Just in case you missed it, you can find part one here.
Day 3 A ticket to Ryde
So, The day the ultra event kicks in.
Our original plan had been to walk backwards from the official start point to miss the bulk of the participants. The buses however said no.
We’ve no other option than to just suck it up and carry on along the remainder of the coastline, from Yarmouth to Cowes.
As much as we attempted an early start, again we were limited by transport and so found ourselves setting off from the port, at mid-morning with the first of the ultra runners hot on our heels.
Much respect to these guys and girls – it’s something I could never do. It didn’t prove to be a problem though, a friendly bunch of people who had the grace to be amused at our forthcoming muddy antics.
A brief pleasant stroll along the waterfront, before it all went horribly, horribly wrong. This part of the coastline being home to plenty of marshland and waterways there is quite a lot of diversion inland. No sooner had we started then we were off through woodland.
Damp, muddy, woodland after the recent rain and now churned up the hordes of ultra runners.
We hop and carefully pick our way through, deciding that getting soaking wet feet before we’ve even walked our first mile is ridiculous.
I consult my map and there are some potential alternative paths and some slightly higher ground which we decide to aim for. This however requires picking our way through dense woodland and undergrowth.
I feel woefully underdressed without an explorers hat or binoculars, but we manage to bypass a large section of the muddy path.
What feels like 4000 miles later we have no choice but to rejoin the official path once again and deal with mud and brambles.
By this point we’ve honestly had enough.
Never mind blood, sweat and tears we’ve got a whole lot of blood, mud and swears going on. It’s safe to say we’re thrilled when this section is done.
With some relief we are back on the coast for a short section, before tackling a marsh. Soggy underfoot, but no mud luckily.
We lose the ultra runners for a while as their course is slightly shorter, focusing on a round 100km rather than the entire coastline. It has to be said the peace is appreciated.
Next follows a section of road walking, never much fun and now we are joined by the first wave of speed walkers with the bloody awful clacking of walking poles. Eurgh.
As we approach Newtown I insist we stop.
I’m tired, hungry, hot and in need of suncream, a pee and dry socks. It’s safe to say I’m a delightful little ray of sunshine. 😉
We spot a National Trust car park and property so we borrow the facilities and seek shade from the quirky old town hall – that’s not in a town. Odd.
We refuel then crack back on. Some pretty nondescript walking until we reach Thorness Bay.
A path running alongside the holiday park and a warning of mud.
A look at my map shows no alternative path and certainly no public access.
[Hindsight speaking: Trespass!]
By now the path truly churned up by the ultra runners. Sloppy, runny, deep mud is what remains of the entire path. The type of mud that would probably make us a fortune if we stripped to bikinis and wrestled in it, yet somehow we’ve got to walk though it.
There is nothing to help us pick our way through. All we can do is just walk and hope for the best. Or until your trainers get sucked off your feet (fresh socks dammit!) and as you try to wrestle them free, stuff starts falling out of your backpack as you slowly sink to below your ankles.
It’s safe to say I experience a complete sense of humour failure.
IoW Ultra Challenge – I bloody hate you. In all seriousness I feel there is more the event organisers could have done to prevent this happening, spoiling the area for locals and other visitors for their financial gain – not cool.
One fleeting moment of amusement though as we followed the footpath through the holiday park itself, as one terrified holiday maker could not disguise his horror at meeting my friend and I covered in mud. Not our fault buddy.
The walk around the coast to Cowes admittedly nothing special. This was definitely the worst day of walking.
With rising temperatures we were thrilled to finally reach Cowes and the opportunity to ride on the floating bridge back to our bus stop.
As we board our bus after a long, gruelling day. We are hot, tired and fed up but then the lady who boards the bus behind us actually asks for ‘A ticket to Ryde.’ Maybe the heat has gone to my head but I crack up, completely lose the plot. It’s ok though, she don’t care. 😉
Day 4 The one with all the lycra
It’s not an optimistic start to the day. We’re both pretty knackered, I’ve had blisters since I started and after a miserable day of walking the day before, the 17 miles we need to cover to finish the island seems pretty unlikely. We decide we’ll start early as we plan to walk from our base in Ryde, and to just walk as far as we can and then jump on a bus to cheat our way to our finish point. 😁
Surprisingly though, we don’t.
With the cooler early morning temperatures and some pleasant coastline views we make good distance along the path. We receive many a hero’s welcome from people assuming we’ve been walking all night as part of the ultra event and need cheering along. (I blame the cider.)
There are still plenty of ultra walkers about and they clearly all left their sense of humour in the mud too. Today though we are also joined by every single cyclist in the whole wide world, taking part in the Randonnee event. We seem to have woken up on the Isle of technical clothing.
Varied scenery and pert lycra clad bottoms 😉 certainly help the miles pass.
The house boats at Bembridge are quite something, although sadly the causeway was closed for repair so we had to find a long diversion. Pah!
From Bembridge and a consistently flat walk it’s now time to climb as we approach Culver Down, where I finally make an effort to find a geocache and then onto our intended lunch stop of Sandown.
During the entire walk we’ve dreamed of leisurely pub lunches, but it’s never quite worked out. Arriving in the town we quickly surmise that it’s still not going to happen, but I’m sure it would be a great place to visit if you needed to replace your kiss me quick hat. 😬
We decide to plough on through to Shanklin. It’s much nicer and we compromise with a traditional seaside cafe filled with the obligatory coach load of rowdy senior citizens. These guys and girls were brilliant, growing old disgracefully – it’s certainly the way to do things.
It’s always tricky getting started again once you’ve stopped, especially when you then have to climb 4 billion (Honest, I counted.) steps up to the coastal path. Phew!
Our next destination, the utterly delightful Bonchurch Landslip. Bonchurch landslip is a large area of woods and jumbled paths between Luccombe and Bonchurch villages. It features some remarkable landforms, cliffs, boulders and steep steps.
What a place! Ethereal woodland bursting with spring flowers and wild garlic and let’s not forget the wishing seat.
No prizes for guessing that I wished that the walk was over. 😉
And then just like that, the final stretch of our walk was ahead of us. Just the section towards Ventnor to cover. Like any last mile or so it felt more like 15 but the end was in sight.
We actually were going to manage our goal.
Spurred on by the thought of throwing my trainers in the bin, soothing feet in the sea and sinking an ice-cold cider.
It was soon to be.
Regular readers may remember that recently I had a whinge that there is never a celebratory fanfare when I complete a challenge walk. Well, the universe listened. As we
powered limped into Ventnor a local bar begins blasting out the song Gold by Spandau Ballet. A fitting tune to paddle in the cold sea to, as Tony Hadley crones how I’m indestructible.
You know what? He’s right.