Yes I can spell. And no, this is not a commentary along racial lines. I’m not interested in that. Too much misinformation, too much dragging the past along with us and too many who still think one or another colour of skin is superior to another or someone’s culture is better than the others. The universe cares not a wit about our silly nonsense.
This is about true beauty. The earth’s beauty and how it must be preserved in its natural state before we lose everything good about this planet. And it’s about one small area of the planet that I had never seen before. Makes you forget for a moment about all the stupid things the human species does to itself. Even though there are deep wounds made by that same species, nature has a way of covering up our blunders over time.
This journey finds us on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, a couple of miles from the mainland. We had to take another kind of water craft to get there than the one on which we live. My best friend was not as at ease during this trip. She likes the shallow waters of the canals. This is the deep sea. But, gamer that she is, all was well in the end.
It’s all part of seeing this great country in which I was born so many years ago. The myth, magic, majesty and mirth that is England has to play above anything that is mirky, maniacal, machiavellian or monstrous. I decided to focus on the positive list and seek the best of England. Much of it has been discovered on the Isle of Wight.
I am no geologist. I like rocks and things but couldn’t identify one from another. And there is plenty of geological stuff going on here on the Isle of Wight. So, I consulted some books owned by the lady whose Air B&B we stayed at on the island. She has shelves of them. I won’t bore you, but you can probably guess that the island was once part of the mainland and was separated some time after the last ice age receded, leaving all sorts of strange formations and sediments.
The cliffs are spectacular enough. One of them, on Alum Bay, was tossed 90 degrees during an earthquake and is virtually lying on its side. You can see the layers of sediment formed over millions of years. Coloured sands of red, green, yellow, white, orange/rust, deep browny rust and so on. A whole tourist trade has developed from selling glass shaped recepticles in the form of birds, bears, lighthouses, the outline of the Isle of Wight and the like, filling them with varied layers of the coloured sands. We did not succumb.
12 days before our arrival, a portion of the sand cliff at Alum Bay slid sown the slope onto the beach. No one was hurt. This has been a regular occurrence over the years as erosion has taken its toll all around the island, especially on the sand and chalk cliffs. We were told that around 50 cm a year is lost along the coast of the Isle of Wight, sometimes more. Depends on the weather. And it has been very wet and windy these last few years.
Elsewhere, the cliffs are either chalk or granite. Quite a mix. In the interior you find sand, clay, bedrock, good soil for planting and, well, more chalk. I always had the image of the Isle of Wight as flat. Not so. The land rolls this way and that, like a mountain range that has been eroded to hills over the eons. In fact, that is exactly what happened. And….there are the dinosaur bones which have abounded all over the island, even of the large Brachiosaurus. Not a swimmer, so you know the island was once part of the mainland which was attached to the rest of Europe. No talk of Brexit back in the dinosaur days.
Vegetation is varied and abundant. Loved all the wooded areas and tree lined and canopied roads crisscrossing the island. Flowers grow everywhere and the gardens are showcases. Hedge row fields. Roads also lined with high hedges. Sometimes they were so high, panoramic views were obscured. You might get a glimpse of fields, cliffs and the sea, then it would disappear as if there were nothing there. But those glimpses were breathtaking at times.
The entire experience was very oldie worldie, lost in time and beautiful to behold. Some of that may be the average age of the island’s inhabitants, this being a great retirement spot. The islanders voted 62% to leave the European Union. Some of it may be due to the preservation of old homes, villages, manor houses, castles, Queen Victoria’s Osborne House, Roman villas and even a Saxon enclave. It may have to do with the Spitfire I saw fly over the island. But most of it is probably my own age reflected in the island’s timelessness.
My best friend did the driving, so I got the benefit of the local scenery. Sounds a bit selfish I know but I refuse to drive in Britain. I won’t get into it here. Suffice it to say I’m an impatient driver and the roads over here would only exacerbate the situation and drive me over edge….so to speak.
But, back to the Isle of Wight. One of the things that struck me most was not only the topography, as magnificent as it is, but the creative energy on the island. The number of artists and hand crafting artisans, musicians, purveyors and seekers of a more enlightened spiritual path in life, festivals of all kinds (including the annual Isle of Wight Festival which features old and new bands, from 1968-70 and revived in 2002), Morris Dancers and, of course, those avid gardeners is too numerous to list. A cornucopia of talent and craftsmanship (sorry, craftspersonship is too awkward). Beauty in nature, beauty in our fellow beings. The Isle of Wight.
This is Part 1 of my tale. More to come. Thought you might enjoy an overview before we get to the nitty gritty of the Isle. Like a walk that nearly got my best friend killed, a beach too far, a steam train not far enough, a village idiot, some wee folk, Little Canada and maybe time to squeeze in a Roman bath. Let the pageant proceed.