Our first memory of the Isle of Wight is back when we were working full time at Luton Borough Council, organising Luton’s International Carnival. The Isle of Wight was about to embark on a government funded regeneration programme and were looking for ways to get people interested in Carnival on the Island. 

The IOW Council invited us down to talk at a conference, to present the work that we had been doing in Luton, with the aim of giving Carnival a refresh and getting the community here really engaged with it. 

We remember getting on the ferry and thinking we were going to France! We had been searching for our passports and looking for the duty-free shop onboard! It always feels like you are going on holiday coming across from the ‘mainland’ and we still get that fluffy feeling crossing the Solent, 20 years later.  

The New Carnival Company was only meant to be our ‘working title’, it was never intended to stick. But after the IOW Council had to cut its arts service back in 2011, a lot of us were working together in the Arts unit and thought we need to find a way to keep our good work going. So, we very quickly formed an independent organisation, to continue moving the Carnival and outdoor art scene forward. 10 years later we are still called New Carnival Company… and still going strong! 

Whilst Carnival is the main focus of our work, engaging young people into Carnival related activities is a big priority for us. A lot of our work over the years has migrated if you like into environmental arts, so a lot of it evolves around outdoor art celebrations. 

We work very closely with the Isle of Wight AONB and with the IOW Ramblers. We really enjoy getting people out walking - especially non walkers and those that might have never even gone into the woods at the back of where they live before! We’ve been members of the Ramblers since we moved to the Island and are part of the Area Council, helping to widen participation, helping to attract more walkers and also make it more accessible to young people. 

Back in 2013 we constructed a walk called ‘The Carnival Trail’ - It was commissioned by the IOW Walking Festival and was a 100-mile route around the whole of the IOW, that linked all the carnival towns and villages together. It was the headline walk of the Festival that year and a group of us walked it over five days. Every time we went into the towns or villages, there was a big carnival celebration. Before the event started, we collected ‘memories’ from people in the towns and had an App so when you walked into each town, those memories would ‘beam down out of the cloud’ and tell you all about Carnival in that particular location.

So, we would have to say that our favourite long walk on the Island would have to be our Carnival trail!  

All our walks on the Island, be it a short walk, long walk, our walks in Autumn or Summer, usually start or end at a pub! Our favourite short walk is a Yarmouth to Freshwater circular; starting at Yarmouth, going along the Freshwater way, until we get to the Red Lion pub, where we would have a pint each of ‘proper job’, then we would head down to the Causeway and back up to Yarmouth along the cycle track. It’s a great route for a relaxed Sunday afternoon stroll! 

Bembridge Windmill

Our favourite summertime walk is a coastal walk, it’s lovely looking out across the blue of the sea and the other side, the green of the beautiful landscape. We live in the West Wight so we like to drive to the other side of the Island, park up at St Helens - down by the old Church - walk across the Duver, via the causeway, round the back of Bembridge Harbour, [there is an off road track that runs parallel to the road, but not many people know about it!]. We always stop at the Pilot Boat inn and then finish the circuit by going up to Bembridge Windmill, across Brading Marshes and back to the car. That is such a gorgeous route - even when it’s wet and muddy! 

We give all our walks names! Our favourite Autumn / Winter walk is called the ‘Hulverstone Round’. We park up at the Sun Inn and go north up of Brook Hill, until we get near the top. Then we cut west and go and say hello to the Longstone, from there we go up again, to join the Tennyson Trail and then we come eastward, until we get to Freshwater Bay. There we double back and follow the coastal footpath back to Brook and back up to the Sun Inn. In the winter months they have a lovely log fire where you can sit with a beer and warm up! 

We live in the West Wight and the view here is incredible. I would say we probably have the best view on the Island! Looking out from our front room you have the sea view all the way to Dorset and Old Harry Rocks, Tennyson Down and Headon Warren. 

View of the needles from Headon Warren

Headon Warren, looking towards the Needles, is such a stunning view. Especially at sunset! Watching the Warren colours change throughout the year is lovely too, from the yellows of the spring to the purples of the Autumn, it’s just beautiful. David Howarth from the Ramblers is hosting a walk around this area during the IWWF, which is a must to do!

For this year’s Walking Festival we have created a programme of 13 short and longer walks, celebrating the Island’s coastal footpath, called ‘Crossing the Bar’. It’s part of a three-year arts and walking project linked to the opening of the new National Trail - The England Coast Path – and a designated national ‘Year of the Coast’ festival planned for 2023.

We have six different locations spread out across the Island, five of them are coastal villages that we say have a ‘bit of a heart to them’; they have a school, a pub and a community or church hall. We are excited to bring together local artists, school children and communities.  

The villages also had to be very close to the coastline, so that we could develop a walk from the village to the coastal footpath. The ‘odd one out’ is Newport and the walk along the Medina Estuary. The Medina Estuary is not part of the IOW Coastal footpath route at the moment but in 2023, when we become part of the National Trail and ‘the England Coast path’, it’s going to be extended. 

So, when you walk around the Island, which is currently 72-73 miles long, and you get to Cowes, you don’t hop across on the floating bridge, but you walk down all the way down the Medina Estuary to Newport, cross over the bridge and walk all the way up to East Cowes. We wanted to draw people’s attention to that and integrate the estuary stretch of the medina in our coastal celebration. 

We’ve been involved in the Walking Festival for years and it’s really special for us. Once, in 2013 we held a Lantern Parade, as an opener to the Festival. We’ve hosted a Circus themed walk that included walking over hot coals. We had one along Ryde seafront with entertainment and there’s also been a Victoria walk along the promenade. 

This year we have started small, with the plan to build up to a big event and celebrations in 2023.  

More information on New Carnival Company’s programme during the Walking Festival: 

The new England Coast Path, approximately 3000 miles long, will be the world’s longest continuous coastal trail and there are planned events and celebrations in towns and villages all along the route during the festival.

The Isle of Wight, boasting one of the most beautiful and varied of coastlines to be found anywhere in the country, is naturally a highlight of the new National Trail.  We want to showcase and share what beautiful beaches, cliffs and estuaries, wildlife, heritage, and culture we enjoy, with people of all ages and abilities, residents and visitors alike. 

Our inspired walks bring together local artists, schoolchildren and communities, the IW Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the IW Ramblers, in an innovative participatory programme to highlight special places along our route.

In each of six selected locations – Wootton, Bembridge, Niton, Brighstone, Totland and along the Medina estuary, people are invited to join us for guided walks that connect to a site which has been interpreted by local people in a unique and creative way. Community Art installations and short performances will engage walkers at the crossover point of the short and longer walks in each location.

Crossing the Bar is inspired by Tennyson’s famous poem of the same name, written whilst travelling across the Solent to his home in Freshwater. The poem contemplates his future, life after. The New Carnival Company has used this theme to start conversations about the future of our world as we emerge from the pandemic, and by exploring the changing relationship with our environment in the face of climate change.

Dozens of volunteers have helped out in planning and leading the walks, each of which takes in a part of the proposed new coastal trail. Schoolchildren and their families have been making beautiful flags to bring along to the shorter walks and adult workshops in community settings are creating some of the imaginative responses to be seen and heard along the way.

All the walks are all free to enjoy. The longer walks are number-restricted and pre-booking is required.

You can find a summary of the Crossing the Bar Walks Programme by clicking here: walks chart

The New Carnival Company will be publishing the walking routes after the festival for all to enjoy at any time. They plan to double the number of sites for creative interventions next year, and in 2023 to lead and animate walks around the whole coastline for Year of the Coast celebrations.