The government’s advisor on the natural environment, Natural England, has just published the long-awaited Natural Character Area profile for the Isle of Wight.Sounds dull? It isn’t. NCA profiles are being compiled for the whole of England, and each one is an in-depth analysis of the landscape, wildlife and human activity within one of England’s 159 Natural Character Areas. It’s not an action plan but it does have some “Statements of Environmental Opportunity” which mostly prove to be longwinded ways to make some pretty obvious suggestions for priorities if we want to conserve and enhance our natural area. And given how we have done so far, obvious suggestions are not at all a bad thing. Continue reading
Is the Isle of Wight bigger than Rutland at low tide? This question has been having a bit of a battle on the Isle of Wight page at Wikipedia. The Ranger is interested in this question, for, although like much of Wikipedian debate it involves dancing on the head of a pin, it also raises some interesting questions and sheds light on current proposals.
Evicted from his office by the noisy Isle of Wight Festival today, the Ranger instead spent the day on a tour of the Osborne Estate, Queen Victoria’s island retreat, still lovingly maintained much as she left it. Just occasionally there are privileges associated with being a Ranger, and today was one of those rare moments. Although Osborne is a fantastic visit for the paying guest – highly recommended, if you’re wondering – much of the estate is not open to the public, and so this was the first time the Ranger had ever been around many of the quieter corners of this royal estate, including Queen Victoria’s own beach at Osborne Bay, one of the very few private beaches on the Solent. It was an extraordinary experience. A few images will perhaps serve to convey a little of the splendour of that isolated cove. Apologies to those who subscribe by email but if you want to see them you’re just going to have look at the webpage.
The public have no access here
Walk the Wight is an annual event on the Isle of Wight to raise money for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice. It is a 26.5 mile trek from one end of the island to the other. Along the way, you encounter some pretty rough terrain and some killer, seemingly everlasting, hills. Every year, some 10,000 plus people enter and raise thousands for a very good cause.
I like to have a good moan and rant, as regular readers will be aware. But it’s also worth standing back sometimes to remember just why I do the job I do, and why it’s so great. My friends over at myisleofwight.com have helped me do just that with this exquisite video homage to the town I grew up in, the beaches I played on as a child, and still work (and play) on today.
(We recommend you go fullscreen and turn up your speakers for the full effect) You see, you don’t have to go all retro and nostalgic to enjoy a holiday on the Isle of Wight – although by all means do if you want. This stuff is still going on, every sunny day of the summer. I love it.
The Isle of Wight’s geology is something that it’s easy to see – so much of it is on display at the edges… and we’ve got lots of edges. What’s more, there’s a massive variety of it, and it includes those all-important dinosaur fossils that make the headlines and draw the tourists. Most dinosaur-hunters end up going to the spectacular south-west coast of the Island, maybe to see the famous dinosaur footprints at Hanover Point, for example. A less well-known attraction is the petrified forest in the north end of Sandown Bay. Locals have long known that at very low tides, fragments of petrified wood can be found washed up on the shore.
This week, the Ranger was lucky enough to find one. Continue reading
The Ranger was privileged to get an invitation to a special party on the Isle of Wight this weekend. Astronomy enthusiasts from across the south-east of England know that the south-west part of the Isle of Wight has some of the darkest skies in the region – and because of the nice weather it also has the advantage of a good chance of a clear sky.
Brighstone holiday camp on the south-west coast has a great outlook over the unlit English Channel, and the bulk of the downs to prevent the light from the mainland leaking over. It really is pretty dark down there so I was delighted when Dr Lucy Rogers of the Vectis Astronomical Society used Twitter to invite me to come and see this important part of the Island’s natural resource for myself. This was no public meeting either, a star party is where the astronomers are on their own territory – so as a neophyte I was lucky to get such a well-qualified guide to introduce me to this extraordinary event. Continue reading
It’s been a long time but at last the Ranger can report that he’s actually done an honest day’s work. Or rather, night’s work. The worst snow on the Isle of Wight for thirty years has been responsible for me putting on my ranger boots again and getting out there.
In my previous post about snow on the Island I reported:
…my days of dashing around in emergencies are probably past… mind you, if this carries on for a few more days the rangers will need some sleep and even I might have to dust off my hi-vis jacket.
Anyone who’s been following me on Twitter will now know that exactly that did happen, and I spent all last night on emergency driving duties around the Island. Read on to see how I got on. Continue reading
There’s sad news on the Isle of Wight as the impending closure of the Isle of Wight Wax Works Museum has been announced. This attraction – along with some of its exhibits – began delighting and horrifying children and their parents in 1965, and so its demise marks a loss of part of the background to the Ranger’s life.
As well as the traditional historical tableaux, the waxworks includes a diverse range of other collections; most memorably the Chamber of Horrors, and Professor Copperthwaite’s Collection of Oddities. In this latter collection, alongside more traditional examples of the taxidermist’s art can be found some remarkable freaks and oddities, presented pretty much as one might have seen them in a nineteenth-century freak show. This maudlin-looking unicorn is one of them, offered with the advice that one could capture one only with the assistance of “a virgin, preferably both voluptuous and naked”. Taxidermy is hardly a fashionable art these days, and the bizarre exhibits here look every bit as ancient as they must be… but there’s an undefinable directness about these creepy things that no amount of photoshopping can emulate. It’ll be a shame when they are gone. There’s not much else like this any more, nor ever likely to be again. Continue reading