In the mists of time, Mark said he would organise a walk during the summer on the Isle of Wight. No one can remember the auspicious occasion or when this statement was uttered. It was probably some time in the latter part of the last century. Well we did the first one in 2011 and now we have planned a fifth one.
On Thursday, 11 June 2015 at 8:35am Graham leaves home and drives to Shedfield Grange where Mark is almost ready. The lady of the house is preparing for a bath so we are not allowed to dally too long.
We leave the dulcet bath-ready tones and drive to the M27 and then via Beaulieu to Lymington. At Lymington we remember to turn left to the port. There are still no signs to the port for the unwary motorist. The car park is crowded with a lot of the younger generation getting their tents, anoraks, and pot boilers ready for the Isle of Wight Festival (more...). While Graham is failing to buy a car park ticket Mark goes in and buys two return tickets. Graham buys a parking ticket. We join the throngs and board the 10:00am ferry. We buy two coffees from Blondie and Mark springs a surprise. Janet has packed four iced buns in her best Tupperware container ("it must be brought home, Mark"). The sea is calm and the sun is shining. We admire the scantily clad nymphets and eat Janet's buns.
We dock at Yarmouth at 10:40am and make our way around into the town square. We stroll to the old mill near the mouth of the Yar. A group of three ladies have their conversation interrupted by an enquiring grockle asking where the music festival is taking place. They think it's near Newport but they are glad it's not near them. We make our way along the disused railway track. At the causeway we cross the Yar and make our way to the Red Lion. We are disappointed as they are only serving instant coffee so we opt for two halves of shandy. Apart from one other person we are the only customers in the Egon Ronay pub (more...). One of the grockles asks of the barmen what is the difference between lager and beer but he does not know. We tell him we will be returning for lunch so he says he will find out by then.
We retrace our steps back down the hill and walk along the single track road to a main road. We cross and enter the unadopted Manor Road. We wander to the end and realise that we have missed a turn. A smiling bulky well-tanned Caribbean lady and her skinny anaemic Caucasian male friend point us in the right direction. We go back 100 yards and turn into Southdown Road. Mark notes that the properties are more opulent than those near his favourite haunt of Ventnor. At the brow of the short incline we get our second glimpse of the sea. We march down Military Road as one does. Near the bottom we cross over the road and enter the Freshwater Independent Lifeboat Station (more...) shop. After purchasing two small tubs of New Forest ice cream we seek guidance from Brenda. She explains that her teenage grandsons are coming over on the boat tomorrow from Bishop's Waltham via Lymington of course. Brenda describes to us a route to the Coop in Freshwater. Will Tracey be there to greet us? We live in hope. We eat our ice creams overlooking the bay and a barque. We say goodbye to Brenda and walk past the car park onto a newly scythed track.
We wind our way though the marshes and alongside what appears to be a canal. Mark observes that the track was probably used for smuggling goods into Freshwater town. We ask a lady who is tattooed and bodily pierced as to what the stretch of water is. The lady, probably left over from the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival (more...) does not know but suggests it might be just a drainage ditch for the marsh. Her daughter, we presume, smiles benignly. It turns out it is the River Yar. We get to the Afton Road and cross. We do not stop at the café where we had coffee last year but make our way onto the old railway track. We cross the Yar and enter the Red Lion which has got many more customers than when we were last in an hour and a half ago. We park ourselves at a table and order crab sandwiches which we wash down with a pint of the Isle of Wight bitter. The barmen is too busy to ask if he has found the difference between lager and beer so Graham uses the pub's wifi and finds the difference is only in the yeasts used. Beer needs top-fermenting yeast and lager uses bottom-fermenting yeast. We all feel much enlightened. We decline a second pint and leave the pub, crossing the road and entering the church of All Saints (more...). There is a memorial to Alfred Tennyson who worshipped in the church and tributes to his family. It is an old Saxon church, one of the oldest on the island.
We leave the church and follow the Freshwater Way northwards past the extraordinary large and overgrown cemetery behind the church. We admire some yurts erected on an eco-friendly camp site - no visitor's beyond this sign. At the top of a short rise we turn round to look south and see no houses whatsoever. The landscape views are stunning. It helps that it is 23C with few clouds in the sky. We join the Yarmouth to Freshwater road and make our way back to the ferry terminal where we sit in the cool reflecting on the wonderful walk and gawping at the next load of festival goers as they disembark from the ferry, several with sack trolleys laden with wet weather gear prepared for tomorrow's downfall.
We board the 3:05pm boat and arrive back at Shedfield Grange at 4:30pm where Janet prepares us afternoon tea with jam-free, clotted-cream-free, butter-coated scones which are very tasty.
For all photos click here. For places where the photos were taken click here.
There was a bit of a panic on Saturday as Jon had looked at the ferry timetable on the web to discover there was not going to be a 10:15am ferry. Adrian phoned Graham and agreed to go on the 9:15am ferry. Mark could not be reached. On Sunday at 7:15am Graham phoned Mark to tell him that his passengers would be waiting in Wickham Square at 7:45am. Janet was not pleased. At about 9am we muster at Lymington ferry port.
There are no group discounts for oldies so we all buy our own tickets. The ferry is twenty minutes late. We board the boat. On the top deck a lady takes a team photo. After a very calm but misty crossing we disembark on the island.
We stop in the centre of Yarmouth to admire the door built by Jo Gatrall's father ("who's she?" you might ask). We walk down the east side of the Yar, take a short break to admire the Yar, and cross over to climb the short incline up the hill to the Red Lion. It has just gone 11am so halves of bitter and coffees are consumed outside in the sunshine. The pub is fully booked for lunch so Plan B is invoked.
We retrace our steps down the road and wander along an unmade road and up towards the edge of the Freshwater golf course. Here we stop and admire Freshwater Bay. We walk down to the bay. The shop by the lifeboat station does not sell ice creams at this time of year. We gather along the sea wall to await the capture of the lifeboat, a show especially arranged for us by Mark in lieu of having lunch at the Red Lion. We all watch as the cradle is lowered to the water's edge. Around the Needles comes the speeding lifeboat. It lines up with the cradle and takes aim. Whoosh! Into the cradle it goes and is prevented from shooting up the quay by the restraining net. We make donations to the lifeboat station and resume our walk.
The walk takes us by the start of the Yar through Afton Marsh. It is quite muddy in places. We pass the End of the Line cafe and make our way back to the pub. We have liquid refreshments. John leads us into the churchyard. Under one of the many yews trees is the family vault of the Hamond family. We gather around the railings and listen to John give a brief history of Captain Graham Hamond (more...), Nelson and the Battle of Copenhagen. Almost a NADFAS lecture but not as long. We exit the churchyard and make our way back to Yarmouth.
It's about 2:15pm when we decide to eat in the Jireh House. Julie is very accommodating and the 14 of us crowd around two sets of tables in the front room. We wash the food down with several bottles of wine. The merry party get the 4:20pm ferry back to Lymington. We say our goodbyes to everyone and leave for home having had another wonderful walk on the Isle of Wight.