Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight Journal

Saturday, April 29, 2000 - Shanklin, Isle of Wight

The beginning of what should be a very active and exciting weekend for me. Last weekend, when I was wandering around North Yorkshire (see my journal on my web site here) I thought as I was using my bicycle to see a bit of the countryside that it might be a great way to see a place just down the road (literally) from where I live in Surrey - The Isle of Wight.

Located just off the coast from Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight is barely 100 km around but is said to be a very nice to visit – I will put this to the test.

I set out early in the morning, concerned about getting my bicycle on the train – that's right, I chose to avoid using the car at ALL this weekend after using it basically all of the last weekend (putting about 1,000 miles on the odometer). Yesterday they showed a brief segment on a consumer show about the difficulty of getting bicycles onto trains due to the limited spaces some times available – so I was concerned. I arrived at the station at 10:00 and after getting my ticket from a machine I proceeded to the platform which was, conveniently, just inside the station (no walkways to lug the bike around on). There were a lot of people on the platform waiting for the train but this proved to be no problem as I was able to load my bike (the only one on the train, it seemed) and board. The steward on the train was very helpful and assisted in my loading.

It was an old train but the trip to Portsmouth went very smoothly past some absolutely wonderful landscape. I have never been by here except by car so it was nice to sit back and enjoy it, especially the sun which seems determined to be out this weekend (hurray!).

The train that started at Waterloo goes directly to Portsmouth HARBOUR, that is, it stops at the end of a pier and right at the end of the pier is the terminal for the high-speed ferry to the Isle of Wight. So, I was able to simply unload the bike and wheel it to the end of the tracks and purchase a ticket for the ferry. It is interesting to note that neither the ferry nor train charged any extra money for the bike so it was very easy for me to bring along. I propped my bike on the ferry (after a short wait at the terminal) and sat down opposite some older ladies and enjoyed the short 15 minute journey across the Solent to the Ryde terminal on the Isle of Wight. The journey was very comfortable and relatively calm, the ferries are mostly hydrofoils and only travel slow in the harbour itself where there are speed limits.

Ryde Promonade

I arrived at the Ryde terminal and was surprised to see how far the terminal was, along a promenade, to the town of Ryde itself. Had to be a good half mile of wood planking before you reach land. I made my way along the “road” and into the town, then following the coast east along a small road and, eventually, some paths. It is so much quieter outside of the towns here, and the weather is absolutely wonderful. I passed through a few small parks which were well used, many people walking along the sand as it was low tide, looking for, I don't know what here, cockles? There are a fair number of dogs around, which was also surprising, many more than I am used to living in Woking.

It is quite a view looking back across to Portsmouth and east. There is a lot of sea traffic here, many ferries and hovercraft going back and forth. I am grateful I did not have to worry about the car – being able to just get off the ferry and start peddling is definitely the way to go! The wind picked up as I rounded the north east corner of the island, passing Seaview where the path along the water itself disappeared to be replaced by private residences (yes, along the water) and public FOOT paths (foot ONLY the signs clearly state, unfortunately). There are many of these foot paths all over the place, it seems, not only against the water which was obvious as I continued around to Bembridge where I was forced to travel through the town and along a much busier road.

As I continued through the town it was surprising to see that there were a number of boats permanently moored in their marina that were set up as restaurants and bed & breakfasts – that would be cool to stay there! The traffic died away as I continued around the coast, though the hills definitely got steeper – passing through some pastureland. The map I had was only the one from the Tourism office so was not terribly detailed but I was able to figure out which way to go (not easy to get REALLY lost) continuing on and arriving back at the coast at a place called “Yaverland” which is really quite spectacular as I was able to look back at the hill I had climbed over to see a wonderful white cliff over the beach. Quite something. After this point I was able to follow the sand beach basically all the way to Shanklin, passing many people attempting to enjoy the weather and the beach but avoiding the water (it must have been REALLY cold).

