Shalfleet To Newport Isle of Wight Pt.4
It’s the 14th March 18 and three have become two, sadly Dave Evans could not get an extra days leave to continue walking with us, so has decided to walk from Gurnard to Ryde and then journey home. So today it is just myself and Dave Beech continuing from Shalfleet to Newport via Cowes. So after breakfast a taxi picked us up and dropped Dave Evans at Gurnard before continuing and dropping us at Shalfleet.
The name “Shalfleet” means “shallow stream”. The stream in this case is the stream passing through the village.
This leg of the walk comes in land quite a bit, because the foreshore is on MOD land and can not be entered. So we continue walking the footpath closest to the foreshore until Thorness Bay. The weather is nice with outbreaks of sunshine, but it’s slow going again with muddy unkempt footpaths being the theme of the day.
After leaving Shalfleet you join the road up to Newtown Nature Reserve and Old Town Hall, now owned by the National Trust.
Newtown’s archaeological significance lies in the fact that it is a rare example of a medieval new town which failed economically, so that it has not been built over and redeveloped, therefore much of the original ground plan survives.
Furthermore, since many of these plots have been deserted from the late medieval or post-medieval periods, it is probable that there will be a greater survival of medieval archaeological deposits than in a town of medieval origin that has remained an urban settlement. Newtown represents a rare opportunity to study one of the Bishop of Winchester’s new towns in its entirety. It is important to protect this fragile and non-renewable resource for its own sake and for the irreplaceable information about our past which it contains.
After what appears to be an eternity of muddy footpaths and stopping to talk to some members of the Isle of Wight Ramblers Association, we eventually find the Foreshore at Thorness Bay. We decide to stick to the easy walking on the beach and continue around Gurnard Ledge in the hope of reaching Gurnard Bay. This proved to be a mistake, when we found some large slippery rocks just short of the bay and with no footpath to the top of the cliffs. This meant we had to retrace our steps for over a mile back to Thorness Bay. Now I know that when walking the coastline this will happen a lot, but it doesn’t really bother me and you just have to get on with it. Eventually we get back onto the coastal path, but here the path above Thorness Bay is in a poor state of repair and in one spot it has all but disappeared due to erosion, meaning a small climb. Once at the top on the path “it’s mud all the way to Gurnard Bay”, which by the way rhymes!
At Gurnard Bay it was time for a spot of lunch at The Watersedge Cafe, which was really nice. From this lovely spot you can walk the foreshore all the way to Newport via Cowes without getting muddy again.
In 1926, the Prince of Wales, (latter King George VII), opened the new road between Cowes and Gurnard known as Princes Esplanade. A water drinking fountain at the western end commemorates the occasion.
Egypt Point Lighthouse.
Egypt Point is the most northerly point of the Isle of Wight and sticks out into the solent, just off of East Cowes; the Island’s only main port.
To mark the point, Trinity House built the beacon seen today. The unusual structure, consisting of a pole supporting a gallery, rising from a small shed-like building was erected in 1897 and it’s light first shone on 1st December.
Originally a lantern stood atop the tower and contained a rotating Fresnel Lens driven by weights that were manually wound up on a regular basis. The weights fell down the inside of the pole gradually, resulting in the lens turning and producing a flashing white light every ten seconds; a three second flash with an eclipse of seven seconds. The light was visible for 10 miles in clear weather.
The source of the light was originally fuelled by Paraffin, although it was converted to Acetylene operation in 1925; this gave a clearer and more pure white light and burned more efficiently, allowing for the light to be un-watched and converted to semi-automatic operation, only requiring refuelling.
1969 saw the lantern’s removal from the tower, after which it was put into storage. A new light was exhibited using electricity, which did away with moving parts and the requirement for refuelling and winding of the clockwork weights – this is when the light became fully automatic.
The Lighthouse, which is now one of the best places to view part of the ‘Round the Island Race’ from, was discontinued in 1989 and was then sold to the Isle of Wight Council for use as a local landmark and daymark.
Entering into Cowes in the winter months means the area is a lot quieter and not as busy as it is in the summer months. The marina’s are full and the boats covered up. Cowes is located on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina that runs to Newport, facing the smaller town of East Cowes on the east bank. The two towns are linked by the Cowes Floating Ferry, a chain ferry. We walk through the high street passing all the shops and high end boat chandlers selling everything needed to satisfy every yachting need. It certainly feels like a different world to me, but being an island race I admire the enthusiasm for it and secretly wish I could be one of the fortunate ones rich enough to own a large sea going craft.
From Cowes the Red Squirrel Trail starts.
This route for walkers and cyclists runs on the 4.5 mile route of the old railway line to Newport. Being a firm believer that shared walking / cycling paths are not a good idea, I am soon proved right by several bikes cutting too close to us at speed from behind without the use of a bell. I can see that these routes are built for all and I do like the idea, but for me bad cyclists are giving good cyclists a bad rap and unfortunately I am meeting more bad cyclists than good on routes such as these.
I would say to anyone thinking that I am having a go at all cyclists, to please think about how they approach walkers from behind. We do not see you coming or hear you, especially when we are taking or there is wind, you may save someone’s life by simply using a bell at some distance behind and we will then step out of the way for you to pass. Some cyclists do get it right and when they do I thank them wholeheartedly.
This route does have some good views across the Medina to the east side, but eventually as we get nearer Newport the large factories of renewable energy wind turbine manufacturers start.
Nearing the end of the Red Squirrel Trail we come across the ruins of old Dodnor Works or West Medina Cement Works, known locally as the “Mummies Caves”. These ruins are going to be conserved in a project to understand the industrial heritage of this area. https://gifttonature.org.uk/project-at-dodnor/
As we enter Newport this small quayside at the end of the Medina River signifies the end of today’s walk. 14.50 miles.