Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Freshwater (circular) via Yarmouth and the Needles – (Isle of Wight) – 06/05/11 – 12.3 Miles – HF Holidays

For our final day on the Isle of Wight we would be doing a door to door walk from Freshwater House, with our hard walking group now up into double figures. Clearly some people were starting the holiday walks on an easy basis and working up to the final long one. Temperature wise this was also going to be the hottest day of the week (not that the others were chilly), with the strong winds on day one and two having disappeared.

So starting at Freshwater Bay we picked up the trail along the River Yar, heading towards Yarmouth. It wasn’t long however before we had come across yet another ‘fascinating’ church (All Saints – Freshwater) that everyone had to stop and explore (what is it with churches and walking groups ?). Having absolved our sins we carried on and it wasn’t long before we had made it into Yarmouth. There we sat on the seafront enjoying our elevenses, and watching the Whitelink ferries head back and forth across the Solent to Lymington Pier on the mainland.

As we continued on we all took some snaps of Tudor Hurst Castle across the water on the mainland. Actually this is quite a fortified area as we took a toilet stop at Fort Victoria (which is now a converted arcade), and as we carried on we passed on our side of the water: the Cliff End Battery and Fort Albert. Carrying on we actually got down onto the beach by Linstone Chine holiday
Park, and being the daredevil that I am I let some of the tide wash over my boots.

Our leader decided that we needed to climb up off the beach before having our lunch, on the approach to Alum Bay. However somewhere along this point, as we were passing along the road in Totland, we managed to acquire a small dog. Thus no matter how much we encouraged this small basset/beagle bitch (female dog, not an insult) we couldn’t get rid of it. When we settled on our lunch stop at Headon Warren it stayed with us, but not to scrounge anyones sandwiches. Unfortunately my mobile wasn’t on me, and I couldn’t call the number on its collar, and no one else seemed to see this as important saying: “it must do this all the time”. Anyway once we set off again, along with us it came again. In fact all the way down to Alum Bay and to the car park at The Needles. However with the majority of the group making a pit stop at the public toilets there, it finally decided to go its own way again.

We then climbed up from Alum Bay admiring all the multicoloured sands on the cliff edge there (see picture), before finally making our way to the viewing point at The Needles for the obligatory photographs. The viewpoint was all well and good but of more concern to me was that our leader had encouraged us to forego an ice cream earlier for one at this location, but which no one then wanted to go and get, given the descent down to the National Trust café. Also of interest along here was some Cold War bunkers and the remains of the test sites for the British Black Hawk rocket programme.

From there it was back on to the coastal path again on what is the other bit of the Tennyson Trail which we didn’t do the previous day, until we eventually made our way up to Tennysons Monument. This is apparently 2722 miles away from the North Pole. From there it was a nice gentle descent, passing a lot of young student types, until we made our way back to Freshwater Bay.

My verdict on HF Holidays based on this one, is that although they might seem initially expensive, they do work out as good value for money. The food is fantastic, you have all coaches provided for, and instead of trying to work out walks yourselves, you get the best of the area by guides who have honed these walks long before you got there. The only downside for me was that the forty plus guests were mainly elderly, and were not interested in doing long walks. Thus if it hadn’t been for one other guest on this holiday (my nurse friend) being prepared to do them every day, I would have been doing a lot of walking on my own, and that would not have helped socially either. This I was assured was particular to the HF Isle of Wight experience (which is a shame given how lovely it is), and would not be a problem in the Lake District. However whilst that is a potential problem for the lone traveller, it is easily resolved if you travel with a partner or friend.

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