On Monday the 24th April Andy Lacy, Joe Coulson, John Ellis, Simon Barker and myself met at John’s house on Hayling Island for our annual bike ride round the Isle of Wight. We set off in bright sunshine at 9am along the Billy Trail to the ferry which crosses from Hayling to Eastney, from where we took the cycle path along the seafront to Portsmouth Harbour.
We arrived just in time to board the rather plush new hybrid ferry to Fishbourne, and after enjoying a coffee on the 45 minute crossing we landed on the island. We made our way along a lovely track past Quarr abbey before reaching Ryde, then along the seafront to Nettlestone point and then a coastal path to Seaview. We then climbed a track that passed the quiet bays of Seagrove and St Helens, before dropping down to skirt the edge of Bembridge Harbour, with an array of houseboats lining its shore. One of these one of these was a smart looking café, perfect for our lunch stop. Unfortunately it was full, so we carried on to the town where we passed 4 more cafes that were all closed on Mondays, luckily the 5th one a lovely bakery was open. We were served a very nice lunch, along with real tea complete with strainers. From here we had our first road section to Sandown and our pre booked Hotel for the night, having kept an eye on the sky all day for the predicted rain showers we hadn't hung around and arrived just after 3pm, earlier than expected still in sunshine having covered a total of 28.3 miles from the start.
After checking in and storing our bikes in the Hotel we went to explore the town, and to our amazement half the Hotels along the once grand seafront were either derelict or in ruins. We cheered ourselves up with a walk to the end of the pier and then enjoyed a very nice 3 course meal in the Hotel followed by a nightcap and a few games of pool in a local pub.
After a good night's rest and a hearty breakfast we set off again in bright sunshine heading inland along a disused railway track called the Red Squirrel trail towards Newport. This runs alongside the river Yar and is also a nature trail ; Joe kept us informed of all the wildlife we saw along the way, including the rare sighting of 2 White tailed Sea Eagle’s and a little Egret, plus the sound of lots of different birdsong.
The river Yar meets the river Medina in the centre of the Island, and we followed this through the busy town of Newport and onto another disused railway cycle path that follows the river to its estuary at Cowes. We then crossed the Medina by means of a chain ferry from West to East Cowes, and had a coffee stop in the sun overlooking the harbour.
There was then a slog uphill on road past Queen Victoria's former residence Osborne House, then quiet lanes back past Wootton Creek to the ferry at Fishbourne. Having pushed fairly hard to catch the 1.20 sailing and arriving at 1.10 there was some disappointment in discovering that it was no longer running, having switched to summer schedules the previous day, after some deliberation we decided to have lunch at a nearby pub and wait for the 3pm ferry.
We landed back in Portsmouth at 3.40 and had to dash along the seafront to catch the 4.10 ferry to Hayling, which we made with 5 mins to spare. The last few miles along the Billy Trail were covered at a more leisurely pace, and we rounded of the trip with an ice cream still in sunshine overlooking Langstone harbour. According to John’s Strava track we had covered 65.5 miles over the 2 days with an elevation gain of 1,959 ft and a riding time of 7h 30m, and despite a forecast of showers on day 1 we enjoyed sunshine all the way.