Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Tennyson Trail.

A full day to enjoy and with the weather set fair we decided to take the Tennyson Trail which takes a high path from Carisbrooke, in the dead centre of the island, to the westerly most point at Alum Bay. The trail is named after the famous poet, one of the many eminent Victorians who gravitated here after Royal family had set up home. Their patronage revolutionised the island in the second half of the nineteenth century changing its status from agricultural backwater to holiday destination for the rich and famous.

We followed a footpath up onto a chalk ridge overlooking the ancient castle, where Charles I was imprisoned, and headed off with the Medina river and Cowes clearly visible in the distance to our right. After a couple of miles the path descended into the glories of Brighstone forest - dappled light, inviting trails and footpaths, mature trees and wild flowers. After barely an hour the path rose again and we emerged on the South side with a full view of the long stretch of coast leading from Chale right along to Freshwater visible, a bridleway took us to Mottistone Down, from where the whole island can be seen. Remarkably we barely passed a soul.

With time and weather on our side we decided to use our National Trust passes and detour to Mottistone Manor with its magical Elizabethan garden a mile or so off our track. The house itself is still in private residence, but it was wonderful to be here in the height of summer with the bees buzzing around the scented flower beds and the warm breezes blowing gently in from the channel.

Off again for the next stint over Brook Down to reach Freshwater Bay - home both of Tennyson and the pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, whose home Dimbola Lodge, has recently been rescued and turned into a museum dedicated to the early days of picture taking.

The land narrowed now, giving us the false sense that our journey was near completion, but a steep climb up to the monument of Tennyson Down revealed our destination as a couple of miles further on.

With aching feet and the light beginning to fail we set out on the final leg to the Needles Battery and the coloured sands of the collapsing cliffs. Downhill with blisters to the car in Totland, giving us plenty of time of make our way back to the ferry and home.


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