We had barely returned from cycling to Paris before the cycling bug had caught hold again. Feeling the need to get out back on two wheels we booked a 6:30am train from Waterloo to Southampton and a ferry to the Isle of Wight. The challenge was going to be to cycle around the perimeter of the Isle in a clockwise direction.
For once British Rail ran to time and we arrived in Southampton with just enough time to grab a McDonalds Big Breakfast each and jump on the ferry. Highlight: Marlon falling over in the queue to get on board when he forgot he was clipped in. In his defence it was only his second ever day wearing clips! The ferry crossing was smooth and we disembarked in East Cowes at 10am. The first mile along the tarmac path high above the rocky waterfront was smooth and scenic but disappointingly it did not last long – a landslip had covered a significant section of the road and had not been removed for quite some time. The thick vegetation forced us to return to our start point and pick up an A-road to Ryde.
The cycle to Ryde was fast and efficient but desperately boring and we were pleased that there was an excellent cycleway along the waterfront from Ryde to the Isle’s Eastern extremity at Bembridge. We made fast progress and enjoyed the views and arrived at an empty beach in Bembridge just before midday. Pausing only for photographs we took off at midday for Sandown where we planned to have lunch. The route was downhill for the first part and we made excellent progress, but the last 2k were a solid uphill worthy of the Tour de France and we were all relived when the hill eventually stopped at a viewpoint for lunch in the sun. Our next checkpoint was St. Catherine’s point – the most Southerly part of the Isle.
After lunch we flew back towards the sea and cycled for a while on the beach path underneath the massive cliffs. Just when we thought we were nearly there we had to climb one more severe uphill to get to the top of the cliffs, followed by a short but incredibly steep downhill to St. Catherines point itself.
When we arrived we saw for ourselves the damage that the sea had done to the coast – there were huge cracks in the walls and outbuildings of the lighthouse and the road itself had subsided in places, dropping a foot or more at times. We sat on the sea front, enjoyed the views and pondered what our ancestors must have thought when they had stood there and wondered what lay over the horizon, and what they must have thought the first time a sail appeared! After so much pondering we also realised that we would not be able to make it all the way around the Isle this time around so we decided we would return to Cowes via the fastest route – exactly north via Newport.
Given the change of schedule we suddenly had some time to kill and some of us used this time to swim in the freezing sea… and some didn’t!
Cycling north to Newport was one of the most enjoyable cycles we have ever done. The roads were smooth and well-maintained with just the right amount of gentle bends, sharp bends and ups and downs to make the riding fun. Thankfully there was also very little traffic and what cars there we saw were much more respectful than any in London! We had the wind behind us and made Newport in just 45minutes, having averaged an incredible 38km/hr on the way. From Newport to Cowes we joined a shaded cycleway alongside the River Medina and enjoyed the silence for the long cycle to Cowes
We finally arrived in West Cowes after completing our 80km round trip with ten minutes to spare before the foot ferry arrived to take us across to the main ferry terminal. The Red Funnel staff were incredibly helpful and held the linkspan down long enough for us to shoot across and into the ferry, which then departed immediately. On the ferry we remembered how hungry we were, which wasn’t surprising given how far we had come!
Back in Southampton we surprised even ourselves by cycling past all the possible food outlets in search of the one and only McDonalds, we didn’t care, we deserved it!