced at 1/10th scale. 'You can find all of our houses, cottages, churches and pubs in real life for a proper Gulliver [or Godzilla (Godshilla?)-suited] experience! Our models are fantastic replicas of these real buildings, made with sand and cement so they weather as they age. We even thatch them just like the real thing' (the website). The abundant conifers, trimmed to maintain scale are equally notable. £4.95 to enter, but free to RHS members. We'll take the recommended hour to explore it over lunch, but if it's not your thing, you're welcome to go to the pub or explore the village.

Appuldurcombe House: The shell of a large and very fine 18th-century baroque mansion, built 1702-1740 for the Worsley family by John James. Requisitioned by the military and bombed by enemy action in 1943 and left a ruin. Managed by English Heritage. We won't be entering, just glimpsing it. 

St Boniface Down and Bonchurch Down: Chalk hills rising to 241 metres, the island's highest point, In 1940 the radar station was bombed by Stukas, a scene reconstructed in the film The Battle of Britain. Ecologically a rare juxtaposition of calcareous downland and acid grassland-heathland  with acid-loving gorse, heather, bell heather and bilberry meeting alkaline-loving juniper and box. The cap of gravel supports a forest of holm oak. The views, south to the sea and north over the island are stupendous.

The Landslip and The Devil's Chimney: The Chimney is a scenic cleft in the lower greensand rock near Luccombe. The Landslip itself is a local nature reserve.

Shanklin: A popular seaside resort with an esplanade lined with hotels and cafes and a sandy beach occupying a broad bay. The pier was lost in a storm in 1987.

Shanklin Old Village: A picturesque cluster of old cottages and Victorian cottages ornés, mostly now cafes, restaurants and touristy shops. 

Shanklin Chine: 'Chine' is a local term for a coastal ravine. Shanklin Chine contains waterfalls, trees and lush vegetation, with footpaths and walkways allowing access. Red squirrels are being supported and a section of PLUTO (PipeLine Under The Ocean), installed to supply petrol for the D-Day Landings, is visible. The Chine costs £4.60 to enter and doing so is optional.

Island Line Railway: London Underground Class 483s from 1938 (refurbished in the 1980s) are used due to the low tunnel height under Ryde and the sharp bend at Ryde Esplanade station.

Wightlink catamarans: HSC Wight Ryder I and HSC Wight Ryder II high-speed craft in service from 2009. The sun deck makes the sea crossing most enjoyable.

The route:

Footpaths heading westwards out of Shanklin will take us out to Lower Hyde, America Wood, Bobberstone Farm and Sandford. Soon, we'll cross Shanklin Road and reach Godshill where we'll have just over an hour to see the model village and church and also have lunch. Footpaths and the Worsley Trail will take us south and east out of Godshill to Appuldurcombe House. Footpaths and Rew Lane will then take us to Wroxall Down via Homelands Pit Farm. We'll cross Wroxall Down out to the antennae and then descend St Boniface Down and Bonchurch Down, heading towards the sea at The Landslip. Following the coastal path past the Devil's Chimney we'll head north past Luccombe Village and finally reach Shanklin where an option is to descend Shanklin Chine before returning to the station to go back to Ryde. 

(Picture credits: Ventnor from St Boniface Down: Mypix; Across the Valley: Simon Carey; Godshill, Cottages and Church: Chris Allen; Godshill at Godshill Model Village: John Webber; Shanklin Chine at Godshill Model Village: John Webber; Godshill Model Village: Steven Munster; Appuldurcombe House, View from Southwest Corner: Peter Coueslant; Trees in the Grounds of Appuldurcombe House: Phillip Halling; Valley Farm Cottages: Simon Carey Luccombe Village with Culver Cliff and the mainland beyond: Peter Coueslant; Steps to the landslip Car Park: Peter Trimming; Shanklin Beach: Ted Symonds; Shanklin Chine Waterfall: Peeky; Shanklin Chine and Path to the Beach: Peter Trimming; The Crab Inn, Shanklin Old Village: Peter Trimming; Shanklin Beach, Isle of Wight, UK: Mypix; Class 483 Island Line train about to enter Ryde Tunnel: Ian Capper. (All images designated 'Free to share and use' under the Creative Commons License.))


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