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Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde

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Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde
Author: Claire, Published: 22 Feb 2017 Walk Rating:star1 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide star1 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide star1 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide star1 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide star0 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide
Isle of Wight, Sandown
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde
Length: 8 miles,  Difficulty: boot Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide boot Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide boot Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide
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0018_cloudy_with_heavy_rain Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide Today's weather
16 °C, Light rain, Wind: 9 mph S
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An 8 mile (can be shortened to 7 miles) linear walk from Sandown rail station on the Isle of Wight. This well-known route, known as The Nunwell Trail, walks from coast to coast in the eastern part of the island, passing over a high chalk ridge. There is plenty of interest along the way, including a heritage steam rail line and a wetland nature reserve where you will have chance to see plenty of birds and maybe even a red squirrel or two. From the top of Brading Down the panoramic views are superb, encompassing the whole of the eastern half of the island. The return leg can be completed with a single 15-minute train journey.

The walk has several climbs and descents throughout, including a fairly steep section to the top of Brading Down. Some sections of the downs can be very muddy and slippery after wet weather so good boots are a must. There are no stiles on route, but you will need to negotiate some kissing gates and steps. Whilst most of the paths are fenced away from livestock, you will need to cross four grass pastures. These were empty when we walked (in February) but could be holding livestock (sheep or cattle) at times. There are several sections of walking along the edge of roads that need particular care (including one stretch across a busy bridge) so we would not recommend this walk for children. There is one rail crossing at an official but unsignalled crossing point, so look and listen carefully for trains before you proceed. There are no facilities along the way, but plenty of options in both Ryde and Sandown. Allow 4 hours.

The walk starts at Sandown rail station on the Isle of Wight and ends at Ryde Esplanade rail station (alongside the hovercraft and ferry terminals). The two stations are connected by a direct train that takes about 15 minutes. If you are coming from the mainland, you can easily catch a ferry or hovercraft from Portsmouth to Ryde and then catch the train to Sandown to begin the walk. If you are coming by car, Sandown rail station has its own small car park. Approximate post code PO36 9FE.

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Walk Sections

Start to Golf Course
Start to Golf Course

Start point: 50.657 lat, -1.1619 long
End point: 50.6617 lat, -1.169 long

Standing in the station car park with your back to the station building, walk ahead across the car park to reach the road junction at the car park entrance. Turn right (signed as Cycle Route 23 to Newport) along the pavement. Where the road swings left, keep straight ahead on the tarmac footpath. As you reach the gate ahead, turn right to pass through the rail underpass via the pair of staggered barriers. Cross the zebra crossing ahead, turn right along the far pavement for just 20 paces and then fork left onto the tarmac footpath (signed as Footpath SS35 Nunwell Trail).

Follow this tarmac path, passing the rugby grounds and army cadet building on your left, before emerging to a road. Bear right to follow the road (taking care of any traffic), passing the athletics track on your left. Stay with the road as it swings left and then right, passing the entrance of Shanklin and Sandown Golf Club on your left (do NOT go through this entrance). Just a few metres after the entrance, turn left onto Bridleway SS47 and keep straight ahead on this vehicle track, passing the rear of the clubhouse on your left.

Golf Course to Alverstone Bridge
Golf Course to Alverstone Bridge

Start point: 50.6617 lat, -1.169 long
End point: 50.6665 lat, -1.1841 long

Simply keep straight ahead on the vehicle track, passing through a storage area and then continuing into woodland. Ignore all the footpaths signed off to the left and eventually the bridleway leads you over a wooden footbridge to reach a wooden gate ahead. This marks the entrance to Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve so please obey any local signage about when to keep dogs on leads.

Pass through the gate, walk ahead across the narrow grass field and exit via the next gate ahead. Follow the narrow bridleway path which turns sharp right and then arcs steadily left around the fenced meadow on your left. This hay meadow is rich with wild flowers, including yellow rattle and marsh orchids, and is harvested in late August every year.

Ignore the first footpath signed off to the right and, at the next signed junction (just after passing Daffodil Cottage on your left), turn right onto Footpath NC17 to Alverstone. Pass through the wooden squeeze gap and here you will find an information board, carved bench and bird hide (which is well worth a visit) on your right.

Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve is a beautiful mosaic of wetlands, woodland and meadows. It is an important haven for lots of wildlife. The meadows with their old ditch drainage systems are hunted by barn owls, kingfishers and herons. The wet willow woodland is rich with ferns, sedges, marsh marigolds and water voles while the higher oak, hazel and cherry woodland is home to plenty of birds and mammals including woodcock and dormice. Red squirrels are resident in the wood and measures have been taken to further encourage them, including the planting of hazel.

When you have finished in the hide, keep ahead on the woodland path through the nature reserve. Pass through the kissing gates, continue down a set of steps and join the boardwalk through the wetland area. Stay with the beautiful boardwalk path, passing through another kissing gate along the way and finally emerging to the road via one more kissing gate. Turn right along the road and it will lead you into the village of Alverstone, crossing Alverstone river bridge.

