Day out: Ventnor, Isle of Wight

A community of wall lizards resides among the cracks and crevices of an old stone wall on the outskirts of Ventnor. This spectacular summer sight conjures up images of distant shores

Woody Point looking towards Ventnor, Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight’s south coast footpath from Ventnor to St Lawrence (four miles) offers an opportunity for a Mediterranean and Caribbean experience.

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Here you will discover bright green wall lizards, and great sightings of bottlenose dolphins close to shore.

Ventnor seafront on a bright summer's morning
Wall lizards can be see at a car park in the seaside town of Ventnor
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Ventnor’s wall lizards

Wall lizards are widespread and common around the Mediterranean. If you’ve ever explored any ancient sun-baked ruins in southern Europe you may have seen several scuttling away into cracks in the stone as you approached. 

Native only to Jersey in the British Isles, small colonies of these spectacularly green reptiles have been introduced to the mainland, and one of the best places to see them is around La Falaise, just to the west of Ventnor. The green wall lizards here are most likely descended from Italian stock. Those that originate from France are more likely to be brown.

Wall lizard (Podarcis muralis)
Male wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) basking in the sun on a wooden log on the Isle of Wight
Alamy

Much larger than our native common lizards, they love basking in warm sunshine on south-facing rocks, so the stone walls of La Falaise car park offer an opportunity for guaranteed sightings of these fast-moving creatures.

Possibly introduced in Victorian times, maybe as early as 1841 by a Dr Martin, these lizards have now expanded their range westwards, but still largely within the confines of the coastal suburbs of Ventnor. Local folklore suggests they escaped from a wrecked Italian ship, but a planned introduction into local gardens by Victorian naturalists seems more likely.

St Catherine’s Oratory, Isle of Wight

Steephill Cove and Woody Point

Another highlight of this coastal walk is quirky and hidden-away Steephill Cove, a mix of old wooden beach shacks, upturned boats and crab pots, hugely reminiscent of the Caribbean.

Steephill Cove, Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Bay and lighthouse at Steephill Cove in Ventnor

Stop at The Beach Shack or The Crab Shed for locally caught crab salad and a cold, refreshing Isle of Wight beer – just the job on a hot summer’s day. The cove is not accessible by car and generally only discovered by those lucky enough to know about it.     

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The coastal path presses on to Woody Point below St Lawrence, where you can turn around and retrace your steps back to Ventnor, or alternatively, carry on to the village of Niton and catch the bus back.