Having spotted this walk as part of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival, we'd decided it was the perfect opportunity to see more of this famous holiday island. Getting there from the mainland is easy, with car ferries from Southampton or a hovercraft from Portsmouth.
We met John, our guide for the day, near the car park (paid, but free on-street parking available) in Brannon Way in Wooton Bridge bright and early on a Sunday morning. There were already a few walkers waiting, and by the time we set off there were a total of 33 people, from 10 years up to an age where paying for the bus back would not be a problem.
We were promised a walk to see the wild flowers in the local woods - mostly bluebells - but as the route had not been published in advance the rest was a bit of a mystery tour. We were fortunate in having one of the best days of the year so far with bright sunlight meaning most of us were busy taking off extra layers and stuffing them in rucksacks before we even started.
Start off heading down Mary Rose Avenue, then off on to the gravel bridleway at the bottom. We were sharing the path with some mountain bikers at this point, but they soon left us behind. As with any large group the pace tended to be a little slower, but we still made good time heading out to the first stop at an underground ice house at SZ 544 912. Before electric refrigeration this was used to store large blocks of ice, harvested in the winter and used to keep food fresh at Fernhill House, the local manor, which was subsequently destroyed in a fire.
Continue on the main path through the woods, and you will soon reach a couple of points where the path splits. Carry on heading generally south until you reach a level crossing for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway - we'd been hearing the trains occasionally as we got closer. The crossing is unmanned, so you have to check before attempting to cross - fortunately they are easy to hear coming, and they don't move that fast!