Alverstone Bridge to Brading Down Road
Alverstone Bridge to Brading Down Road

Start point: 50.6665 lat, -1.1841 long
End point: 50.6789 lat, -1.1728 long

This stone bridge over the River Yar marks the boundary between the parishes of Newchurch and Brading. Beyond the bridge, keep ahead and ignore the cyclepaths signed each side along the old rail line. You will notice the old station, now a house, on your left. This is a good place to pause and understand some village history.

Alverstone is said to derive its name from an early Saxon one meaning Aelfred's Farm. The river and railway once ran side by side to Newchurch, but now the rail line is a cycleway. The old Alverstone Mill, now a dwelling, was mentioned in the Domesday Book. During the last war, when all the beaches were closed, Alverstone became a favourite place for outings, with the mill, boats on the river and a charming tea-garden on the river-bank. Ten of the village houses were built in the 1800s by Richard Webster, who later became Lord Alverstone, Lord Chief Justice. There is no public house, and by the deeds laid down by Lord Alverstone it is unlikely that there ever will be one, for he was against the taking of strong drink and liquor. Tap the listen button below (App only) to hear another local village tale…

Keep ahead on the village road between properties. Just after passing Alverstone Old School Hall on your left, the main road swings right. Do NOT follow this, instead go straight ahead on the smaller road, Kern Road, marked as a no-through-road and Byway B33a. Where this minor road swings left, keep ahead on the bridleway track which soon diminishes to become an unmade bridleway between hedgerows.

Follow this hedge-lined bridleway for some distance, climbing steadily all the way. As you approach a stile ahead, do NOT take it, instead stay with the bridleway which bears left at this point. This next section climbs more steeply (and can be slippery) so take care. Remember to turn around a few times to enjoy the views that open up behind. The thin chalk soils to the east of Brading Down support a typical downland plant community with pyramidal orchids being a particular feature in the summer. The panoramic views at the top are magnificent.

The path emerges directly to a T-junction with the road, Brading Down Road. NOTE: This road has fast-moving traffic so take care.

Brading Down Road to Nunwell Lodge
Brading Down Road to Nunwell Lodge

Start point: 50.6789 lat, -1.1728 long
End point: 50.6837 lat, -1.1608 long

Turn right along the road – the wide grass verge running along the left-hand side is usually the safest option. From this high vantage point the views open up to the north and south and far out into the Solent. Follow the roadside verge for 500 metres and then turn left through the gate to join Bridleway B31. Keep just to the left of the field boundary ridge, with crop fields each side and lovely views ahead.

Pass through the next gate ahead to enter a grass pasture (which may be holding livestock). Take the grass path at about 11 o’clock, heading for the white property visible in the valley bottom. As this path reaches the brow in the field, swing right to join the obvious grass path between mounds, leading you steadily downhill. Follow the path through some trees and then continue ahead, now with a fence running on your left.

Pass through the small metal gate ahead to join a fenced woodland track. After just 60 metres you will see a fingerpost on your left, marking a path junction. Turn left here onto the bridleway signed to Nunwell. In the fenced enclosures on your right, you may be able to see (or hear!) the geese, peacocks and other birds of Nunwell House (more about that soon). You will reach a T-junction with a beautiful black and white half-timbered lodge house ahead, part of the old Nunwell estate.

Nunwell Lodge to Hardingshute Farm
Nunwell Lodge to Hardingshute Farm

Start point: 50.6837 lat, -1.1608 long
End point: 50.6924 lat, -1.159 long

Glance to your right here and, in the winter months when the trees are just bare branches, you will be able to see Nunwell House. Also visible are the tall brick walls of the kitchen gardens. Nunwell House is a beautiful historic house, set in five acres of tranquil gardens with stunning views across the Solent. The current manor house dates from 1522, though there was a settlement here before the Norman invasion. The gardens include an 18th century walled garden, lavender steps and mature borders. The house and garden are open to visitors for part of the year.

Turn left at this T-junction to follow the vehicle access track. This access track leads you between hedges with beautiful old rolling parkland pastures on your right. You will pass the buildings of Nunwell Farm on your left and, 500 metres later (having ignored all footpaths to the sides), you will emerge to a junction with the road. NOTE: Take care when crossing this road junction.

Turn right for about 25 paces and then turn left into the side road. Follow this minor road ahead, passing a cream-coloured property with a lake on your right and then Hardingshute Farm on your left.

Hardingshute Farm to Whitefield Farm
Hardingshute Farm to Whitefield Farm

Start point: 50.6924 lat, -1.159 long
End point: 50.7031 lat, -1.1614 long

Continue on the road for about 100 metres, to pass a fenced duck pond on your left. Immediately afterwards, turn left onto Bridleway B19. Follow this vehicle track ahead, with a hedge on your right. As you reach a woodland corner and gate ahead, turn right to follow the grass path with a hedge on your left and crop field on your right. After the length of two crop fields you will come to a gate ahead. NOTE: you may come across livestock in the next couple of fields.

Pass through the small gate and walk ahead, with the fence on your right. Part way along this field, ignore the footpath to your right, instead continue to the end of the field. Pass through the gate and then bear left to follow the line of fenced woodland on your left. Stay alongside this left-hand fence to reach a gate in the field corner.

