Sometimes, blog inspiration comes from obvious sources and planned articles we have set out to research and write but on others, it can be a simple occurrence that sparks an idea. The other day those of you who follow my Facebook page or my Twitter feed may have seen an ariel photograph I posted of the Isle of Wight, my home. I posted it for no reason other than the fact that I really liked the angle, showing the whole of the Island viewed from a plane facing west to east, with the coastline of mainland England just visible on the left of shot. If you missed that you should 1: AHEM! – go and join the Facebook and Twitter feeds!! and 2: Take a look – here is the shot in question….
Initially, there were a few ‘how pretty!’ comments, so I posted another photo of the village here on the Island where I work. And responses were crazy – as well as comments on the second picture many of you Tweeted me or sent messages saying things like
“Oh My God it’s beautiful, and sooo quaint!!”…
“Where are the Hobbits?” and..
“I keep expecting to see Hagrid with a baby dragon!!”…
When I first put the second picture up, I did so without crediting the source I’d
stolen borrowed it from, so big thanks to Ben Farrelly, who took this shot of Shanklin Old Village, where I work:
This response was what helped convince me that maybe I should share a little of my home with you. I’d had the idea a while back and had originally intended to go out wandering with my camera and take some shots myself, but time and work always seemed to get in the way, and the idea ended up on the “Meh…one day” shelf. Fortunately, I have some wonderful friends to draw upon, and amongst some library shots here today, you’ll be treated to some work by my friend Neil, of Neil Hunt Photography. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but do look to the end of this blog where there is a shiny link to all of Neil’s work, including the shots I’ve used here today and many more – so a MASSIVE thank you to him for allowing me his permission to reproduce his work here today.
The Isle of Wight is a small island located centrally off of the south coast of England. Approximately 24 miles east to west, and 12 miles north to south, we are a tiny microcosm of the life modern England left behind 50 years ago – and frankly, I like it that way. We’re the kind of place where cats getting stuck in trees are newsworthy events, our biggest mode of public transport is a bus and we hold no truck with modern frivolities like nightclubs and edu-ma-cationing, no siree. Yet despite being smaller than some Canadians back yards, there is a phenomenal amount of beauty packed into our tiny home where we co-exist with Mother Nature every day. Heard of Bear Grylls, survival king and champion of all things nature-based??? Yeah, he’s one of ours – he grew up in Bembridge, which is at the eastern end of the map above. And for reference, I live in Ryde, and work in Shanklin. So if you were ever to decide to come visit us, what would you expect to greet you?? Let’s take a look, shall we?? (Hold my hand at all times, and DO NOT look the locals in the eye……)
If you’re coming here, be sure to take out a second mortgage on your home so you can pay for the ferry, whose ass-raping pricing policy is why most of us never leave the Island. In all likelihood you’ll have a vehicle, so you’ll travel on a car ferry. There may be some signs as you leave the mainland that we are not your usual holiday destination ..
Alternatively, if you are footloose and car-free, you can enjoy a quick twenty minute hop across on a swish catamaran, or for the truly adventurous, bounce wildly across the waves on our Hovercraft – yes bitches, we have Hovercraft!!!
The shot on the left shows the catamaran leaving the mainland, the shot on the right is the hovercraft leaving my home town of Ryde to return to ‘The Big Island’, as we refer to the rest of the UK.
Having arrived, you’ll find you need a bus to get to most of the Island, since our train line only runs from Ryde to Shanklin, and has a whole seven – count them – seven stops. So welcome to the pleasures of navigating a complex bus service with about twenty different routes, multiple timetables depending on the day of the week, and a pricing system designed to bankrupt you. Huzzah!! So, if travel is antiquated and complex and we all live in the dark ages, WHY are you coming here again????????????
This is why – it’s absolutely beautiful everywhere you look. This is your welcoming view as you step off of the ferry at Ryde, where I live, and my house is a three-minute walk from this pier. I live behind the big white building on the right of shot with the bright light in front of it. The hovercraft arrives/departs from the beach just to the left of the pier as you view it here. Bummer of a place to live, eh?? 😉
Primarily a tourist-driven economy, the Island remains rightfully proud off the stunning landscapes and natural beauty that draws floods of tourists here every year. We are home to some of the most important (and beautiful) historical sites in the south of the UK, such as Osbourne House, former home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert:
and you can visit Carisbrooke Castle, where Charles 1st was held captive after the English Civil War against Cromwell, prior to his execution. Carisbrooke stands high in the centre of the Island and offers fantastic views of the surrounding countryside:
Indeed, if I were to list all the attractions here on the Island (and they are LEGION, from dinosaur museums where you can see skeletons excavated from our soft chalk cliffs, to stately homes and mansions, to sailing and extreme sports venues) we would be here all day – instead if you’re interested I recommend you hit the Internet and look us up. Because what I really wanted to get across today is just how amazingly beautiful my home is as soon as you step off of the beaten path. Take the Needles for example. The Needles are a rock formation at the very western tip of the IOW, often used as an iconic image when referring to the Island. Actually getting to the Needles takes you right off the usually travelled tourist routes, but hidden away at the end of tiny country lanes is this:
These are The Needles, with the lighthouse at their tip visible jutting from the end. You can walk right to the end of the clifftop here, to look down on the view from above, and the approach to the cliffs is phenomenally beautiful:
Of course, not everybody wants to engage in leisurely countryside walks, so if you’re the wild adventurous type and prefer, say, surfing as your choice of holiday activity, you’ll miss out on the scenery when you head to the beach to catch some waves, right? Wrong. Welcome to Compton Beach, mecca for surfers every summer:
Are you beginning to get a sense of just how tough I find it to live here year round?? Yes, yes, life is tough sometimes, a real strain in fact. In fact, living here is so tough that sometimes you just want to get away from it all, and just go and sit in a field somewhere:
Mind you, we can’t always escape to beautiful surroundings, since we all have to work to earn our daily crust. Mind you, if I were to take a quick ten minute break from work I could walk down the cliff path behind the hotel I work at, and in less than two minutes after leaving a hot, stressful kitchen I can be stood on the beach below the hotel, which looks like this:
In fact, The Isle of Wight has for a long time become a mecca for over-worked and under-paid stressheads seeking an escape from the rigors of life on the mainland – we’re like the Goa of England, the hippy hideaway, the wasters wonderland. Primarily this stems from the iconic pop festivals we hosted in the late 60’s – the 1970 pop festival is widely acknowledged as one of the biggest ever in the UK, with an estimated 370,000 attendees. Mind you, the bill was a bit rubbish – ever heard of any of these guys? Hendrix?? The Doors?? The Who?? No, me neither….
