A South Wight Bike Ride in Photos
Last week, my friend Joe returned home from Switzerland for a few days holiday, so we decided to do a proper ride to Ventnor, stopping off at a few pubs along the way. The weather was very un-May like, and the majority of the ride was spent under a blanket of grey with the occasional peep under the covers by the sun to remind us it was still there. Although we did see some sun in Ventnor, it did rain a bit on the last section of the ride, so most of the time was spent grinding up the last few hills before the warmth and comfort of the pub rather than stopping to enjoy the scenery and take a few photos.
I used to take my camera out on rides a lot and never use it, so I made an effort this time to try and at least document some the ride, even if the weather wasn’t wholly up to scratch. This may not be the stunning landscape of the Swiss Alps Joe usually rides in, (and our other friend Tim photographs on his blog – 63hours – go check it out if you like proper mountains and bikes) but it’s the best that can be done.
The first stretch was a route I’ve done a lot and took in the quiet country lanes that run along the south of the island from Brighstone to Chale. The round the Island route takes in some of these to avoid the drudgery of the military road and motorbikes zipping past at 80mph, but this leaves some of the best lanes untouched. The Island is steeped in history, and a lot comes from this “Back o’ the Wight”, with some interesting stories of shipwrecks and smugglers that are best enjoyed in a pub around a fire in winter, from a very local man with with a beard. From Chale we started to climb up the back of St Catherines down, near to the Hoy Monument. (Not in recognition of a famous British cyclist, but a Russian Merchant). Instead of going over the top (the hard way), we skirted around the outside and found ourselves riding through a rather nice blue-bell meadow before popping up to admire the view across the western half of the island.
After descending down a rocky path into Niton we headed to the Buddle Inn for a well-earned pint and a rather tasty lunch, after which we moved on to our next port of call, Ventnor. Ventnor and Niton are only a short distance apart, and connected by probably the most picturesque road on the Island which would usually only take 20 mins or so to ride. However after the winter of 2013, parts of the road had fallen away in a landslide, which although not uncommon around here, this one was in two places, causing a section of the road to be closed and people evacuated from their homes. Last year residents ‘rebuilt’ part of the road to allow people access to their property, but as this wasn’t official the IW council then closed it again. The chances of the road re-opening to traffic, given the nature of the geology, will probably never happen but a small glimmer of hope is that the council will build and re-open a limited access road this summer, allowing at least bikes and people access to get through to Ventnor, so a summer ride to Ventnor after the work is complete is already on the cards.
Given the very closed nature of the road, we doubled back and made our way up a steep, windy footpath cut through the cliff, and out onto the top. This offered us a good view of the section of road that was closed and that we were detouring. A quick ride along the cliff-top and through a very overgrown path, we then rode down a set of steps into St Lawrence and a quick spin along the road to Ventnor toward our next pub, the smallest on the Island – The Volunteer. A couple of pints in preparation for the climb out of Ventnor toward Wroxall were not-so-quickly downed, but we decided to leave before we got too comfy and light headed. On the plus side at least the sun had decided to join us for our little hill-climb, although one of the locals decided he didn’t like people riding bikes up hills and gave us a nice blast on his horn as he angrily overtook us.
Just outside of Ventnor we joined up again with the official Round the Island route along Rew lane to Wroxall, where we then detoured along the bridleway to the Worsley Trail into Godshill. When we rode this route in January, despite it being dark at 4pm, this section was a wet, boggy ride through a field with an annoying gradient that was pointing in the wrong direction. Luckily things had dried out a bit this time which made things a little easier going, although the gradient still points in the wrong direction. At the top of the trail is the Appuldurcombe Gate, which used to be the front-entrance to Appuldurcombe House, now looking a little sad in the grey gloom with trees and brambles and nettles growing around it.
After Godshill, we took to the lanes again, headed south, then west, then back north through Roud, along a bridleway over the Medina to Rill, then more lanes and bridleways through to Gatcombe, Bowcombe, then onto the Tennyson trail via a horrible wet, slippery, steep bridle path that I’m sorry to say I had to walk up. Once in Brighstone forest we rode some muddy singletrack through the gloom before heading to the pub at Calbourne, where a couple more pints to ease the aching legs were duly consumed.
A shade over 47 miles, 3,440ft of climbing, five pints, three pubs and one very nice chicken and prawn risotto. All in all a good day out on the bike.