As David Howarth, of Isle of Wight Ramblers, puts it: ‘You can consider the Island as England in miniature, with limestone and sandstone cliffs, downland, woodland and open countryside. There are creeks and nature reserves. For the walker there is something for everyone, – there are easy, gated paths, as well as more challenging hills with far-reaching views across the whole Island and the Solent.’
With statistically far better weather, you are less likely to fall foul of the penetrating winds and foul weather that can flatten the experience of walking in other parts of the country. It is also quite hard to ever get lost: not only will Islanders always come to your aid, but the Island’s footpath network is carefully catalogue and numbered. Every parish has its own code, and every footpath within that parish has a number. Hence, BB21 is a footpath in Bembridge, those beginning in Newport start with ‘N’, and those in Cowes with ‘CS’…you get the idea.
As you walk around the Island you will become increasingly aware of the number of gates that replace stiles. This is the result of the Rambler’s Donate-a-gate scheme, where you can donate a gate that remembers a loved one. The idea is a rather nice touch and has more than 200 gates in place.
An excellent source of information for walkers can be found on the Isle of Wight Ramblers website. The group also sells a good booklet of walks, 12 Rambles by Bus, available both through the website and at the Isle of Wight Visitor Information Centre in Newport.
Over the next couple of years, the England Coast Path will be put in place around the Island, opening up access to parts of the coast and shoreline previously out of bounds to walkers.