STENBURY TRAIL: Newport to Ventnor
Sunday, May 27, 2012
The Stenbury Trail begins at Shide Corner on the south-eastern outskirts of the town of Newport, which serves as the Isle of Wight's administrative capital. Having spent the morning exploring the island's only medieval castle in the neighbouring town of Carisbrooke, I set out from the centre of Newport in bright early afternoon sunshine.
The official start of the walk is about a kilometre from the centre of Newport. From the bus station, turn right onto South Street, then right again on Church Litten, passing a pleasant park where dozens of locals were basking in the Sunday sun. At the end of Church Litten, turn left on Medina Avenue, then right, still on Medina Avenue. At the end of the long straight road, turn left on Shide Road for about 150 metres to the reach the start of the Stenbury Trail on the western bank of the River Medina, opposite the Bengal Palace Indian Restaurant (formerly the Barley Mow pub).
The first stretch of the trail leaves Shide Road, heading south beside the River Medina along a disused railway embankment that is shared with a section of National Cycle Route 23. The old railway provides an easy and pleasant start to the trail, leaving the town behind very quickly as it heads through shady woods with the river trickling sedately by and the scent of the wildflowers lining the path on the breeze (pictures 1 and 2).
After a little less than two kilometres the embankment passes a pumping station and soon after this the Stenbury Trail parts company with the old railway, turning right over a small bridge to reach Sandy Lane at the village of Blackwater.
The trail turns left along the lane, soon reaching the A3020 Blackwater Hollow, crossing over and turning right to follow the main road through the village. After about 300 metres, the trail turns left onto Birchmore Lane (signposted as Bridleway A36), following the unsealed track between paddocks at Birchmore Farm, one of which was clearly used for horse jumping (picture 3), and then ahead between more fields with the lane lined with thousands of flowers (picture 4).
Eventually reaching a fork in the lane, the Stenbury Trail bears left, continuing through farmland where there are views of the chalk hills east of Newport far off to the left, with a large quarrying operation conspicuous on the horizon (picture 5). The lane continues past Little Birchmore and Stenbury House before ending at a junction where it meets another lane at right angles.
The trail continues straight ahead here, though there is no signpost, crossing a field where newly planted crops on the right were covered in clear plastic and the chalk hills that are crossed nearer the end of the trail can be seen in the distance ahead (picture 6).
At the far field boundary, the trail bears right, following the field edge southwards with a drainage ditch on the left. At the end of a second field, the path turns right for a few metres before turning left between two fields. At the end of these, the trail turns left again, following Bridleway A35 along the edge of two more fields to reach Merstone Lane in front of Alma Cottage, which might be stretching the definition of cottage slightly (picture 7).
The trail turns right along the lane, following it for about 700 metres, where one mostly has to walk on the tarmac and keep an eye out for traffic as there is no verge. Fortunately, there were few cars coming along the road and I had a chance to take in the view across the fields to the east (picture 8).
When Merstone Lane turns sharply to the right, the Stenbury Trail turns left on Bridleway A22, signposted to Great Budbridge Manor. The bridleway heads east just outside a field, soon jinking left then right before resuming an easterly course between fields and then past a large complex of glasshouses to the right before reaching a junction with another track called East Lane.
Here the trail turns right for about 30 metres then left, still on Bridleway A22, passing in front of Great Budbridge Manor, where the well-kept grounds feature a lily-covered pond (picture 10).
The bridleway soon crosses a bridge over the infant River Yar before bending to the right to follow Bridleway GL46 southbound across farmland for about two kilometres, passing through the middle of Moor Farm about half way and eventually reaching the A3020 Shanklin Road a few hundred metres east of the village of Godshill.
The Stenbury Trail doesn't go into the village, but rather crosses the main road to join a narrow lane signposted as Bridleway GL44. The lane heads gradually uphill through attractive farmland (picture 11), eventually approaching Freemantle Gate (picture 12) after around 800 metres.
Instead of passing through the Freemantle Gate, which stands at one entrance of Appuldurcombe Park, the Stenbury Trail instead turns right just before it. Following a rough track, marked as Bridleway GL49, and now sharing its route with the Worsley Trail, the Stenbury Trail heads through the edge of Freemantle Copse before continuing ahead on a narrow path beside the stone wall of Appuldurcombe Park with the steep slopes of Gat Cliff rising behind the wall (picture 13). As the path climbs higher there are good views in an arc from north-east, where cliffs on the far side of Sandown Bay can be seen, to the north-west, where the walk began (picture 14).
Entering another copse, the path reaches a junction where the Stenbury Trail bears left, still on GL49, parting company with the Worsley Trail, which continues ahead on GL58. The trail goes through a gate in a tall deer fence, the narrow path then climbing steeply up onto Appuldurcombe Down, following more of the rather overgrown stone wall of the Appuldurcombe Park estate along the edge of sheep-grazed pastures (picture 15).
Climbing again, the path passes through a couple of gates and along another long field edge at the top of Stenbury Down, some 226 metres above sea level, from which there were views across the fertile farmland to the south (picture 16).
About 200 metres before reaching a radio transmitter tower, a gate in the hedge on the left takes the trail onto a vehicle track that doubles as Bridleway GL51 (picture 17). The track passes just to the left of the tower then after another 200 metres it reaches a small parking area. The track bends sharply left here, but the Stenbury Trail continues straight ahead with a hedge on the right and views over the town of Ventnor ahead to the left (picture 18).
Through a farm gate, the trail crosses the top of Week Down, where two tumuli can be seen in the field to the right (picture 19). Beyond these the narrow path soon begins a long descent through tall scrub on Bridleway V55 and then ahead on Bridleway V56, eventually emerging on Whitwell Road between the Ventnor Rugby Club and a small housing estate.
Crossing the road and turning right, the trail then bears left onto Bridleway V73 after a little more than 100 metres. The Bridleway, known as Paradise Walk, angles down through woods to reach the Inglewood Park estate, following the quiet residential road of the same name out to meet the A3055 Undercliff Drive. Following this busy road to the left for about 300 metres, the Stenbury Trail reaches its end in front of the Ventnor Botanic Gardens (picture 20), which I reached a few minutes after sunset, having completed 18.3km from Shide Corner.
A little further along the A3055, I turned right to follow Love Lane downhill beside the Ventnor Cricket Club to Steephill Cove, where I picked up the Isle of Wight Coastal Path. From here it was a pleasant half hour stroll in the fading light to reach the centre of Ventnor and some well-earned refreshment.