The first half of this leg is a long road plod with little to complement it. Initially this is along a main road that has a good pavement, before diverting off along a country lane. Things get better past Wooton Bridge, when the trail follows path through rural countryside. Although this is a coastal trail, the sea is only approached right at Ryde at the end of the leg.
3 hours 22 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 (and the Isle of Wight Coastal Path) starts off at the chain ferry landing in East Cowes at SZ501955. Leave the ferry and follow the A3021 Ferry Road northeastwards for a couple of hundred yards until it forks. Take the right-hand fork and follow the A3021 York Road as it heads uphill. Continue along this road for 1.7 miles as it climbs uphill and curves around, passing the entrance to Osborne House and a roundabout (not marked on old OS maps) on the way. There is a pavement the entire time, although it is occasionally necessary to cross the road as the pavement swaps from one side to the other.
When a road junction is at SZ516933 turn left down Alverstone Road. Follow this road east-southeastwards for 1.5 miles until it ends at a road junction with Palmers Road at SZ537924. Turn left along Palmers Road for a few yards, and then turn right to head eastwards along Footways for a fifth of a mile until it ends at a T-junction. Turn left for a couple of yards, and then turn right down a footpath that initially heads down a driveway before squeezing past fences.
This footpath soon ends beside some garages; turn left down the access road to reach St Edmund's Walk. Turn right to head downhill along this road for about a hundred yards. Just after Whitehead Crescent comes in on the left (and before the road curves to the left), turn right past some garages. This leads to another path on the left, which can be followed downhill between fences. It becomes School Lane, which then ends at a T-junction with New Road. Turn right to head south along New Road, but before the main road is reached turn left along a footpath that soon ends at the Sloopm Inn on the (inaccurately-named) Mill Square beside Wooton Bridge.
Cross the bridge and continue uphill along the A3054 road. After a third of a mile, at SZ551921, turn left along another footpath. This heads north and then north-northeast for a third of a mile. At SZ553926 turn right along another footpath that brings you out onto the B3331 road. Turn left and follow this road as it heads northeastwards for a quarter of a mile, passing the entrance to Fishbourne ferry terminal on the way.
When the Fishbourne Inn is reached at SZ557928 turn right along a lane called Quarr Road. This heads in a rough easterly direction for a little over a mile. Quarr Road is left at SZ570925 as a path leads off to the left, joining a driveway beside some gates to reach a road in Binstead at SZ574927. Turn left along this road and follow it as it immediately swings to the right to meet another road. Turn left along this road and follow it northwards for about fifty yards to Binstead Church. The road curves to the right beside the church to head eastwards; as the road curves to the left continue straight on along another path.
Follow this surfaced path eastwards as it descends down to a stream, with Ryde Golf Course on either side. It curves to the right slightly to head east-southeastwards; half a mile after the church it goes through some gates and reaches a complex road junction beside the A3054. Do not head towards the A3054, but instead turn half-left down a track called Spencer Road. This heads northeastwards downhill before curving to take a more easterly course. Continue along Spencer Road until it ends at a T-junction with St Thomas's Road at SZ590927 (1). Turn left and follow St Thomas's Road as it heads downhill and curves to the right to head northeastwards. Join the esplanade through Ryde; the bus and railway stations are a few yards away on the left.
(1) The map and some guides have the coast path turning left from Spencer Road down Buckingham Road from SZ590926; this road then curves around to reach St Thomas's Road slightly downhill from the route described above. The signs on the ground follow the route described above. There is little difference in either route.
Places of interest
Cowes is a bifurcated town, split into two by the ria of the River Medina. It faces the South Coast of England across the Solent, and is one of the main routes onto the island, with a fast passenger ferry docking in West Cowes and a vehicle ferry in East Cowes, both from Southampton.
The town has a rich and varied shipbuilding history, a sign of which is the massive 1912-built Hammerhead crane that dominates the skyline of the Medina. Many vessels - including destroyers - were built on the Medina, the industry finally closing in recent years. This industry led to some interesting sidelines; flying boats were constructed in East Cowes, including the massive and ill-fated Princess class boats; and the first hovercrafts were built and developed in the yards.
The industrial heritage continues to this day. Both BAE Systems and GKN have facilities in the town, and Vestas are opening a new research and development building a couple of miles upriver.
