The 25th May saw my parents reach their Golden
Wedding Anniversary – fifty years since they tied the knot in 1969. It was
perhaps one of the first times I have really thought about my own age and the
fact that I have been around for nearly all of that time that they have been Mr
and Mrs Vaughan.
They had chosen the Isle of Wight as a suitable place to
celebrate as we spent many a family holiday there from when my brother and I
were too young to remember.
My own memories start sometime in the mid to late 1970s when,
pre-caravan, we used to stay in the Savoy Hotel in Sandown that overlooked the
sea and had curved steps that led up to the front door through lovely gardens.
I remember nothing of the interior but I do recall losing my Britain’s Zebra in
that front garden just hours after I had bought it with my pocket money from
the proper toy shop where the zoo animals were all laid out in lift top wooden
and glass cabinets.
I remembered the piers and their amusements and Crazy Golf
along the Prom at Shanklin, the dinosaurs of Blackgang Chine, the glowing white
cliffs and the Needles and the coloured sands of Alum Bay.
|A page from my 1982 notebook...|
I had not been back since May 1997 for a mad Bank Holiday
Monday twitch for the only Little Swift I have ever seen in the UK and seven
years before that for the Alpine Accentor the day before going for the Ancient
Murrelet on Lundy. Where does the time go?
And so we found ourselves on the 3pm ferry from Portsmouth
on Friday 24th heading across a calm Solent with a keen and chilly
breeze in our faces but even this simple journey was not without drama as Mum
and Dad had ended up on a different ferry due to an earlier cancellation.
|Mum- all aboard!|
|The Spinnaker and HMS Victory|
boarded before us, the boats were then switched and we left first leaving me
with the very odd feeling of disembarking at Fishbourne onto an island on which I had not
ever driven and without a clue of where to go.
But time has moved on and you are rarely ever really lost
any more and a quick Google search and a few quick taps and a route was laid
out before me complete with accompanying polite female voice. The Fernbank Hotel in Shanklin was our
destination and it was a straightforward route down through the leafy hedge
lined lanes with Yellowhammers flipping ahead of us. Russell and Ruth came by train from London and hovercraft to Ryde and then the final few miles on the local line to Shanklin meaning that we all got to have dinner out together that evening.
The Saturday dawned grey but there was a hint of blue coming
through so it was decided to quite literally have a walk down memory lane all
the way along the Promenade from Shanklin to Sandown Pier.
This is quite a stroll as you perambulate along beneath the
sandstone cliffs and both my phone and camera were frequently finding some
moment or view to capture.
|Mum & Dad|
The beach huts were where I remembered them and some look
old enough to have been there for the last forty years and I looked up hoping
for Fulmars and House Martins and found both along with Jackdaws patrolling the
Clumps of lemon yellow Lupins clung to the cliff face with
trails of pink Hottentot Figs and escaped Mesembrianthimums while Trefoil and
Red Valerian splashed colour amongst ferns, Horsetails and Ox-eye Daisies and
Southern Marsh Orchids pushed vibrant purple spikes through the grasses but
other than a few bees and a single Holly Blue, there were no insects.
|Southern Marsh Orchid|
It was a day for photos and captured moments and I was
having fun with the scenery and candid pics of the family while they were not looking.
We paused at Sandown Pier but declined the delights of the
Pier. I was taken aback at how run down the old Victorian hotels were along the
seafront. All were in a sorry state and
none looked occupied with broken windows, rotted balcony railings, peeling paint
and overgrown frontages but I was still able to find the old Savoy with those
steep entry steps upon which my little zebra so mysteriously vanished over
forty years ago...
|The Savoy - poor thing|
After pondering an icecream that we never had it was time
for an amble back and by now the sun was out and unbeknown to us we were all getting
cooked. Even the chance of some shade
while having coffee and then lunch was scoffed at as it was just nice to feel
some warmth. Foolish humans.
|Both bench loads were studying the ice cream options...|
|The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier heading for Portsmouth|
|A UASC container ship heading out from Southampton|
Crazy golf awaited us back at Shanklin and although the design
has changed, it was still where I remembered it and I am even sure that it had
dinosaurs back then too. Eighteen
enjoyable holes later it was time to make our way back to Fernbank before heading
out for the celebratory dinner with glowing faces, panda sunglasses eyes and
Sunday was a bit of a blow out with cold and windy
conditions and we had to make do with indoor sites such as the Freshwater Pearl
centre, some craft barns where I bought some hundred year old sea charts for a
couple of quid (there even have Rainham and Strood on them!) and the wondrously
smelly Garlic Farm. I barely took a picture all day but did find some nice
Black Bryony (the only European representative of the Yam family) and the last
of the Wild Garlic blooms in the lane along side the hotel and a fine patch of Broomrape in a random front garden!
|Broomrape but not sure which one - no obvious host|
Bank Holiday Monday was Osborne House day and we arrived in
sunshine. The grounds were wonderful and my amblings found four singing Firecrest
and even two fledged broods following around at least one parent. This is the
first time I have ever seen young of this species. A solitary Red Squirrel dug
up what looked like an Oak Apple Gall and scampered up a pine tree while the
oaks adjacent to it held am agitated swarm of incredibly noisy Honey Bees.
