Christine and I have just spent an enjoyable week with our friends at their cottage in Ventnor, Isle of Wight. This fascinating island is situated off England’s south coast and conditions there always remind me of life in Britain around twenty years ago. The pace of life is much more relaxed in fact, during my three visits to the island, I’ve never witnessed a single incidence of ‘road rage’, which has become increasingly common on the mainland as more and more vehicles pour onto the roads, many of which were designed for horses and carriages.
The terrain is surprisingly varied, with superb beaches and limestone cliffs, elevated moorland and woods full of rare wildlife, including the indigenous red squirrel. The rise in the invading grey squirrel population on the mainland has almost wiped them out.
Some of the best asparagus and garlic you will find is produced on the island and there are one or two excellent breweries and vineyards.
We chose to use the Lymington to Yarmouth ferry, partly because the trip to the port takes us through the New Forest, a beautiful area famous for its wild horses and ponies which tamely approach visitors, to the delight of children and adults alike. Unfortunately, the area is also renowned for vipers (some people call them ‘adders’), although these timid creatures only bite if they feel threatened by careless feet. Most people just become ill from a bite but there have been a few fatalities among those susceptible to the adverse effects of the poison.
I like to keep physically fit to balance the effects of sustained mental effort so Ventnor, with its steep hills and bracing winds, is the ideal place to be. Years ago a fine sanatorium for Tuberculosis victims was established on the cliffs overlooking the town.
The airport in nearby Bembridge was a fighter command base during WW2 and the radar station was frequently targeted by the Luftwaffe. I know from personal experience (I spent my childhood living next to an armaments factory) they weren’t very good shots, so some bombs fell on the town, killing a number of people.
People in Britain occasionally joke about going ‘abroad’ when they visit the island but when only the rich could afford air travel the Isle of Wight was an attractive alternative. At least you can buy a decent pint of beer and that means English ale, not lager.