I was pleased to take part in the opening of the Isle of Wight Ramblers’ 250th gate on 9 May. Through its donate a gate project (modelled on that invented by the Chiltern Society) the Area has been replacing stiles with gates since 2009, an impressive average of 18 gates a year.
In 2014 I joined the walk to celebrate the life of Joan Deacon, for whom there is a gate at Rookley, and in 2018 I helped to mark the 50th anniversary of the Isle of Wight Area where I opened another gate at Rookley. So it was lovely to be part of the celebrations for the 250th gate, paid for by the Ramblers’ Accessibility Fund.
The indefatigable David Howarth had organised the day, with help from the Area committee and others. We met at Redhill Farm where Marcus Matthews had carved the oak plaques for all 250 gates.
The gates are made from local oak by his brother, Peter Matthews of nearby Moorhill Farm.
We were joined by the high sheriff of the Isle of Wight, Dawn Haig-Thomas; the council’s chair, Claire Critchison; Robin Lang of the Isle of Wight National Trust, and members of the Ramblers’ committee. Unfortunately the Ramblers’ chief executive, Ross Maloney, was unable to be with us.
We walked over fields on National Trust land towards Wydcombe Manor,
and through woods past the Bierley waterfall, one of only two on the island.
The gate, at grid reference SZ508782, is close to the waterfall, just beyond the National Trust land.
David introduced the event, and spoke of the work of the Isle of Wight Ramblers—the donate a gate scheme, and the three new accessible trails which the Area has helped to create: Yar estuary, Tapnell Trail, and the Warrior Trail. The Yar River Trail has been upgraded and a link path from Brading to St Helens has been improved across the marshes.
I addressed the gathering and congratulated the Area on its work over a long period. The gate scheme ensures one can guarantee accessible walking on the island, which is increasingly important as more people want to get outdoors. It is also lovely to be able to remember people through the gates. I had helped with many campaigns on the island, and there were still more to come, not least to ensure that the England Coast Path around the island is truly coastal. Some of my speech is here.
Then Dawn Haig-Thomas cut the ribbon and the gate was open.
We posed for some photographs
and then returned to Redhill Farm for a convivial lunch outdoors. Fortunately, the rain held off.