Isle of Wight Coastal Path: Chale to Freshwater Bay
This is a wonderful stroll along the southwestern coast of the Isle of Wight. The cliffs are high, and the views out to sea are almost always expansive and superb. It is a thrilling walk, although it can be rather exposed in bad weather.
Unfortunately erosion is a problem, and the cliffs are constantly crumbling. Care needs to be take on this leg, especially after storms. Never get too close to the cliff edge.
5 hours 29 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
This leg starts off at Chale Church. From the church turn right to follow the A3055 northwestwards. The road curves to the right; when a pub driveway comes in on the right, turn left down a footpath that runs westwards with a stream on the left. After a short distance a plank footbridge leads over the stream; continue on with the stream on the right until the top of the cliffs are reached. Cross another plank footbridge and start following the cliffs northwestwards.
These cliffs are subject to paid erosion, and the directions given below could change if there has been a cliff fall. Care should be taken, as some of the drops are severe. Follow the cliffs northwestwards for just under half a mile, passing the mouth of Walpen Chine; at SZ471780 the path turns to the right to head inland across a field to reach the main road once more.
Turn left and follow the main road northwestwards for a hundred yards. When a car park is reached on the left, turn left to follow the northern bank of Whale Chine back to the cliff edge. Follow the cliffs northwestwards for 1.6 miles until Shepherd's Chine is reached at SZ447797. Turn right and follow the southern bank of the chine for a short distance until steps lead down to the left. Follow these to the bottom of the chine, cross the stream and then turn left to head westwards with the stream on the left.
Take a path that leads up to the right from the mouth of the chine. At the top follow the cliffs northwestwards for a couple of hundred yards to the next chine, then turn right to follow the chine inland until a track is reached at SZ445801. Turn left and follow this track back towards the cliff edge; head through a gap in a hedge on the right to reach the cliff edge once more.
Follow the cliff edge northwestwards for 1.8 miles; it climbs up to the trig pillar on Barnes High before slowly descending to meet Marsh Chine at SZ420816. Some steps lead down to a footbridge at the bottom of the chine. Cross the footbridge and head straight on, passing a couple of static caravans before turning to the right to take an access driveway uphill. As this swings to the left, turn left to rejoin the clifftop path.
Head along the coast for half a mile until a track comes in by hedges at SZ410821. Follow this track up to the main road, and then turn left to follow the main road westwards for about a hundred yards, passing in front of Isle of Wight Pearl. The road crosses a chine; when a car park is reached on the other side turn left and follow a footpath that heads back to the cliff top.
Turn right and follow the cliff top path for 1.6 miles until Brook Green is reached at SZ386834. Here the path leaves the cliffs; turn right, keeping a low ruined building (an old lifeboat hut) on the left. Join a track and follow it up to the main road. Just before the main road is reached turn left to walk parallel to the road until a car park is reached. Take a path that heads from the left-hand side of the car park to rejoin the clifftop path.
Continue on northwestwards along the clifftop path for about 1.5 miles; it passes a fast-eroding car park and then climbs uphill to avoid a large area of slumping. Compton Chine is reached at SZ367851; a stile leads across the fence to access a footbridge over the chine. Cross this, then angle back uphill to another stile that gives access to the clifftop path.
The path climbs up once more, approaching and then running alongside the main road as it climbs. It follows a little bank on the left-hand side of the road until the brow of the head is reached, and then it heads off to the left, descending downhill westwards. It slowly approaches the cliff edge, then runs alongside it as Freshwater Bay is approached. Eventually some steps lead off to the left; take these down to the beach. Follow the beach westwards for a few yards past the lifeboat station, then turn right to head inland to reach Gate Lane opposite a car park.
Places of interest
Blackgang and Chale
Blackgang is a small village near the southernmost point of the Isle of Wight. It nestles below St Catherine’s Down and is at the very western end of the Ventnor Undercliffs. Landslips have literally changed the landscape, entirely removing all traces of a chine in the process. Similar landslips also destroyed the road that wound around the undercliffs towards Niton. The modern road at the top of the cliffs was its direct replacement.
It is home to an amusement park called Blackgang Chine, which includes attractions including one based around the BBC’s Coast series. It was the first such amusement park in Britain, first opening in the nineteenth century.
Chale is a small village situated slightly inland from Blackgang and the coast. It is a quiet, sleepy place that is perfectly summed up by its quiet church and a strangely-named pub, the Wight Mouse Inn. Nearby is Walpen Chine, a deep chasm that carries a stream down the high cliffs towards the beach below. Erosion means that much of Walpen Chine will soon disappear into the sea.
location UID #26
Freshwater Bay and Compton Down
Freshwater Bay is a little settlement nestled in a small crescent bay near the western tip of the Isle of Wight. High, friable cliffs stretch nearly ten miles southeastwards towards Chale, with few coastal settlements between.
To the west are the high hills of Compton Down, forming part of the chalk hills that cut from west to east across the island. A clear path runs along the spine of the ridge, and this forms a great walk with superb views that can be used as part of a seven-mile circular walk.
The bay is home to a hotel and various facilities, including a large car park and an independent lifeboat. An old Palmerston fort, Freshwater Redoubt, lies on the western side of the bay. This is now a private house.
Old photographs show the progress of erosion on this stretch of coast; the Arch and Stack rocks that projected out of the sea for many years are now just two stacks. They have been joined by a third, the Mermaid Rocks, which was formed by a rockfall in 1969.
location UID #27
Public transport is difficult on this stretch, and you have to change an Newport.
The infrequent Southern Vectis Route 12 service runs between Totland and Newport, calling at Freshwater Bay and Brightstone on the way.
From Newport, you would need to take the infrequent Southern Vectis Route 6 service, which runs between Newport and Ryde, calling at Chale on the way.