About three years ago, we completed the Ventnor to Steephill Cove walk with a rabble including six adults and six children. It was a foul day with sideways rain, despite it being July. As mentioned previously, we scrabbled around in the car for extra clothes to keep warm. I wore a life jacket under my coat, my sister-in-law wore a picnic blanket.
Last week, we returned to give the Ventnor to Steephill Cove walk another go. Even in howling winds, I could tell that it was one of the best sections of the Isle of Wight coastal path so a return was necessary.
On this occasion, the weather was reasonable but not exactly stunning. It had rained for the previous two days and everywhere was soggy and grey.
There are two ways to attempt this short walk.
The simplest option is to park at La Falaise car park in Ventnor. It's a pay and display car park but I happily coughed up beaucoup d'argent since we were travelling with young children (see our guide to free and cheap parking for alternatives).
Plan B is to park on the road near to Steephill Cove or at Ventnor Botanic Gardens. This adds an extra 10 minutes onto the walk and requires you navigate a long set of steps or a slope. On the plus side, there's a bigger choice of places to eat in Ventnor, which is the halfway point.
The walk is dog friendly, but you need to have your dog on a lead at peak times at Steephill Cove. We have completed it with a pushchair before but it resulted in a lot of huffing, puffing and a little bit of fruity language. It's not a wheelchair friendly walks (try Ventnor to Bonchurch, Gurnard to Cowes or Totland to Colwell if that's what you want).
We had journeyed about 50 metres from La Falaise car park when child two requested that we bring her Micro scooter, after seeing two other children whooshing past.
Mrs Guru and I exchanged glances, trying to figure out what the other person's opinion was without showing any weakness in our position to child two.
We concluded that it probably was acceptable and we returned for the scooter.
The walk is appealing because it has constant sea views. There are several sections with significant cliffs without barriers. For this reason, it's not suitable for those inexplicably relaxed parents who can get deep into a conversation with another parent and misplace their children on a walk. I am not one of these parents.
Unlike the Ventnor to Bonchurch walk (in the opposite direction), the Ventnor to Steephill Walk is full of ups and downs. There are steep slopes, lots of steps and several sections which you feel like you are inside Blackgang Chine's Crooked House.
For this reason, the scooter was probably a bad idea. I spent most of the time stopping child two from flying down steep inclines which were pointed at the cliff edges.
The route is about one mile in each direction but there are some distractions along the way which make it more of an amble than a march. We stopped at the Diplodocus Labyrinth which is a bit like a maze but without a choice of routes and without any walls (Ed: so, it's not really much like a maze at all then?).
We also stopped at the stepping stones which are looking good after some work by the Ventnor Enhancement Fund volunteers.
We reached Steephill Cove after about half an hour.
Broadsheet newspaper journalists like to call Steephill Cove a 'hidden gem', presumably because it doesn't have a great big car park and requires a bit of a walk to reach it. However, it's a favourite of many Islanders and visitors so is not the place to avoid people (see this guide for genuinely isolated beaches on the Isle of Wight).
During the summer, Steephill Cove has a café, a small shop, kayak hire and several self catering accommodation cottages. On our visit in January, everything was closed so we had brought hot chocolate in a flask to satisfy the children.
If it's low tide, Steephill Cove is quite a good beach for rockpooling. It's also nice for a swim, although it does occasionally get overwhelmed with seaweed which makes you look like the Creature From The Black Lagoon as you exit the water.
After a few minutes larking around on the beach, we headed back towards Ventnor. If you want a truly circular walk, then you will want to head to the main road from Steephill Cove and walk past Ventnor Park.
However, this is a much less attractive route. My advice is to head back the way you came as the view is very different in the other direction.
One other thing to mention is that there is a Treasure Trail which follows this walk. You pay about £10 for a set of clues and then look out for things along the way to crack the case. We used the clues during our wet and windy walk about three years ago. It kept the children distracted from the fact that they were soaking wet.
Many years ago I went go-karting on the mainland with a couple of LADS. I took the corners with such enthusiasm that by the time I had finished, I felt like I had just completed 80 laps at Silverstone.
For this reason, it was a few years before I took up Wight Karting's kind invitation to test out their track on the edge of Ryde.
Our party of three included a nine year old, a 75 year old and myself, somewhere in the middle.
Wight Karting offer various track sessions for eight year olds upwards, so you won't end up with a cautious child being lapped 14 times by an aggressive pro on a stag do.
Our session was the 'family friendly' sort. My daughter was pleased to see that there were several other children of her age putting on the overalls and balaclava.
