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.
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.
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.
…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 →
Every August bank holiday an extraordinary thing happens in the Ranger’s home town of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. Estimates of numbers vary widely but certainly more than 2,000 scooters and their riders descend upon the town for the Ryde International Scooter Rally.
Scooters of all sorts – and I do mean all sorts – fill the town. The air is literally blue with two-stroke fumes and the buzzing of tinny engines is a constant drone throughout the weekend. Various events go on, and there is music and jollity, but the main event is the Sunday ride-out, when all the scooters gather on the seafront before riding off to some location on the Island. They dress up in remarkable costumes and drive some bizarrely-customised machines. This has become a big spectator event, and crowds of locals come out to line the streets, waving the scooterists off on their parade. It’s fun, and quite a spectacle. But it’s particularly interesting to me because of something unusual about this event: nobody organises it. It just happens, and for one weekend Ryde’s parks, streets and pavements are full to bursting with scooters. This is striking to a public servant like myself who spends a lot of the rest of the year hiring out these same parks for public events – checking insurance, taking fees, policing disputes between neighbours, and all the million-and-one things that local councils are obliged to do. And yet this big, internationally-renowned event just happens. How does that come about? Continue reading →
Once, on a crossroads in the middle of the Isle of Wight sat a rather anomalous leyland cypress tree. Some years ago for some reason, be it stormy weather or vehicle impact, it fell down, was mostly removed, and left a substantial stump. The stump sat on one of the most prominent verges on the Island, and little if anything was thought of it – certainly not by its owners, the Isle of Wight Council. This was the situation in Arreton Cross until summer 2008, when a combination of factors led to a remarkable transformation of the treestump and the surrounding area of grassland and scrub. The Isle of Wight Council and the local Arreton Parish Council both agreed that something needed to be done to transform the dismal-looking verge. To cut a (very) long story short, the IW Council employed local charity the Island 2000 Trust to work with volunteers from Arreton to improve the site. Lots of work was done, including carving the treestump into a splendid proud hare alongside two amorous magpies, entitled “Good Omen”.