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Explore the secrets of Medina Valley

Fancy getting fit, having fun, and exploring somewhere new within easy reach? Then put your best foot forward and head for the beautiful Medina Valley during the Isle of Wight Walking Festival.

This is the Island’s most diverse, accessible and historic destination – and a perfect base if you’re visiting from the mainland. You don’t even need a car to get around, as this is the main transport hub, with bus connections to the rest of the Island. From Southampton, you can hop on a Red Jet that brings you into Cowes, or get the Red Funnel car ferry into East Cowes.

There are six parishes within Medina Valley that are all worth visiting – Cowes, East Cowes, Gurnard, Newport, Northwood and Whippingham, threaded together by the Medina Estuary. The area is full of natural beauty and rare wildlife, and has a rich Royal heritage, as well as being a centre for maritime and industrial innovation – you can visit museums and follow trails to discover all about the pioneering boats, hovercrafts, planes and rockets that have been built here.

The Walking Festival includes a brilliant selection of walks around the area, and it’s a lovely time to visit, as the Island is in bloom and you could see our furry red residents – the protected Red Squirrels – with their baby ‘kittens’.

Photo credit: Julian Windslow, Shaping Newport

Here are a few of our favourites walks around Medina Valley:

Take the family on a ‘Seaside Story Walk’ led by Sue Bailey – hunt around on the beach at beautiful Gurnard, with plenty of stops for stories. Find out why the crab has no head, or why the sea is salty. And prepare to get a little bit wet! It’s on May 4th at 9.30am and you’ll cover around a mile, which is just right for little legs.

Older children might prefer to see the mysterious ‘Mummies caves’ on the banks of the Medina estuary.  The walk is entitled ‘Return to the Mummies Caves’ and it’s on May 14th at 10.30am. It takes you around part of an old cement factory that was at the cutting edge of technology in the Victorian times. You’ll then walk through peaceful Dodnor Creek and Dickson Copse Local Nature Reserve where you can see rare plants and wading birds. It’s about 3.5 miles.

If you’re as obsessed as we are with the new series of Victoria, then you won’t want to miss the royal themed walks. It’s the 200th anniversary of Victoria and Albert’s births, and there’s a new trail and exhibition around their seaside estate at Osborne (free with your admission ticket), plus guided walks around the grounds (normal admission charges apply, see https://isleofwightwalkingfestival.co.uk/?s=osborne for details). Queen Victoria declared that it would be impossible to imagine a prettier spot and the view reminded Albert of the Bay of Naples.

You can also sign up for ‘Victoria’s daughter wasn’t naughty’ on May 4th or 17th and find out all about the youngest of the nine children, Beatrice, who was very much under her mother’s Royal thumb. Learn about her life, marriage, children, widowhood, service and legacy, on this five mile scenic stroll starting in East Cowes.

There’s also ‘Queen Victoria’s East Cowes’ on May 7th at 10am – a three mile historical walk looking at buildings and places associated with Queen Victoria in East Cowes. The walk ends at St Mildred’s, the Royal’s church at Whippingham which was partly designed by Prince Albert (look for the royal entrance and pew). You’ll be shown the graves of the Queen’s servants who were buried there.

We also recommend ‘Matt and Cat’s guide to eating in Newport’, where Matt and Cat, the Island’s gourmet gurus, will walk you around some of their favourite foodie haunts (2 miles, May 13th at 10.30am).

Plus don’t miss ‘Victorian Newport’, a great chance to take a tour of the historic buildings in our County town, and learn about the people who lived and worked in them (3 miles, May 7th at 10am).

There are lots more fascinating walks and most of them are free. You need to sign up asap – so quick march, reserve your places, and get exploring!