Beachside at Yaverland (Near Sandown)

The road passed through Sandown which seems to be very touristy, but ENGLISH touristy, that is, many “amusements” (cheap fair-ground style amusement rides, video games, food, etc) but nice nonetheless. After Sandown, I cycled down and was able to follow the Promenade (their “Sea Walk” to Shanklin, passing by an elevator that you can take to get you up the cliff to the site of the town itself (quite a steep cliff). There are many “sea-huts” along the way that you can either rent or purchase, where people had opened theirs up and were using them (the huts are just small sheds that sometimes have electricity, most often not, that can be used to store beach stuff like chairs, towels, food, etc). I had a map provided by the Tourism people who arranged my hotel so I was able to continue to the end of the beach area and climbed up the cliff into the town (yes, I DROVE my bike up the cliff along a rather steep walkway), past the “Shanklin Chine”.

I continued up (and up) to the hotel which is at the top of the hilliest part of the town, almost missing it as it is not right on the road but down a small gravel road (fun on the bike) through some trees…

It was about 2:30 in the afternoon but the people in the hotel are very nice, though they were expecting me a bit later. The hotel is quite big and there do not seem to be many people here. My room is small, but to be expected when it is a single…

Old Shanklin

After dumping all of my heavy stuff, I walked back into the area which I now knew as “Old Shanklin” which is much older than the…newer area (if you could not guess). I had noticed that the place I had come up from the beach was called the “Shanklin Chine” so I thought I would go and take a closer look. It turns out that a “Chine” is a local word for a narrow ravine. This one charged a small admission fee but was really quite good, with a small path winding it's way through the ravine to end at two small waterfalls before you could climb out at the top, near Old Shanklin. It was interesting to hear that this was the area where PLUTO (PipeLine Under The Ocean) ended after it's trip under the channel (from France) which was used to supply oil to Europe during the Second World War (only a small cable too…).

Shanklin Chine

I walked through the old town, marvelling at some of the older stores which had quite wonderful thatch roofs (all seemed to be “tea rooms” for some reason…). I passed over to the newer area of town, stopping by the local tourist office, picking up a number of maps (free street maps for major towns on the Island!) and other info. I continued into the town, stopping briefly to have a hamburger and chips at a local place and, eventually, a more detailed island map (I am a bit terrified about getting lost some how).

It was still fairly early so I took time to return down to the beach and walk slowly back to the hotel (I did stop at the amusement arcade for a few minutes to play a favourite pinball game of mine).

A relatively early night, but a wonderful start.

Sunday, April 30, 2000 - Shanklin, Isle of Wight

A day of highs and lows. Unfortunately mostly lows.

The day started well with an early breakfast and start to the day. Who would have thought that there could be such steep hills just outside of the town? I climbed up (and down and up again) to Ventnor, passing very quickly through the town (it is at the bottom of a hill) and struggled up to the top of the hill again to be confronted with a magnificent view of the coast looking west. I could see the Needles which are at the extreme west of the Island! I was on my way!

Last View - The Needles in the Distance - The top of THE Hill

The trip ended quite suddenly. As I proceeded down the hill along the road, the hill was quite steep and I got up a fair amount of speed. As I approached the bottom, a roundabout appeared, so I slowed down but as I was passing through it my front brakes grabbed on the bike and I was thrown forward over my handlebars and into the curb beside the road. At first I thought it was just a bump but the sight of blood on my hands confirmed that this was sadly not the case and would mean this is as far west as I would get on the Island for quite some time.

I was not knocked unconscious so was able to flag down two cars just behind me on the road, both had cellular phone calls and called the ambulance right away. While waiting for the ambulance they waited with me, wrapping my head in their own shirts (VERY tightly) and chatting away with me. They were so understanding and patient, and I was so upset at having my holiday end this way.

