IOW Trip - Cowslips, Orchids and Bluebells

 We've been away for a few days on the Isle of Wight (IOW) visiting relations and doing a bit of sightseeing. It takes 3-4 hours to drive down to the ferry at Lymington for the short sea trip (40 minutes) across to Yarmouth on the IOW. We were always told the Solent ferry crossings were the most expensive in the world on a £/km basis - probably an urban myth but costly enough that we left our car at Lymington and travelled on the ferry with our son & fiancee in their car.

To avoid any anxieties about getting to the ferry port on time, we decided to drive down a day early and stay near the ferry port in Lyndhurst. Mary chose the hotel (Penny Farthing) - the room was on the small side but reasonably cheap (£45 pppn) and an excellent breakfast was included. We were 'upgraded' from a small double - I was curious to know how much smaller they could go! We had dinner at the Passage to India across the road - highly recommended.

Having made the journey from Hereford to the IOW many times, there are a couple of highlights we look forward to. Firstly, when travelling in May, we get the opportunity to enjoy the carpets of cowslips along the A417 between Birdlip and Cirencester.

Photo 1: Cowslips along the A417 (5/5/23)

The second highlight is a lunch stop in Pewsey! Free car park, clean & free toilets, and Marshalls Bakery across the road - where you may purchase savoury pies and delicious cakes at very reasonable prices.

The day we travelled (5/5/23) was sunny and warm so we could enjoy an early evening stroll along the Tall Trees Trail in the Blackwater Arboretum near Lyndhurst. Giant sequoias and chaffinches, what's not to like!

Photo 2: Chaffinch in Blackwater Arboretum (5/5/23)

Photo 3: Giant Sequoias, Blackwater Arboretum (5/5/23)

Not too much sightseeing on the IOW as we were visiting the relations. Two of our party wanted some seaside action, so we made the trip to Sandown Pier. We were shocked at how rundown parts of the Sandown seafront were. The amusement arcades on Sandown Pier held an old-fashioned fascination for our son and his fiancee - £5 in change kept them busy for 45 minutes but, in the end, the money ran out! Following a pleasant lunch at The Bandstand, it was off to Shanklin for a brisk and breezy walk along the seafront. Shanklin lacks a pier but appeared to be in ruder health than Sandown. To finish off the day we dropped in on Arreton Barns, an arts & craft centre, with its many interesting shops and attractions - the church is worth a visit.

We attended the village Coronation Picnic on the Sunday (5th) to enjoy some jazz, tea, cakes and the inevitable raffle! Luckily, the weather was fine and warm. Later in the day we took the resident dog (Photo 4) ...

Photo 4: Resident Jack Russell

for a walk in Mill Copse to see bluebells and orchids ...

Photo 5: Bluebells in Mill Copse

Photo 6: Early Purple Orchid in Mill Copse

On the morning we departed for the mainland, we had a quick trip to the Newtown National Nature Reserve. Not a lot of birdwatching action but a meadow with plenty of green-winged orchid specimens (aka green-veined orchids). Colours vary from purple through pink to white; purple (Photo 7) and white (Photo 8) examples were present at this location. The green veins are most easily seen in the white form (Photo 8). Orchids can be a bit tricky to identify at times but the local National Trust staff confirmed the ID for us.

Photo 7: Green-winged Orchid - purple (IOW, 9/5/23)

Photo 8: Green-winged Orchid - white (IOW, 9/5/23)

A fairly uneventful trip back to Hereford with a stop for afternoon tea in Tidworth at the Chef's Delight Cafe. We arrived just as they were clearing up ready to close for the day which might explain why the cheese on toast was served on white bread when we had asked for brown. Nice cakes though (Photo 9). 

Photo 9: Cake Masterpieces at the Chef's Delight

One final look at the A417 cowslips in the rain ...

Photo 10: Grey skies and yellow cowslips (9/5/23)

... and after a slight detour to see the Malvern bluebells ...

Photo 11: Bluebells on the Malverns (9/5/23)

... we arrived home, tired but happy!


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