Here’s a rather delayed final day on the Isle of Wight. It’s taken until now to recover from Friday’s journey home.
We had a few hours to while away before our crossing home. There was no chance of changing our booking, according to a number of people we had met it seemed that most residents were leaving the island ahead of the festival and, as well as clogged roads, there were clogged ferries!
With nothing else to do we decided the Bromptons deserved one more outing and that was a round trip between Sandown and Shanklin. Now this was Kim’s sort of cycling – five miles of flat esplanade alongside beach huts.
As we sailed out by ferry ahead of schedule, our good luck didn’t stay with us, severe delays on the M25 more than made up for any saving. Of course the alternative would be to use a helicopter in the same way that Tom Jones and other festival performers do, although if you have seen the photos of Liam Gallagher’s face after falling out of his helicopter, possibly not.
Finally, do you know what happens if you post a letter to your neighbour on the Isle of Wight? We’re assuming ‘no’!
It is taken from the Post Box, put on a ferry to be sorted in Portsmouth and transported back across the Solent before being delivered to your neighbour.
Sunshine together with inhaling sea air were seen by Victorians as beneficial for health. They started measuring sunlight hours using a Campbell-Stokes sun recorder where a glass globe is used to concentrate the suns rays and burn a paper card.
Sunshine-wars broke out between resorts as they tried to attract visitors, especially those promoting treatment of good health and alleviation of chest ailments. One of these resorts was the Royal National Hospital in Ventnor offering 130 separate south-facing bedrooms amid a micro-climate for its patients.
Mild climate treatment for tuberculosis became obsolete in the 1960’s replaced instead by the use of antibiotics and other drug treatments, and the hospital closed. But fortunately for Kim the gardens remain as Ventnor Botanic Gardens one of her top ten favourite gardens in the world and we have visited many.
All week we have been trying to walk to the Botanic Gardens from our apartment. 30 minutes Google said. We are beginning to distrust all forms of technology, it may have been 30 minutes for a fell runner but not us. We have to admit the coastal path was scenic and we were pleased to have seen the rather lovely Steephill Cove which certainly lived up to its name when leaving.
We arrived for breakfast at the Botanic Gardens and, despite being cooked by a man who only has two pans and two working cooking rings, it was voted the best breakfast of the week.
Kim is tempted to move here, she just loves the abundance of agaves and aeoniums and feels the tortoises would be right at home with temperatures averaging 5 degrees higher than the rest of the island.
Our walk back along the road was far kinder to our legs and we coveted lovely houses with amazing views along the way.
There was time for one final cycle ride before the Bromptons were stowed for our journey home. Kim had assessed the hills and they were judged suitable for pushing a bike up without crying. We headed down to the sea front and along the Coast Path to Bonchurch. We were hoping to get to Shanklin but the nice flat route petered out at a shingle beach. John, wisely didn’t suggest trying to cycle up the steep hill out of Bonchurch. Instead he sensibly opted to turn around and head back to the Sea Pot cafe for a cuppa.
We hadn’t cycled far so carried on into Ventnor and, for the only time this week, Kim took her shoes off and paddled. We haven’t been sure quite why we’re not more taken with Ventnor, but a little paddle in the sea bumped it up in Kim’s estimation.
Yesterday, we took the opportunity to meet up with John’s cousin Julie. Despite decades on the island she is technically still a foreigner according to her husband Jim an authentic caulk-head. We wiled away the hours, over lunch at the Spyglass Inn, discussing family and island life. Well to be precise, Julie provided John with an updated family history which he is embarrassed to admit he has very little knowledge of.
As an electrical engineer Jim worked on control systems for the Black Arrow rockets, which were proof fired from the nearby High Down Test Site. Despite the success of the program including launching Britain’s first satellite Prospero, Government Ministers declared there was no future in satellite technology and announced an end to the Black Arrow programme. Rocket testing moved to Woomera in Australia, while Jim and Julie built a successful international electronics business.
On first hearing the term caulkhead, Kim thought it was a reference to wine drinking, but it simply means a third generation islander. This boat building term originates from caulking (sealing gaps with rope and tar) as opposed to dropping new born babies into the Solent to see if they will float which we hope is just a local myth.
Today started with a return visit to Freshwater Bay and breakfast at The Piano Cafe followed by the ‘Iconic Jimi’ exhibition at Dimbola Galleries. The galleries are the former home of Julia Margaret Cameron, pioneering Victorian photographer. It’s amazing to see how physically large early cameras were (about the size of microwave) compared with todays pocket sized Smart Phones. Part of the exhibition includes posters and photos of the 1970 music festival featuring some legendary acts performing within sight and sound of Dimbola.
