The Retirees go Abroad – Isle of White

It is an early start to catch a ten o’clock ferry to the island and the weather does not look inviting. We know it will take about one and half hours to drive to Lymington (the mainland port for the ferry) but we don’t know about the traffic. Hence the early departure.

As we near the New Forest the sun breaks through and the traffic remains light. We have made good time and we arrive at the terminal in sufficient time to have some breakfast before boarding. The ferry is much smaller than cross channel ferries but they have a trick. One floor in the ship is on an elevator and three lanes of cars disappear into the third floor of the ferry.

As we travel across to the island I keep an eye open for Castle Hurst and the pebble peninsular connecting it to the coast. When I spot it, it surprises me how long it is and to think we walked that peninsular. It also surprises me that the Needles on the western end of the island are so close to the castle and yet because of the heavy sea mist on the day of our visit we did not know they were there.

Our first place to visit was the Old Batteries and the Needles. Unfortunately the only place to park is a commercial car park at a cost of £4.50 which is fine if you are staying all day and visiting the amusement park. But for us it just left a bad taste and not a good way to start the day. To see the batteries and the Needles you must walk to the end of the island (at least a twenty minute walk) and when you get there apart from the spectacular view the other features were not that riveting. Perhaps the most exciting were the tunnel to the search light and the old rocket launch pads from Britain’s venture into the space race. The only British satellite launched on a British rocket remains in orbit and is functioning but is not used any longer.

When we visited the new batteries where the rocket launch pads are located we encountered two Brits who were waiting for a bus. Unknown to us there is a city tour hop on hop off bus available from Yarmouth for £5 per passenger. If considering a visit I suggest you consider this option.

Next we visited Mottistone Manor and Gardens but it is closed Fridays. My fault for not checking the opening days as well as the times. So we moved on to visit St Catherine’s Lighthouse. I was driving and I missed the turn. We did try to pick it up but the road was closed so on we went to our next stop the islands last windmill with all its working bits made in wood. Well not quite true as the grinding stone is made of stone and some of the mechanical bits are made of metal. A bit disappointing and it no longer works. However not all was lost as the scenery had been very enjoyable up til we stopped for lunch. We turned into a road which we thought would take us to a viewing point but instead we found the road closed due to subsidence – severe subsidence with the houses around it abandoned. It looked as though there had been a significant land slip. No photos of the land slip as people had turned it into a dump. Not very nice.

 

For our last visit I suggested Carisbrooke Castle but on the way we spotted a sign to a roman villa. After our experience with roman ruins at Weymouth I was suspicious that there would be little to see. Well I was wrong again. Brading Roman Villa is the ruins of three roman structures of different periods. Discovered in 1879 by the farmer working the land it was excavated in Victorian times and some magnificent mosaics.  By our standards they did more harm than good. Recently the excavation has been visited again and a new shelter to protect and display the third dwelling has been constructed. The building itself is impressive but the relics it protects are truly fascinating.

After visiting Brading we journeyed back to Yarmouth and caught the ferry back to the mainland and Kerry then took on the driving to return us safely home to Long Eaton.

The Retirees go Abroad – New Forest Hampshire

We have decided to go to the New Forest after seeing an episode of Location Location on TV. Created by William the Conquerer in the 11th century and called the New Forest it is not really that new. We were taken in by the fact that people are required to live in harmony with herds of undomesticated horses donkeys and cattle.

As usual the day is not looking to flash. Grey skies and cool breezes are the order of the day. It takes about one and a half hours to drive to Lyndhurst the largest settlement in the New Forest. We went to the information centre grabbed all the leaflets we could and went off to develop our plan. First of all we took a walk through the village and although it appeared charming when boiled down it was mostly coffee shops and a Ferrari and /Maserati dealership. Oh there is a notable grave in the church yard. Alice Liddel is buried there. Alice was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.

Our plan was to drive to Beaulieu then to another small village which was formerly a smugglers den then onto to Lymington and finish the day in Poole. We set off for Beaulieu hoping to catch a glimpse of the roaming horses, donkeys and cattle. We weren’t disappointed and Kerry even befriended one. Even in Beaulieu the animals had the run of the street. Again the village appeared old and quaint but was largely designed for tourism. Even worse still was Buckler’s Hard. If it was a village then it has been taken over by commercial interests as we could not enter the village without paying an entrance fee.

Next stop Lymington but somehow we got distracted and ended up in Keyhaven looking for Hurst Castle the last prison for Charles I. The castle was built by Henry VIII as part of his coastal defences in the late 16th century. Built for the age of gunpowder it is a low profile with a central keep and external walls in the shape of a clover with defensive towers on four sides. The castle was extended in both WW1 and WW2 and used in both conflicts.

It stands at the end of a remarkable peninsular of pebbles (another tombolo). It is one and a half miles from the carpark and if you miss the ferry (as we did) you can add another half a mile for the trip from the ferry terminal to the foot of the pebble sea wall. Well we walked the sea wall whilst the wind blew and the sky was blanked out by the sea mist. In fact we could not see the castle for most of our journey. The pebbles were hard work to walk on but we both enjoyed the exercise. We missed the ferry at 2.20pm and managed to walk to the castle in time to see the 3.00pm ferry departing.

Inside the castle there are two distinct parts – the Tudor castle and the modern extension. Large Georgian canon stand alongside modern Bofors guns. There is a display on the lighthouse nearby and wartime memorabilia. One of the most remarkable things is the memorial to all people who served in the castle between 1544 and 1955. We caught the boat back to the ferry terminal and picked up the car.

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We then drove to Poole which did not excite us at all so we headed for home and dinner at Westers Bar.