Sunday, 16 March 2008

Sojourn (with small boy) on the Isle of Wight

Last week saw Dog Walker and son saying farewell to the rest of the family for a short trip to the Isle of Wight.

The outing was in lieu of a Year 6 school residential trip which the boy was unable to go on. And so it was meant to be a bit educational!?

It didn't start well - departure postponed from Monday to Tuesday due to big storm which meant some of the ferries were cancelled. I'm not a good sailor so it was just as well.

The storm was a bit of a godsend in that I was able to show firsthand how coastal erosion takes place (one of the subjects being studied by his classmates on the Norfolk coast). A double bonus is that one of my favourite things is walking by the sea in stormy weather.

The Needles

Stormy at The Needles

He loved it at The Needles where we were blown across the car park and where the night before windspeeds of 95mph had been recorded. Round the corner, at Freshwater Bay, the waves were crashing on to the beach and around the chalk stacks.

Freshwater Bay 1

Waves at Freshwater Bay

We also visited the Dinosaur Isle museum, at Sandown. It's quite interactive and designed for kids (I think) so he quite enjoyed that - he didn't even complain when I made him complete one of the worksheets.

There was a lovely lady in the reception/gift shop who seemed quite pleased that she'd been inundated with new stock in readiness for the coming season. I think the winter months are a bit lonely for her - she said there were days when her only customer were museum curatorial staff buying sweets and snacks.

The son blew £10 of his £15 allowance for the trip on a Horrible Science book on dinosaurs. I blew £14.40 on my undisclosed allowance on something I've coveted for most of my adult life - a geological map of the Isle of Wight (what a sad old git!). I remember studying one at an exhibition (Local Look, at Brook WI, by the Isle of Wight Natural History Society) when I was 12 or 13 and I've wanted one ever since. I can't really explain why - I'm not sure I can even read it properly!

The boy had also hoped that we might be able to play crazy golf while we were on the Island - a favourite holiday pasttime. He wouldn't believe that they wouldn't be open so we went down on to Shanklin seafront - a desolate place in winter - and he soon believed me!

Shanklin 4

Desolate at Shanklin

Desperate to continue the 'educational' theme, the next day we took Grandad to Portsmouth to the Historic Royal Naval Dockyard. The guided tour of HMS Victory was quite fun - the guide (an ex-Navy man I presume) made it interesting, though you got the feeling that his 'script' was very well rehearsed.

HMS Victory

HMS Victory
Raising the wreck of the Mary Rose was obviously a great feat, but I'm afraid viewing a few old timbers through a thick mist is not that exciting. The museum (nearby but hopefully, due to Lottery funding soon to be in the same building) was better and was quite child friendly. This was just as well as we shared our time there with a class of youngsters with learning difficulties. They were quite delightful, but the teacher in charge of them was completely dipsy and, to be honest, not really in control of herself!

The weather quickly got worse at this point so we had to forego the boat trip around the dockyard and tucked into sausage in chips instead. This was followed by a wander around HMS Warrior, which is a beautifully restored early iron warship - the most advanced of its time (1860s).

The it was back through the rain to the ferry terminal and the Island.

Another highlight of the day was taking Grandad on public transport, namely the Island's railway, which runs from Shanklin to the end of Ryde Pier. The railway itself is quite historic, in its way - the rolling stock being made up of 1950s London Underground carriages.

Grandad was outraged that the ride was so bumpy and was almost apoplectic at the language used by some of the school children who shared our compartment.

Spring has sprung . . . not

The bright spell we had before this current stormy weather tempted me and the dog out of our armchair/basket and into the countryside.

We had a couple of walks which were chilly (with frost) but nice because of the bright sun.

One such walk, we discovered an old threshing machine decomposing in the corner of a field. It made me think about the days when dozens of men would be working the fields around the village, when there were up to a dozen pubs (none now), shops (just a small post office today) and a real sense of community (definitely none now!).


Thresher 2

I was brought right back into the 21st century by an equally decrepit piece of machinery lying in a nearby hedge. Dumping your unwanted items in the countryside seems to be the way you get rid of them nowadays. I wonder how long it'll take this motorbike to rot away completely - probably never will.


Our noses were assaulted when we came across a farmer spreading muck on his field - poor dog, her sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive than mine. In fact, the smell wasn't too bad as we approached as we were upwind but it got worse as we went around the field. Also, the next day, the wind changed towards the village and the place stank for a week!

Muck spreader

I don't think it has been a particularly bad winter, but the rabbits have obviously been hungry, devouring the bark on these young trees . . .


Finally, we found some more frosty teasels - one of my favourite photographic subjects.

New teasel 2

New teasel 1