Isle of Wight

Another school inset day meant we were able to link up once again with our most common travel companions, the Khimasia family. We resurrected our booking for a weekend on the Isle of Wight, which had to be postponed from last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We got the Red Funnel Ferry from Southampton to East Cowes. Our girls found it amazing that we were actually taking our own car on the ferry across with us, a concept that as adults we’ve long taken for granted. Once on the island, we headed straight to the sandy Ryde Beach. We spent the whole afternoon here. It was quiet, clean, and all the children wanted to do was build forts with their new buckets and spades. The tide was out, which allowed us to wade in the warm shallow waters between the sand banks out to some considerable distance. With the sun beaming, and the view of the Portsmouth skyline visible across The Solent, I was reminded ever so slightly of my holidays in Dubai. That evening, after freshening up in our AirBnB, we went for dinner to The Cadet Beach Club, where we enjoyed great service, very nice food and cocktails, and a lovely view across Appley Beach.

Saturday was our one full day. We took an anti-clockwise route round the island. We first visited the world famous coloured sands of Alum Bay, which, with it’s 21 different shades, is one of the most picturesque beaches on the Isle of Wight. From here, we made the short walk up to The Needles chalk stacks by the Old and New Battery. It was a clear day, but we still weren’t able to make out Old Harry Rocks across the water, at the start of the Jurassic Coast, where we’d been just a few weeks before. What we did not expect to see from here, however, was Hurst Castle, by Milford on Sea. Hamel and I went on one of our first dates there, some 14 years ago, before we got married. It was very windy here, which instantly reminded me of how it had been there that day, and in that moment a decade and a half of memories blew through my mind.

We then moved on to Compton Bay with the ‘Dinosaur Footprints’, where we spent two hours on the beach, watching the sea, while the kids did what they love doing best… digging holes in the sand. We returned back to our accommodation via a scenic drive around the Southern Coast, briefly stopping for a photo in the slightly more upmarket Ventnor.

The Island is so small, that before our late afternoon ferry home on our final day, we had enough time to first drive all the way down to the Southern Coast again. Along the way, we made a visit to the lovely Garlic Farm, where we saw an albino peacock and tried some black garlic ice cream. From there, we drove down to Shanklin for afternoon tea at The Old Thatch Tea Shop, which had a kind of feel of the ‘old world’ about it. Our last experience before going back to the mainland was hopping on the Cowes Floating Bridge to go and have a look at the Yacht Haven, which looked a nice area to explore, had we had more time.

And with that, we felt like another part of England had been conquered. This again, is an example of a destination very close to home, that we had put off visiting for so long, at a time when the whole world had been open to us. But this trip confirmed why it had been on our wish list in the first place. The global pandemic has undoubtedly been challenging, but we’ve done our best to look for opportunities in these difficult times, and in doing so have learnt to appreciate more and more of what is already around us.

The Jurassic Coast, Dorset

For the second year, non essential international travel is ill advised.  We have therefore followed on from 2020, and spent the past six months taking day hikes in and around London, and enjoying the world famous sights of the city we’ve grown up in.

However, my birthday weekend threw up an opportunity for our first break away, so we organised a three night family holiday to the Jurassic Coast. Last year I had such a lovely stay at Gloucester House Hotel, Weymouth, that I decided to make this our base once again. Jonathan’s and Karen’s hospitality was just as warm and welcoming as before, and it was definitely the right choice for my family.

Our short trip was incredible. We lucked out with the weather, and the whole experience reminded me a bit of our visit to the Amalfi Coast a few years back. We didn’t spend much time in Weymouth itself, but an evening stroll on the deserted beach on the first night, got our mini break off to a perfect start. The kids were excited just being on the sand, and the simplicity of us being alone by the sea filled me with a real sense of peace.

Our plans over the following three days took us first West, then East. We followed an itinerary we had designed to allow us to see as much as possible, without feeling too rushed. For us, one of the key draws to this region, was the promise of fossils, and so we made this our first priority. A couple of hours scavenging along the foreshore of Charmouth Beach while the tide was out, yielded a small haul, which we brought home as our souvenirs. I found fossil hunting quite therapeutic; although we did it as a family, the concentration required to spot the fossils and gemstones amongst the shingle gives it a slightly solitary quality, and when you find a hidden treasure, the gratification is instant and lasting. From there, we drove to the lovely seaside town of Lyme Regis, where we stopped for lunch, before walking beyond Monmouth Beach, to the ‘Ammonite Pavement’. Here, the remains of thousands of ammonites, an extinct group of marine molluscs, are embedded in the limestone ledge, forming a spectacular graveyard of fossils. The landscape here is unique, and is as interesting as any I’ve seen on my travels around the world.

The following day, we took ourselves to the very start of the Jurassic Coast, to see Old Harry Rocks, supposedly named after the Devil according to one legend, and a pirate smuggler in another story. Old Harry Rocks were created through thousands of years of erosion by the sea and were originally a part of the c65million year old chalk ridge-line that runs across the south coast joining up with the Needles on the Isle of Wight (which we will be hopefully visiting in just a few weeks). After an al fresco lunch stop at the Bankes Arms Inn, we then walked down to South Beach on the South West Coast Path. We spent the afternoon on the clean sandy beach, which lies in the sheltered Studland Bay, and has the woodland as it’s backdrop, giving it a very tropical feel.

Before heading home on the Monday, we visited the most well known geological landmark on the Jurassic Coast, Durdle Door. From the carpark, we took the steep hike up to the viewpoint, humorously named Scratchy Bottom. With the Man O’War Beach and the famous arch for our view, we ate our picnic lunch, and soaked up the beauty of our surroundings. To round off our holiday, we walked the 1.7miles to Lulworth Cove, where we sat on the white stone beach, while the girls entertained themselves endlessly, throwing pebbles at the stone pile they made for themselves as a target.

The Jurassic Coast has been inscribed by UNESCO as England’s only natural World Heritage Site, for the outstanding universal value of it’s rocks, fossils and landforms. Having seen many of the world’s natural wonders first hand, I fully appreciate why they felt this place was special, it’s an amazing feeling to realise how close to home it is.