The ambulance took some time to arrive as there is only one hospital on the island and that is at Newport. It took about 20 minutes but once there, the staff were extremely helpful and very careful with me, wrapping my neck in a collar to ensure I had not damaged my spine. They joked around but I am sure they were deadly serious about their job, taking no chances whatsoever. I was concerned about the bike but it turns out that one of the people waiting beside the road with me lived only a few meters away so offered to keep it for me until I returned to pick it up (whenever that is), very nice.

The trip to the hospital was fairly uneventful, stopping periodically for the paramedic to put a needle in me somewhere or strap something else on my body. I arrived in Newport and was taken directly in on the stretcher to A & E (Accident and Emergency) where they started giving me some liquid (I had lost a lot of blood) intravenously and I waited to see a doctor. I waited for a few minutes then noticed that blood was trickling down my forehead so I yelled and they looked at me right away. It took about 2 1/2 hours for them to stitch up the 15 cm gash in my head (above the hairline on the left side, in a V shape, 20 stitches) while I was conscious the whole time (and let them know every time it hurt - in NO uncertain terms! Loudly and VERY forcefully). I chatted away with the doctor (actually, seemed to be an assistant of some sort) for the whole time, I never stopped talking really since the accident, which I felt was a good thing, never mind the fact that I was so nervous about the whole thing – it turns out he was from South Africa which was interesting since my mother is going to be visiting there later this year (or early next) – so I spent the time talking to him.

They were quite concerned about damage to the skull and arms (since they had been throbbing ever since the accident and were quite painful) so I was X-rayed (talking to the nurse who wheeled me around who was from Denmark here to “see somewhere different” and live with friends – for free, what other reason?) but there were no problems.

After giving me a bit to eat, getting me some drugs (which I had to pay cash for!) for the pain and infection they sent me on my way in a taxi back to the hotel. I was able to see a bit of the countryside along the way and chat to the driver so time was not wasted (!).

The rest of the day, after frightening the hotel owners, I spent relaxed in my room, trying to sleep but unable to. The hotel was so good – they brought me some fresh orange juice and checked in on me every few hours (as I was instructed by the hospital) for the rest of the evening.

I could not get ahold of mother on the telephone but left a message with her husband. She is not going to be pleased but I have to let her know. I will call her when I get back home, Tuesday?

Monday, May 1, 2000 - Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Today I relaxed and indicated that I would be staying for another day, realising I would be away from work for a few days – if not the entire week. I spent most of the time outside in the sunshine enjoying what little I could of the Island.

The good news is that I was able to see some of the snooker (world finals) that were on television, so that is some consolation, but I would really want to see the rest of the island.

I ate supper at the hotel, grateful that they serve supper and I did not have to go anywhere. I struck up conversation with another older couple that are staying at the hotel. They are spending a lot of time walking around the island – MANY hours and miles. The other couple at the hotel leave early in the morning (before breakfast at 8) and arrive really late, they are biking around the island – MUCH more ambitious than I, even if I was well.

Tuesday, May 2, 2000 - Woking, Surrey

Today I left the island, after being driven to the Shanklin train station by the hotel. The Island Line crosses the island from Ryde to Shanklin and is made up of old 1930s London Underground trains so they are VERY familiar to me (actually look a lot like the trains they removed from the Northern Line only about 6 months ago!).

I was able to use my discount card for the train (that I use in Woking) which was very good and caught the next train only about 10 minutes later. Not many people even took much notice of my head in a bandage, which made me feel a bit better being out. The trip was very nice, very quite and took a little while to eventually arrive at the end of the pier in Ryde, ready to catch the ferry to Portsmouth. Because it is no longer the holiday weekend, everything seems a lot less busy and it certainly made the trip more enjoyable.

I returned by train to Woking and managed to stagger back to the house. It looks like the next few days I will be recovering. I have not finished this trip to the Isle of Wight, I will be back…

I stayed at the Westcoombe Hotel in Shanklin which has recently been demolished (2004). It was at 5 Westhill Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight PO37 6PT, phone: (01983) 866 323 (web site:

…I DID return, see here for part 2.