Julie and Jim had told us how pretty the north west Wight coast is, so our next stop was Yarmouth. There was so much going on, as you would expect from a ferry terminal and marina.
Somehow we had missed this rather unusual feature as we left the harbour for our wander around the town. It came as rather a shock on the way back. There is a prize for the first person to name it.
This evening, we had managed to get a reservation at The Smoking Lobster in Ventnor, the downside was that we had to be there at 5:15. It was worth the early meal. The food was delicious, staff and service was friendly and relaxed. We’ll only bore you with one photo of food and tell you that the cheeseboard included Tunworth.
On our walk back, we discovered that we’d missed most of the ‘Cascade Challenge’. An event organised by the local running club to raise funds for members competing in the London Marathon. The challenge was to run up and down the Cascade as many times as possible in an hour. Apparently the winner lost count at 20 and, to give you context, we hate walking up it once!
Our spirit of adventure took over as the light faded and after five days, we have discovered a route along the coast path which seems to provide a wide, flat route into Shanklin. Kim might be tempted back onto her bike and give it a go.
Today we collected the last two IoW Quest clues. The first was in the picturesque village of Calbourne in West Wight arguably the prettiest village on the island. It’s famous for the film-set perfection of Winkle Street with its thatched 18th-century stone cottages, each with small but delightful front garden facing a brook. We had a lovely chat with the single resident family, all the remaining cottages are holiday homes.
After a brief stop at Chessell Pottery where we opted for a pot of tea rather than pottery painting, it was on to Freshwater Bay and our final quest clue on the island. We had to find St Agnes Church which competed with Winkle Street for historic cuteness.
As a treat for finishing the IoW challenge, we sat on the Esplanade and basked in the sun. After watching the kayaks paddle off into the distance, Kim declared that she was tempted to give up cycling and try a kayak instead. This is from someone who has no real sense of balance and doesn’t like getting wet.
Voted one of the best driving roads in Europe by the Telegraph, our run back took us along the old Military Coast Road from Freshwater to Ventnor. Part of a great driving road is of course the view and this road doesn’t disappoint.
Tomorrow we have a meeting planned with Jimi Hendrix.
Our day started with breakfast at the Garlic Farm. To John, the smell hit you as we arrived in the car park and he panicked at the thought of garlic being added to his porridge. It turned out he needn’t have worried, his food was (fairly) garlic free. As to Kim’s breakfast, let’s just say he’s keeping his distance and the windows are open.
Our different opinions of the Garlic Farm neatly sum us both up. Kim thought it was wonderful, quaint and very pretty. John thought the piped music was atrocious and hated the smell.
Garlic first appeared on the Island during the Second World War courtesy of French soldiers stationed on the island who brought bulbs from France to add to their cooking. Chalky soil combined with a favourable micro climate enabled garlic cloves to grow in abundance.
Since it first started in 1983, the annual Garlic Festival is one of the most popular events on the island. Goodness knows what they do at the festival unless you enjoy Garlic and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream or a pint of Garlic Beer..
Brading was where we started today’s Quest, which was a clue at the top of a very big hill above Bembridge Fort called Culver Down. Both OS Maps and the Wahoo cycle computer were brought into play. It started badly with OS Maps sending us down a footpath when it knew we were cycling, but the Wahoo was for once more reliable. It was less than a 10 mile round trip with an ascent of 340 ft. We don’t wish to dwell on how steep the ride was and will simply say that Kim pushed her bike for at least 2 miles. The panoramic views from the top back across the Solent were glorious.
At the top, Kim felt a cup of tea and sit down were far more interesting than who the Monument was dedicated to so John climbed the final few feet by himself. By the time he was back for coffee, the people at the next table were having a conversation about how easy it is to illegally import whale meat from Iceland into the UK. For a fee, we will pass on our knowledge
Since we’ve been here, we’ve been through Brading several times and each time we’ve asked each ‘What’s that bull all about?’ and ‘why does Brading have a Bullring?’
Before 1835, if you were a bull, you wouldn’t have wanted to be near Brading or pretty much anywhere else in the UK. It was believed that meat was more tender if the animal was tortured before slaughter. Unlucky creatures were tied to the bull ring and attacked by dogs hence the name of a Bulldog. Butchers could be required to have a bull baited before slaughter and were often fined if they failed to do so. Luckily, a sense of compassion prevailed and this barbaric practice was outlawed in 1835.
