In the last few years we’ve been working our way through the Isle of Wight’s Treasure Trails.
You pay £10 for a set of clues and then spend two or three hours solving the mystery.
It’s a thinly disguised excuse to get children walking but it’s worked well for us. Sometimes we complete them in one go, other times we have to come back at a later date because one of the children has reached their limit. On one occasion, there was a 12 month gap between hunting sessions, by which time a key clue had disappeared.
Our most recent Treasure Trail was around the Needles and Alum Bay on a breezy day.
To be fair, nearly every day at the Needles could be called a breezy day. You’ll often hear it mentioned in news report with wind speeds that will blow your hat off. It would be a terrific place to fly a kite if there wasn’t a high chance of being dragged off a cliff.
The trail warned that it wasn’t suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs.
We faced a dilemma – should we follow the advice and risk carrying the younger child or ignore the advice and struggle with a pushchair? The other factor is that children tend to walk much less enthusiastically when there’s the option of sitting down.
After much discussion we went for the pushchair, mostly so that we didn’t have to carry the lunch bag and essential souvenirs that we might pick up en route. Ours is an off road pushchair - you certainly wouldn’t have a hope with a four-wheeled thing designed for shopping trips.
The route was pretty familiar and predictable but it must be one of the Isle of Wight’s best short walks.
We started at The Needles rapidly-filling-up car park. This caused some consternation with my mother who wasn’t keen to pay the £6 parking charge. Most Treasure Trails have a cheap or free parking option nearby but it’s very hard to visit The Needles without either paying to park or catching a bus.
The first couple of clues required us to compete with the hoards queueing for the chairlift. The route sent us down the steps, so we split into two parties with one group watching the pushchair and the others sent to collect the clues. The decision to take the pushchair was already looking a little iffy.
We then headed to the road which leads to the Old Battery with clifftop views of Alum Bay.
Halfway along, we climbed again and headed for the New Battery which is the free part of the site. Getting the pushchair up the steps was a two-man job but we managed it with only a small amount of rage and huffing. The children learnt a few new words, so it was kind of educational.
The exhibition part of the New Battery was padlocked shut but we still had a good wander round and collected more answers to our clues.
There is one point on the route which offers perhaps the best view you’ll get of The Needles without paying anything. It requires a walk past the coastguard’s hut and then you follow some steps on your right.
It was 11.35, so we decided to round the time up to noon and declare that it was lunchtime.
We then faced another choice – should we enjoy lunch with a view on a very windy bench overlooking the Needles – or should we cower in a sheltered tunnel.
Cowering in a tunnel was the winner since we couldn’t face our cheese and ham rolls flying out of our hands and into the Solent.
The climb down to the entrance of the Old Battery was perhaps the windiest section of all. I removed my hat to avoid it being removed involuntarily. The Old Battery isn't on the trail, but if you have National Trust membership you can get in free to admire the views. The tunnel is good fun if you aren't claustrophobic.
By now, we had about a quarter of the clues left to collect and we began to walk along the road which connects the Old Battery with the Needles Pleasure Park. It’s a terrific stretch of road as you feel like you’re on a cliff edge, but there’s actually a bit of grass either side so the actual risk of death is relatively low.
As we approached the final half-mile of the walk, the younger child announced that she urgently required the toilet. I won’t give too many details but squatting by a footpath overlooking one of the wonders of the Wight wasn’t an option.
And so, I raced ahead with the pushchair, resembling one of those Supermums who does a park run with triplets and an off-road buggy.
My decision to bring the pushchair was finally vindicated. Who knows what horrific situation we might have faced without three wheels to help us?
The others completed the trail, albeit with a bit of help from the Treasure Trails organisers for the fiendish final clue.
All in all, I’d rank this Treasure Trail as one of the best we’ve done. Ventnor to Steephill is my other favourite so far but this one might just trump it.
The parking cost at The Needles is a big irksome and it’s not easy with a pushchair but even my mother would probably admit that the views are probably worth £6.
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