Pass through this gate and continue on the grass track heading towards the farm buildings of Whitefield Farm. The grass track swings left to reach a fingerpost at the edge of the farmyard.

Whitefield Farm to Smallbrook Lane
Whitefield Farm to Smallbrook Lane

Start point: 50.7031 lat, -1.1614 long
End point: 50.7119 lat, -1.1619 long

Turn right here onto Bridleway R35 signed to Smallbrook, passing between the farm barns. Continue through a stone parking area and then join the grass track which swings steadily right. Stay with the signed bridleway, turning left through a gate and heading steadily downhill to reach the railway crossing. NOTE: This is an official but unsignalled rail crossing so look and listen carefully for trains before you cross.

This rail line is part of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway heritage line. Five miles of steam railway are all that remain from a line that once extended for 55 miles across the rural parts of the Isle of Wight, dating back to 1862.

Cross the railway via the two gates and continue ahead on the fenced track. Pass through another gate, cross a stream and pass a single property on your left. Follow the access track as it swings left and leads you to a T-junction with the road. Turn right along the road edge, taking care of traffic, and passing Ashley Vineyard on your right. About 20 metres after passing Oak Cottage on your right, turn right onto Footpath R50. Follow this narrow path, leading you between trees and scrub and then emerging into the parking area for Smallbrook Stadium.

Smallbrook Stadium may look small and unassuming but don’t be fooled, it hosts an incredible range of sports and events throughout the year. It is home to the Wightlink Warriors speedway team and also supports football, cricket, a gym, cycling, virtual horseracing, community events, stunt shows and music concerts.

Keep ahead, passing the end of the gym and facilities building, and then turn left to pass between the rear of this building (on your left) and the cricket fields (on your right). Continue ahead on the stone track and then pass to the left of Ryde School Astro Pitch. Part way along this pitch, turn left (to pass alongside a tree and disused stile) and then turn immediately right. Follow the footpath ahead (with the fenced council depot on your left) and then swinging left to reach a T-junction with Smallbrook Lane alongside another disused stile.

Smallbrook Lane to St John's Station
Smallbrook Lane to St John's Station

Start point: 50.7119 lat, -1.1619 long
End point: 50.7246 lat, -1.1567 long

NOTE: This next section of road can be busy with fast-moving traffic and the verges are very narrow so take particular care, especially on the bridge crossing. Turn right along the road, pass Sharon Orchard on your left and then continue to follow the road over the railway bridge. Immediately afterwards, turn left onto Bridleway R54. Follow this footpath with the rail line running on your left.

Ignore the first path off to the right (this sits alongside a pedestrian rail crossing). Continue ahead (with the railway still on your left) and the path soon bends away from the railway to pass through a section of woodland. Pass a playground and then a block of flats on your right and, immediately afterwards, turn right to reach the end of a road (alongside Oakfield FC).

Keep ahead to reach the road junction and turn left. Follow this residential road all the way to the T-junction at the end. Turn left and follow the pavement over the railway bridge to pass Ryde St John’s rail station on your left. If you wish to cut the walk short, you can catch the train from here for the last mile to Ryde Esplanade.

St John's Station to End
St John's Station to End

Start point: 50.7246 lat, -1.1567 long
End point: 50.7326 lat, -1.1593 long

To continue the walk, use the pedestrian crossing to turn right into the side road signed to the seafront, pavilion and gardens. Follow the road all the way to its end, close to the seafront. Continue ahead through the small public gardens.

These gardens were created in memory of the sinking of HMS Royal George n 1782 and are guarded by a pair of beautiful stone lions. HMS Royal George was the largest warship in the world at the time of launching and she sank during maintenance work whilst anchored in the Solent, with the loss of more than 900 lives including crew, workmen and visiting relatives. Work to clear the wreck of the Royal George took place between 1839 and 1844 and parts were recovered, including many bronze cannons. These were melted down to form part of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

As you emerge from the gardens, cross the pedestrian crossing and continue ahead to reach the harbour, beach and seafront. On clear days you will have great views of Portsmouth with its distinctive spinnaker tower ahead. Turn left along the concrete promenade and follow it passing Ryde Harbour (on your right) and then a skate park and car park (on your left). Half way along the car park, turn left through the car park, between buildings and over the railway to reach a T-junction with the seafront road. Turn right along this to reach Ryde Esplanade rail station where this walk ends. The bus station and hovercraft and ferry terminals are also nearby.

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network Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide Original GPX source file

Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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4 gallery images for "Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde"

7390_0Richard1487749721 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 22 Feb 2017
We travelled to the Isle of Wight on this wonderful machine. You can take dogs with you too!
7390_1Richard1487749721 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 22 Feb 2017
Looking back towards Sandown during the climb to the top. It was quite misty when we walked in February.
7390_2Richard1487749721 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 22 Feb 2017
The entrance to the Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve. The bird hide is just down to the right after you go through the squeeze gap.
7390_3Richard1487749721 Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 22 Feb 2017
The heritage rail crossing.

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