WORSLEY TRAIL: Brightstone Forest to Shanklin
Monday, April 22, 2013
The Worsley Trail begins high on the chalk downs on the edge of Brightstone Forest at the path junction where the Tennyson Trail heads off through the forest towards Carisbrooke.
For those of us using public transport, the closest starting point is the village of Brightstone at the foot of the downs, about 2.2 kilometres walk from the start of the trail. From the bus stop by the Three Bishops pub on the B3399 road in the centre of the village, I walked up North Street and straight ahead across Upper Lane to join Rowdown Lane (signposted as Bridleway BS81), a rather muddy hedge-lined track that climbs between fields. At the top of the track Bridleway BS34 bears right for 200 metres to a path junction where I turned left on Bridleway BS80.
From this junction there were good views across Brightstone and out into the English Channel beyond (picture 1). The view in the other direction is a little more daunting, as there's still a steep climb to get to the top of the downs (picture 2). Finally reaching a junction with Bridleway BS10 at the top of the climb, it was a much flatter 300 metre walk to the left along a broad, chalky track to reach the official start of the Worsley Trail on the edge of Brightstone Forest (picture 3).
The Trail sets off to the east, following the track back along the edge of Brightstone Forest to the point where I had first joined it and then continuing ahead with a brief climb over the crest of Limerstone Down, where a topograph and a Bronze Age barrow to the right of the path mark the summit. There are panoramic views from up here, including back over my right shoulder towards the high ground of Compton Down and beyond across Compton Bay to the gleaming white chalk cliffs of Tennyson Down and West High Down on the western tip of the Isle of Wight (picture 4).
The path now has a long and gradual descent for the next two kilometres with good views ahead towards Chillerton Down (picture 5), passing by a large barn and later the deep scar of a large quarry on Fore Down (picture 6). Towards the bottom of the descent, the track bears right for the last 300 metres down to meet the B3323 Shorwell Shute a short distance to the north of the village of Shorwell.
The Trail crosses the road and joins Bridleway SW49, climbing a grassy path beside a wire fence toward a telegraph pole on the corner of Lorden Copse. As the path rises, there are good views to the left along the valley which the B3323 follows to the north (picture 7). As the path levels out, it bears right along the edge of the copse, where the farmer had thoughtfully left a wide grassy path between the trees and a freshly ploughed field (picture 8).
Just beyond the end of the copse, the path goes through a metal gate and bears left as it drops down steeply to meet another track below Chillerton Down (picture 9). The Worsley Trail turns sharp right here, heading down the track towards New Barn Farm (picture 10).
About halfway down the hill, the route turns left off the track to follow Bridleway SW15 beside a wire fence. I initially missed this turn and carried on down to the front gate of the farm, as the nearest signpost is about 50 metres along the fence, where the bridleway begins to climb very steeply over a small hill.
Back on the correct route, I climbed over the hill, from which the next part of the path skirts around the lower slopes of the south end of Chillerton Down, which is topped by a tall, thin TV transmitter mast (picture 11). On the side of Chillerton Down, a couple of large, disused quarry pits are very obvious scars on the landscape, while a short distance further the trail passes a National Trust sign and joins a sunken track from which there are good views over Chillerton Farm and along the valley to the northeast (picture 12) before the track descends to meet Berry Shute.
The Worsley Trail follows the road to the right, bearing left into the quieter Berry Lane at the next fork. A short way along the lane the Worsley Trail briefly joins the route of the Shepherds Trail, which I had walked a few days earlier, before diverging again as it passes by the front of Ramsdown Farm and continues on to a junction with Roslin Lane then turning right towards Roslin Farm.
A left turn between the attractive stone farm buildings (picture 14) takes the trail on a track across fields, turning right at the end to pass the rather less attractive modern barns of Cridmore Farm before turning left onto Bridleway G24 (picture 15), which soon degenerates into a rough vehicle track and then into an indistinct field-edge path alongside a wire fence. Reaching a gate at the end of the fence, the Trail turns right along the next side of the field and then downhill across marshy ground to find a footbridge across the infant River Medina (picture 16).
Climbing a little, the trail skirts around the left-hand edge of an irregularly-shaped field, turning right, then left, then right again, ignoring a metal gate at the last turn. Following the field edge ahead for about 500 metres, the trail reaches a stile in the hedge on the left with a Public Footpath sign pointing into the next field. Crossing the stile, the path climbs the left hand edge of the field and then turns right across the top of the field as far as a stile giving access to Bleak Down Road.
The trail follows the road south for about 800 metres until the road bends to the right. Here the trail turns left onto Bridleway GL15, ignoring a vehicle track that veers off to the right and instead going through a metal gate and ahead along the edge of the field. The track soon starts to descend past the little farm cottage of Upper Elliots (picture 17), bearing left to another gate in the lower corner of the field.
Following the right-hand edge of the next field takes the path to a bend in a minor road called Beacon Alley. A hundred metres ahead along the road, the trail turns left into Bagwich Lane and after another 200 metres, the hedge-lined Bridleway GL21 on the right leads to a footbridge over the infant River Yar and then past a small shady pond (picture 18) and along the edge of a small wood to reach Whitwell Road.
Crossing the road, the trail continues ahead on a rising path between two fields, still on Bridleway GL21, heading for the edge of the tourist honeypot village of Godshill with the tower of the parish church on the hilltop to the left (picture 19). Reaching the quiet Sheepwash Lane beside the first house in the village, the Worsley Trail turns right, following the lane away from the village (picture 20).
