A multi coloured and dynamic coastline

This page describes the coastal walk from Chale to Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, part of the Isle of Wight Coast Path. This spectacular section of coast is constantly being attacked by the sea and erosion is both frequent and rapid. The different rock types also contribute to a blaze of colours: orange, yellow,red, grey and the white chalk cliffs at Freshwater.

June 2014 Chale Church - click the right arrow to see more images of the stage in this album.

This page describes a clockwise passage - but the stage can be walked in either direction.

Description of the stage

On a clear day the bay at Freshwater is in sight as you leave Chale and the colourful coastline is laid out before you. Every time you walk this section of coast is unique since erosion is cutting away at the soft rocks all along the route.

Several sections walked in 2010 have since slipped down the slope; a bench at Atherfield Point was 2-3m from the cliff edge in 2012 was literally on the edge in 2013 - that land has also now gone.

The route crosses several “classic” holiday centres and traditional campsites. The path hugs the cliff tops and there are several diversions back to the main road to get around the deep and sometimes wooded chines that cut inland.

Towards the Freshwater end there are dinosaur footprints on the beach and a fossilised forest at Hanover Point before the rocks change from orange, yellow and grey rocks turn to the white chalk cliffs as Freshwater is approached. It is another set of textbook geology examples, with different rock types contributing to the slumping and to the spectacular colour along the coast. For those interested, Ian West’s pages provide a very good description of the processes and geological highlights along this coast. See the link in references below [recommended reading].

There are also wrecks off the coast. Diving and paragliding are local activities. Due to the erosion over the centuries a rule of thumb is that “100 feet [30m] offshore is roughly equivalent to 100years”, with a Roman wreck now just over a kilometre from the coast.

The 2013 walk (anti clockwise) turned out to be very misty from Crompton bay onwards and included a kilometer diversion around Atherfield Bay Holiday Camp due to the cliff cutting back all the way to the fence [the route is now open again here]..

Warning: take care - landslips are occurring frequently along this section of coast. The cliff edge will always be unstable and the course of the path is changing frequently.

Stage Stats

Places along the stage

Stage Title Comment
Stage terminus: Chale 82m Church
Passage point: Whale Chine 40m
Passage point: Atherfield Point 30m
Passage point: Barnes High 53m
Passage point: Brighstone Bay Holiday Centre 25m
Passage point: Brook 10m
Passage point: Hanover Point 18m
Passage point: Military Road 81m
Stage terminus: Freshwater end of promenade 3m

Stage figures

Stage Title Comment
Distance: 18.8 km
Terrain type: coastal moderate
Total ascent: 270 [m amsl]
Total descent: 300 [m amsl]
Lowest point: 3 sea level [m amsl]
Highest point: 82 Chale[m amsl]

Walk Log

Date walked Who Walking time hr Av. speed kmh Stoppage hr Direction
05 July 2012 KJM 3.65 hours 5.0 0.65hr clockwise
24 April 2013 KJM, HMM 4.2hours 5.0 0.7hr anti-clockwise
11 June 2014 KJM, HMM 4.08 hours 5.0 0.85hr clockwise

Points of Interest

Approaching Atherfield Point Chale Bay & Atherfield Point: dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches greet you as you reconnect with the coast after the Blackgang and Chale section. The colour of the rock is stunning but is easily eroded. Locals suggest that Atherfield Point may soon be another casualty of the coastal erosion.
Atherfield Bay Holiday Camp Atherfield Bay Holiday Camp: There is a forlorn air about this camp, built in the 1960’s just as continental holidays were taking off -and closed in 2007. Chalets and administration buildings as well as a sewage filter bed all stand motionless when at one time there would have been a buzz of activity.
Brighstone Bay Holiday Centre Brighstone Bay Holiday Centre: The second holiday centre, built in the 1930’s is still very much in use though the erosion of the cliffs is ever present. It claims to be one of or the last such camp standing with several of the early chalets still standing by the cliff - giving it a timeless feel.
Crompton Bay Landslip Compton Bay Landslip: Landslips are ever present and often reduce the path to less than a metre between fence and cliff edge. This is the largest slump along the route. Since the storms in early 2014 the slumping has reached high up the hill and is nearing the main road. The path in June 2014 traverses the mobile top section of the slump.

Getting there & back

To reach Chale - the hourly No 6 bus from Newport bus station stops at the church.

There is a 1.7km walk from Freshwater along the “Freshwater Way” to reach the bus stop for the No 7 bus (by the Co-op). The No 7 will take you to Newport bus station via the Yarmouth ferry terminus.


Start: 05 July 2012
End: onging

References & Links:

Date Title
20140621 Isle of Wight Coast Path leaflet
20140621 Ian West's Geology: Isle of Wight pages
20140621 Brighstone Holiday Camp WWII History
20140621 Isle of Wight [Wikipedia]

Updated KJM 21 June 2014