The Walled garden held rows of Rhubarb, Ferns, Glads, Peonies and
even the Yellow Asphodel that I see on Lesvos and the unmistakeable smell of
rotting meat lured my like a fly to the presence of several resplendent Dragon
Lilies, again dragging me back to my island.
Giant Tree Echiums towered through the beds and these at
least were attracting several species of Bumblebee (pascuorum, terrestris, hypnorum,
pratorum and lapidarius).
|The scent of the many Pelegoniiums inside was magic...|
I was actually very impressed with Victoria and Albert’s
house with its delightfully cluttered rooms of a stately home that was actually
‘homely’ and felt lived in. The mix of art and eclectic display pieces showed
that it was actually filled with things acquired because they liked them rather
than their appropriateness to the
I had some fun with the super slo-mo on my phone...
However it was the Indian room and gallery that caught my
eye. The portraits were the best in the in house in my completely un-arty
opinion although I could find no artists name for the collection of masterfully
captured vignettes of Indians from all walks of life.
I even found some resplendent Khans to send to Nicole.
The views across the Solent to Portsmouth were superb and
you could actually picture the Royal family sitting in the terrace with a G’n’T
with the bubbling fountain behind them.
The wind was beginning to pick up so we left the rest of
Clan Vaughan and spent the rest of the afternoon frustratingly almost circumnavigating
the island in search of elusive white cliffs, non-extortionate parking, lunch,
sunshine and a bit of road without double yellow lines...
The day ended back down in Shanklin for part deux of the
Crazy Gold Challenge where we took on the dangerous world of the Pirate course
with its red flowing waters and ribald sea shanties which really were near the
mark if any one actually bothered to listen to them!
|'Do you recommend the five iron?' Mum asked of Russell|
Tuesday morning actually dawned blue and bright and even
the wind had dropped and so after a final hearty breakfast I headed back west
in the hope of some butterflies.
Just beyond Niton the heavens opened and rain drops that
were almost hail pummelled the car as we sat stuck behind two coaches and a
dustcart; it was not going well.
As we left the sandstone and came back to the chalk the sun
popped out again and I re-found the little car park at Afton Down that I froze
in the day before. I scurried up the slope and immediately found several Small
Blues, Small Heaths, Dingy Skippers and single Adonis Blues and Glanville Fritillary
and no sooner had I thought ‘yay’ then the sun went in and everything
I ventured further up the slope and found no more and then
spied a squall heading over the Needles and along the coast so I scampered back
down to the car only to see it pass offshore and so trudged my way back up to
the top with Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Linnets and a male Stonechat for company.
|Linnet and Mipit|
I was not so lucky with the second cloudburst as it snuck up
on me over the hill and hunkering down for twenty minutes in the lee of a two
foot high gorse bush only really stopped my bum, front and lap getting wet. I
was soaked through but the views were splendid and I did not mind. Within a minute
of each dull spell or rain the Small Blues would appear and dance around the
dwarf Privet and then disappear
instantly the sun retreated along with a couple of dazzling Green Hairstreaks.
|East towards Whale Chine and Blackgang Chine beyond|
|The Needles from the Blackgang Chine viewpoint|
|One of the vetches|
My twelve minute sunshine total was worth every second. From
here it was up to Newport for lunch a la Lidl and then back to the Garlic Farm
for a lazy repast on the green sward with added coffee and garlicky aromas
before a rendezvous with the other at the Fishbourne pub in preparation of a
smooth sunshiny crossing back at 6pm.
|Would love to know the breed of domesticated pigeon at the Garlic Farm - superb|
I was the only one up on deck with the sun glinting off the
Solent to watch a huge container ship heading into a monster squall over
Southampton to the west while Osborne House looked down on me from its lofty
viewpoint and the green clad trees dipped their toes in the sea all along the
shore as far as the eye could see.
It may not have been the visit of relived childhood memories
that I envisaged but it jogged a few loose of the Vulcan bomber deafening us and
shrouding us with is shadow as it passed low over the centre of town in either
1981 or ’82; of Charles and Di getting married in ’81 with the streets lined
proudly with Union Jacks and a walk one evening with my Grandad Stan through
the edge of a cornfield with tiny Heartsease Pansies at my feet and Long-eared
Bats wheeling around in the darkening blue summer skies...