With four clear days at our disposal it seemed sensible to carve the Isle of Wight up into 4 chunks, so on the Tuesday we fired up Rosie and headed south to Newport, sort of in the middle and where all the main roads around the island converge. I remember from our day trips a few years back that if you were ever going to get caught up in traffic it was here - and so we did although not for long - and after missing turnings for the main car parks we eventually found one on a side street, fed the meter for a couple of hours worth and marched off in to town.
The first building of note - at least what came to our attention anyway - was an old church converted into a pub. What a good idea, and the name of the pub chain will come as no surprise. Presumably they've bought up all the cinemas they can and are now moving on to houses of worship. The urge to go in and conduct a little research was pretty powerful, but, well it was early and we resisted. Just.
Whilst hardly bustling, there was plenty of people around, although clearly the tills hadn't been ringing enough for some as there were a number of empty units about. A sign that times were, and are still tough for some. The usual tax dodging, sorry, tax ‘efficient’ chain stores were in evidence though.
The next port of call was Sandown, perhaps the Isle of Wight’s most famous holiday resort. Again, we’d been here a few times on day trips - either with friends or HRH (Trev’s Mum, not a real one) and enjoyed a game or two of ten pin bowling in the seafront arcade. The arcade was all boarded up - not for the winter, but for good it seemed. Hoardings promised a flash new housing development but nevertheless it was sad to see.
This is one of the risks of visiting seaside resorts out of season. They can look cold, deserted and neglected, particularly under a leaden sky. Add people and sunshine and the area can look so much different.
Some warming relief came in the form of tea and a teacake at a lovely little cafe in the high street which at least was doing a decent trade - albeit exclusively to the grey army. With spirits and caffeine levels raised we headed back to the car and onwards, but not before tracking down the B & B we stayed at a few years back with friends Tony & Jane. We had a cracking weekend - bright sunshine on the Saturday and snow on the Sunday - and in-between got accused of stealing cutlery - but more of that later. Anyway, the B & B was still there, but the once large garden had been separated off and a housing development now occupied the corner.
Having taken a rather circuitous route via Brading we eventually found ourselves on the coast at Bembridge, the easternmost point of the Isle of Wight. We paused for photos, grabbing some snaps of some birds on the beach. Yeah, I know, there’s a first time for everything. A cracking spot in the summer to watch the world go by, the cold damp wind seemed particularly biting here. We contemplated a coastal walk. Briefly. Very briefly.
Having retreated to the warmth of Rosie we continued around the coast, pausing at Bembridge harbour and then Seaview for photos’ Both pretty places in their own right that a splash of sunshine would really do wonders for.
Our final stop of the day was at Ryde, the Isle of Wight's biggest town. A hovercraft was just powering up and I was able to just catch it leaving thanks to a rather too energetic scamper up and across the railway bridge as the it left for Portsmouth. Ferries ply their trade at Rye too but the water is so shallow that old London Underground trains transports passenger's to and from the town via a pier.
There was still the main town to see but we decided to call it a day and head back to the warmth of Patsy and defrost.
Not for long though as grub & grog o’clock was approaching. That evening saw us on the water again as we traversed the river Medina on the chain link ferry across to Cowes. Having rather lazily drove down, we did at least park up and go across as foot passengers. Ok, car’s had to pay and on foot it was free but that had absolutely nothing to do with it. I hadn’t done the slightest bit of research on potential er, research venues so it seemed hours before we came across the welcoming lights of the Duke of York although in reality it was about 10 minutes. Well, the food was good - homemade fishcakes for me - and I got what was to be my only taste of Isle of Wight beer too. Check out the beer on my grog blog a.k.a the Ale Archive here and the food on my new pub grub blog here. A nice friendly pub and we stopped for another pint and a chat then headed back to the ferry through almost deserted streets. It was very quiet.
So, that’s it for Part 2. Stand by for part 3 where we head further south and the story behind ‘Spoongate’ is revealed. Until then….