Godshill seems to be a mecca for bus loads of visitors, with its many tea shops, souvenir shops, cider barn, a couple of good pubs and a very realistic model village. Having spent most of the previous day wandering around the village, I decided to continue on the trail rather than taking a break.
The Worsley Trail follows Sheepwash Lane for the next 700 metres before turning sharp left onto Bridleway GL56, which soon becomes a fenced path through Sainham Deer Farm (picture 21). Passing close by the farm buildings, the trail then follows a well-worn track with high fences and gates, presumably intended to keep the deer within the farm, though I didn't see any deer as I walked through. After going through such a gate, the trail climbs up the edge of a field and then through a small wood to reach a somewhat complex junction of paths where the Worsley Trail joins the route of the Stenbury Trail, which I had walked in the opposite direction the previous summer.
The Worsley Trail continues ahead on Bridleway GL49, which follows the contours of Gat Cliff beside the old stone wall of the Appuldurcombe Estate (picture 22). There are far reaching views ahead and to the left from the path (picture 23), taking in Sandown Bay and the steep chalk face of Culver Cliff to the east, Bembridge Harbour and the hills to the northeast and a long stretch of the Hampshire coastline across the Solent on the mainland.
About 400 metres along the path, a stone stile built into the wall provides the chance to take a diversion up to the top of Gat Cliff on Footpath GL63 for even better views. The top of the very steep climb up Gat Cliff is marked by the Worsley Monument (picture 24), an obelisk erected from blocks of Cornish granite in 1774 by Sir Richard Worsley in memory of his grandfather Sir Robert. The newer of two plaques on the monument points out that the monument was damaged by a lightning strike in 1831 and restored in 1983 by another Sir Richard Worsley. The original plaque reads as follows:
To the memory of Sir Robert Worsley BT who died universally lamented July 29th 1747 in the 77th year of his age. This obelisk was erected on the highest eminence of his late property as an emblem of the conspicuous character he maintained during a long and exemplary life and as a monument of gratitude by his successor Sir Richard Worsley.
From the monument one can see the entire breadth of the Isle of Wight from the distant Tennyson Down at the island's western tip to Culver Cliff in the east (picture 25). I didn't stay too long though, as a very cold wind was howling across the hilltops. Rejoining the Worsley Trail after making the steep descent, I continued along Bridleway GL49, which runs through the edge of Freemantle Copse to a path junction near the imposing structure of the Freemantle Gate. Here the Worsley Trail separates from the Stenbury Trail (picture 26), the latter heading down a track towards Godshill while the Worsley Trail turns right to pass through the gate (picture 27) and into Appuldurcombe Park.
In the 18th century, Freemantle Gate was the main entrance to the park and the Worsley family's mansion of Appuldurcombe House. The trail doesn't go up to the house however, but instead bears left off the track leading to the house after just fifty metres, descending diagonally across the park above the town of Wroxall with the slopes of St Martin's Down rising behind it (picture 28).
After a very public scandal in 1781, the Worsley family's fortunes waned and the house was eventually sold, seeing use as a school, a monastery and as military accommodation during World War I before being left in ruins during World War II. What remains of the house is in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public.
After about 800 metres, the Worsley Trail meets Appuldurcombe Road at the entrance to the estate on the edge of Wroxall and follows the road past a caravan park and up to the B3327 St John's Road. The trail crosses the road and turns right to find a flight of wooden steps (not the brick steps directly opposite, which lead to a dead end).
The correct flight of steps lead up to the embankment of the former Shanklin to Ventnor railway line, which was closed in 1966 after almost a century of operation. The trail follows the embankment to the right through trees then along the right-hand side of a warehouse that was built on the embankment after the line closed. Beyond the building, the path ascends to Castle Road at the end of a narrow bridge that used to take traffic over the railway. The Church of St John the Evangelist stands opposite (picture 29), but the trail turns left across the bridge and then continues to climb Castle Road.
About 300 metres up the hill, a narrow path climbs up a bank to the right of the road. The path continues to climb alongside a wire fence along the edge of three fields to cross a stile into another. The route follows the zig-zag right-hand edge of the field to reach another stile from which a path runs through trees (picture 30) to a metal gate giving access to the grassy slope of St Martin's Down.
The trail crosses the meadow, with views down to Shanklin and across Sandown Bay to Culver Cliff, though the weather was now getting quite gloomy (picture 31). Beyond a wooden gate, the trail follows the lower edge of a series of narrow meadows on the flanks of St Martin's Down (picture 32).
After almost a kilometre, the trail begins to descend, crossing the middle of two large fields towards the Church of St Blasius on the edge of Shanklin. A stone stile takes the trail into the ancient churchyard (picture 33) and then out through the lych gate onto the A3055 Church Road. The road is followed northeast for 500 metres to the group of thatched stone buildings of the Shanklin Old Village (picture 34). The Worsley Trail ends in the Old Village by the front of The Crab pub (picture 35). My GPS showed that I had walked 24.9 kilometres from Brightstone, 20.8 kilometres of that on the Worsley Trail.
Just down the hill to the right of The Crab is the entrance of Shanklin Chine, one of a number of deep gorges cut into cliffs of the island's south coast over thousands of years by the flow of small streams. A popular tourist attraction, Shanklin Chine features a tall waterfall (picture 36) and a path down the gorge beside the stream to the beach at the foot of the cliffs.