On Monday 2nd October our trusty Hams Travel driver Kevin, delivered 41 TU3A members to Portsmouth for the Isle of Wight ferry in record time.In fact we boarded an earlier ferry, which would have meant we had more time at the Botanic Gardens prior to booking in at our hotel.Unfortunately there was a road diversion and the alternative route was not suitable for vehicles the size of the coach.Our leaders decided a visit to Shanklin would be the best option. So off we went only to find the road to the front was almost blocked by a lorry unloading tons of straw, for use on the thatched roofs of the lovely ancient buildings in the old village.However, Kevin was an old hand driving around the IoW and knew how to get the correct angle to pass the lorry so with great manoeuvring we made it with just a few inches to spare.
It was a lovely sunny day and we dispersed on the Shanklin sea front to find lunch, ice creams and entertainment.The ‘golf section’ discovered the ‘Crazy Golf’ a most satisfying way of spending the afternoon, and the score is still being debated. (Editor Note – Geoff won!)
Back at the coach we made our way to Sandown, where we found the hotel ideally positioned on the sea front but sadly the view was blocked by a building on the beach, leaving just vistas to the left and right of the hotel.Building works appeared to be in progress at the hotel, but we were welcomed by our host, Michael and his assistant, Jose and told our dinner would be served at 6.30 before being allocated our rooms, of varying degrees of comfort.
Michael was a small unshaven amenable Egyptian who always wore baggy trousers and braces.Jose was a smart young man from Malaga.He ran the bar efficiently and willingly helped out where and whenever required, be it at reception, waiting at table or transferring baggage.A ‘flock’ of young waitresses cheerfully served us our meals producing plates of starters, chef’s surprises, bowls of soup and amazing puddings.The main courses were satisfactory, but somewhat bland.
We were entertained for two evenings by talented ‘karaoke’ singers who played and sang some terrific 60’s music, which encouraged some of our group to get up and dance around a handbag.
After breakfast the day following our arrival we travelled to St Mildred’s Church, Whippingham, part of the Royal Estate of Osborne House.Inside the church we saw the beautiful rose windows and amazing letters, articles and newspaper clippings relating to Queen Victoria, while listening to a most interesting talk about the history of the Church.
From the church we drove to Osborne House, a surprisingly cosy building considering its size.It was quite obvious Queen Victoria treated it as a real home.This was also seen at the Swiss Chalet in which she encouraged all the children to enjoy themselves playing inside and out.They were also encouraged to garden and had a separate plot each, which created some competition between them.
A five minute walk from the Swiss Chalet took us down to the private beach.Here one could imagine Victoria and Albert looking out across the Solent and enjoying sunny summer days.It was a beautiful day when we visited and it was a pleasure to sit in the deckchairs provided, have an ice cream and doze in the sun.
It was back to Shanklin the following day.A few hours wandering around, having morning coffee and visiting the Christmas Shop - open for Christmas all year round.A small lane behind the thatched buildings led up to a small park where there was a restricted view of the Chine.A tree lined coastal ravine formed thousands of years ago which was taken over during the 2nd WW to train commandos.Part of the Operation Pluto pipeline can also be seen here.It was hoped that we might see some red squirrels in the park, but it was not to be.
From Shanklin we were guided around the covered Brading Roman Villa, a heritage site owned by the Oglander Roman Trust.Much of the villa has been preserved including the remains of a hypocaust and interesting mosaic floors.It was pointed out that Brading was accessible to the sea until the Victorians built a railway across the estuary, effectively cutting off the sea.Aptly, the day finished off with fossil hunting on Yaverland Beach, Sandown, with a professional guide.Remains of dinosaurs have been found here but we had no luck this day!
Our Mystery Trip on Day 4 was beset with a few problems.Despite there being a large empty car park Arreton Craft Centre and Shipwreck Museum would not allow a coach to park.So an executive decision was made and we left to go to the Bus Museum.Then there was another diversion!Yet again the coach could not navigate the lanes to the museum. Plan 3 was brought in to play and, not to be defeated, we were set down in Ryde near All Saints Church - a landmark on the Island as the spire is visible for many miles, including from the mainland.It was built around 1870 and has fine examples of stained glass windows on the north side, other windows having suffered damage during 2nd WW.
A stroll down Ryde High Street took us to the Victorian Arcade, built in 1836.We visited the rooms beneath the shops where the historical society have many displays and where a rare ice well has been discovered.In the same area is the extraordinary Donald McGill saucy seaside postcard museum, where thousands of postcards of amusing or dubious subjects were displayed and preserved!
The rest of the day was spent enjoying lunch, watching the hovercraft arrivals and departures and visiting the pier.The world’s oldest ‘pleasure pier’ with landing stages and a working railway – there is a regular train service (using old London tube trains, converted to diesel) from the pier to Shanklin.
We made our way home on Day 5 via The Needles.It was a beautiful calm sunny October day, ideal for taking the open top bus to the end of the headland and wander around the chalk cliffs.We discovered the old gun batteries,saw where the rocket engines were tested prior to launching the Prospero Satellite, and of course took numerous photographs of the amazing ‘Needles’.Alum Beach was visited by some adventurous souls who travelled on the chairlift.There are believed to be 21 different shades of sand in the cliffs which make the bay one of the most popular and attractive beaches on the island.
From The Needles we travelled to Yarmouth and spent a leisurely few hours watching the boats in the harbour and enjoying an excellent lunch before catching the ferry back to the mainland and home by 9pm.
Despite various problems during the course of the week it was agreed we had thoroughly enjoyed our stay on the Isle of Wight and thanked our Organisers and driver Kevin for being so adaptable and solving any problems which came their way!!
LJM Oct 2017
Thank you to everyone who has written, emailed and called the members of the Team