A party of three intrepid pensionsers who set out to climb up Shanklin Chine, a notorious natural gorge in the Isle of Wight, has not been sighted in over two hours. According to experts, the chances that they will make it out in time for supper are 'almost negligible'.
John Bagnall, 61, his wife Muriel, 58, and Margaret’s sister Doris Nicholson, 62, set out to walk the 280 foot path to the top at 5.15 p.m., according to Doris’s shell-shocked husband Gordon, who urged them to take the bus back from the beach with him. According to him, the group did not take local guides, oxygen or even a flask of tea to see them through the steep climb. Experts have described their actions as foolhardy in the extreme.
“People don’t realise that Shanklin Chine has a micro-climate all of its own,” said retired local Sherpa, Roy Hodges. “When it is sunny on the beach, it can still be a tad chilly and damp in the Chine. Once I set out with a party at 3 o’clock in bright sunshine only to find we really needed woolly jumpers. Fortunately, they had the sense to turn back.”
Particularly when light rainfall has swollen the waterfall, the 1 in 35 path to the top of the chine can become slippy and treacherous. In the last year alone, five have lost their footing and one man sprained his ankle, waiting 45 minutes in a steady breeze for a first aider to come. Advice to take a walking stick and wear sensible shoes is all too often ignored.
The Chine has both repelled and attracted visitors for centuries, according to a quick copy and paste job from Wikipedia. In 1545, French pirates briefly occupied it and during World War II, the PLUTO pipeline ran through it. Both Jane Austen and Jonathan Keats were enthralled by its harsh natural beauty. They, however, did the walk downhill.
As night gathered and a warm spring day turned positively parky, Gordon Nicholson continued his lonely vigil alongside a grumbling gatekeeper. A realistic man, he said that his relatives had already missed the first sitting for dinner at the Keats Green Hotel and might struggle even to find a place open for a sandwich.
“Doris was always a great one for gallivanting around,” he told reporters. “I thought she’d learned a lesson after that time we got slightly sunburnt on Alum Bay in July 2007, but no – well, there’ll be no more adventure holidays for us from now on, I can tell you that for starters.”