Fly-in hike around Isle of Wight


June 28, 2022☕️ 5 min read 32

Part 1: Redhill to Bembridge in the air

The Isle of Wight, the largest island in England, is located south of London, roughly 40 minutes away from the mainland by ferry. Our hike around the Isle of Wight was planned well in advance. Therefore, I was not expecting a message from Georgios, a few days before the hike, saying that his friend would be more than happy to give us a “lift” to the Isle of Wight’s Bembridge airport and have lunch with us there.

Redhill airport

Our trip started at Redhill airport, a small airport near London with an all-grass runway. The plane was already waiting for us in front of a hangar. We left hiking equipment in the cabin and our pilot, Theo, led us to the pre-departure briefing. The pre-flight tasks included checking the weather, planning the route, contacting the destination airport about our scheduled arrival, and checking for airspace closures due to the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. All of that worked smoothly and I thought we were good to go. The issues began when we figured out the mass distribution, and our estimated takeoff and landing weight. The plane was marginally within the limits. Also, when checking manually, the extended-range fuel tanks had more fuel than what was reported in the aircraft logbook - the reason being that the fuel indicator displayed a maximum of 13 gallons, but the long-range tanks on our aircraft had 19 gallons capacity. After long 2 hours of talking to the air club members, it was agreed to take out all the unnecessary cargo from the plane (including extra weight to balance the plane when flying solo). We checked that we were within the limits, and finally our pilot, Theo, gave the go-ahead for takeoff.

Crew in the plane

Flying to Bembridge

The weather was favourable for flying. It was sunny with a bit of cloud and clear visibility. After taking off we quickly reached Eastbourne and then turned west towards Brighton. The clouds stayed away from the sea due to the temperature difference. Flying along the coast we enjoyed the pleasant cloudless conditions and a stunning view. We did some sharp turns, dives and climbs to feel the G-force. The most exciting part was when I got the controls and steered the plane for a bit for the first time in my life. This was a remarkable experience.

We reached Bembridge airport on the Isle of Wight after 45 minutes in the air. Just before landing, our pilot took a long turn offering us a breathtaking view of the island. We landed smoothly and parked the plane on the airfield next to many other small planes of people who flew into Bembridge for the weekend to relax. The pub was next to the airport. We had the famed ribs for lunch, while other planes landed and took off close by. After lunch we parted ways with Theo and began our hike, aiming to reach the Needles in 3 days.

Part 2: The Hike

Our hike started late in the afternoon after lunch at the Bembridge airport pub. The goal for the day was to reach Luccombe, 10 km from the airport and spend the night wild camping in the forest. After jumping a few fences, we got to the coastal path which circles around the island.

After reaching Luccombe, we learned that the path leading to our camping spot was closed due to a landslide. Later in our hike, we could often see cracks in the clay and sand-like cliffs. Often, large land pieces could be seen lying below the cliffs, falling from the top. We set up the tent in some random spot in the forest as it got dark.

Isle of Wight AONB

On day two of our adventure, we got to the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB), a substantial piece of land stretching from the southern part of the island to the Needles. One thing we haven’t accounted for is that there are not many places to get food there. We could only find 2 pubs marked on maps near the coastal path. So, our menu for the next 2 days consisted of British ales, fish and chips and other classics. The southwestern part of the island offered amazing views and nature, there was just sea, cliffs and endless fields.

The Needles

We spend the second night at the Paradise Cottage Campsite ran by a very nice old couple. On the 3rd day of our hike, we could already see the faint white-coloured cliffs in front of us, the Needles, the goal of our journey. Initially, we planned to hike for 4 days, but because of the forecasted storm we stretched our 3rd-day hike to 35kms and we managed to get to the Needles for the sunset. Then we ran for the bus which got us to Yarmouth, just in time to catch the last ferry back.