We woke up for the sunrise and for the first time on this hike there were clouds in the sky. It was quite chilly so Hazel took the kids on while Evan and I packed up. In our haste to get the children fed the night before we had inadvertently eaten all the porridge and with the alternative being pasta snacks we hiked on empty stomachs and a hope that the snack van that often frequents Compton Bay would be there.
Our route took us along the tops of the cliffs that run along the south coast of the island, occasionally cutting inland to bypass a chine and it wasn’t long before we were passing through our favourite island campsite, now closed for the winter, and meeting the first other thru-hikers of the trip, although they did think we were brave to be camping at the end of October. Soon we reached Brighstone and the pearl selling place and into the strangest abandoned holiday park. It really felt like everyone had just left in the night for fear of falling into the sea. Through broken windows you can see cutlery left on tables and what remains of the still full swimming pool.
After a few more miles, Isaac got the stubborn go slows, and the other two had hiked on ahead in search of the snack van. I knew they had spotted it when they broke into a run from almost 1/4 mile away. They waited patiently for the rest of us to catch up where we all had a healthy breakfast of Mr Whippy ice creams (with a flake!!!) and some fizzy pop. Of course, from here we could easily see our next stopping point of Freshwater Bay and with the promise of lunch so soon after “Breakfast” we picked up the pace.
We have walked this stretch of trail so many times before but there was significant land slippage along this section that hadn’t occurred when Lil and I had hike this way for her birthday back in July. At one point we had to negotiate wide cracks in the ground, just wide enough to swallow a small child. The track takes us alongside the Military Road for a little way but once it had veered off away from the cars, the kids ran on, knowing the trail, most of the way to Freshwater Bay. Here we made a little camp for our late lunch, it was about 2 pm, our stuff spilling out everywhere as we just dropped our heavy packs and sat. I walked the extra 1/2 mile to the shop to get supplies for lunch and some extra food for the evening.
After lunch we headed up the second and last decent climb of the hike. Tennyson Down which took us up from Freshwater Bay to the monument to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, he of “Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward,” fame, from where we could see both sides of this little island, and the chimneys at Fawley that we can see from behind our home. Now it felt like the homeward stretch.
We pressed on towards the setting sun, along the headland that leads to the Needles and the most western point of the Isle of Wight. The views back across the island were fantastic, those to the nearby New Forest and further away Isle of Purbeck magnificent. Our view of the Islands most famous landmark however was not so great. It was obscured unless we were willing to pay entrance to the Old Battery, which owned by the National Trust is a worthy monument itself, however with tired legs it simply felt like another commoditisation of our natural landmarks (A rant for another day I think!).
We dropped down to Alum Bay with a spectacular sunset behind us and hiked a little further to our safe haven for the night, Nana’s basement. We wandered down to the chippy for tea and made some “beds” on the floor of Hazels mum’s cellar. We decided it was the best option for a good nights sleep and without needing to pack a tent away we could get away super early for the final, and long, leg home.