Spring Days on the Isle of Wight

20 April 2015
Ben Pentreath

Charlie and I went to visit Mum & Dad on the Isle of Wight this weekend, for two days of beautiful spring sunshine. The talk was of New Zealand travels and future plans and we had a lovely time. It was Mum’s 80th birthday last December and to celebrate she’s planning her circumnavigation of the Island this summer in her kayak, which you and I and my father might think is a little short of bonkers, but she’s quite set on the idea.  Which is quite exciting, looked at another way.

We went down to Newtown which is one of their and my favourite spots on the whole of the Island, which you will already know if you read the blog… and the story of Jim Downer that I wrote about last summer, here. It was lovely to be back. Jim’s house was just there, but about to be knocked down by the looks of things.

We popped into the little Gothic church next door to his plot, at the beginning of our walk:
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The verges were filled with spring flowers:P1050241 P1050247 P1050249 P1050250

I love the moment when you leave the track and walk out onto the Marshes:P1050251 P1050253

My project at Fawley Power station way in the distance on the mainland:
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Another regency Old Parsonage, in the village:P1050269 P1050273

And a visit, as always, to the beautiful Old Town Hall, which is one of my favourite buildings. Sadly it was closed when we were there, but that didn’t matter.P1050276 P1050279


(Looking back to last year’s blog I realised I took exactly the same photograph then).  But then this year, a real treat. Mum & Dad had fixed a visit to the beautiful, simple house designed by Raymond Erith that I’d written about last time. It was wonderful to see and we had a lovely drink with the generous and friendly owners in the bright sunshine (and Charlie and I concluded that Isle of Wight strength gin and tonics are rather more powerful than elsewhere).P1050298

After lunch, Charlie and I went to Osborne – Queen Victoria’s sprawling, beautiful country house overlooking the Solent at Cowes. I had a sneaking suspicion that C might like the walled garden. And as they say: ‘it did not disappoint’.P1050311 P1050314 P1050319 P1050320 P1050322

An amazing datura plant:P1050324

We were looking back at photographs this morning which I had taken in the same greenhouse 11 years ago and it was then a tiny plant.P1050326 P1050332 P1050333 P1050339

Incredible asparagus. Ours in Dorset hasn’t even begun to show:P1050342 P1050345 P1050347

The walled garden at Osborne is one of the most perfect I think I know. It is beautifully looked after by the English Heritage gardeners.

It was at this point that I realised my camera was running low on battery, that perilous happening, so the following photographs are a bit fewer and far between than you or I may have liked. But perhaps it is good – as in the days of old rolls of 24 or 36 films – to be forced to edit a little bit before you take a picture, not after?  And perhaps it is good to enjoy the world seen through a pair of eyes, rather than through a single lens?


The bedding flowers are spectacular, and the breeze was strong with the scent of tulips, narcissi and wallflowers.

We walked down to the Swiss Cottage.P1050349 P1050350

The Swiss Cottage was built as a play area for the Royal Children. It’s sublime.  It is surrounded by beautifully tended vegetable gardens which were originally looked after by the Princes and Princesses (one suspects with a bit of help).P1050351 P1050352

In a small pavilion are their wheelbarrows:
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The whole of the Swiss cottage is surrounded by fruit trees and wildflower meadows, about as close to heaven as you can get.P1050355

We loved the little museum with its amazing collection of geological treasures and taxidermy, collected by the princes and princesses.

And then walked down to the recently opened beach, where it is wonderful to see Queen Victoria’s bathing hut back facing the sea:P1050356

And we ate ice-creams surrounded by the pink-and-blue tiles of this seat, where the Queen used to come to the shore to paint watercolours:


We walked back to the house up the wooded beautiful valley, almost completely alone. I took one last photograph and the camera died, which seemed just about the right last photo to have taken.P1050358

I love Island days. It was wonderful to show Charlie some of my favourite places, and, now, you.

18 comments on this post


I love the idea of your Mum circumnavigating the Isle of Wight in her kayak. Will we be allowed updates?

Pierre B.says:

How lucky you are to have four seasons! In Canada many of us think we only have two.
Grat pictures as usual. Thank you!


Enchanting. The blog always is. Thank you.

So much to absorb from your beautiful photography. I very much enjoyed a tour through the Isle of Wight, a place I’ve yet to visit. Oh, that parsonage is just heaven and those fritilaria dotted about the grassy field is just sublime. Thank you for sharing your tour with your loyal readers.

Kudos to your Mom (and belated happy birthday)! It’s wonderful that she has the vigor, physically and mentally, to undertake her celebratory voyage. Please keep up posted.

The bedding flowers at Osborne are indeed spectacular, but I think I prefer the next photo, of the tipsy iron fence wending its way through the spring-sun-dappled meadows. You can almost hear children’s laughter in the photos of the charming Swiss Cottage gardens.

Queen Victoria’s bathing hut?? The imagination boggles! Or is that just the American reaction?

Altogether another delightful post, Ben. Thank you!

Hugs to you and Charlie,


I am so glad I found your lovely blog, I’ve never been to the Isle of Wight, it looks lovely, and your mum sounds inspiring.

Just gorgeous! Stunning Gothic arch. The Old Town Hall is lovely; the very sight of it is soothing.

The pictures of the palm tree surrounded by beds of flowers—they don’t even look real, they are so perfect. Also love the greenhouse, although it is disconcertingly neat and tidy; not a dirty flower pot shrouded in cobwebs to be seen.

I have never been to the Isle of Wight. Into my Bucket it goes.



Our son lives in Manhattan and I would encourage you to go to the 9/11 Memorial/Ground Zero.
For Breakfast- Cafe Cluny, West Village
Shopping- MoMA Store, and AERO, both in SoHo


Dear Ben,
You owe us nothing, yet each week you, through the hospitality of your words and photos, you invite us into your enchanting life and world – all of which take time and genorosity on your part. Thank you for the pleasure and joy that your blog generates.
PS. I want to be your mum when I’m older!


Hurrah,back on track in the northern hemisphere! Exactly how far is it to circumnavigate the Isle of Wight? Is your mum doing it for a bet, a dare, or because it’s there? Please keep us posted on progress. For the rest, thank you for that little church and the revisit of the Town Hall; am also a sucker for a decent walled garden. Nicola


I am generally more than content to be a born and bred Canadian, but I really do envy you the English spring.

Those very elegant supports for the greenhouse benches are a delightful detail!


I left the UK at the end of March this year – as the trees and hedgerows were swelling with that hazy, heathery purple, just before exploding into green. Your photos are the first I’ve seen of the ‘after’ – one of these years I’ll be there for that moment which, in my mind, happens all at once, and all together like a great big crazy symphony of green.

And good old Osborne – reminds me of my childhood playing among the ruined Island lovelies, with spades still discoverable in the centre of overgrown rhododendrons, and staircases that ended in mid-air.

Thanks for the photos – those bedding flowers are insane. You must have been drunk on the smell from the narcissi. Glorious.

Good luck to your mother! I think it’s excitingly bonkers. I’m dusting off the cyber bunting and I hope she gets a special Island strength G&T when she’s done.


A bit of heaven on earth! Wished I could swap locations this morning as there
s nothing but gray skies and heavy rains predicted for New Jersey.
Thank you for the transport to this beautiful spot..


Wonderful photos as always. We have a house in Bonchurch and we are aching to be there in Spring but too many commitments at weekends mean we won’t get there until May. If you have not been to the 11th Century church in Bonchurch, add it to your list next time. It is a serene little spot off the beaten track on a path down to the beach (sadly no ice cream available there any more) and one we visit almost every weekend we are there. Many thanks for your evocative blog which will keep me going for the next two weeks….


Another inspiring and beautiful blog, Ben! On a totally different note, I’m off to Manhattan this week and I know that the city has a very special place in your heart. What would be your TOP THREE things to do there? Is there somewhere you always eat? A shop you always pop into to see what’s happening? A small gallery that you personally love? It’s been ages since last went and would appreciate your personal recommendations. Thanks Ben! J


Jamie – I would visit John Derian’s shop. I would contact my brilliant friend Valentina Rice who runs for advice on where to eat. For old times’s sake I’d visit the rooftop bar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art if it is spring-like and it’s opened already… or that wonderful walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge towards Manhattan… for new times’ sake I can’t get enough of the highline.

looks like the perfect weekend, Spent with husband, parents, beautiful weather, stunning location and all finished off with a delicious ice cream. Many thanks for sharing with us. William.

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