Venturing out in the wake of the recent storms, it was surprising to see several surf boarders out in the churning waves off Ventnor Beach, but they're a sturdy bunch around here it seems.
From the beach it looked pretty scary, but they were leaping up on the waves and shooting into the shore. Getting out beyond the surf again seemed more problematic – those rollers were powerful. Piles of foam were being deposited on the beach with each large breaking wave. But on they surfed...
Isle of Wight walks are some of the prettiest around, and to give you an idea, here’s one of my favourite walks around Ventnor, exploring everything from the beach and village to mosaics and ancient churches…
We walked westwards along the beach and then through the car park towards Bonchurch, following the sea wall. This is a fab walk at any time, but when the waves are crashing onto the stepped shoreline it's a sight to behold. At Wheeler's Bay you often have to dodge the waves as they break over the wall, especially at the semi-circular promontory that skirts the three beach huts at the bottom of the hill. Luckily, we managed it without getting soaked.
The sun was sneaking in and out from behind the clouds, giving a warm light to the waning day. Seagulls bobbed on the sea and a few people had ventured out with their dogs. Halfway along the sea wall to Bonchurch we came across an orange gash in the cliff – a very recent cliff fall, perhaps from the storm earlier in the day?
At Bonchurch we spied the new mosaic of a Glanville Fritillary butterfly. You can find them on the bottom of the cliff between here and Ventnor (although I am reliably informed that the Ventnor end is a better bet). Not on a stormy day in March though, although we did see a stalwart Red Admiral at Wheeler's Bay.
There's a path up from Bonchurch Beach to the village above if you look to the left just before the line of fishermen's cottages that finish the shoreside road. Take it and you come to the babbling brook that flows down through the garden of Winterbourne House. That's where Dickens stayed whilst writing some of David Copperfield you know. Every morning after finishing writing for the day he would take all his family and the staff down to the beach to play rounders apparently. I often think of them following the path beside this stream to the sand below.
Just a bit further up and you get to Bonchurch Old Church – a real gem. One of the oldest churches on the Island. In fact, it could be the oldest as it was St Wilfred, also known as St Boniface, a monk from Normandy, who brought Christianity to the Isle of Wight, landing on the beach at Bonchurch in the 8th century. We were one of the last places in the country to 'get' Christianity it seems. Wilfred would preach from a large rock – hence the local name Pulpit Rock. Nobody seems to know which one anymore though. There are quite a few big rocks around in this area. Often, they make up the fabric of the roadsides.
On up the steep road and you pass the entrance and former stables of East Dene on your right, once the home of Algernon Swinburne, a well-known poet in Victorian times. Bear left and you walk down into Bonchurch village, with its pretty stone cottages and houses. The infamous Pond Cafe stands opposite the actual pond, which was built by Henry de Vere Stacpoole, writer of The Blue Lagoon, in the early 20th century over the natural spring that occurs here and gifted to the people of Bonchurch. There's a large extended family of ducks and moorhens who live upon it, and a host of huge carp that live within it. And if you're lucky you sometimes see a heron.
Carry on down into Ventnor and you can find homemade cakes and great coffee at Sarah's House, or you could opt for Le Cantina or Tramezzini. The perfect end to a bracing Ventnor walk. Explore even more Isle of Wight walking routes here.