I’ve spent a bit of time on the Isle of Wight recently and am surprised each time by the rural diversity of such a small place. From the tall cliffs of Culver and Freshwater to the pretty seaside villages around Seaview and St Helen’s it’s easy to forget the inland areas. As a dog walker I am always on the lookout for new places to go with my bouncy two year old Labrador retriever, Nigel, and struck gold with this walk through lush countryside.
I started my walk from the National Trust’s Bembridge Windmill (open from March to November) the only existing windmill on the island. Following a footpath to the right of the mill, keeping the windmill on my left, I crossed fields through stiles to the pretty valley of the River Yar. There are footpaths criss-crossing over the marshes. I followed the signs to Brading Marshes Nature Reserve and enjoyed the peace and quiet, only disturbed by the sound of green woodpeckers (didn’t see any, just heard them) little egrets and buzzards.
After about a mile you walk through ancient woodland called Centurions Copse and here you may be lucky enough to see a red squirrel. Nigel particularly liked this part of the walk, especially an opportunity to roll around in the muddy ponds. At one point he was two tone – yellow top half, muddy brown bottom half. The path then opens out again into open marshland to St Helens with panoramic views taking in Culver Monument and the surrounding hills.
The paths are all relatively flat and good for walking on although there are lots of stiles so not easily accessible for wheelchairs or prams. Towards St Helens the path briefly joins the road so take care on this section.
I took the road to Bembridge through the centre of St Helens, heading over the river to pick up the path again on the right, back through the marshes. Alternatively you can walk along the footpath on the roadside and this will take you past the houseboats moored along the harbour wall, an eclectic assortment of modern and traditional nautical residencies, some residential, some holiday lets (such as our very own Vida Floating Home).
I then took the path through the marshes again and after about another mile popped up on the outskirts of Bembridge. The RSPB and National Trust are continually renewing the footpaths and investing in the area which is good to see and great to take advantage of as a walker.
A round walk of about five miles, I stopped off at Tollgate Cafe on the outskirts of Bembridge for a well deserved cuppa. It’s a quaint, old fashioned little place and has lovely views over the harbour towards St Helens. After our walk Nigel then spent the next half hour playing in the sand on the beach (dog friendly year round, yeah) and swimming in the sea so at least I didn’t have to take a muddy dog home with me. He’d washed it all off himself!
I finished my walk with a wander through Bembridge back to the Windmill, with picturesque village and shops to nosey round en-route.