It is surely a sign that I've matured into a proper grown up that I now like the idea of spending a Sunday afternoon sitting in a park listening to a brass band with a deckchair and an ice cream.
Had my mother suggested such a thing during my teenage years I'd have declared her an embarrassment and moved in with the neighbours.
Anyway, I recently found the time to explore two public parks which are tucked away somewhat, on the clifftops of Shanklin and Ventnor. Both feature in our guide to free days out on the Isle of Wight.
Both Rylstone Gardens and Ventnor Park are council maintained and have a smattering of things to do with children. Not enough for a day really but enough for a passing visit.
My trip to Rylstone Gardens in Shanklin was an hour too early for the Sunday afternoon concert which is given by groups with names like Vectis Brass Ensemble, or something like that. The whole thing looked pretty pleasant with deck chairs being laid out. As far as I could see it was free, with plenty of opportunities to buy drinks from under a gazebo.
The park also has a cafe which looked suitably twee and a crazy golf course which was not exactly Disneyland-esque but would happily entertain children long enough for parents to have a coffee and a slab of lemon drizzle cake.
Rylstone Gardens also links up nicely with the seafront down some steps so you could park for free and walk down, although I personally wouldn't attempt that with three children, two dogs, six bags and a windbreak.
Ventnor park meanwhile has similarly well kept gardens but instead of crazy golf has a putting green, which to those who aren't sporting experts may look much like a lawn with several red flags and holes.
The bandstand from Ventnor's old pier sits proudly in the park and also hosts performances by the local parpers and tooters.
There's also a refreshments hut which reminded me of a summer job I had at an Island attraction where I set myself the target of selling more ice cream than I ate (it was a close run thing on some rainy days).
Up towards the top of Ventnor Park there is an impressive outdoor gym. I'm not convinced that there is an army of beefy men and toned women in Ventnor who use it every morning but I may be wrong. We were half expecting a swing and slide in the park but thankfully we managed to convince our little one that a rowing machine would make a good see saw and the cross trainer could double up as a swing for a small bottom.
The top of the park links up with a clifftop path which we didn't explore but which presumably leads to Steephill Cove eventually.
There's also a bizarre bus stop type building at the cliff top with half of the seats looking in the wrong direction.
Both parks are well kept with lots of pretty plants and flowery things. Give it another decade and I might just be able to identify a few of them.
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