Isle of Wight places to go with minimum social contact

In these difficult times you may wish to get out and about on the Island doing things outdoors which involve little contact with other groups and where social distancing can easily be observed.  The Isle of Wight has plenty of scope.  Here are a few suggestions.

The Needles and Rocket Launch Site

This is about a two mile round walk from the Needles car park at the west most point of the Island. Leave the car park by the road which is a continuation of the access road.  This soon becomes a private road and climbs along the cliff edge.  Shortly you can look back at Alum Bay and see the famous multicolour sand cliffs around the bay.  As the road curves round by the Coastguard Station go down some steps to read about the UK experiment rocket site and to the right of you is a viewing point for one of the UK’s most iconic views, the Needles.  Return by the same route.
The Needles

Bonchurch sea wall and the famous pond

Bonchurch Pond
Walk east along the sea defences from Ventnor Haven and it quickly becomes very peaceful with the cliff and a butterfly nature reserve on the left and the sea to the right.  Continue to the end of the defences admiring the grand houses right on the sea.  Return to the road that goes up by Bonchurch Pottery which comes out at Bonchurch Pond which is unbelievebly picturesque and teeming with wildlife.  Turn left and follow the road back to Ventnor.

Newtown Nature Reserve

The reserve is run by the National Trust and you can park by the old town hall.  It is an estuary and also home to many species of migrating and overwintering birds. The walk is very straightforward  and takes you along a long wooden bridge that spans the mud flats and little snaking streams. If you have binoculars you might spot seabirds out on the mud flats. It is so peaceful and by the boat shed is what remains of medieval Newtown quay, which was once the most important port on the Isle of Wight.
Newtown Nature Reserve

Marconi’s Knowles Farm

Knowles Farm
On the Island Marconi is more usually associated with the Needles but this unassuming farmhouse near Niton at the southern-most point of the island, just to the west of St Catherine’s Lighthouse, was the scene of two remarkable discoveries which lay the foundations for modern telecommunications.   In January 1901 Marconi successfully transmitted a signal from here to Lizard Point in Cornwall 196 miles away, proving that radio waves could follow the curvature of the earth, leading to the first transatlantic transmission later that year.  Also at the farm Marconi developed the vital science of tuning, enabling multiple wireless signals to be separated without interference.  You can still see the concrete base of his mast alongside the farmhouse.  Park at the end of the public access road to St Catherine’s lighthouse.

A view over Sandown Bay

This is an easy walk along the ridge between Ventnor and Shanklin.  if you leave Ventnor towards Wroxall just after the Ocean View Fish and Chip Shop turn right into Down Lane.  This narrow road climbs to the top of St Boniface Down.  At the radar station the road has a barrier across, park in the small area to the left.  Follow the clear path continuing a little to the left of the line of the road and you will gain the ridge with fine views across the Island.  Walk along the ridge in the Shanklin direction and after a while you come to some gates, take the track along the ridge with the hedge on your left and after a while head slightly right across the field to an old triangulation point and a magnificent view.
Sandown Bay view

Fossil Hunting in Compton Bay

Compton Bay
The Isle of Wight has been dubbed Dinosaur Island and dinosaur fossils can be found in crumbling cliff around the Island.  One popular spot is Compton Bay along the military road on the south west coast.  There is a car park. Dinosaur bone fossils  fall out of the cliffs and end up in the sea but you are more likely to find  fossilised wood from the forest that once stood at Hanover Point – it looks just like coal and is often layered with ‘fool’s gold’ a mineral called iron pyrites that looks like crystals of gold. You can also find fossilised oyster shells, they look just like the oysters of today but are much larger and harder.

Ventnor Botanic Garden

Always worth a visit, the Botanic Garden is a short drive out of Ventnor on the St Lawrence Road, or better a 20 minute walk along the coast path starting above the Spyglass. The Garden has a climate more akin to the Mediterranean enabling a wide variety of plants considered too tender for much of mainland Britain to be grown and is unrivalled for its collections of subtropical plants grown unprotected out of doors.  The temperate house has many exotic species in a ‘tropical’ climate. A charge is made for admission.
Ventnor Botanic Garden

St Helen’s Tidal Mill

Tidal Mill Inner Causeway
A short walk from the car park in the centre of St Helen’s village to the water’s edge brings you to the site of this historic mill.  From about 1780 until 1930 there was a water mill here, which obtained its power from the head of water created by tidal movements, to grind corn. The incoming tide was collected and held within ponds enclosed by two masonry causeways with sluices in each to control the movement of the water. Careful use of the sluices regulated the outflow through the mill to maximise the time the mill could be operated on each tide.  The inner causeway is still intact and provides a pleasant walk to the Duver.

Seagrove Bay

Seaview has many second homes and is quite well-to-do. Compared to Ventnor the name is a misnomer as, being flat, not many homes have a sea view. If you park on the Duver in the village you can walk along the coast away from Ryde along a narrow path between posh houses and the sea before coming to the waterfront heart of the village. If you continue up the main street parallel with the sea you will go along a road with modern grand houses on your left and eventually arrive at Seagrove Bay, a pleasant place to spend some time before setting back.
Seagrove Bay at sunset

Time Travel Ventnor

Of course, while you are in Ventnor you can follow the Time Travel Ventnor trail and discover the history of the town as it developed from a small fishing village to a Victorian holiday hotspot.  There are nine boards which guide you through a tour of the town, down to the coast of Ventnor and up to St. Boniface Down, the highest point on the Isle of Wight – rising to over 240 metres. From start to finish the heritage trail can be broken down into bite size quests, or you could make a day of it and complete the entire trail.