(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)
This was my 2nd time in the Isle of Wight. I have been here last year with my family and we drove to the Needles Park on the last day of our visit. We could not, however, drive to the Batteries where the big guns used to be. My younger son was already tired and I knew if we walked all the way up hill (it is a considerable walk) I would likely have to carry him.
So in this visit to the Isle of Wight one of my goals was to go the the Needles Battery and see the sea from there.
I left Ryde at about 11 in the morning after a nice full English Breakfast in the B&B I was staying, which I do recommend, by the way. It´s called Kasbah and they are very friendly and welcoming. Rather than a traditional B&B it is more like a small hotel, with nice on-suite rooms, TV and comfortable beds.
During Breakfast I phoned a number of B&Bs and Guesthouses in the Village of Freshwater, which is near the Needles Park. No rooms available. Camping was also not an option as it was too cold, windy and rainy at night and even if I wanted to, most camping grounds where not yet open for the season.
So I decided to call B&Bs in my next destination, which was Ventnor, a village about 20 miles or 32 Km away – Success, but at a 40% higher price. With accommodation reserved for the night I started my ride letting Google guide me all the way. The first part of the ride, is the route from Ryde to Newport, the island´s biggest town.
I was already familiar with this route because last year I did a 62 Km ride in one day (1/2 way around the Island) which included this ride from Ryde to Newport. Most of the ride is done on roads, but there are stretches of shared cycle ways. The ride follows the National Cycle Route 22.
To my surprise I even found people riding horses on that road, which must have really pissed the drivers behind them 🙂
Had I found accommodation in Freshwater, I intended to take National Cycle Route 23 and ride to Cowes and Yarmouth and then to the Needles (if not too late in the evening) or stay in Freshwater. Given I had to ride south to Ventnor, I decided for a more direct route to the Needles.
There are portions of this ride with high traffic of vehicles, mostly cars, vans, buses and small trucks. One particular point on the B3401 is a considerable climb in a very narrow part of the road.
I think that was the only moment in the 2 days of ride in the Isle of Wight that I was concerned for my safety, but that was a very small distance, of perhaps less than a kilometre. The problem is to climb with a heavy bike, slows you down too much, with cars passing inches from you at times.
The rest of the ride was reasonably uneventful with fields and farms often on both sides of the road.
When I arrived at the Needles Park was already past 3pm in the afternoon, so I went straight up the cliff in the direction of the batteries. I did have to push the bike a part of the way up as the wind, together with the climb was making it very difficult to pedal on a loaded bike.
You can walk around the new batteries, but there isn´t much to see, apart from the wonderful sea views.
To enter the old batteries, which is maintained by English Heritage you need to pay a fee of £6.00, which, given the time I thought wasn´t worth it. So once I had a look around I rode the way down to the park and had a cup of coffee.
There I realized I was without mobile phone signal, so I had to guess the way to Ventnor for a mile until signal was restored and I realized I was going slightly off course.
I wanted to ride to Ventnor on the A3055, also known as Military Road, as this is a coastal road that offer excellent sea views along the way.
(I was told there used to be missile silos in the island during the cold war, but could not find any evidence of that... well, they would have probably hidden the silos anyway, right?)
About half way there, Google directed me to take a detour, which I knew was to avoid the A3055 because from that point onwards the traffic increases substantially, but also, probably, to spare me from the climbs I knew I had to do, because I had already ridden this part last year (on an “empty” bike though).
Turns out, when I arrived in the B&B in Ventnor my hosts told me there had been a land slide and the road was blocked from a certain point onwards. Had I continued on the A3055 I would have had to turn back and take the detour anyway, so thank you Google.
Riding through little villages and farm houses, using small country lanes was indeed better and although there were a few climbs, they were much less difficult than those on the A3055.
As I arrived in Ventnor, the time was 6:30pm, the sun had gone completely bringing the temperature down to a chili 5C.
Were the weather friendlier, I would have probably done a much different ride today, but when you are touring one of the things you do is to improvise.
It rained all night that night and weather was predicting heavy rain the next day (which thankfully didn´t actually happen), so I decided to cut my “Tour de Isle of Wight” short and head home the next day.
The video below is more than 8h of riding compressed in less than 8 minutes (5 seconds time-lapse).