England Vacation 2009 -- August 16
There were to be four walks offered today but the fourth leader has injured his knee and can't lead any walks. They hope to get replacements in for the rest of the week as there are 50 guests. We decided to do the medium walk today along with 24 others. Its called The Bays and Downs of West Wight. The walk is 14 km (or 8.75 miles) with 310m (or 1025 ft) of ascent. They get the ascent by adding the total climbs for the day. The descent is not mentioned. If an HF leader tells you its all downhill or perfectly flat the rest of the way, don't believe him (you thought "the cheque is in the mail" was the worlds biggest lie).
The walk started and ended at the house. We went down the driveway and headed up the street to St. Agnes church. Its a Thatched roof church (one of 18 in England). There's a date stone in the wall that says 1694 but the church was actually built about 1908. They recycled stones from another site.
A bit further up the road, we turned onto a path that lead us beside the property of Farringford House. Alfred Lord Tennyson lived there for a while. He had a bridge built that let him easily escape up to the downs. He claimed the air was worth 6 pence a pint. We had a brief glimpse of the house from the path but kept on going through Totland to Colwell Bay where we had our morning break sitting on the pier admiring the view across the Solent.
After the break, we followed the promenade to Warden Point in Totland Bay then went up Widdick Chine to Headon Warren. A chine is a very narrow valley formed by water. There are 19 on the island with a 20th currently being formed (Karen thinks the numbers were 18 & 19).
Before heading up the chine, we stopped at one of the old life boat stations. Every coastal town and village use to have one and maintained a list of all the rescues. Most of these stations are closed now and the island is served by three modern boats stationed around the island. This old station had a poem on the side of the building about the tide.
Headon Warren is an acidic area and grows heather. The heather was just starting to bloom. It is also the home to lots of rabbits (hence the name warren). While we didn't see any rabbits, holes and droppings were very visible.
We had lunch in the ruins of Hatherwood Battery, just above Alum Bay overlooking the Needles. Then down through Alum Bay and up to the Needles New Battery. England did their rocket tests here. We had a chance on the walk up to the battery to get a look at Alum Bay from above. It has many different coloured cliffs which yield coloured sand. (rose, black, yellow, brown and white) .
We had time for a cup of tea and a look at the Needles from below the battery before heading up onto West High Down to Tennyson Monument. From the monument, we went back down to the house. We were able to go in the back way and not all the way around and up the drive again.
Afterwards, we had a swim in the pool and got ready for evening briefing and dinner.