Island rambles on the Isle of Wight
I decided to make a solo trip to England for two weeks in September 2018, and one of those weeks was spent rambling around the Isle of Wight with John and Joanna, two old friends who live there and who were terrific guides.
I had no idea how much the island had to offer, and how much fun it was going to be to stay on the fourth floor of Yelf’s Hotel, with a perfect view of the sea from my bedroom window.
The fact that Yelf’s has no elevator in no way spoiled the fun of living for a few days in a small English hotel, complete with pub (one of my favorite things), splat in the middle of hilly Ryde.
I had spent a very satisfying week in the Cotswolds before I crossed by ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde. Catching the ferry was a hoot…it runs every 15-30 minutes or so, so you never have to wait very long. However, as they were about to close the gates preparatory to leaving, the ferrymaster saw me trotting up the boardwalk and shepherded me through the ticketing process and onboard. Talk about personal service!
I was picked up at the Ryde dock by Joanna, and deposited at Yelf’s front door. After a brief tidying up and a few minutes of pinching myself that I was actually here, I trotted off to find J&J’s condo – only a block away, but naturally getting lost in the process. After a fun dinner with a group of their friends, I wandered back to Yelf’s under a clear deep blue sky, thinking how much I love small village life.
Everything here is an easy “get to”… Ryde is on hilly terrain, and the streets are good exercise, especially if you’ve walked up and down for half an hour. I was right in the middle of the village…surrounded by shops, cafes, restaurants, book stores…the ever-present (and wonderful) Boots…and houses and condos back to back.
The next morning, after a really good sleep (missing Yelf’s breakfast in the process) I met Joanna for a quick bite, and then we, along with John, proceeded to wander all around the town. Of course, Ryde’s right on the water, so a good amount of time was spent along the front.
Weather was chilly, but brilliantly sunny, just about perfect. Green parks and footpaths were everywhere you looked.
After rambling around Ryde, we went on to visit Seaview, which is on Ryde’s eastern end, and has great beaches and the ubiquitous parks.
You can get lost in the middle of the parks, just taking in the gorgeous greenery.
On the following day, our odyssey took us to East Cowes, Yarmouth and Lymington.
Joanna was tied up, so John and I spent the morning at Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer “cottage.”
Situated on wide green grassy swathes with sculptured gardens, it offers marvelous walks through its grounds, including a shadowy tree tunnel to the beach below.
From papier mache ceilings to ivory miniatures, statues, gargoyles, great art and more, Osborne House is a treat.
You can just imagine the ghost of Victoria wandering the hallways, her aides scurrying at her heels.
John and I walked to the beach for lattes at the little tea shop facing the coast…clouds scudded across a blue sky, it was sunny and fresh…perfect!
Joanna joined us in Lymington, a delightful village where we stopped for a seafood meal so fresh it practically walked onto the plate, and we then wandered the streets taking in the village views.
A red Morris Minor stopped us in our tracks…very cool car!
The sunset over the sea gave us some of the loveliest images of the day. .
As a lover of the out-of-doors, the Isle of Wight fulfills my real desire for a green and pleasant land. Sun-dappled foliage, lichen-covered footpaths, overgrown steps to hidden sand or pebble beaches, neon bright flowers, crystal blue-green seas reaching to far horizons…the whole island is a microcosm of nature’s beauty, in some cases, run wild.
Rich with history and ivy-covered and sometimes spooky hidden corners, I felt I was constantly discovering – and moving back to – England’s magical past.
On this day, John and I had Sunday lunch at the venerable Royal Esplanade Hotel, situated right on Ryde’s front. It was dim and very quiet, but it had the big plus of Harry’s Bar, which I couldn’t wait to try out that evening…such a kick.
After lunch, we drove to one of my favorite island villages: Bembridge, tiny and full of charm, like all of the best villages,
with lush greenery and neon-bright flowers, and adorable cottages looking freshly painted.
I don’t know if it was because the weather was so incredibly gorgeous, or the town so delightful, or just being there…but it was really idyllic!
Where to start. Well, the day itself was made up of blue skies, brilliant sunshine and everything looked clean and shiny. The steps down to Bembridge Beach were surrounded by lush green vegetation with trees in full foliage and a view of the ocean to die for.
A pebble beach prompted poignant and wonderful memories of seasides while I lived as a child in England.
The sea was crystal clear.
We were checking out the New Bembridge Lifeboat Station when a sudden emergency galvanized the group of lifeboat volunteers into action, getting the lifeboat out and on the ocean, headed towards who knows what catastrophe. I was just glad the day was sunny and calm for them…and thankful the situation wasn’t life threatening.
Towards the end of the day, we stopped in an old English pub – and I mean an OLD English pub, The Crab & Lobster.
The walls must have been four feet thick, history embedded in every stone…and the ambience was such, you wanted all pubs to be just like this one. We had a half pint in the half-light…I just loved it, so happy in such a perfect place.
Waking up, as usual, much too late for the hotel’s breakfast (I think I managed one during my time at Yelf’s), I wandered outside to the corner café for breakfast and just to kick back looking at the big green buses passing by, along with a motley variety of the town’s inhabitants and tourists. I had a perfectly lovely view, and drank in my latte, drinking in every minute of the morning. One note: I miss the big red buses that used to populate England from end to end. Now we only see them in London.
A while later, I met Joanna and she drove us to Shanklin, yet another small delightful village where once upon a time, her mother (and one of my oldest friends), had lived.
We stopped to take in an old church and its wychgate – a word that has always fascinated me and I finally got to see what one looked like.
The ubiquitous red post boxes dotted the area, a British icon that, thankfully, is still in use.
Flowers were blooming (freesias here, Mum’s favorite flower) and the day was windblown and blue.
After wandering here, there and everywhere, we rambled to the front, where the glorious blue seas, white clouds and green fences made a beautiful picture.
A woven lattice fence bordered one of the island’s dwellings…these are really intricate pieces of art, and so charming. Wish I could build one back home…
And then a drive through Shanklin (see below)… a lovely English village on an island chock-full of them.
We drove back to Yelf’s, where Joanna and I had dinner in its delightful small pub, and a good natter about “old times” (we go back years!)
And so the end of another perfect day.
One of Ryde’s most historic landmarks is the monastery Quarr Abbey and Farm, home to a small group of Benedictine monks, and a haven for wildlife and plants.
It is a walk back in time…from the ancient buildings including the Abbey itself to homes built on the property, and the working farm …all in all, a magical experience. The weather on our visit this day was slightly overcast, making the green of the countryside glow like neon against a lavendar-gray sky.
The grounds are so tranquil. We sat inside the church and meditated.
Vines, flowers and flowering shrubs are everywhere.
As we wandered through the farm, ducks and geese crossed our path. Machinery sat silently by.
We rambled through leaf-strewn paths, (one of my favorite pictures above) in the hush of the woods that cover the grounds.
Visited with a writer friend of J&J’s who lived in one of the old cottages that seemed to have evolved from the surrounding nature.
I guess you could say: Another perfect day.
And so it was time to leave. Leaving England always puts a lump in my throat.
I caught the ferry from Ryde back to the mainland, and taxied to London, where I was staying again at the Kensington Hotel (one of my favorite hotels ever).
As I gazed out of my hotel window at the rooftops of wonderful London, I wished I were Mary Poppins, floating over the chimney pots!
A lovely end to a magical trip! Thanks forever to John and Joanna. I love the continual discovery of new and delightful and exquisite areas of England….an England that never ceases to enchant me.