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Isle of Wight

May 2000

Well it was spring half term again and we were off to the Isle of Wight, which lies just off the coast at Southampton in the U.K. We were about to test out our new Fiat Multipla which seats 6 people comfortably!
I had rented a Hoseasons 'Godshill' Caravan at Gurnard Pines Holiday village, Cowes and the twins would be taking a friend each. Dan had decided to stay at home and 'dog sit'. The caravan was really more of a permanent home on wheels. It was very basic with no frills, but it sufficed. I was really happy to find out that it had an electric fire in the main lounge as the weather was very windy and cold while we were there. The rain was also very heavy so we were always permanently cold and wet. Ah well, the joys of an English vacation!
Cowes is a lovely old town but we would not be there for the famous 'Cowes Week' which is a fabulous regatta, but perhaps it was just as well. The captain was at home anyway.
One evening we drove down to the harbour front and looked for a nice place to eat. We found a great Italian restaurant in the town which served fabulous pizzas! But before eating we took a few snaps of the waterfront. Here are the boys, just before we lost the light.
The town of Cowes is split into two parts as it is a harbour. Most of the 'Red Funnel' ferries go across to the mainland from here so we were well placed for the return journey. It becomes very lively on Cowes week but off season its just like any other seaside town, quiet! There is a smaller ferry that takes you from East Cowes across to Cowes and we tried this once, but you can only fit on about six cars so for the most part we drove around the headland which only takes about fifteen minutes.
This drive takes you past the gates of Osborne House which used to be Queen Victoria's favourite residence. She came here as often as she could during her reign which was probably a lot as she reigned for a very long time. In total, the Isle of Wight only covers 147 square miles but we must have driven all those while we stayed here, so we saw a lot of Osborne House. The drive also takes you past Parkhurst Prison where notorious criminals like Ronnie Kray were locked up!
When I was a lot younger we used to come to the I.O.W. every year with the Girls Brigade to a place called Bembridge whose harbour is shown here. These were camping holiday's and probably the first time I was away from home for a week long stretch. I remember having a lot of fun and doing lots of different things, but then I was with my peers and not my parents so that could have had something to do with it. Robyn and Ben would be bringing Sophie and Matt along for company so perhaps this half term would see me finishing that novel I have been reading for such a long time!

The only surviving windmill on the Island as I remember is at Bembridge. It dates from 1700 and was last used in 1913. Much of its original wooden machinery is still in place and is now in the care of the National Trust. There are spectacular views from here. This Windmill was built in 1700 from Island stone, and was used to produce flour and animal feed at around 6000 kilos per day. It was worked by two people, a man and a boy, who laboured for 15 hours each day. The dust from the grain caused frequent chest-related illnesses. 
Much of the foodstuffs produced were exported, and convict ships would stock up with grain on their way to Australia, the mill being the last thing in England that the convicts would see. Another novel idea at Bembridge is the Zambezi Tearooms which is an actual boat moored in the harbour. You are taken across to have your cream tea and then taken back to shore again!

One miserable cold, wet day we decided to take a trip to Carisbrooke Castle. Needless to say it was not the best of days to walk around the battlements, but I am glad we did as the tour guide was great, really knowledgeable. Apparently King Charles I was imprisoned here before being taken to London for trial and execution. We took the same walk around the battlements that he did all those years ago for his morning exercise. You can also still see the bowling green created for his amusement in the outer bailey and the window through which he once tried to escape. Until 1944 the castle was the Governor's official residence. It really is a 'must see' if ever you go across to the I.O.W. The castle stands on a high ridge about two miles south-west of Newport. Although the site is Saxon in origin, the castle Norman. Two medieval wells on which the castle depended are still to be seen; one in the massive keep, the other in the 16th-century well-house where you can still see donkeys turning the wheel to bring up the buckets of water. 
This water-colour, which can be found in the British Museum was painted by the artist Turner in 1828. It shows Carisbrooke Castle in a style was very popular during the Victorian era. 
Turner had come to the I.O.W. to paint this picture of ships in Cowes harbour the previous year and fell in love with this tiny island. 
They also have a Museum in the castle grounds so it wasn't all outside work! I remember Sophie getting very wet and cold on that day but no-one was taking any pictures! The Museum was located in the Governor's House which was, for more than 20 years, occupied by Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. The museum illustrates the history of the castle and the Isle of Wight. Archaeological finds, Civil War armour and objects connected with Charles l's imprisonment are displayed in the lower gallery. The upper gallery features 'A Century of Collecting', an exhibition arranged to mark the museum's centenary in the summer of 1998.
The restaurant at our holiday village was called 'The Chart Room' and we ate there on a few occasions. It was very good food and we were waited on by some very nice young French waiters as I recall!
Here we all are after a memorable meal. I guess one of the waiters must have taken the picture. 

