As a teenager I used to whinge and whine about any suggestion that we might go for a walk, particularly if there wasn't a pub lunch involved. To be fair, I whinged and whined about a lot but walks were pretty high up the list.
And yet, here I was, texting my mother to suggest that we walked from Freshwater Bay to The Needles at 6am.
The reason for the early start was partly to do with the weather forecast which suggested it would be 30 degrees by lunchtime. However, the main reason was that I couldn’t justify disappearing from my childcare duties for three hours during the middle of the day.
I had bashed my toe a couple of days earlier in the Home Bargains car park whilst picking up a pencil, so I faffed around for a bit with different types of footwear. My shandals were airy but useless for walking. My walking boots were way too cosy for a hot day. Trainers were selected and we started to climb towards Tennyson Down.
If you're doing the walk then try parking on the road somewhere on Gate Lane and go through the gate near to Dimbola Lodge. Alternatively, pay for parking at The Albion Hotel or the council car park near the beach.
The first half of the walk is not particularly hard to follow. Aim for the cross shaped monument on top of the hill. If you fall off the cliff, you’ve gone too far to the left.
We stopped for breakfast here. I had put some Aldi brand Weetos into a plastic pot and carried some milk in a bottle. However, I didn’t pack a spoon so I shovelled them into my mouth in a way which I would only attempt in front of my mother (our relationship remains at the teenage stage, where I misbehave to get a reaction).
From here, we carried on in a straight line and reached a hut with some masts. I wandered round the back and saw the Needles for the first time on the route.
A few hundred metres later we reached the Needles new battery.
At this point, we had several routes to consider. Plan A had been to follow a Visit Isle of Wight route which was advertised as six miles. However, I did some digging and found it was more like 8 miles which was a little far when I had promised to be back by 9am.
If you want to stretch out the walk explore, your first option is The Needles New Battery, which looks like Dr. Evil’s abandoned lair. In the 1950s it was used as a secret rocket testing base (I am still sceptical of the idea that 240 people worked here and kept it a secret – we all know how mothers like to ‘share news’). It is worth following the higgledy-piggledy steps past the coastguard’s lookout for one of the best views of the Needles.
The two other options for exploring the headland are:
If you’re after a cup of tea and you have National Trust membership, go for The Needles Old Battery. If you're in a hurry, just have a quick look at the New Battery. The indoors bit is closed on most days, but there's still stuff to see.
If you’ve dragged children along or want to fill a lot more time, go for the Needles Landmark Attraction and Alum Bay. The chairlift is great fun, though a little more terrifying than it looks from the ground. The boat trip is lovely or there’s a faster RIB ride if you have a stronger stomach than me.
If you want a longer walk, then I would follow the Visit Isle of Wight route which goes onto Headon Warren. It has purple heather which will look nice on your photos.
We went for the simple option, which is to take a footpath by the National Trust cottages (you can hire them out as a set of three).
There are two signposts, which can be found on the wiggly road down between the New Battery and the Old Battery. Both signs say ‘Coastal Path’ but point in slightly different directions.
We took the higher of the two paths, which heads back towards Tennyson Down.
From here, aim for the Tennyson Monument (signposted T25) rather than T24 into Freshwater which is much less interesting.
You’ll eventually reach a half size replica beacon, which looks like the sort of thing I would produce in a woodworking class if you asked for a basketball hoop.
You then walk back down the hill from the Tennyson Monument into Freshwater Bay. As we approached (at around 9am) the sea was sparkling and it was just getting uncomfortably warm.
I was tempted to whip off my clothes and skinny dip in the water at Freshwater Bay.
However, I remembered that I had said I’d be back by 9am.
Local residents, be aware that you had a lucky escape from the sight of my dad-bod leaping into the sea and screaming like a child at the icy waters.
The polite lady on my watch told me that we had covered around six miles doing this route. I know that's not a huge walk for a hardened rambler, but keep in mind that we left an hour later for a day out in the heat at Robin Hill. And all with a sore toe. What a hero!
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