Isle Of Wight Coastal Path : Totland To Brightstone
||Alum Bay Chairlift
A short walk from the campsite took us through some beautiful heathered heath overlooking Hurst Castle on the mainland and the Solent, arriving at the coast by an old gun emplacement next to the Needles theme park at Alum Bay. The theme park hosts a memorial to Marconi marking the location of the radio transmitting equipment used to make the first ever transmission in 1897.
The chairlift down to the beach is quite spectacular and gives great views of the multicoloured Alum Bay Cliffs and The Needles. Uphill from there to the Needles Old Battery (NT) which is really interesting and the closest viewing point to the Needles. On the way we pass a rather quaint gnome garden which is collecting money for the Freshwater lifeboat, there are many residents including dinosaurs and various toy characters which rather appeals to my inner child.
|Alum Bay Cliffs
||The Needles Lighthouse
Uphill again, but only a short distance gets us to the Needles New Battery (NT) which is where the engine testing took place for the British space program back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The site was selected so that the exhaust gasses and noise would be directed out to sea rather than towards the mainland and the rockets were held down by clamps during firing. The final products were Black Arrow and Black night and were launched from Australia. They were used to launch satellites such as Prospero which is still in orbit today, 35 years later.
|The Old Battery
||Model Of Prospero Satellite
||The New Battery And The Needles
Moving on there are fabulous sea views to the North and South coasts as you make the short ascent to the Tennyson memorial. The memorial is to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson who lived nearby and used to walk on the downs. Just before arriving at the memorial we came across a stoat, so keep your eyes peeled if you are in the area.
||Compton Bay Looking East
Downhill now through open countryside to Freshwater Bay which has a couple of cafes and is quite a nice spot for lunch. From there height is gained again with great views over the coastline both ahead and behind. We dropped down onto the beach via some very steep steps a short time after passing the Isle Of Wight Pearl building. A couple of miles of firm sand with a little give in it was a welcome relief for our tired feet.
|Compton Bay Looking West
||Staircase To Beach Near Brook
Ascending from the beach again near Shippards Chine there is plenty of obvious coastal erosion on this stretch of coastline, so dont get too close to the edge. A chine is a gap or ravine where water has cut into the land. There is an old lifeboat station at Brook which although derelict now served until 1936 being credited with saving 263 lives during its operational life.
|Looking West Towards The Needles
||Brook Old Lifeboat Station
||Sunset From Shepherds Chine
We continued on until Grange Farm campsite, having diverted inland to stock up on food at Brighstone where the general store appears to stock a lot of local produce from the Isle Of Wight including fruit, vegetables and beer. A clear night gave an opportunity for an almost totally dark sky for the viewing of constellations, shooting starts and satellites while consuming a little warming whisky.
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