Going for a walk along the edge of tall cliffs bordering the blue expanse of the sea on one side and lush green fields on the other is one of those quintessential English quirks like taking afternoon tea, having a sink with separate taps for cold and hot water and driving on the left side of the road. So, we had to indulge in it.
Our starting point was Castlehaven fishing beach…
and from there we walked all the way to the nearly two centuries old St. Catherine’s lighthouse…
all the while breathing deeply in the sea salty air of the English channel and taking in the Jurassic beauty of the Isle of Wight.
The Isle of Wight is a small piece of land separated from the mainland of England by means of the Solent strait and a ferry ride of about 40-45 minutes. We had arrived on the island on Friday evening for our annual visit to this beautiful and exciting place of which I have sung the praises in previous blog posts here, here, here and here (have a look, if you have a chance).
It was now Saturday late afternoon and with the dogs needing a bit of a walk, we all piled in my father-in-law’s car and drove down to Castlehaven following the pebbly, stony, rough road which takes you from the picturesque heights of the village of Niton down to the level of the sea.
The sea was angry and choppy. ‘See all those white horses?!’, said my father-in-law both describing in richer, more poetic English than I could ever achieve the rough state of the sea and enriching with yet another idiom my English vocabulary. The white horses he referred to were the white crests of the waves which at that point were coming from left, right and centre, due to the different underwater currents meeting at that place.
We parked the car and walked down to the Castlehaven beach. It was not one of those places with pure fine sand which you see plastered on the coverpages of tourist brochures. It was much more authentic than this.
With its shore covered by huge stones, smoothed by the constant movement of the sea, the beach was a haven for fishermen and surfers alike.
Picture-perfect huts huddled at the bottom of the steep slopes dipping down to the beach.
Several boats in straight lines were taking a well-deserved break after a taxing day of fishing. Piles of tangled fishing nets were lying on the floor.
Further away the smooth curve of Reeth Bay was getting a pounding by the strong breeze and incessant waves.
With hair whipped into total disarray we walked from the beach up the road to the adjacent Castlehaven Caravan Park.
Unfortunately, the beach cafe there had already closed for the day (and we were so looking forward to having ice-cream on the windy beach).
The caravan park, in all its vintage glory, was very peaceful.
A red phone booth at its entrance provided just a touch of English eccentricity.
A pile of surfing gear by the door of one of the caravans suggested that the people spending the weekend there were the active types rather than boring beach bums.
Planted right on the edge of the cliff, there was a patch with flowering shrubs and alliums.
It was all so quiet and beautiful!
From there the winding path led us through a wooden gate and we found ourselves in the big wide open space of Knowles Farm.
On our right hand side huge fields lay covered with dense tall grass which swayed back and forth with every whim of the wind.
Tall, green slopes finished the scene and from the spot we were at we could glimpse in the distance the line of pretty coastguard cottages with their typical for the Isle of Wight facades with white lacy trims.
Also far away ahead of us a herd of cows quietly grazed.
Right in front of us and yet some distance away stood the tall cylindrical body of St. Catherine’s lighthouse.
We started to walk towards it, following the path on the edge of the cliff.
Down there, several meters below our steps the sea hit and beat the shore with every angry wave.
Apparently, due to the constant erosion provoked by the water and the wind on the cliff claystone, a piece of land every now and then falls into the sea. In fact, just a little bit down the path, we came across a huge crack in the soil. We could look straight into it and see how deep it ran.
The piece of land was still attached to the cliff, but in a few weeks or so it would fall prey to the constant hunger of the sea.
The wind blew up our clothes. I stuffed the edges of my long shirt into the pockets of my jeans to stop it from billowing. A couple of walkers came toward us. Unlike me, they were perfectly dressed for the English summer weather. Long sleeves and wind-resistant jackets were the order of the day.
As they aligned with us, both we and them said a cheery ‘Hello!’ just like the hiking and the island etiquettes dictate. The walkers headed towards Castlehaven caravan park and we continued to St. Catherine’s lighthouse.
The breeze was getting stronger and more powerful by the minute. The sky was covered by imaginative clouds. Sunset was still about an hour or two away. With it being summer, the sun stays put in the sky late into the evening.
We laughed, walked and ran. The dogs chased us and then we chased the dogs. Soon we were by the stonewall surrounding the lighthouse and its adjacent buildings.
It was all so beautiful and peaceful!
We stopped for a minute or two, then we turned back, retraced our steps and returned to the car.
Have you been to the Isle of Wight? What did you like best there? Did you go for a walk along the cliffs? Let me know below.