The festivals have been revived in the last decade, and we still welcome close to 100,000 partying festival-goers every year, and continue to attract some of the biggest names in music to play here in the blazing sunshine each summer.
But even without major attractions and pop festivals, the Island is capable of surprising you as you simply walk along, with small and unusual bits of architecture and natural beauty sneaking up on you around corners or through doorways. As you walk from Ryde where I live toward Seaview along the coast, you’ll stumble across Appley Tower, a rich man’s Folly built centuries ago – just a random single tower stuck up at the beach’s edge with no apparent reason:
It’s currently occupied in the summer by an old hippy with a beard to his knees and an Old English Sheepdog, and he sells healing crystals and gives Tarot readings. This kind of thing will barely make an Islander blink. In fact we almost seem to revel in the unusual and odd – we are the most haunted island in the world (over 100 separate ghost sightings), we have our own dialect (although this is sadly much on the wane as we succumb, like most of the world, to talking like black gangsters, you dig homie?) and we are one of the last remaining bastions of nature where the red squirrel lives completely untroubled by its nemesis, the grey squirrel (greys eradicate their red cousins – we’re one of the few places left without a grey squirrel population. Tough luck, Foamy.).
I wish I had time here today to go into the dialect thing as its part of our unique identity, as well as side-splitting funny to anyone who’s never encountered it, but it would fill a couple of blogs all on it’s own – instead, please take a few seconds to view this PDF dictionary of IOW slang – you’ll know your Nammit from your Mallishag in no time.
Despite our natural beauty, many youngsters growing up on the Island cannot wait to leave. Our travel to and from the mainland is controlled by a monopoly of two companies and is therefore cripplingly expensive (a one-way ticket for a car and two passengers is £55, or $87.30), there is very little major nightlife and shopping is basic at best – small wonder that kids see us as backward, behind the times and dull. Yet those same children will grow into adults who miss the idyllic way of life, the slow pace of everything and will eventually come to realise it’s one of the safest and most beautiful places to raise a child I’ve come across in the UK (and I’ve seen a fair bit of the UK). I’m fiercely proud to live here, and love my home, so I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into the place I call home.
Can I also before I sign off today make a parting special mention and thank you to Neil Hunt, friend and photographer extraordinaire, who very kindly gave his permission for me to feature some of his incredible work here today. Please take the time to go across to his website at www.neilhunt.com and check out some of his other work today – there are more stunning IOW landscape shots to be seen there, as well as a host of other excellent work. In fact, if you watch the wedding shots scrolling across the home page, some of you may recognise a certain blogger and his beautiful wife on their wedding day – Neil was my wedding photographer, and did a truly excellent job. He also sells prints of his work, so you could take a little of the Isle of Wight home with you today. Please swing by and show him your support.
And in parting, let me extend a warm welcome to all of you who have visited us for the first time today (albeit virtually) – perhaps best expressed by Derek Sandy, local character and reggae performer!! >>>>>>
If any of you want to know where to look for more information about my home, have any questions about either the Island or my life on it, or just want to coo lovingly over the pictures here, please do make a comment – I love comments from readers, and reply to each and every one of you. Thank you for indulging my local pride today, and please remember that amongst all this beauty our campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer continues over at @bloggers4boobs on Twitter, and HERE online – get involved!! Yours From Paradise,
POST SCRIPT ADDENDUM:
Normally, I have a rule that I never edit a post after it’s published – I prefer to show my mistakes, warts and al,l and all that. But I’m going to break that rule and add one more photo. I’ll explain why after. Here is St. Mildred’s church, located at Whippingham on the Isle of Wight:
I’ve added this not just for you, but for my wife. This church is just down the road from Osbourne House, and was the church used by Victoria and Albert when they were on the Island, and is five minutes walk from where I grew up as a child. It still has royals interred there, and is THE most picturesque and beautiful of churches on the Isle of Wight. It’s also where, on the tenth of October, 2010, I married my wife Emily. A stunning place to marry a stunning wife. We wanted to share this one with you, because to us, it will always be the most beautiful place on the Isle of Wight xx