st helen's to cowes

isle of wight coast path

saturday, 9th september 2017

The weather forecast for the week doesn't look particularly good but it has been a stinker of a year so any good weather is a bonus. Today's weather forecast looks OK but it's not going to be very warm. At least the wind has died down a bit!

Ryde low tide 07:12

Ryde high tide 13:42

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I have never been on the Isle of Wight before and it feels like we are practically abroad! We caught the ferry over from Portsmouth to Fishbourne yesterday afternoon.

I start the day at our holiday cottage in St Helen's (some people use St Helen's with an apostrophe and some use St Helens without so I've no idea which is correct so I'll use the correct version with an apostrophe) and walk the short distance down the road and then down a track passing Old Mill Holiday Park to reach Bembridge Harbour.

bembridge harbour

I walk a short distance along the harbour until it turns into St Helen's Causeway and I follow the causeway above marshland. The marsh is covered in seabirds. It's rather a nice start to the day.

st helen's causeway

At the end of the causeway I reach St Helen's Duver, an island sand dune now owned by the National Trust. The dunes used to be the island's first golf course, home of the Royal Isle of Wight Golf Club. The course was opened in 1882 and had just 9 holes. The few remaining members presented the course to the National Trust in 1961. The National Trust know how to spell St Helen's!

st helen's duver

st helen's duver

The ex golf course is covered in sea thrift. Back at home the sea thrift all but disappeared at the end of June even though last year it made it all the way to the end of December.

I head across the dunes heading for the pillared Old Club House, now a National Trust holiday cottage.

old club house

At the end of the dune system I turn right to visit the tower of St Helen's Old Church, looking out to sea. It's peaceful around here and St Helen's Beach is rather lovely.

st helen's beach


The tower is all that remains of the 13th century church which fell out of use in Tudor times. It was bricked up in 1703 and later replaced by a newer church inland. We passed the new church on our way into St Helen's yesterday and it's a long way inland.

st helen's old church

On Saturday the 14th of September 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson boarded HMS Victory lying at anchor off St Helen's near to the old church. HMS Victory, with HMS Euryalus in company,  sailed the following morning to join the fleet off Cadiz, prior to the battle of Trafalgar on the 21st of October 1805.

The official coast path heads inland of Priory Bay but I head out along the beach to reach Node's Point. It looks like I can continue along Priory Bay Beach.

node's point

priory bay beach

I amble along the beach and I can indeed continue along the beach to Seagrove Bay, where I enjoy the lovely, golden sand.

seagrove bay

I briefly walk along the seawall at the village of Seaview before dropping down to the beach again.

Ships holding thousands of brave troops from Great Britain, Canada, France and the United States of America sailed off from Seaview and other ports to the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from the tyranny of Hitler's Germany on D Day, the 6th of June 1944.

I head out onto Ryde East Sands. It is now a pleasant walk along golden sands heading into Ryde, passing Puckpool Point and Appley Tower. The beach is practically deserted.

ryde east sands

ryde east sands

I enjoy the sight of hovercrafts arriving and departing from Ryde before passing the hovercraft terminal.


I reach Ryde Pier, the second longest pier in the country, only being beaten by Southend's pier. I waste time here watching the train going up and down the pier.

ryde pier

I head along the esplanade and pass Prince Consort Building built in 1846 as a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria and once home to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. The club was founded due to the fact that the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes didn't allow female members, even royal ones.

I turn into Buckingham Road and then head along quiet country roads heading towards the main road. I pass Treefields Pond and just before reaching the main road I turn along a footpath which heads through the golf course, home of Ryde Golf Club.

ryde golf club

At the end of the golf course I reach the Church of the Holy Cross, Binstead.

binstead church

I come across butterflies feeding on red valerian.

I follow various roads and paths and pass the remains of Old Quarr Abbey, pronounced Cor but spelt Quarr. I can see the remains of a Cistercian abbey, constructed from 1132 and demolished in 1536 during the dissolution of the monasteries.

the site of old quarr abbey

the plan of old quarr abbey

I continue along the footpath to reach Quarr Abbey. I detour off of the coast path to visit the abbey, home to a small group of Benedictine monks, where I enjoy the gardens. It's rather lovely around here and very peaceful.

