Luccombe Hall to Ventnor Botanic Gardens and Return – Sunday 24th November 2013
Distance: 9 Miles. Time: 3 Hours (Excluding Breaks)
Local Walks 24th Nov
Walk includes scenic views, winding pathways through the undercliff, plenty of steps, one of my favourite pubs, a bracing coastline revetment and the hidden gem of Steephill Cove – with the guarantee of mud on your boots if tackled this time of year.
From the hotel car park, turn left, walking up hill along Luccombe Road, passing Haddon's Pits on your left with views over Sandown Bay (Pic 1) before keeping left and descending into the undercliff. Follow this winding path, avoiding the recently fallen trees (Pic 2), for around 15 minutes until you pass Dunnose Magna on your right, then just after where a road turns to your right you will see a signpost with steps ascending on your right (Pic3). Take these steps onwards and upwards until you reach a clearing, then on to a small car park adjacent to Smugglers Haven which, sadly, is closed this time of year. Follow the A3055 Leeson Road into Ventnor for about a mile taking in the occasional sea views to your left, then where the road turns sharp left take St Boniface Road on your right, then fork left down Spring Hill and into the High Street. Follow the road around to the left then head down Pier Street (Pic 4) passing the Winter Gardens and on to the esplanade. At the far end of the bay (Pic 5) The Spy Glass Inn awaits your arrival and the first three miles of your walk are completed.
Suitably refreshed, head on upwards through the car park and follow the coastal path past Castle Cove with its line of rock sea defences and into Steephill Cove, a must visit hidden beach in the summer, but rather forlorn this time of year (Pic 6). At the far end of the bay follow the path upwards, taking first left then first right up to the coastal path by Ventnor cricket pitch. Turn left along this path until you come to the botanic gardens on your right. Follow this fence until you come to a convenient gap and enter to explore the varied subtropical and exotic plants thriving in the microclimate of the Undercliff (Pic 7). If you feel inclined to pay for your visit you need to head up past the tearooms – it appeared closed on my visit (Pic 8). The solitude added to the enjoyment of exploring the varied flora without the diversion of noise from the many people who visit this attraction during the summer.
Head back to the coastal path and retrace your steps until you come to the end of the cricket pitch then head left, up Love Lane to Steephill Road. Turn right and follow the road until you come to Ventnor Park on your right where you can follow the path by the stream (Pic 9) then back to the main road past Eversley Hotel, take the right hand fork then turn right opposite Royal Hotel and follow the twisting road down past the car park and back along Ventnor Esplanade and another chance to stop for refreshments with five and a half miles now completed.
At the end of the esplanade keep right and follow the revetment past the harbour, car park and holiday homes at Wheelers Bay for about twenty minutes, past Horseshoe Bay and into Monks Bay where the revetment ends. Walk onto the beach then take the first pathway on the left leading up into the undercliff where you will meet the coastal path. Follow the path into the Landslip where you will see much evidence of the land movement which often cuts off sections of this walk until a new route can be cut through. Steps and benches can be seen at peculiar angles. Some of the trees are very ancient and grow in a distorted fashion (Pic 10). This part of the route can be very muddy as I discovered myself. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional red squirrel (Pic 11), easier to see this time of year and not yet hibernating.
Look out for the wishing seat on your left. You need to sit down on it first before making your wish – but remember to keep it secret (Pic 12). Eventually you should meet up with the path you started out on near Dunnose Magna. Retrace your steps back through the undercliff, past the Luccombe Jam Man's table (Pic 13), a chance to purchase a reminder of your day. A nice downhill slope towards the hotel hopefully gives you the chance to walk off much of the mud collected during your walk.