Isle of Wight Coastal Path: Shalfleet to West Cowes
This first half of this leg stays inland from the coast, heading past a danger area before reaching the sea at a caravan park. After this some wonderful clifftop walking with expansive views of the south coast of England leads to Gurnard Bay. Here the character of the leg changes; a promenade leads on for a couple of miles, passing Egypt Point before reaching West Cowes.
3 hours 51 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 from the New Inn in Shalfleet, shortly downhill from the church. Turn left to head down Mill Road, passing the New Inn on the left. This heads northwards for a couple of hundred yards. When the track splits just after a car park on the left, turn right to take a track that leads down towards Shalfleet Mill.
Keep the mill on the right as the track becomes a path that crosses a stream. Continue along the track on the other side as it climbs steeply; at the top it curves to the right to meet another track at about SZ416895. Turn left and follow this track eastwards for a few hundred yards until it ends at a T-junction with Corf Road.
Turn left and follow Corf Road northeastwards for nearly half a mile; shortly after it curves to the right turn left along Town Lane. Follow this northwards for 0.4 miles; it descends to cross the end of Causeway Lake and then climbs to pass to the left of the Town Hall. When a road comes in from the left shortly after this, turn right to go through a pedestrian gate beside a larger gate.
This footpath heads east-southeastwards across a series of long fields. Initially there are hedges on either side; it eventually opens out and the path becomes vague on the ground as it continues in roughly the same direction. It passes through a band of trees before reaching a road at SZ429903. Turn right and follow this road as it curves to the left to take a more easterly course. After a mile it curves to take a more northerly course, passing the Sportsman's Rest pub in Porchfield. Continue on for half a mile after the pub until he road starts to curve to the right at SZ451917.
Cross a stile and head north, initially with some woodland on the right. At the end of the field cross a stile and continue on with a hedge on the right, becoming a muddy track as it continues northwards. When a caravan park is reached, turn right to head south of South Thorn Farm to reach Thorness Lane at SZ451925. Turn left and follow this road as it heads northwards for a short distance before it curves to the left. Immediately after the bend turn right along another footpath that heads across some pasture before ending at a track in a holiday park.
Turn right and start following a track northeastwards through the park; there is good signage. The track passes the main park buildings on the right and continues northeastwards until the beach is reached at SZ454933. Turn right and start following the path as it runs between the beach on the left and the marshland on the right. When a concrete bridge across a stream is reached after 0.4 miles at SZ459936 turn right to cross the bridge, and then turn immediately to the left to join a footpath.
This footpath starts climbing uphill with a field on the right and the cliff edge on the left; it remains stuck to the cliff edge for over a mile, slowly climbing. Cliff erosion is a problem here, so care needs to be taken. It eventually starts to descend, curving to the right to reach a road beside the mouth of the River Grunard at SZ470953.
Follow this road as it heads eastwards parallel to the coast for half a mile, eventually heading uphill before ending at a junction with Worsley Road at SZ477955. Turn left along this road and follow it as it curves to the right; shortly after the bend turn left down a paved footpath. This descends to meet the same road; continue straight on along Shore Road. This crosses a stream and then curves to the left to head north, becoming Prince's Esplanade.
Prince's Esplanade soon meets the coast; leave the road and join the esplanade as it heads northeastwards along the coast for half a mile to Egypt's Point, becoming Egypt Esplanade on the way. Continue on eastwards for another half a mile until Cowes Castle is reached. The esplanade curves to the right and continues on southeastwards towards West Cowes.
The esplanade ends at SZ495963. Turn right to had along a narrow lane that passes the Union Inn to reach another road in the centre of the town. Turn left along this road, and follow it as it winds southwards for a few hundred yards. Just before the Fountain Inn is reached on the left, turn left through an archway to reach the ferry landing, where this leg ends.
Places of interest
Shalfleet, the Newtown River and Newtown
The Newtown River is an expansive flooded river valley on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight. It is a fairly remote area, with only two small villages bordering the river. The northeastern side of the river is inaccessible due to the presence of an army firing range.
Shalfleet is a small village situated on the A3054 at the first crossing point of the Newtown River. It has a lively pub and a church with a massive square tower.
Newtown is a little hamlet - scarcely more than a collection of houses - on a promontory on the eastern side of the river. It is dominated by a large and impressive building standing beside on its own beside the road. This is the Old Town Hall, a superb building of red brick with stone dressings that was built around 1699. It is now in the care of the National Trust.
Although a tiny place nowadays with no facilities, it was once an important port called Francheville; in 1344 it was twice the value of Newport, which is now the islandís capital. Unfortunately it was occasionally sacked, and a particularly bad raid in 1377 led to much of the town being burnt. By 1559 it had declined, but that did not stop it returning two MPs from 1584 until the Great Reform Act in 1832.
location UID #36
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
The half-hourly Southern Vectis Route 7 service runs between Alum Bay and Newport, calling at Shalfleet on the way.