Just returned from a very enjoyable week on the Isle of Wight and thought I would just share a few of the many photos to capture something of the islands appeal before getting back to my Glastonbury write up. I will then return to share some of the many fascinating places and history we discovered here. I can only imagine the buzz here during Cowes week and the annual music festival and may just return to experience them. Perhaps on my own boat when it finally comes in. We certainly left much still to be explored including the famous garlic farm, the Shipwrecks museum and the statue to my idol Jimi Hendrix’ to remember the last festival he ever played, at Afton Down where up to 700,000 fans attended – the largest ever audience recorded at the time and bigger than Woodstock.
Firstly though a plug for our host on the island – Elizabeth who has a lovely house overlooking the Island Harbour Marina between East and West Cowes. We found it through AirBnB and we were wowed from the off. The views from every room were stunning and the on site marina restaurant – Breeze became a favourite with a good menu at very reasonable prices, good quality food and very friendly and attentive staff – Luke became a good mate and looked after us well. Contact details available for Elizabeth if anyone interested. Not really suitable for children though.
The weather forecast for the week was awful every day but in fact we had a heatwave throughout and very little rain. At the marina you could walk out to the point for lovely views of the river and if you glance back towards the boatyard (we didn’t notice it first time) is the sad sight of the once famous paddle steamer called the Ryde Queen now rotting away on the marshes and sinking by the day. You can catch a river taxi from here for very reasonable cost up and down the river and catch site of other abandoned vessels which all add to the beauty of the landscape of rolling countryside.
The IOW is a haven for cyclists and coach tours visiting famous landmarks on established routes but if you can explore deeper there are some wonderful finds that explain why so many of the rich and famous over centuries have fallen in love and resided at the place and the many who still do.
Most famous inhabitants were Vicky and Bert as I like to call them and when you spend a day at Osbourne House, which we found very easy to do, you will understand why our Queen Victoria, Albert and their family loved it there withdrawing from London and the other royal residences to live – out of the limelight and away most of the daily duties normally associated with a head of state. There 9 children must have had a wonderful time there with Albert seemingly a model father nudging them all along in an educational but enjoyable way of life. More about Osborne in a future blog.
Red squirrels thrive on the island and are very much respected and well protected – no grey or black squirrels have yet managed to catch a ferry across the solent to see them off as in other parts of the country.
Basic history of the Island – approaching 2000BC the Beaker people arrived – famous for their pottery, and called the island Wiht (pronounced Weight). translated to ‘raised or rising above the sea’. The Romans arrived about 43AD and changed Whit to Vectis from a latin word Veho meaning ‘lifting’.
It was a peaceful rule for 450 years but then… Saxons arrived and slaughtered the natives, then the Mercians and then in 686 AD a West Saxon King conquered it and brought Christianity to the island and peace again for 200 years. Until the Danes arrived and another 100 years of killing. The few Islanders left lived in costant fear.
William the Conqueror was the next master in charge and granted overlordship to his relative William FitzOsbern who built Carisbrook Castle. Lordship then passed on to the DeRedvers family in 1100 and it was then sold to King Edward 1st in 1293 for 6000 marks. This was a good move for the islanders as it brought protection from overseas invasion. This continued through the Tudor and Stuart periods and sea defences were continually upgraded and several French and Spanish attacks were thwarted.
The coming of the railways transformed the Island and it became a very fashionable place when Vicky and Bert moved in and who received various heads of state at Osborne. When the island was granted full county status in 1972, Earl Louis Mountbatten was appointed its first Lord Lieutenant after his previous appointment as its Governor in 1965. Earl Mountbatten had been a great nephew of Princess Beatrice – youngest daughter of Victoria.
Other famous people associated with the island include ……………………..
King Charles Ist who was imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle after escaping their from the mainland at the time of the English Civil War. He tried to escape but was kept at Carisbrook until removed to Newport and then back to London and executed in 1649. John Nash – famous Architect built himself East Cowes Castle now demolished and painter Joseph Turner was a regular visitor. Alfred Lord Tennyson – poet who loved the island and lived there renting the impressive Farringford House until he purchased it. He was harassed by sightseers though and moved to Haslemere only using Farringford during the winter months. Guglielmo Marconi – who established a wireless testing station at the Needles having left Italy whose post office refused to let him test his new wireless equipment there. Barnes Wallace – Inventor of the Bouncing Bomb amongst other things, born and educated in Derbyshire but moved to IOW with an apprenticeship at Cowes with J Samuel White. Sir Chris Cockerell inventor of the Hovercraft developed his prototype at East Cowes David Niven – Actor lived at Rose Cottage in Bembridge; Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield here in 1849 Karl Marx often visited, for health reasons – the sub tropical climate has made life a little easier for many Winston Churchill frequently stayed at Ventnor at Flint Cottage and witnessed the capsizing of HM Training ship Eurydice in 1878 with the loss of 300 cadets Lewis Carroll stayed on the island for some character inspiration Dekyi Tsering, mother of the current Dale Llama. In the 1950s following the Chinese invasion of Tibet the Dali Llama and his family relocated to India where he remains today. His mother however had bad health and was sent to India for surgery on her throat – I know all about that. She then moved to the island to convalesce in Freshwater and loved it. she stayed for 6 weeks. She is known to Tibetans as Amala (Great Mother). Other celebs who boght homes on the island include Celia Imrey, Alan Titchmarsh, Shaw Taylor, Jack Douglas, Kenneth Kendall, and finally Charles Darwin began his famour book Origin of the Species whilst staying at the Kings Head Hotel
One highlight for me was to spot an old Thames Sailing Barge called Alice whilst in Cowes and was reminded of sailing on The Thalatta for a week back in the early 1970s, an amazing experience. I was lucky to be invited aboard for a quick tour of Alice and apart from no hammocks she didn’t disappoint. These vessels are now over 100 years old, about 90 feet long and 26 feet at their widest. They are just so graceful with their red sails carrying them along.
The Thalatta – thankfully restored and hopefully good for another 100 years
A selection of our Isle of Wight week
Major General Jack Seely on his horse Warrior depicted in a bronze at Carisbrooke Castle. Warrior was the inspiration for ‘Warhorse’
Old Cottage at Quarr
Shanklin with its thatched picturesque buildings and coachloads of tourists all it seemed looking for chips
Steephill Cove near Ventnor
Steephill Cove – down Love Lane – no parking at all
View to Steephill beach from Ventnor Botanical Gardens
Classic Wisteria at the Botanical Gardens
View across Freshwater Bay towards the Needles from Brighstone Bay
View back towards St Catherines Point
Cable Car down to Alum Bay Beach
Views from our B&B at Island Harbour Marina
Houseboats at Bembridge – a mixture of quirky, classy, and in various stages of being done up with lovely views across the bay
Canon atop Yarmouth Castle
Newtown Creek and marshes, great for bird watching
The Folly Inn heading for East Cowes
Private beach at Osbourne House
Red Squirrell enjoying an Osbourne lunch
Osbourne House with one of numerous nudes, very popular in Victoria’s times
Cowes High Street
Thames Sailing Barge – moored up at Cowes
Below decks – all shipshape
Red Funnel leaving Cowes ignoring the canons
Looking over Gurnard, family friendly town near Cowes
The Queen of Ryde, seen better days