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FEATURE I ISLE OF WIGHT


as my previous experience left me feeling deflated, with bland drab memories, so in contrast todays experience was a wonderful surprise. The streets were clean, the locals friendly and the shop windows enticing with vibrant displays offering all types of goods and products. It seeped a glorious underbelly of splendour. The town grew in prominence in the Georgian period, originally it was two small communities of Lower Ryde and Upper Ryde. In the late 18th century the town developed and once Queen Victoria adopted the nearby Osbourne House as one of her summer residences then its fate was secured. It’s definitely benefited from its commercial prosperity, independent shops were happily brimming with customers. The whole town was bursting with a self- confident air. One thing it made me realise was I need to banish any pre-conceptions because they can have a detrimental effect on your holiday plans. I must learn! I pedalled happily east along the promenade, stopping briefly by Appleby Park Tower. The building is a feast of circular and castellated construction enhanced architecturally by a dramatic turret and oriel, superbly indulgent but unfortunately it looked quite lonely stood proudly overlooking the sea and its modern counterpart, the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. It was originally built in 1875 as part of a substantial country house which unfortunately no longer exists. Its setting so close to the beach and the loving verdant embrace of Appleby Park Tower provides a gentler more timeless appeal to that of the main town. The switch of emphasis from the hectic to the placid was a pleasurable diversion.


I continued along the coast towards


Seaview. The surrounds became more remote, the route was not as well established, with sharp blind corners and uneven surfaces. The views were gallery quality as I approached the comforting confines of Seaview. The Edwardian village is regarded as one of the most affluent places to live on the island and the main Pier Road has rightly been given the nickname ‘Millionaires Avenue’. I had read that this sweep of coastline is a great location to go crabbing or shrimping, mainly due to its many rock pools, however this morning the town was distracted by more important matters. The seafront was bustling with locals draped in nautical paraphernalia, preparing for the annual regatta. Stalls in different stages of construction, cardboard boxes and colourful bunting strewn across the roadway and pavement with a hint of freshly brewed coffee, a wonderfully controlled chaos. I weaved my way through the crowds and began a gradual climb away


70 www.cyclingworldmag.com from the water.


I was heading towards Brading and its Roman Villa. Inconspicuous by its appearance and location, the Roman Villa is a great tourist attraction on the outskirts of the town. The site was discovered in 1879 by a local farmer and the original building dates way back to the 1st Century. It is recognised as one of the finest Roman sites in the UK. Its modern exterior doesn’t prepare the visitor for the archaeological delights within; the highlight is the delicate and intricate preserved mosaic floors. The simple naive images bubble with a vibrancy, the experience is amazing, providing a brief tantalising glimpse into what life was like in the area at the time with plenty of exhibits focusing on the Romans lifestyle and beliefs. On reflection it reminded me of other ruins I had visited in Barcelona and Bath and I was enthused by the efforts they made to cater for children, thankfully dressing up was optional for the adults.


A GLORIOUS VIEW OF THE PIER GREETED ME Today was going to be glorious, I had a feeling. Firstly I was greeted by the absolutely stunning elevated view of Sandown Pier as the sun awoke. I zigzagged myself down the winding cliff top road onto the promenade, where I found the seafront bustling with a riot of OAP’s enjoying the early morning sea air, now slightly tinged with the aroma of Fishermen Friends. I pedalled south towards Shanklin. The distance between the two is minimal but there is definitely something distinctively different about the resorts. Sandown appears more naïve, more basic, in a positive way, whereas Shanklin exudes a simple modernity, it’s hard to explain but the comparison is obvious.


I stopped on the seafront for some refreshment and with my coffee urge satisfied, I unfurled my map and set off towards Godshill and its quaint picture postcard surroundings. I passed the lift which is on hand to transport any lethargic types from the seafront (to be honest there is a substantial climb back up to the main commercial area so for most it offers a convenient alternative to sore feet and raised heartbeats) and arrived in Shanklin’s main shopping area which is slightly dated but in a wonderful way. I especially liked the slapdash approach to the usual offerings from the endless souvenir shops, brimming with infectious optimism and seaside tat. They blend well with occasional antique shop or vintage store overflowing with vibrantly painted pastel colours depicting some lovely local landscapes. It’s a place


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