Seize the day!

Its not been a good week for cycling. Gales and rain on Monday. Torrential rain and strong wind on Tuesday. Gales and rain on Thursday. But Wednesday, Wednesday was glorious. Cold, but glorious!

The Needles is the Isle of Wight's most famous landmark. Its a lovely ride but very busy in summer so I haven't visited since the spring. Its exposed and windswept so I always try to go on a calm day. It was actually much windier than I thought with a strong cold north westerly making the ride west a bit of a struggle. It was well worth it though.

The ride basically follows the southern coast for as far as you can go. I had to stop for a photo at the top of Blackgang. You've seen this view before but I love it! The Needles can just be seen at the far end of the white cliffs of Tennyson Down. In the very far distance you can just make out the hotels on Bournemouth seafront.


Enjoying the freewheel down the other side, Chale church caught my eye. I've cycled past this umpteen times but the sun seemed to pick out the lichens on the walls making them almost glow.


There were even a couple of Skylarks singing, they were obviously enjoying the sun as much as I was! This is my favourite road on the island once the summer hordes have gone. It is unfortunately in danger of disappearing into the sea. Its reduced to one lane with traffic lights for a short way after the edge of the road fell off in January! The council were threatening to close it altogether, turning it effectively into two cul de sacs with the middle bit only accessible to cyclists and walkers (yippee!). There was a tremendous outcry and they've now decided that the road can be saved by improving the drainage.

IMG_1237 Heading west

Compton Bay is the next stop to admire the scenery. A couple of surfers were out (makes me shiver just looking at them!) and the ice cream van was even parked in the car park. What an optimist!

IMG_1239 Compton Bay

IMG_1240 The car park is falling into the sea!

IMG_1242 Coastal errosion


IMG_1244 Where I'm going

IMG_1245 And where I've been

There are a couple of stiff climbs before the road drops down into Freshwater Bay. Braver cyclists than me fly down here but the road is too close to the edge of the cliffs for my liking! I'm always a bit worried about being blown over the edge! No worries on that score today though.

IMG_1246 Freshwater Bay. Pebbles on the prom show how rough the weather's been recently!

The road turns inland at Freshwater but I continue straight ahead, climbing steadily on wooded lanes until I meet a larger road dropping down into Alum Bay. Alum Bay is famous for its multicoloured sands. When I was a kid I was fascinated by the tubes of sand in different coloured stripes that people brought back from holidays on the island. Unfortunately the bay is home to a huge carpark and shops selling tourist tat so I pass through as fast as possible. Its almost deserted today.

IMG_1251 Alum Bay and its multi coloured sands

The final pull up to the Needles is a delight on a quiet day. The singletrack road is closed to vehicles (except for an open top bus which thankfully only runs in summer) and clings to the edge of the coast. A series of steep hairpins leads past the old gun battery and former rocket testing site and around to the very furthest edge of the island. Rough steps lead down to the edge overlooking the Needles. Unfortunately the thin spires that gave them their name have long since eroded away.

IMG_1247 The Needles

Back up the steps I managed to find a sheltered spot to admire the view with a nice cup of tea from my flask. I've also brought a good supply of cake!

IMG_1249 Tea break

As I've ridden all the way into a headwind I decide to go back the same way I came in the hope of a tail wind. I'm well aware that its perfectly possible to have a headwind in both directions but this time it works. Its downhill all the way back to Freshwater and then I sailed back along the coast with a beautiful tail wind.

IMG_1256 Chale church (again!)

As the wind bends the trees and the rain lashes on my window its hard to believe that it was only yesterday!

7 comments on “Seize the day!”

  1. Mary wrote:

    Splendid pictures Hilary. Your island is very beautiful, you do advertise it so well. One day, one day I shall try to get that far south, there are some very nice Audax rides down your neck of the woods as well. Your bike really does contrast well with all the blue sky and sea 🙂

    We have not had too many beauties such as the day you cycled on. Right now, I am hoping that when I go outside tomorrow my shed with my bicycles is still standing up. 80mph winds batting against our old cottage as I type and I hate the wind. Proudly or stupidly I cycled home tonight, but the winds were not as strong as they are now. At least it was a tail wind home and what a great feeling, like riding an electric bicycle.... all power and no work! 🙂

    This time of year with its lovely cold sunny days is my favourite. (Cept tonight of course!)

  2. Stephen Almond wrote:


    A great post – I'm envious...
    May I ask what camera you use for your excellent photos?


  3. Patrick wrote:

    Photos 8 and 9 look a little scary – the slope down to the clifftop. Very nice though Hilary, and lovely views. Living by the sea on a south facing coast is many people's idea of heaven. I can see the sea from where I live, and sometimes the Isle of Man, but the west Lancashire coast is not especially pretty. Cloudless skies are rare as well.

    We had huge winds overnight and had to shove a garden table up against the hen house to stop it blowing over.

    Incidentally, re Stephen Almond's question, a jpeg image often contains a lot of information (Exif data) about the camera and the settings used for each photo. See example here. But not if they are processed in Photoshop.

  4. Mike wrote:

    Great post Hilary, and beautiful photos.
    I was pleased to see another cyclist claim that you can cycle into a headwind on both the outward and return journeys.
    I have long claimed that here in Cornwall we have very heavy air, as it always seems to be falling down the hills as you're trying to cycle up them, and that the front of a cycling jersey appears to be a wind magnet, whichever direction you're travelling!

  5. Kern wrote:

    Excellent. We too have experienced the "Againsterlies". I'm sure Patrick has a formula up his sleeve that quantifies this phenomenon.

  6. Hilary wrote:

    Thanks for all the kind comments. I don't think you can go wrong with pictures of blue sky and white cliffs – they're very photogenic!

    Patrick wrote

    "Incidentally, re Stephen Almond's question, a jpeg image often contains a lot of information (Exif data) about the camera and the settings used for each photo. See example here"

    I know its a Canon Ixus 75 but had no idea about the rest, that was a revelation!

    We do tend to get good weather here but its not always as beautiful as that! The rest of the week has been foul!

  7. Garry wrote:

    Hilary, your bike is DISGUSTINGLY clean! I clean mine once a year, whether it needs it or not! I do clean the chain etc. more frequently, however! Nice photos.

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