A Sunday on the Isle of Wight
Waking up early on a Sunday morning I had a pleasant surprise when I opened my curtains to a bright sky and a clear view over Southampton. This does not happen often and its safe to say it was a good start to my day. After getting ready it was time to set off, along with my flatmate Fiona, and make our way to the Red Funnel ferry terminal. Neither of us were completely sure where we were headed and after a near attempt to board a cargo ship, we got ourselves back on track and found where we needed to be. My parents were already there waiting, so we said our good mornings and hopped in the car, ready to go.
We had a short wait until we were called to board the ferry and then at 9am, the excitement began as we pulled out from the port and began the hour’s trip down the Solent to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Southampton is a major port which handles hundreds of thousands of ships every year; from ferries, cruise ships, cargo ships and container ships from as far away as Asia. From the town itself this is noticeable but easy to forget. However, as we left the dock and sailed past numerous huge vessels and the various quaysides, it opened my eyes to exactly how much goes on, 24 hours a day, most of which we are totally unaware of. It was fascinating to watch the huge ships being directed into the docks, the hundreds of people undertaking work (even on a Sunday!) around the port, and to see the various ships being loaded / unloaded with vehicles of every kind, from brand new Range Rovers, Audis, tractors and diggers, and there were even a few red London buses!
One hour later, we were pulling into the dock at Cowes – home to the famous Cowes Week
, one of the longest running regattas in the world. It took some time to unloaded the ferry but we were soon off on our way driving through the town in the direction of nearby Newport (the old capital of the island), where we planned to have a spot of breakfast. The drive was not far and before long we were parked and ready to explore the little town. We were pleasantly surprised with what the town had to offer, with a large variety of shops and eateries, from the well known high street names to smaller independent shops, something we were not expecting. We strolled along a few of streets before stopping for a bite to eat – an (almost) full breakfast by the way. It was Sunday after all!!
Newport is actually seen as the ‘capital’ of the Island, due to its central location. The town is packed with grand houses, of Victorian and Georgian architecture, although some of them could do with a lick of paint and some TLC. I was particularly taken with the the name of the clock tower (Victoria) providing a small amount of bias, the row of shops down ‘Watchbell Lane’ and the majestic church in the centre.
Leaving Newport behind us, we continued our trail to the quintessential English village of Godshill. Arriving in the village, we were greeted by the sight of charming thatched cottages lining the winding street, filled with traditional tearooms, souvenir shops and packed out with local produce.
Feeling energetic we climbed up a steep footpath which led up to the medieval All Saints Church, which gave the village its name, and which overlooks the village, as well as the rolling hills in the background. Interestingly, the church houses one of only two medieval wall paintings in Europe. During the reformation, the painting was covered over with whitewash to prevent destruction but fortunately was rediscovered in the 19th century.
Walking down from the church along a narrow road, we passed through the ‘old village’ which was much quieter than the main street through the village, and down past the quaint ‘Bat’s Wing’ 16th century tea room, which was covered with artificial passion flowers.
It was time to move on again and our next stop was seaside ‘resort’ of Shanklin. The wind was picking up by this point and after a quick walk around the village, a peek into the all round Christmas Shop ‘Jingle Bells’ and a walk along the cliff to see the sea, we decided it was probably best to jump back in the car and head towards our final destination.
Along the way, we made a quick stop, which allowed Fiona and I to jump out and set our feet upon the sandy beach at Sandown. Sadly it was not the time to paddle or sunbath!
Back in the car, sheltered from the drizzle, we continued along our way until we reached the holiday residence of Queen Victoria, Osborne House
. We spent a good half an hour exploring the various rooms inside the magnificent building – various from old council rooms, to the billiard room, bedrooms and even the royal children’s nursery. The collection of belongings, artifacts and paintings from all over the world were particularly impressive, and a final treat before exiting the house was intricately decorated Durbar room – which provided us with a taste of India.
Fiona and I then decided to stretch our legs by taking a walk to the Swiss Cottage, which turned out to rather further away than we had hoped. The cottage is actually an original which was taken to pieces and brought over to Osborne House where it was then reassembled. The cottage was mainly a space in which the children were encouraged to play and learn particular skills, such as cultivating fruit and vegetables in the neighbouring plot, which were then sold on to their father. Not only were the children growing fruit and vegetables but they also learnt to cook within the cottage’s fully functioning kitchen. Apparently both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert saw this kind of education as a way to keep their children grounded, despite their status as royalty.
We had soon explored the estate’s grounds and outbuildings and, as the rain had arrived, decided to call it a day and head back to the cafeteria where we re-joined my parents and stocked up on refreshments. It was slowly approaching the time that we had to head back to the port and make our way back to the mainland.
Toodle-pip Isle of Wight, you served us well!