Today’s challenge was two more Quests from Cycling UK one in Godshill the other in Havenstreet. They were less than six miles apart so the route was plotted on our smart new cycle computer and we set off from the car park in Godshill.
Our first Quest clue was to establish the penalty for not closing a gate at Havenstreet Steam Railway, which by pure chance was also hosting a Cider and Cheese Festival, well it would be rude not to and after 10 miles of cycling and carrying bikes we were thirsty.
Those of you paying attention will have noticed we took ten miles to travel six. The smart new computer tried to take us to Cowes and we reached Newport before we noticed. It was not a good moment when we looked at a map and realised we were too far north west. There was only a little grumbling because the hill out of Newport meant there wasn’t much breath. As we pushed the bikes up the hill, even the postman commiserated with us.
We finally reached the Steam Railway, our Quest photo was taken and we settled down for a late lunch. Although there were some very tempting cheeses at the festival, 30 minute queues were not for us so we settled on tea and a corned-beef sandwich accompanied by the aroma and sounds of various steam locomotives.
Sitting next to us was clearly a professional cider tasting expert, surprisingly he was still upright when we left.
Amongst many questions we are asked about our bikes is ‘what are they like to ride on such small wheels?’ They are in most cases, absolutely fine apart from when riding over sand and gravel. Today’s journey back to Godshill involved a number of loose and sometimes deep gravel bridleways and we struggled. Quite why Google Maps considers them suitable for cycling will forever remain a mystery. We were tempted to part exchange them for a couple of ebike’s!
Four hours after leaving Godshill we arrived back to find the answer to Quest Two of the day – the date of the Wesleyan Chapel and, to be quite honest, neither of us really cared.
Tired and sore, we made it back to Ventnor. Luckily the late afternoon sun was still on the terrace so we toasted the success of a cider and cheese fair with alcohol free beer. Sadly it was all we had and neither of us could face a 15 minute walk in to town to buy something more robust.
So, in total we have cycled 18 miles, ascended 1120 feet and descended 1125 feet. Tomorrow we’re attempting the Quest at Culver Down. We may just park in the car park and cycle the last few feet. We are definitely not trusting the cycle computer! And, finally, it’s garlic for breakfast for us.
As we returned from our lovely walking tour of Andalucia in early 2020, our thoughts were looking to our next adventure repatriating a motorhome from Tuscany. However little did we know that in Wuhan a few mischievous bats had other plans.
Now we are slowly emerging from 18 months of lockdown we are faced with confusing colour coded travel corridor options followed by nose swabs and other restrictions. The easier option is to stay in the UK so our first micro adventure in 18 months is to Vectis although, now that the Romans have moved on, it’s called the Isle of Wight.
Our day started with another trip aboard the world’s most expensive ferry, as we left Portsmouth we were reminded of a previous flight to the island aboard the amazing (and less expensive) Hovercraft as it gracefully passed by.
When we landed at Fishbourne, it seemed strange driving off a ferry and not having to drive on the wrong side of the road or put clocks forward by an hour. There are clear indications that the Island’s famous music festival is back. It’s unlikely we will attend although there is a very good line up and Tom Jones is on the list while we are here.
Rather than stand in a muddy field, we have opted to sit on our backsides and attempt to take part in British Cycle’s Quest scheme. This involves cycling to various grid points collecting answers to clues. Our first Quest point, in Cowes on the seawall of Egypt Esplanade, was to identify the names of the Engineer and Clerk to the Board of Health responsible for building the popular Esplanade.
A short cycle back to the car and our next stop was Eddington House Nurseries. What would a trip to the Isle of Wight be without Kim visiting one of her favourite succulent nurseries? The place was spotless and the plants neatly lined up. We wondered what would happen if one dared to drop a leaf.
Finally, tired from our early start, we decided to take a chance and check in early at St Joseph’s, Madeira Road, Ventnor. Luckily, cleaning had been completed and, an hour ahead of schedule, we sat down with a cuppa and the fantastic view.
Our day finished with a walk down to the Esplanade. John suggested cycling – a nonsense idea when it’s so hilly here. Kim might have been able to freewheel all the way down but the challenge of cycling back up was too much. Ventnor is rather quaint with some of its history still on display.
Most of the Information Boards refer to Villa Amanti, a grand villa dating back to Ventnor’s heyday. The villa is beautiful, a little piece of Tuscany on an English sea front. Who needs a JustGo Motorhome adventure? (Note: this rhetorical, Kim needs one!)
On our walk back, we noticed this sign proudly displayed on the front of a cottage. We are puzzled by the dates, can anyone help us ?