I was given free tickets to Blackgang Chine, but the words are my own.
A friend and I are currently working on a history of Blackgang Chine theme park. It will see the light of day once we have stopped arguing over minor details.
Child one has also been helping out with our 180 year timeline and so she was particularly keen for another visit to Blackgang Chine at half term. With my recently acquired knowledge I was able to point at carbon fibre models which now live in the car park and say things like "you know, that model was originally in Smugglerland".
We had ignored my own advice (arrive at 10am, do the rides on the right hand side first) and turned up about 11.30am. The park was understandably busy as the sun was shining.
It was Cowboys v Dinosaurs week, which included special events throughout the day. The cowboys and the dinosaurs are my favourite things about Blackgang Chine, but under pressure I joined team Dino and showed my support with a sticker.
We headed for a dinosaur show which took place behind the old buildings which now house the Hall of Mirrors and the original whale skeleton. Last time we visited at Easter, there was a small dinosaur themed space hidden round the back but it has grown in size.
Several of the smaller dinosaurs now live in a nearby dinosaur walkway which is separate to Restricted Area 5. There were a couple of activities along the way before we reached the events space.
Please enlighten me in the comments if you know what it was previously used for or politely point out that it's been there for years. Google Earth suggests it may have been a car park which has been gobbled up to make it a bigger space.
We sat down for the lunchtime show which consisted of an enthusiastic cast introducing dinosaurs which roamed amongst the crowd. Child two sat firmly on my knee until I confirmed that the dinosaurs were staff members in costume.
Our visit to Blackgang Chine wasn't meant to be a whole day outing. We prefer to do a couple of short visits to pace ourselves. You get free returns for seven days with any ticket, so I always advise people to visit at the start of a holiday rather than the end (see our guide to money saving at Blackgang Chine).
As is usually the case, this got a little extended as we worked our way round Dodo Valley, Shipwrecked, Nurseryland, The Hall of Mirrors and the Underwater Kingdom.
Child one wanted to add the water slide to the list and child two wanted Cowboyland but we had other plans. We dragged them away with promises that we shall return again for further adventures, all in the name of historical research.
I've not been to every church on the Isle of Wight. However, I can offer a little bit of insight for someone looking for somewhere to worship whilst on holiday.
If you want to recommend anywhere in the comments section, please do. This list isn't intended to be exhaustive.
Details change from time to time, so please check things like service times before making a journey.
We've been to Castlehold Baptist Church quite a few times over the years. Back in the day, I went to Boys Brigade at Castlehold and made a very poor effort of cleaning my uniform each week.
It is in the middle of the Isle of Wight, so you are unlikely to be further than 20 minutes away whilst on holiday.
There is some good kids' work going on and plenty of children attending (last time we visited). We were once invited to write prayers on a paper aeroplane and send Prayer-o-planes flying around the church.
The music is modern songs rather than hymns, but not wacky Jesus-Is-My-Boyfriend songs. There was a 90s and noughties vibe to the songs, with an occasional vintage barnstormer for good measure ("We are marrrrching in the light of God, we are marrrrrrrrching in the light of God etc). Don't expect lots of liturgy.
They've got a balcony at Castlehold where you can hide away or you can sit downstairs if you are more inclined towards a long chat afterwards. We've always found people at Castlehold to be friendly.
There's a big pay and display car park nearby on Drill Hall Road or check out our guide to free parking on the Isle of Wight for more ideas.
Castlehold usually meet at 10.30am on Sundays. It is sometimes known as Newport Baptist Church.
My brother often visits St James' in Ryde when he is on the Isle of Wight. I went a few times many years ago, but haven't for a long time.
I would say it is towards the Conservative Evangelical end of things (please correct me if I'm barking up the wrong clerical tree). It describes itself as 'Evangelical Anglican' and is 'part of the Anglican Mission in England'.
There is kids' work at St James' which is split into three age groups.
Sunday services are currently at 10.30am and 6.30pm.
I have a family connection to Carisbrooke Priory, so wanted to give it a mention.
It is a non-denominational 'house of prayer and Christian healing' which was home to nuns until the 1990s.
They don't have a Sunday service, but they sometimes hold a Thursday service at midday (check the website).
Carisbrooke Priory is also a tea rooms so you can combine your faith with your love of home made quiche. There are gardens to explore as well as a chapel, cloisters and other curiosities.
True Vine Church, Newport
I've not been to True Vine Church in Newport, but it is pretty active with Youtube streams, social media posts and other modern stuff going on.
It has the added novelty of being held in Newport's former cinema building. I have fond memories of watching Goldeneye there in 1995.
I would put True Vine in the Pentecostal/Happy Clappy category of Isle of Wight churches based on the music and the presence of flag waving. The website says that 'the majority of our church stand to sing if able, but you can dance, clap, wave flags, raise your hands or whatever feels natural to you'.
As I said though, I've not actually been to True Vine and may have caused great offence.
A lot of people from True Vine were also involved in launching a new Christian festival on the Isle of Wight called Lionheart Festival.
It meets on Sunday mornings at 10.30am and has groups for children.
Catholic Churches on the Isle of Wight
I've not been to any Catholic Churches on the Isle of Wight, but I wanted to mention a few as a gesture of ecumenical love.
St Mary's Catholic Church in Ryde, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Shanklin and Saint Thomas of Canterbury in Newport all have lots of reviews on Google reviews which is a good sign that they are active.
The reviews can be split into two categories. Some are commenting on the services ('you can feel the presence of our dear Lord') whilst others are commenting on the state of the building ('lots of damp').
If your interest is in church architecture and history, then there's an excellent selection on the Isle of Wight. You will find some of these don't hold weekly services as vicars are shared out between churches. You may find a sign saying something like 'we meet on the third Sunday of the month, unless it's a month ending in R or during Lent'.
Interesting old churches on the Isle of Wight include:
Priory Bay Hotel is in an absolute stonking location, with one of the best Isle of Wight beaches on its doorsteps - yet it has been empty for seven years now.
The beach has a special place in my heart (Ed: get a grip, man). It was our second favourite beach growing up (Compton Bay was first) and we would have been there more often if it had been slightly closer to Carisbrooke.
I've been Googling Priory Bay Hotel sporadically and thought I would share the latest update for those who haven't seen it themselves.
Here's a potted history of the last decade, including an update from the new owners last year.
The Closure of Priory Bay Hotel
Back in 2016, Priory Bay Hotel went into administration and went up for sale. It had been a pretty posh hotel for a long time and featured in our guide the best posh hotels on the Isle of Wight when we started this website in 2013.
According to the Caterer magazine, Priory Bay Hotel had been owned by the founder of the New Covent Garden Soup Company. This has no real relevance but my mother enjoys reading little details like this.
The photos I took in summer 2020 aren't great, but I'll share them anyway:
A dramatic turn of events
I may have overdone the headline here, but the next developments were quite dramatic in my mind.
Getting to Priory Bay has always been difficult, unless you are staying in the hotel. It requires a walk from one of the adjacent beaches and is easier at low tide. On the issue of access, the new owners now say that "it has been necessary to install boundary fencing along a section of Bridleway R84, the primary purpose of which is to safeguard the health and safety of the public throughout the construction process. We will also be implementing a signage strategy to warn any members of the public who might stray from the public rights of way on the coastline". The website continues to give further details on the access issues.
Anyway, it is great to see something happening at the site! Best of luck to the new owners - let's hope it can re-open soon.
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