This was to be a 7 part series about the Isle of Wight, but I got bored. Been too long since I was there and it’s time to move on to Lavender fields and Cathedrals. Before I go there, and elsewhere, I have some places and things about the Isle I want to write about.
My best friend and I stayed at an out-of-the-way Air B&B. Along a potholed road, then down a dirt track to a house in the woods with an annex and a beautiful garden. Quite remote for an island home. Not far away, you could hear young voices….many of them….screaming away at the PGL (Parents Get Lost) camp on Little Canada.
Many stories on how it got the name Little Canada. My favourite is about a New Zealander who bought land here, built some log cabins and had an open house day near the end of the 19th century with Sitting Bull, Wild Bill Hickock, a Totem Pole and some Canadian Mounties. The Mounties sealed it and the locals began to call the place Little Canada. The other story is of a Canadian regiment stationed there in the last World War….or was it the First? The locals aren’t sure and no one I checked with could be bothered to find out, me included. So, story No.1 it is.
We never lingered at our home in the woods. Early every day, we’d pass the screaming hordes (yelling from dawn to dusk) to discover other, more refined parts of the island. Never mind the recent ravings of the chairman (yes, they still say that here) of the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) who said the Wight Isle had the worst drug and unemployment record of all of Britain, the lowest education standards and the population are all inbred. We met some lovely, fairly normal people and didn’t witness one drug deal….not that we’d know anyway.
The focus was on several sites; a Roman Villa, a Quaint Village, a Steam Railway and a Beach. None of these attactions disappointed. All were very close together and the drive to each was very pleasant. We were greeted at the Roman Villa by an effusive, former local history teacher who was in a tizzy because the regular tour guide didn’t show up (more unemployment). Actually, I think the poor man was in his glory, swishing to and fro from one person to the next, repeating the same stories about the Villa’s history each time.
Brading Roman Villa is situated on sloping high ground, rising from the sea. The villa is long gone, but a farmer discovered the ruins while digging a fence post back in 1879. He uncovered mosaic floors and the remains of the villa, including the hypocaust for underfloor heating. Clever those Romans. The original outline is intact because parts of the walls line each room, all housed under a very modern, wooden structure that resembles a tent inside. The amazing thing about the place is that not a weapon was found. A villa of agriculture and peace….until Rome abandoned Britain around 395CE and the pirates began raiding.
From Villa to village, we arrive in Godshill. You can’t find a more picture-perfect old English village. Thatched roofs (rooves), pubs, lovely gardens, boutiques and a model village that is stunning. My impression of Godshill was that it is one big shop in the shape of a village. Everything from antiques to Chinese tat. Anything not nailed down seemed to be for sale.
The model village is a mini version of the big village and the same for the old village of Shanklin.The only way to describe such a feature is with photos. So, here goes….
We move on to larger things, real steam trains. Britain loves its old trains. Societies have sprung up all over Britain to preserve old steam trains, some of their lines and old stations. There is even a society that has restored and runs the InterCity 125 train from the mid 1970s. The Isle of Wight is no exception. The steam railway runs daily between Wooten and Smallbrook Junction via the main Havenstreet station and rail museum. The real commuter trains running out of Ryde are a shambolic mess compared to these old steam trains.
I’ve written before about my love for all things steam train. This day was no different. We travelled in a 3rd Class standard coach that makes a mockery of today’s 1st Class seats. We had the compartment to ourselves, rolling across lovely countryside and through deep wooded areas. The trip was over all too quickly.
Our last day on the Isle of Wight was spent at the beach. It’s what you do on the hottest day of the year at 34C. We chose the beach at Shanklin because they rent little beach huts. We took a chance we’d get one and thanks to it still being off-season, we got the last one. The tide was in and the beach area narrow when we arrived, but as we stood in the sea, talking to a nice lady who lives there, the tide rolled out. Beach galore.
Perfect end to a great week on the Isle of Wight. I’ll go back some time. Have to visit the castle and Osborne House still. Missed Cowes too. I did see one pirate while we were there. But, true to form, he was taciturn, moody and not to be trifled with.