Each year thousands of people stand up and raise money for charity (the Earl Mountbatten Hospice) by joining in on a mass walking day. Walk the Wight is the culmination of the Isle of Wight walking festival and over the last few years has grown into a huge event. Each year Real Isle of Wight take the challenge of completing the full walk starting at Bembridge airport and finishing some 26 and a half mile late with a pint and a medal in Alum Bay. The main walk takes you across the Island from Bembridge airport to the Needles via Carisbrooke castle. Throughout the walk the views are amazing and you get to see all of the island in one day!! It has become an annual tradition and this year the Real Isle of Wight completed it for the fifth time.
As always the weather was not in our favour with super strong winds from the start, however for most of the walk, save 5 minutes on Tennyson down, we stayed dry. It was noticeable this year that there were fewer walkers taking on the challenge (however we were super-fast and they could have been lagging behind!!), but it did not detract from the atmosphere.
The main walk is broken down to two sections;
Bembridge to Carisbrooke – Starting from Bembridge airport you are immediately puffing for air after the steepest hill on the entire walk up to culver down monument although the views for the top can take your breath away (if you have any left that is). From here the walk takes you down in to the town of Braiding (the first toilet stop of the walk) before climbing again onto the downs and through to Arreton. At the barns is the next main pit stop with drinks stations, shops to buy food and porter loos. From Arreton the walk climbs again up to the downs above Newport, passed the golf course before descending through a forest and onto the Sandown to Newport cycle track. One more climb and you are at your goal, (or half way point) Carisbrooke castle.
Carisbrooke Castle-Alum Bay. A super picturesque start to this portion of the walk starts with circling the castle itself before climbing up onto the Tennyson trail. You are on this path for a number of miles and enjoy views across the island and onto the mainland. Descending through a forest you encounter the first of four step climbs. The start of Brighstone downs is your first hill, and toilet break after Carisbrooke. At the top your first glimpse of the military road and Freshwater bay. This part of the walk is totally over shrub fields and there are a few up and downs before walking through Freshwater golf course and into Freshwater bay. It feels like you are home and dry but there are still a few more miles to come!!!. A steep trek to Tennyson monument and a walk across the westerly point of the island see you reach your destination, medal and well-earned pint.
The key is to prepare!!! Get in a number of practice walks beforehand to ensure that you are used for walking 10 hours. The right clothing and footwear is essential and I would suggest that jeans and your best shoes are out of the question
Shorter walks were available throughout the day including the child walk, from Freshwater bay up to Tennyson monument and the flat walk from Sandown to Carisbrooke following the cycle path.
Busses were laid on from numerous destinations to take you to the start of the walk and back to your car. There were also many points on the walk where you can catch the public bus back to your destination if the walk becomes too much and in previous years as well as this one your walking number has counted for your fair home!
Now this walk is not for the faint hearted!! 26 miles seams easy, however the number or hills and soft (sometimes muddy and uneven) terrain can leave its mark, and this year was no exception Take into consideration the changeable and blowy weather that the Island (and England) enjoys it can be a long day. Do not let this put you off though as people of all ages, shapes and sizes complete the walk in fact on the day an 82 year old smashed the walk. If you are thinking about taking on the challenge next year, or in your spare time the key things to remember are;
Give yourself enough time – Aim to start early. The best advice is to start when the walk opens at 6.30. this will allow you to continue at your own pace, and as walkers are advised to not continue at a certain time at Freshwater Bay, means there is no panic. Walking at a pace of around 3 miles an hour, with toilet and lunch stops mean that you will complete the walk in 10 hours.
Dress appropriately – Comfortable shoes and dry socks (take a spare pair) are a must to avoid the dreaded walk the wight blister. Also wear light weight layers and a few of them so you can take off and put on according to the weather conditions. I would also recommend light weight waterproof jackets and trousers so you can make the walk as comfortable as possible. Do not forget a hat and sun cream just in case as 10 hours walking in the sun can leave you looking like a lobster.
Keep topped up – Although there are plenty of water stations along the route make sure to take plenty of water. I would suggest 2 litres which although heavy at the start will make your bag feel lighter towards the end. Also pack enough food (although not enough to feed an army which I have been guilty of in the past) to last the day. Little and often is my trick so you don’t feel sleepy after a large feed. And last a bag of your favourite sugary treat to boost moral!
Don’t forget to register – The walk requires all participants to register on-line before the day of the walk itself in order to receive their number, sponsorship form and walking guide. This is a simple form and can be completed in minutes.
Price – Free (registration required)
Time 10 hours for the full walk