Nowadays, however, the town is most famous for yachting, and it is the home of the world-famous Cowes Regatta, held in August every year since 1826. The races start off from Cowes Castle, now under the guardianship of the Royal Yacht Squadron. This has leant West Cowes a certain dignified air, whilst East Cowes has languished somewhat. However that situation is being rectified and the centre of East Cowes is improving all the time.
location UID #3
Cowes Floating Bridge
The Cowes Floating Bridge is a chain ferry that links the two halves of the town across the Medina. A bridge could not originally be built due to the masts of the ships that plied the river, so in 1859 a chain ferry was purchased from the Itchen in Southampton to cross the river, replacing the existing row boats and pontoon. Since then there have been seven other ferries, although at times there were two running across the river simultaneously. The ferry is a vital service; the alternative route inland via Newport is ten miles long and difficult, even with the island’s good public transport.
location UID #4
Osborne House is a large stately home situated nearly to the northern coast of the Isle of Wight. Queen Victoria fell in love with the location, and bought the property in the early 1840s. The existing house was too small, and so a magnificent Renaissance-styled house was built between 1845 and 1851. It is complemented by the addition of two Belvedere towers that must allow superb views over the Solent.
Queen Victoria loved the house, and it is fitting that she spent the last days of her life there. Her children were less enamoured of the house, and it was gifted to the nation. It saw various uses, including as a Naval Training College and an officers’ convalescent home. It is now in the care of English Heritage, and is open to the public.
Sadly, this is not true for the grounds, and the coastal path has to take a long inland diversion around them. A more coastal route would grant many advantages to this trail.
location UID #5
Wooton Bridge is a village situated at the head of Wooton Creek, with a millpond stretching south on the other side from the road bridge. It is a pleasant place despite the presence of the main road, and there is much to see in the views down the creek.
The village has an active historical society with a web presence at http://woottonbridgeiow.org.uk/. The village has a pub, the Sloop Inn, which is situated right by the bridge.
location UID #6
Fishbourne is a little settlement nestled on the eastern bank of Wooton Creek. It consists of house stretching down from the road towards the sea, but the main focus is on the large ferry terminal that delivers vehicles from Portsmouth.
location UID #7
The massive red-brick Quarr Abbey has an air of permanence that belies its true age. The Benedictine monastery was completed in 1921, and is home to around a dozen monks. It is often open to visitors, and includes a shop and tea garden.
Some ruins down the hill are a sign of the much older Cistercian monastery, which lasted from its foundation in 1132 through to the Dissolution. It was a rich and powerful abbey, so much so that it was given permission to fortify with walls and sea gate; the trail passes the ruins of the walls. Part of the monastery has survived, having been incorporated into a farmhouse, and again good views of these can be had from the trail.
The current monastery was founded in the early years of the twentieth century and the magnificent church soon followed, being completed just before the First World War.
location UID #8
Ryde is a small seaside resort facing the Solent. It is fronted by a large expanse of sand at low tides, which makes it a popular place for visitors in the summer months. The sands also led to the construction of the three long piers that dominate the seafront. A long promenade runs eastwards from the town, passing Puckpool Point before finally ending in Seaview.
The town is the terminus of the sole remaining railway on the Isle of Wight, which skirts the eastern side of the island to reach the town before extending over the pier. It also has regular bus services to Newport, Ventnor and East Cowes. A passenger ferry runs to the pier head and a hovercraft to the shore near the bus station. When combined with the vehicle ferry that disembarks at nearby Fishbourne, the town earns a claim to be the gateway to the island.
location UID #9
Ryde Pier - the fourth longest in the UK - is actually three piers alongside each other, and as such is perhaps the largest such pier in the country.
The first pier was opened in 1814 and was later extended to 681 metres; this is the pier that currently carries both vehicles and people. In 1864 a tramway pier was opened alongside it, and in 1880 a third was built alongside the tramway pier to carry trains to the pier head. Cars can drive and park at the pier head, which is surely unique in the country.
In 1969 the tramway pier was closed, but its piles have since been occasionally reused during maintenance on the other piers. Unlike many piers the vast structure at Ryde has an assured future, the problem of the expanse of sands only partially being solved by the hovercraft.
A walk along the pier is always worth it at both low and high tides, and the walk can be combined with a train ride back to the shore.
There was another pier at Ryde: the Victoria Pier opened in 1864. Its ferry service did not last long, and it was finally demolished after a lifetime of barely five decades.
location UID #10
There are a couple of ways to get back from Ryde to West Cowes; a good one is to take the hourly Southern Vectis route 4 from Ryde to East Cowes. You can then catch the floating bridge across the River Medina and walking to the ferry terminal in West Cowes.
Alternatively, route 9 operates every ten minutes during the day from Ryde to Newport, and then the very frequent route 1 runs from Newport back to the ferry terminal in West Cowes.