Tennyson Trail loop

The mountain bike I’d hired was in quite a state when I handed it back. And so was I. Storm Brian had taken its toll on the Tennyson Trail and we were both caked in mud.

I’d taken half a day out of our family holiday on the Isle of Wight to explore by myself. After a gentle pedal along the old railway path from Yarmouth to Freshwater, I joined the Tennyson Trail to head along its bridlepaths and byways to Newport.

I’d hoped to see some ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’ – or at least a red squirrel – but I expect the sound of my panting drove most of the wildlife into hiding. The mud certainly made for tough going over Compton Down and through Brightstone Forest, but I missed it when I dropped down on the roads beneath Carisbrooke Castle.

King Charles I was imprisoned in the castle after the Civil War, but I didn’t linger long. Instead, I picked my way through the town until I found the Red Squirrel Trail and followed it along the line of the old railway to Cowes. I paused to eat a sandwich on the Esplanade, savouring the memory of the off-road part of my ride.

The final section would be back along the roads through the Newtown nature reserve and Shalfleet. Despite the island’s reputation for good road cycling, I found the traffic busy and missed my earlier ramblings. Cycling on the Isle of Wight, I decided, is best done off road – just don’t count on seeing a red squirrel.

57.42km 736m ascent