Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Tennyson Down and the Needles

Tennyson's Monument

We met up with our friends Viv and Giles for a two day walking trip to the Isle of Wight, and staretd by driving through Freshwater to reach the car park below Tennyson Down. We climbed up to Tennyson's Monument. The great poet lived at nearby Farringdon House for nearly 40 years and (according to Wikipedia) used to walk on the down almost every day, saying that the air was worth 'sixpence a pint'. The monument stands on the highest point of Tennyson Down (at 147m) and was erected after the poet’s death in 1897. The down, originally called East High Down, was renamed in Tennyson’s honour.

Looking to the north you can see right across the narrow rend if the island to get a very good view of Hurst Castle, which we walked to recently as the end point of the Bournemouth Coast Path.

Looking east, there is a fantastic panorama across the south coast of the island, with St Catherine's Point at the end.

We headed west however, across the grassy downland towards the Needles. After a while we could look back, to the north, towards Alum Bay. It is famous for its multi-coloured sands which are used to make souvenirs of the island. The colours in the afternoon sunlight were very impressive, especially the flash of maroon in the upper left.

As you approach the end of the down you pass the striated chalk cliff of Sun Corner, appropriately basking in bright sunshine.

But hereafter progress is more difficult. The south coast is fenced off and you are forced towards the north, past coastguard cottages and second world war concrete gun emplacements. As you descend towards the Needles it becomes clear that the only unencumbered view is from the top of a path descending towards the Old Battery. It is a pretty good view, but it requires a telephoto. I took about 10 pictures struggling against a howling wind. Most suffered from camera shake, but this one is not too bad.

We now headed back along the north side of the promontory which ends in the Needles past a cottage with an extraordinary profusion of garden gnomes, toys, mottoes and jests - all apparently to stimulate contributions to the RNLB. I gave a pound and we then followed a path on the north of the downs back to the car park.

Conditions: Clear after morning rain, sunny, but very windy.

Distance: 4 miles.

Map: Explorer OL29 (Isle of Wight).

Rating: four and half stars.

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