In London, where we had celebrated New Year, we had already purchased the tickets for the hovercraft going to Ryde, at the Eastern shore of the Isle of Wight. To our disappointment, we were informed upon our arrival in Portsmouth, that the hovercraft was not working that day and that we had to take a slower ferry. It was operated by another company, which did not accept our hovercraft tickets, but we made it to the island after all and, after a bit of hassle, received reimbursement for the unused tickets. You can see the stranded hovercraft in the following picture gallery.
Days 247 and 248, the first hiking days in the year 2016, were rather uneventful. We were hiking on the Isle of Wight, it was cloudy, it was raining, sun came out again, paths were muddy, we saw pretty landscapes and stopped in some nice towns.
The day after, our last full day on the island, however, managed to beat all records of dramatic and amazingly beautiful scenery. We started from Newport, in the centre of the island, and hiked until the westernmost point, Tennyson Down, following the southern shore facing the open sea. Because of the strong winds, the weather was constantly changing. To give you an idea, some of the pictures below were taken within a few minutes – and they are in the correct chronological order. Once we reached the tip of the island, we turned around and followed the northern shore. From there, we finally got a glimpse of the Needles, a famous rock formation in the Alum Bay. We had been a few metres away from those rocks when we arrived at the tip, but as the observation point was closed, we could only see them from a distance.
On day 250 of our trip, we had a short walk until Yarmouth, from where we took a ferry back to the mainland. The sights on the other side were equally stunning; we were hiking through the wetlands of the Solent Estuary, where the beautiful sky was duplicated by the reflection in the water. When we arrived in Milford on Sea, we were back at the North Sea shore, and could enjoy a last view of the Needles and a wonderful sunset.
We followed the coast the next day, either walking on top of very fragile looking cliffs (whenever we had the choice, we took the path that was furthest away from the edge), or on a promenade down at the beach. Changing between one and the other always meant covering quite some difference in altitude, but the extra effort was worthwhile. Like the time when we climbed up from the beach to arrive in a beautiful park, with an impressive castle of the Romantic period in its centre. Highcliffe Castle has a café for its visitors, and we enjoyed our five o’clock tea with scones and clotted cream in the park.
Back at the beach, we were intrigued by long rows of colourful wooden huts. What was their purpose? Storage for fishing equipment? Kiosks selling refreshments in the summer? The answer came right away. Thanks to the mild January sun, some had been opened, revealing the interior. They are beach huts, fully equipped with everything needed for preparing tea. The open doors sheltered the lucky owners from the chilling wind, so they could sit and enjoy the sun.
As we went on, passing dozens of happy people taking in their share of vitamin D, we were approaching a quay. From here, a ferry should take us across the small river, so we could continue our walk along the beach all the way to Bournemouth. Only it didn’t. The friendly apology sign of the ferry company meant that we had to walk around the whole bay and would miss our beach walk. At least, we got to see some nice old buildings at the canals in Christchurch. Finally, we were back at the shore at the eastern part of Bournemouth, a beach resort town, famous for its crazy nightlife. There was no nightlife for us after that walk, only a dip in the hotel pool (one of the cheapest rates during all our stay in the UK), and a nice dinner to finish the day.
Again on day 252, the question whether a ferry would be running was a crucial one. If you look at the picture, you see a perfect half circle of beach, all the way to Old Harry Rocks (red arrow). The problem was, that somewhere close to the blue arrow, the entrance to Shell Bay was running through. Only 250m separated one side of the other, but without ferry service, we would have to walk an additional day to arrive in Swanage.
This time, we were lucky – people even told us, that the ferry only ran due to the fine weather – and after a few minutes on the ferry, we landed on Studland Beach, where we had a perfect hike on the sand with wonderful sunshine. Things got even better when we arrived at Old Harry Rocks, a spectacular group of rocks rising high above the sea. Just check out the size of José’s shadow, when he was taking a picture of one of those gigantic white rocks. We met a group of cheerful German volunteers on the way, who were as happy as we were to be in this amazing place on such a beautiful day.
Our hike wasn’t over yet, we still had to reach Swanage, a charming port town, conveniently located between the long sandy beaches we had just passed and the Jurassic Coast – our next hiking challenge. Before we would face the ups and downs of the cliffs that were ahead of us, we could get some rest in a Victorian-style youth hostel. Classy, don’t you think?