Isle of Wight Day-trip August 2009

A week before we thought six would be our party this year, but four more people applied just before, including a Canadian visitor. We were also concerned about the weather, but it all was wonderful on the day! Sunshine from dawn to dusk, a pleasant breeze later, and even the ferry left early. We were all thrilled with the new ferry, but a bit surprised on the way back, when we had an extra 20 minutes to bask in the sun while the ferry sat motionless in the middle of the Solent. Was it a problem with the tides? Peter asked afterwards.

Our Canadian professor was impressed with views of Hurst and Yarmouth castles, both dating back to the 16th century, the latter with Elizabethan chimneys, and also with the late Anthony Minghella's father's icecream cafe on Yarmouth pier.

We stopped along the track to Freshwater to see the birds in the tidal River Yar.

Most were seagulls, but Cath saw a godwit among them. After lunch watching divers in Freshwater Bay with an occasional commentary from Robin, who has been a diver, we were on our way up Tennyson Downs. The attraction at the cliff top was a new memorial to former Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who was born 200 years ago on August 6th, 1809, and who often walked 30 miles a day here.

Next to the original tall obelisk to commemorate him, there is a cairn, covered with a black slate block on top, a toposcope which indicates the directions and distances to London, Cape Finistere, etc, and even to the North Pole from that point. It has a written inscription from a Tennyson poem, "Crossing the Bar", around the four sides of it.

We had seen this monument being unveiled in the local BBC news two days before.

The spectacular red-pink of the heather on the hillside greeted us as we descended from the Downs and more on Heddon Warren in the distance, which contrasted well with the blue of the sea beyond it. There were far fewer people on the way down, but many butterflies, mainly tiny Chalk-hill blues, Cabbage whites, Heath Browns and Painted Ladies attracted by the flowers on the path to Totland Bay. A large number of swallows were flying around a cottage with a delightful garden further down. There was even a wedding at the Church on the way and we saw the bride in her Rolls Royce.

At Totland Bay the tide was in, but there was still room to have a paddle and time for an ice-cream. With a high tide at Colwell Bay, we just about squeezed past more sunbathers and on to the tiny amount of remaining sand, before we went inland again along the cliff and through a lovely wood to Fort Victoria. We had a cup of tea at the cafe and then it was a relatively short walk back to Yarmouth, the ferry and home.

Helen Burlingham