The abbey is named after a nearby quarry, mined since Roman times and stone from the quarry was used in the construction of Winchester and Chichester cathedrals. The abbey was completed in 1912 to house a French Benedictine order.

I come across some lovely autumn crocuses outside of the abbey before retracing my steps to rejoin the coast path and follow quiet paths.

At the far end of Quarr Abbey I come across some pigs wallowing in mud. I love pigs!

I amble along the quiet paths and a squirrel crosses my path. I think nothing of it as I see loads of squirrels at home. Hang on a sec! That squirrel is red!! It's a RED SQUIRREL!!! That's the first red squirrel I've ever seen. It disappears before I even remotely get a chance to pull out my camera.

I continue along the path which takes me to the  Fishbourne Inn. I pass Fishbourne's ferry terminal, where we arrived on the Isle of Wight on Friday, and head through Fishbourne next to Wootton Creek.

fishboune inn

I pass a small plantation and see another red squirrel before climbing up to the main road at Kite's Hill.

I head along the main road and cross over Wootton Bridge with Wootton Creek on my right and The Old Mill Pond on my left, to reach the village of Wootton Bridge. That's a rather large pond.

old mill pond

wootton creek

I pass the Sloop Inn at Mill Square and then odd footpaths and roads through Wootton near to the site of the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival.

the sloop inn

I'm now far inland and follow the quiet Brocks Copse Road and then Alverstone Road for a couple of miles until it reaches the main road at Whippingham.

The coast path now follows the main road past Osborne House, once the home of Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight and now owned by English Heritage, for a couple of miles into East Cowes.

Instead of following the coast path I turn into Beatrice Avenue and follow the minor road to reach the rather gothic looking St Mildred's Church, Whippingham.

Opposite the church are almshouses built on the orders of Queen Victoria in 1876 to house retired royal servants.


I head through the churchyard to enjoy the view over the River Medina before retracing my steps and heading back along the road and then a footpath beside the road which leads me to a row of multicoloured houses.

At Meadow Road I descend down a footpath heading towards the River Medina where I pass Vera Allotments who are holding their open day today. I turn right next to Kingston Wharf and pass East Cowes cemetery and head down Medina View to enjoy the view over Cowes Marina before heading back along the road into East Cowes.

east cowes cemetery

cowes marina

I finally get very confused with the route. I should take the chain ferry over the River Medina but instead come across a massive floating bridge. This can't be the chain ferry can it? as I was expecting a passenger only service. I wander around for a bit and finally see a sign for the chain ferry but when I get there it doesn't seem to be running and instead suggests walking along the river for a bit to find a passenger ferry.

I wander along the river and come across some people milling on a pier so I wait and indeed, a passenger ferry turns up so I climb on board and pay the £1.50 fare to cross the River Medina to reach my destination for the day, West Cowes.

I head into town but can't see any signs of a car park so wander aimlessly for a while before finding Terminus Road which I head up to the car park where my lift awaits. It has been a confusing end to a thoroughly pleasant day.


Flora and fauna encountered on the walk today includes :-

  • roses
  • fuchsias
  • sea thrift
  • oystercatchers
  • lavender
  • red valerian
  • red admirals
  • speckled woods
  • dahlias
  • cyclamen
  • oaks
  • marestail
  • fig trees
  • pears
  • apples
  • autumn crocuses
  • red campion
  • pigs
  • hydrangeas
  • buzzards
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The podcast of today's walk is now available. You can subscribe via the iTunes store or listen using the player below.

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According to my phone I've walked 15.6 miles today which amounts to 34831 steps. It has been a cold day and describing it as a coastal path is stretching things slightly but the walking has been lovely and completely new to me. Ten out of ten!

My total ascent today has been a measly 66 metres or 218 feet.



bembridge harbour

dead tree on st helen's duver


st mildred's church

beach collection