IOW Special

An Isle of Wight-shaped paddling pool in Ventnor, as viewed from the north

This week we spent a few days in a National Trust cottage on the Isle of Wight. When we booked, we unfortunately had not realised that the Isle of Wight Festival was on the very same weekend, although all this really meant for us was that the ferry from Southampton was busy. But the crossing was really interesting, all the same. From the meadows we often see these enormous car transporters at a distance sailing along the shipping lane and so we appreciated getting the chance to see one up close at last:

It has an opening on its side to enable ship-to-ship transfers, such as getting the pilot on board when coming into port.

The cars being loaded and unloaded are stored in multistories on the dock

It seems that Cruise Liners are back sailing the seven seas again after their long period of moth-balling. This monster block of flats, the Sky Princess, is off this week for a six day tour up to Glasgow and Belfast and back. Three of the six days are sea days and so there must be lots to enjoy on board:

I was shocked by this apocalyptic view of the Esso refinery at Fawley on the banks of Southampton Water:

It has been several decades since I was last in the Isle of Wight and it was exciting to arrive in Cowes.

Our cottage was in the south of the island, on the secluded and wonderful countryside estate of Wydcombe saved for the nation by the National trust:

Our home for a few days

I knew that there were Red Squirrels on the island and so had brought some peanuts and a trail camera to try to see one. But I hadn’t anticipated that it would be so easy – there was actually one in the back garden of the cottage when we arrived and we pretty much saw them wherever we went.

We were surprised that these Squirrels didn’t have tufted ears but I have now learnt that they only have those in the winter

How wonderful to have Red Squirrels burying nuts in the garden:

There were some lovely walks from the cottage, one of which took us up to to St Catherine’s Oratory. This used to be a complete chapel built around 1328 but now just the tower remains which was used as a beacon to protect shipping until the 17th century.

A migrating Wheatear up on the headland by St Catherine’s Oratory
Another view of the idyllic Wydcombe Estate

A view westwards from Blackgang Chine along the south coast and ending in the Needles. This photo shows a striking change in geology – brown cliffs give way to white chalk cliffs in the distance:

One morning we visited Carisbrooke Castle, where Charles the First was imprisoned for fourteen months before his execution in 1649.

Jackdaws have been associated with the castle for hundreds of years:

Nine species of Bat have been recorded roosting at the castle:

Walking along the ramparts, we noticed something interesting in one of the gatehouse towers:

Naturally nesting Honey Bees in the tower, bottom right in the photo
When not being farmed for honey in bee hives, these bees would tend to nest in hollow trees

We also visited Ventnor Botanic Garden which felt warm and humid and put us very much in mind of Gibraltar

Ventnor has Britain’s oldest colony of Wall Lizards. These reptiles are thought to be non-native but they have been in Ventnor for hundreds of years.

A Noon Fly (Mesembrina meridiana) with orange-gold on its wing bases, its face and its feet. It breeds in dung but we saw these colourful flies sun bathing on tree trunks

We were thinking that we might see some White-tailed Eagles while we were staying on the island. The Roy Dennis Foundation has released twenty-five of these eagles on the Isle of Wight over the last three years. They are all satellite tagged and so he knows that, although the 2020 birds are mainly off exploring elsewhere at the moment, the 2019 birds have now largely returned to the island and the 2021 birds are yet to disperse, meaning that there is quite a concentration of these magnificent birds here.

The only one we saw, however, is this stuffed one at Osbourne House, Queen Victoria’s beloved holiday residence and where she died in 1901.

A Wolf from the Apennines and a Great Bustard in the background, shot by various members of the Royal Family in the 19th century

I believe that there was a card by this case that said that this five-legged deer was born on the estate and Victoria and Albert’s children tried to care for it but it died. However, I cannot find any reference to this now and so I am doubting myself
Such a beautiful island

The Isle of Wight is a relatively small island – only 36km wide and 22km deep and with a population of 142,000 people. We didn’t get to explore the west of the island during our stay and there is much more to see, so we hope that we will return before too long.

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