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