Back in the day, I spent my summer holidays running the rides and endlessly scooping mint choc chip at Robin Hill. I can still give the safety talk for the Time Machine, although that has proven to be a party trick which only appeals to a very niche audition.
So it was with some excitement and trepidation that I returned to Robin Hill, this time with a pre-schooler.
I'd been holding off the visit for a while, as my feeling was that Robin Hill is really better for junior school aged children. The advantage of taking a three and a half year old is that they still benefit from free entry, at least for another four months.
As I am learning, toddlers of that age like to surprise you. Whilst she was a bit nervy at similar parks a few months ago, she was suddenly keen to climb, crawl and slide at every opportunity.
We had a good 20 minutes in the Duckdown Play Village, a painful-on-the-knees crawl through the Rabbit Run, a gawp from the Lookout Tower and then a long play at the African Adventure playground. After lunch, we explored the woods and gardens (probably more of interest to us than her but she didn't complain), tried out another couple of smaller playgrounds, fed some fish and pretended to drive a wooden tractor.
In fact, a lot of the bits which looked dull to me as a 19 year old were exactly what a 3 year old wanted.
She was too small for the 4D cinema (previously the Time Machine) or Colossus. She could have just about gone on the Toboggan Run but I thought she probably wouldn't have liked it just yet. She also wasn't interested in the tame train ride or the tractor ride around the park, both of which I thought she'd go for.
I also noticed that the ice cream hut has undergone a few changes. The ice cream scoops have been replaced with ice lollies and a selection of plastic things for kicking and throwing around the green space below (I do wonder if my rainy day challenge of eating as much mint choc chip as I sold might have had something to do with the change in policy).
There has also been a lot added over the years - no huge great rollercoasters, but lots of small things to keep the park looking fresh and interesting for returning visitors.
I left with three observations from a hot an enjoyable day out:
1. Robin Hill's owners should be commended for seeing the value of gradual and continued investment. Some attractions seem to wait until bits are falling off before spending any money, which seems a bit short sighted to me.
2. A 3 1/2 year old will get plenty from a trip to Robin Hill, as long as they enjoy climbing, sliding and walking over wobbly things.
3. Selling ice creams at Robin Hill is now a much easier job...
Last week we were sat on Sandown beach in something approaching sunshine when I was confidently telling my wife that we never came to the East Wight as children. We were constantly at Compton Bay, I said. A few hours later, I was clearing out the attic and discovered a Primary School diary where I recounted my weekend activities for my apparently interested teacher, including a mention of a trip to Sandown which was given such a casual mention that I’d suggest it happened regularly.
You see, I seem to have forgotten most of my childhood. It was perfectly pleasant, perhaps even idyllic, so it’s certainly not repressed memories just good old fashioned forgetfulness.
And so, I was a little more tentative this week when I declared to my wife that I’d like to go to the beach at Seaview because I had no memory of going there and couldn’t picture what it looked like. We certainly went to nearby Seagrove Bay regularly, but not the section on Duver Road.
We arrived at very low tide and found the beach pretty much empty, despite it being a fairly sunny day. We could have chosen from several free parking spaces right by the beach, which is a glorious sign for a cheapskate like me. Three boys were playing cricket and generally larking, but there was no-one else in sight.
If you’ve been to nearby Appley, St Helens or Priory Bay you’ll be familiar with the ankle deep water which means that proper swimming is difficult but opens up options like tame paddling, beach games and kayaking for beginners. You’ll also be familiar with the risk of it feeling pretty breezy on the wide open beaches.
The small bit of beach near to the road was lovely and sandy, whilst the bit which is underwater at high tide was a mix of sand and a zillion shells.
We tried to do some rockpooling but I think even my 3 year old could tell I wasn’t impressed with the small selection of sea creatures I found and attempted to present with enthusiasm (try Bembridge for rockpooling).
It’s also not a beach for those who are looking for amusement arcades, mini golf, ice cream stands, trampolines, playgrounds, kayak hire or anything other than a nice view of the Solent and plenty of space for running around at low tide (try Shanklin, Sandown or Appley for those things).
In my view it’s also not as pretty as several beaches which lack facilities but which have fantastic backdrops (Priory Bay, Compton Bay, Whitecliff Bay and others). Instead, the backdrop is a selection of expensive houses which I found I was coveting rather.
It might sound like I didn’t like Seaview, but I did and it is certainly worth considering if you fancy a bit of peace and quiet at an easy to access beach in the East Wight. It's also got a nice pub with a seaview (The Boathouse).
And that’s the remarkable thing about the Isle of Wight – a beach which would be frantically busy in most other English counties can be practically deserted on a sunny day simply because it is competing with twenty other beaches within easy reach.
By the way – my mother says she’s sure we must have been to Seaview before.
"We should write a blog about our days out when we have a disastrous day like this" said Mrs Guru, as rain pounded on the car windscreen.
"I do write a blog about our days out" I pointed out.
"Really?" said my wife.
I appreciate that my audience is not in the millions, but I had hoped that the person I share a bed with might at least be aware of this blog's existence. Oh well.
The day in question was a classic example of the importance of chasing the good weather whilst on an Isle of Wight holiday.
The Isle of Wight had been veering between sunshine, rain and thunderstorms all day and unfortunately we rather got it wrong.
It all started well, with a trip to Bembridge - the Isle of Wight's premier rockpooling spot (I'll omit the breakfast trip to McDonalds so you won't think less of me). For once, I even persuaded my wife to find some free parking and walk a little way down to the beach.
Literally 30 seconds after we begun searching in the rockpools, the downpour and thunder begun and we were forced to make a frantic run to the (distant) car, dropping various possessions as we ran.
After lunch in the car, watching the rain dribbling down the windshield, we headed for Appley Park which is a good free place to visit with a decent medium sized playground and the remains of a Victorian Battery to explore.
Needless to say, the rain stopped whilst we drove and then immediately started up again when we opened the car door.
Finally, our plans to visit the Isle of Wight Mardi Gras were scuppered when a thunderstorm forced organisers to postpone the whole thing.
So, not our most successful day. We did return to Puckpool Park a couple of days later (see photos above..), and we will be coming back to Bembridge soon.
Next time the weather's looking dodgy though, I think we'll opt for something a little safer on a rainy day.
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog