I've always been a little bit rude about Ryde, in the British way of being rude about somewhere or someone without actually being too direct. If anyone told me they were planning a holiday to Ryde I would say something like "Oh wonderful, have you considered Shanklin?"
My polite prejudice was established over many years in which we rarely visited the town, instead heading over to the West Wight for beaches or Newport for shops. I never disliked it strongly, I just preferred other Isle of Wight towns.
Anyway, with a two year old to entertain we returned to Appley for the first time in a while. After passing the seafront bowling alley (which also has laser tag now) and ice rink we got to a new looking paddling pool. The various jets and sploshy things didn't seem to be working but our little one was delighted. Well, she mostly insisted that she watched me paddle from the side but one day she'll enjoy it and the other little splashers seemed to be having fun.
Further along was a decent playground right on the seafront with lots of new looking slides. The wind was so strong that I wondered if the hovercraft had parked up next to us, but it was obvious that it would be an idyllic spot for a play on a less windy day.
The beach itself was slightly more sheltered and the tide was so low that it looked as if you could walk to Gunwharf Quays, pick up some discount Levi's and then walk back to the beach. Best of all the beach was properly golden and soft - the kind of sand that you can sink your feet in to rather than the sort for building sand castles (you'd have to walk towards the sea a bit for that).
We had planned to carry on to Puckpool Park, which has its own entertainments but we were running out of time. On a previous wintery visit the former Harcourt Sands site was looking pretty sorry for itself but hopefully that will see happier days soon.
The main downside with Appley is the recent introduction of parking charges to what was previously a free car park. On my first trip to Appley as a driver some time ago I remember searching around with bemusement for a parking meter, unable to accept that there wasn't a council nearby looking to squeeze a few pounds out of me.
Maybe it was the sunshine talking, but I concluded that Ryde wasn't all that bad after all. The town has loads of independent shops now, there is enough on the seafront for a full day with children of any age, plus it has the country's oldest pier, which makes the view a bit more interesting.
I'm sorry Ryde, let's be friends.