A visit to Orchard Bay in St. Lawrence has been on my Isle of Wight wish list for a few years now.
Back in the day, we visited fairly regularly as my father's beach preference was one that didn't include any other people. He was a vicar on the Island and I like to think that this was so that he could peacefully strut around in his small brown trunks without being spotted by his parishioners.
More recently we've avoided isolated beaches as they tend to include clambering over rocks and parking a good distance from the beach. Such things are fun on your own but less so with children.
On this occasion we were child free for a couple of hours so Mrs Guru and I raced off to St Lawrence.
Access to Orchard Bay is certainly not child-friendly. We parked on a residential street off Undercliff Drive near to the turning for New Bank End Farm. We then walked past some holiday cottages and down a narrow tunnel-like footpath before reaching the steps which were repaired in 2016 thanks to the efforts of St Lawrence Community Association and the landowner.
Once we got down the steps there were a few rocks to climb across. I'd say it was about 10 minutes walk from the car to the beach.
It's not exactly a golden sandy beach but it still has the Famous-Five charm I remembered back in the 1990s and 2000s. The beach is privately owned by the rather stunning house overlooking a shingly beach with rocks and seaweed. Twenty years ago, whilst we sat eating our sandwiches on the beach the house was being used as a drug smuggling base but now it has a more wholesome outlook.
We stayed for a few minutes before starting to walk along the coastal path to find the next beach. We headed right as you face the sea, towards Mount Bay.
The cliffpath is - to say the least - a little treacherous. It is perhaps a couple of metres wide and has a dramatic drop for most of the walk along. Social distancing would involve one person walking off the edge of the cliff.
Mrs Guru was less keen on this section but I convinced her to keep going. If we'd had the children with us or if there'd been a light wind we would have turned back.
Mount Bay was only a short walk along the Footpath Of Death but it was slightly harder to get down to than Orchard Bay. Instead of steps there was a homemade route down which seems to incorporate a Victorian mangle and other hazards.
When we arrived it was a low tide so the beach was a good size. Again, it's shingly rather than sandy but there was a nice stream trickling down into the water's edge (pretty sure it was a stream rather than a sewage pipe, since there are no houses anywhere nearby). As with much of the South Wight's coastline it has a fantastic feeling of isolation. The view is generally of a lone ship or two on the horizon and it's not unusual to have the beach to yourself (as we did).
As it was getting dark we clambered back up the path from Mount Bay.
Mrs Guru declared that it was only suitable for exploring and adventures and that we certainly would not be bringing the children here anytime soon. I plan to bring child one to Mount Bay in a couple of years when she's a bit less wobbly on a clifftop.
My photos don't really do it justice, so here's a 360 degree view that someone else took at Mount Bay on a sunny day. You can take a look around if you click on the image below. You can't walk around or smell the sea air but there's certainly a smaller chance of falling off the cliff edge if you stick to Google Maps.
We've made more of an effort to visit the Isle of Wight's quieter beaches this year. I much prefer a bit of space to myself on the beach but with young children I'd given in to the convenience and ease of parking on Shanklin Esplanade.
Now the children are able to cope with a 10 minute walk without complaining too much, we're getting a bit more adventurous and headed for Binnel Bay in St Lawrence.
The other reason, of course, is that quieter beaches are preferable during a pandemic.
We parked on Old Park Road in St Lawrence and then walked down to Molly Attrill Pottery. Round the back of the buildings is a footpath which leads down to the beach, past several rather nice looking houses including a massive glass house and a former bunker.
The footpath is quite narrow and the last few metres requires you to hold onto a rope and climb down a bit of a drop. We managed it with a couple of young children with a bit of lifting from myself and regular shouts of "be careful" from Mrs Guru. I wouldn't want to do it with a pushchair or anyone who was a bit wobbly on uneven ground.
From the car I'd say it took us 15 minutes to get there and 20 minutes to get back.
We had the beach to ourselves at first before it became completely overcrowded and spoilt by one other person. Bear in mind this was a sunny day in early August and yet we still had a beach more-or-less to ourselves.
There's no shade and no toilets and it's not really a swimming beach but you can sit on a log and listen to the stones being dragged up and down the beach.
Our visit also happened to coincide with a yacht race called Race The Wight so we had the added spectacle of hundreds of yachts sailing past. Not bad, eh?
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