One day we went into the town of Brading to visit the Wax Works. This was a lot of fun as you can tell by the pictures below. It was situated in a very old Tudor style house and had many rooms and interesting displays. They had one section that was all to do with witches and witchcraft. Very gruesome, a bit like the London Dungeon.

The whole town of Brading was very old and very picturesque and the Red Lion local pub also served a great lunch which was a bonus, especially when you have four hungry teenagers to feed. This picture shows the Wax Works and the town Church and stocks behind. There is also the original 'bull ring'. This large cast iron ring is set in the middle of the High Street and was used for the barbaric sport of bull baiting. There is an old custom that the Island's governor paid 5 for a bull, but once killed, the meat would be given to the poor.
There was one area in the Wax works where you could pose for a picture under an axe man. Here is Robyn doing just that. In the small shop there they sold things like candles, skeletons that glowed in the dark and other such memorabilia that intrigue the young.

We had parked close to a very old church in Brading so we went inside to have a look. It was Norman (I think) and it had some very old tombstones with effigies on the top. They were very colourful. The one shown here is strange as the figure is lying on its side and not on its back as is the usual pose.

Another good place to visit is Needles Point at Alum Chine. They have a great selection of rock shops (the real kind not the ones you suck) and there is a small amusement area; but best of all is the chair-lift that takes you down to the beach where you can collect different coloured sand. If you don't have a head for heights there is an area at the top where the sand has already been collected for you and you can make your own sand souvenir. Here are Robyn and Sophie going down in the chair-lift. I was right behind them in a chair all to myself but I was very conscious of not dropping anything like camera or wallet as it is a long way down and you can actually see things that other people have dropped which are irretrievable! Here they are coming up again. We visited the rock shop and saw men 'glassblowing' in the small area behind the premises. It was about the hottest place on the island that afternoon as I recall. The weather had not been too kind to us for the whole time we had been there, but at least on this day the rain had held off enough for the chair-lift to be in operation, which was why we had gone there in the first place.

Here is Ben having some fun with a rope-ladder later on in the afternoon. We had stayed to have lunch and make our own sand souvenirs but then the amusements beckoned. This one was fun to watch because it looked so simple yet no-one climbed it successfully that afternoon, not even Ben.

This is an aerial view of the Needles Point and Alum Bay. As you can see the beach can only be reached by the chair-lift. This is probably the best way to see this area, by air. You don't really get a sense of how high up you are until the chair-lift drops over the edge and then you hope that the person next to you does not decide to rock the chair!
Another great place we visited was Ventnor, which faces France and is probably the best kept secret on the I.O.W. This picture shows the walk down to the beach called 'The Cascade'. It really is very different here and especially pretty with lovely houses, gardens full of Hydrangeas in bloom and quaint shops and pubs. We walked down to sit on the small promenade and buy ice cream and the sun came out. It was glorious. There is a lovely old pub on the waterfront down there where you sit outside for lunch and you can hear the waves crashing against the rocks below. I think it was called The Spyglass.
We travelled all over the I.O.W. and visited Ryde for Ice Skating, Shanklin Chine for hill walking and souvenir shopping, Godshill for a great cream tea, Sandown for its beaches and amusement arcades, West Wight for Needles Point, Alum Bay and the Quay at Yarmouth, Brading for the Wax Works, Carisbrooke Castle for a liberal sprinkling of History, Cowes for some great restaurants and last but not least Newport, the small capital of the I.O.W. The new car which had been christened 'Monty' by Sophie did it all with ease. A very smooth ride even with two big teenagers sitting in the front with the driver for most of the time.
The holiday village had also proved a good choice as it had tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a mini-golf area and a huge area for nightly entertainment. Here are the boys enjoying themselves at one of the cabaret evenings. However, they wouldn't get up and dance!

I think we all had a really good time and the half term went really quickly. The short ferry ride home was fun as we managed to get the seats at the back of the boat which gave us a panoramic leaving view of the I.O.W. We also went up on deck but it was really windy so we soon came back down again and drank hot chocolate to keep warm. If you have never been to this small part of the U.K then you should consider taking a trip across the Solent and seeing it for yourself. It really is a fun place to go.

So goodbye to the 'Garden Isle'. It was great!

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This document maintained by jacquetta@holle.demon.co.uk.
Material Copyright © 2001 Dan & Jacquetta Holle