What this session meant in practice was that the karts were slowed down a little. Honestly though, they certainly felt fast enough. Mine went up to 35mph, which is a good speed when you are a few centimetres off the floor.
There was one other dad in the session, who I eyed up as my potential competition.
After the safety talk, I squeezed into the largest helmet available (I inherited a watermelon-sized head from my mother).
We completed a slow lap before we were off for our first of two 15 minute sessions. The track was a little wet so I happily slid around corners whilst also keeping half an eye on my daughter on her first karting experience. She took to it very well and happily accepted my thumbs up as I whooshed past her on the straight.
As we stepped out of the cars for the first session I was delighted to find that my legs hadn't gone wobbly.
I excitedly took hold of my lap times.
If I was putting a positive spin on things I would tell you that I recorded the second best time amongst the 10 racers. A more honest summary would explain that Rival Dad had beaten me by a full second and that most of the other racers were still in primary school.
We cooled off on the balcony for a few minutes and discussed racing strategy. Was it best to take a corner wide and fast or slam the brakes on and take it tighter?
The second racing session was soon upon us. On this occasion, I was placed in pole position (randomly, rather than because I had done anything to deserve it). This was my chance to obliterate Rival Dad's time with no other cars to get in my way.
I rattled round the track whilst picturing myself on the podium outside in the sunshine (they even sell a bottle of Brut for the celebration if you fancy it). Did I picture Rival Dad stood lower down on the podium, whilst a single tear rolled down his cheek? Of course I didn't, I'm a grown up and that would be embarrassing.
At one stage, I entered into a thrilling duel with another racer which resulted in their car spinning out and me disappearing into the distance. As I sped away I realised that my competitor was a four foot tall female in a junior kart. This may not have been my finest moment...but I remain confident that a steward's enquiry would fall in my favour.
Anyway, we stepped off the track and I lunged for the racing times handout with far too much enthusiasm.
Remarkably, I had shaved a full four seconds off my best time from the first session. It took all of my self control to avoid punching the air and screaming "justice!!".
It was at this point that I noticed that Rival Dad had also shaved four seconds off his best time, meaning he had still beaten me by a second.
Victory had been taken from my grasp.
On the plus side, I did have a cool souvenir balaclava which I will be able to use for winter walks in the next few weeks.
Thanks again to the team at Wight Karting for a great morning.
There will come a point where we have seen everything on the Isle of Wight's 147 square miles. We will have played every arcade machine on Shanklin seafront, tasted every flavour of Minghella ice cream and dug up every grain of sand on Appley beach.
The recent downpours and flooding provided a good opportunity to see one small attraction that we hadn't seen before - Bierley Waterfall in the South Wight.
We parked by the side of the road on Newport Road in Whitwell. There is space for a couple of cars, but if those are taken then you'll need to walk a little further.
Mrs Guru suggested that I went on ahead as it was pouring with rain and she didn't fancy getting the children caked in mud for no good reason.
I obliged and headed for the footpath which is signposted as NT86 and points to 'Wydcombe 1/3'. The only other human being the area was happy to answer my questions about the waterfall and pointed me in the right direction.
The footpath directed me straight through a farmer's field. I felt reluctant to do this, partly because there was no worn path to follow and partly because I didn't want to be shouted at.
Instead, I decided to skirt round the edge of the field.
Videos I had seen online of the waterfall had given me the impression that I would find more of a trickle than a waterfall. Anyone attempting an "I'm A Celebrity..." shower scene during the summer would be disappointed.
However, on my visit it was gushing with gusto as it had been raining heavily for a couple of days. Let's not pretend that it is as impressive as some of the big waterfalls in Yorkshire but it was better than I expected.
The stream leading from the waterfall was fairly deep so I gingerly walked along the muddy banks to get a better view.
After a couple of minutes I returned to the car and announced that it was worth the effort, despite the rain.
Back down the hill I went, this time assisting three others and saying things like "watch out, that bit's slippery", "no, I'm not carrying you" and "do we have any spare clothes in the car?".
At the stream, myself and the children decided to wobble our way along the fallen branches to get a closer look. Mrs Guru watched on from a safe distance. I convinced myself that this was a sibling bonding exercise, despite the risk of water pouring over the top of the wellies.
After a few tense moments, we made it close enough to get an excellent view of the waterfall and then squelched our way back up the hill.
I am a little unclear on the ownership and boundaries of Bierley waterfall, and am happy to be put straight in the comments below. I certainly didn't see any signs to suggest I was trespassing but I have read some comments online that it sits on private land so it should only be admired from afar. Apologies in advance if I was standing in your back garden.
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog