Isle of Wight 2 – Ryde, Seaview, Shanklin, Cowes and red squirrels

This is the second post about our lovely trip to the Isle of Wight. Not as long as the first – here is the link to that post.  Here’s about more places we visited, and a look at the local wildlife.

Only on the Isle of Wight….

First, we spent some time in Ryde. What a funny, quirky place! First, we discovered the Pier – apparently the second longest in the country – I assume Southend is longer. Cars can drive on Ryde Pier out to the end, where there is a car park. The centre portion once once a tramway, now derelict, and the outer third is a functioning railway line.

    We walked to the end to find it largely a transport hub – the Wightlink catamaran service to Portsmouth leaves from here, and the railway terminates at the Pier head. It felt so far out at sea we were nearly in Portsmouth… Being us, we couldn’t resist the railway, particularly when we discovered it consisted of pensioned-off London Underground trains. The Island Line, as it is called, travels along the coast from Ryde to Shanklin, and also connects up with the Isle of Wight steam railway – this will have to wait for a future visit, but it is useful to know. We just rattled back down the Pier as far as the sea front. On the way we saw the Hovercraft, heading for Southsea – transport overload…

Bakerloo Line – to the Pier…
A bit rickety rusty rackety
Hovercraft sets off for Southsea

Our first stop – after a quick visit to a tat shop to buy a string of shells as a present for our sea-themed downstairs loo – was an amazing place called the Chocolate Apothecary. They served the most incredibly delicious Chilli Hot Chocolate – it turned me into a fiery furnace for the rest of the day. Good thing we haven’t got a branch of that in Hastings, Battleaxe would be enormously fat.

Chocolate Apothecary

Then up the hill, Union Street, which turns into the High Street – we didn’t even get that far. Many interesting shops – one selling only rose products, several junk shops, clothes shops, and a wonderful nameless shop that sold every imaginable sort of haberdashery and notion ( I love that word – Notions…) Also weird collectables – Dinky toys, little Wade figuirines…. It was kept by an elderly bearded bloke – I hope he is not planning to retire any time soon because I have never seen a shop like it. There were more collector’s shops in the Royal Victoria Arcade.

Union Street Ryde
Bonkers shop

    Battleaxe would totally recommend Ryde.We didn’t inspect half of it.
Next, we drove along the coast to Seaview, on a mission. Back in the 50s Philosopher came on holiday to the Isle of Wight with his parents, and they stayed in Seaview.  His father was a talented amateur watercolourist, and he painted the Seaview Yacht Club in 1956. Philosopher wanted to give a photograph of the painting to the Yacht Club, and also see what the place is like now.  The staff in the Club were very pleased, and the scene has changed very little.

Seaview Yacht Club 2018
And in 1956….

Seaview is a funny little place with too much traffic and too many holiday homes, but we found a good pub/cafe, the Old Fort, right by the Yacht Club.
We missed out Sandown altogether – that will have to wait for another year, because I wanted to walk down Shanklin Chine, one of those gorge-type steep valleys running down to the sea. Godddamn it, it closed on 1 October…..  It is in Shanklin Old Village – pretty thatched houses but on a very busy road.  However, our big exceitement was seeing a red squirrel close enough to take photos – see later.
We drove back with a tea stop at Quarr Abbey, between Ryde and Fishbourne. It is a Benedictine monastery that supplements its income with various tourism activities. It is a peaceful place, with a well-stocked farm/produce shop and a pleasant tea-garden staffed by thoroughly unmonastic-looking young women – I had expected to see brothers in brown habits with cords round their waists.  Apparently, genuine brothers are in short supply… We had a look at the Church – very plain and suitably austere, and encountered the Abbot was in an art gallery, laughing with the exhibitors in a very frivolous manner. I asked him the whereabouts of the pigs – I am very fond of pigs, and had read that the Quarr Abbey pigs are exceptionally beautiful. He directed us to htem, but neglected to say that you could buy food for them at the shop. They were indeed lovely pigs, and rushed over to us very enthusiatically, only to retire disgruntled (hah) because we had nothing to give them.
Now, here’s a coincidence. Here in Hastings, I discovered I know someone who was resident at Quarr Abbey, many years ago. I won’t put his name on here – I don’t know how public it is. Anyway, he left becasue he did not feel he had a monastic vocation….

      Our last day, we crossed over on the Floating Bridge/Chain Ferry to explore Cowes proper – we’d taken the car over earlier in the week, so it was not our first journey.

The Floating Bridge arrives at East  Cowes – right by our house

I said it was a bit clanky and noisy? Turns out this particular vessel has given a great deal of trouble, and is frequently out of service. Also, when you drive off on the East Cowes side you are lucky if your car does not scrape its bottom on the slipway… Also, we saw this other boat apparently holding the Floating bridge in position – we didn’t find out what it was doing…

      The locals are very fed up with it – particularly as the Floating Bridge has been operating since 1859, and they should have it sorted by now. Here is the original one. Our house is in a new development built where that black shed is on the left.  In the bottom picture in this post you can see the building on the far left – still there

      To be honest, Cowes was a bit of a disappointment. There is very little river/Solent walkway, and the shops are not that exciting unless you are into yacht chandlers, up-market boat clothing etc. We passed the Royal Yacht Squadron with all the starting guns for the Cowes races, and had a nice picnic lunch overlooking the Solent.

       Wildlife: The Isle of Wight is one of the very few places in the UK that has red squirrels. I assumed they would be very rare, and told Philosopher on our fist day that he could have – (excuse me – persons of a sensisitve disposition look away now)…. errr… have marital relations every day for the rest of his life if we saw a red squirrel. Blow me, we saw three – at Osborne, at Shanklin near the Chine and somewhere else – I think it was Quarr Abbey.  Here are some photos. Philospher has not held me to my promise, by the way.

       Here, too, is a curlew. Bit of a cheat – this was actually at the Ferry port in Lymington…

     We came back on the ferry from Fishbourne to Portsmouth. Very easy.
I have booked the little house again for next year, we loved it, and there is still so much to see…. Here is a final view of it taken from the Floating Bridge.



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