As reported previously on these pages, we are currently enjoying a local food binge in an attempt to highlight some of the more authentic souvenirs which are on offer to Isle of Wight visitors.
It came about after discovering that most Isle of Wight souvenir fudge doesn’t actually come from the Isle of Wight, in the same way that your French Windows weren’t made in Paris.
We went for a quick trip to a farm shop, which soon turned into a spending spree.
It’s not an especially healthy activity or one which is suitable for pregnant women, teetotalers or vegans, since last time we were drinking gin and this time we are slicing off great chunks of blue cheese.
You’ll find cheese is one local product with a decent range of options on the Isle of Wight.
There are at least two companies producing cheese on the Island, and probably more which I’ve missed (apologies in advance, I await a telling off).
Firstly, there is the Isle of Wight Cheese Company, which presumably held a very short brainstorm meeting before deciding on a name and launching in 2006. At the time of eating, their range includes:
The second is Briddlesford Lodge Farm, which is based nearish to Newport and which has a cafe and farm shop you can visit (they also do tours on certain days during the school holidays). They currently offer Caerphilly, Cheddar, Gouda, Halloumi-Style and Feta-Style.
On this occasion we tried Isle of Wight Blue, which the Isle of Wight Cheese Company say will taste 'spikier' towards its best before date. We tried it about 20 minutes after purchase, so I would say we didn't exactly let it mature a great deal. Nonetheless, it was very tasty and went down nicely with big chunks of bread and my mother-in-law's soup which was as thick as a tin of gloss paint.
To try it for yourself, visit one of the local stockists on the Island. You won't regret it!
We were recently contacted by a blogger from the Isle of Wight, who had read our coastal path guide and decided to give it a go. For some reason, they attempted it during October, with three children and with tents.
Once we had checked Robert and Hazel Jones weren't too traumatised, we asked if they'd like to write us a guest blog.
During what turned out to be a fine week in October, we hiked all the way around this little Island we call home. We had been threatening to do so for a few years but the long trails on the mainland were always more enticing. So early on the Saturday morning we left our home in Gurnard and we arrived at the beach we put the sea on our left and started hiking.
Hiking to Ryde was tough, really tough. The trail pretty much follows the road all the way to Fishbourne before joining the cycle path to Ryde, through Quarr Abbey. The kids enjoyed this stretch as it allowed them to run ahead, play their games and pull faces at the pigs without the fear of traffic. We got to Ryde in time for a bag of chips for tea before we hiked on in the dark for a few more miles on the road, on the beach and through the woods to St Helens and our camp for the night.
From the campsite at St Helens we had a breakfast of coffee and yesterday's doughnuts before heading through the Duver to Bembridge where the kids tried to decide which of the houseboats they would like to live in and said goodbye to tarmac for a little while. The climb up Culver Down rewarded us with splendid views and a tasty ice cream before we came down to Yaverland and the kids practically ran along the esplanade for their promised visit to Sandown Pier. We followed the beach around to Shanklin, where we left the trail in search of the campsite at Lower Hyde.
The following day promised to be the best on the trail, and so it proved as we hiked through the landslips at Luccombe and Bonchurch, the kids racing ahead through the woods and down onto the prom at Ventnor, ultimately jumping into the paddling pool when we stopped for lunch.
We carried on and up and down headlands, through Steephill Cove and onto St Lawrence, where we headed inland and climbed up onto the downs. From up here the views only got better, and as we found our stride we covered miles without stopping, past St Catherine's Lighthouse, along the edges of fields and down hedgerow lined lanes.
We were just heading towards Chale when the sunset began and it was truly magnificent. We hiked on into the night for another mile or so before making camp on the cliff tops.
We woke up for the sunrise and for the first time on this hike there were clouds in the sky. It was quite chilly so Hazel took the kids on while Evan and I packed up. In our haste to get the children fed the night before we had inadvertently eaten all the porridge so we hiked on empty stomachs and a hope that the snack van at Compton Bay would be there.
Our route took us along the tops of the cliffs, meeting the first other thru-hikers of the trip, although they did think we were brave to be camping at the end of October. Soon we reached Compton where we all had a healthy breakfast of Mr Whippy ice creams (with a flake!) and some fizzy pop. We headed up the second and last decent climb of the hike - Tennyson Down - which took us up from Freshwater Bay to the monument from where we could see both sides of this little island.
Now it felt like the homeward stretch.
We pressed on towards the setting sun, along the headland that leads to the Needles. The views back across the Island were fantastic, those to the nearby New Forest and further away Isle of Purbeck magnificent. We dropped down to Alum Bay with a spectacular sunset behind us and hiked a little further to our safe haven for the night, Nana's basement.
We left Totland before dawn, and followed the seawall around to Colwell. No one was around and the sun was just coming up as we took another alternate route along the beach, through the holiday village and into the woods around Fort Victoria coming out on the top of the Island with fantastic blue sky and Yarmouth Pier just ahead.
We wandered along the sea wall before nipping into Bouldnor Forest and probably only the second stretch of this trail that we hadn't hiked before. It was wonderful, with proper beaten earth trail being kind on our feet, tree cover for the kids to play their games while charging ahead. Shalfleet to home was a stretch that was worrying us as it was mainly on the road so with nerves shredded, and feet on fire we stopped into Porchfield for a treat in the pub before the last 3 or 4 miles home.
The Trail to Thorness Bay started on the road but soon diverted through some fields and into the holiday park. The beach opened out in front of us as the sun started to dip and we hastened to get done before sunset. The kids knew the way home from here and with that mission in mind they practically sprinted the last mile and a half, Hazel and I struggling to keep up.
Of course, they paused at the rope swing, where we did catch them and we hiked the remaining yards back home together. Looking at the GPS, we had hiked 18 1/2 miles on that last day, our furthest on any trail so far, AND we had hiked a grand total of 77.7 miles on this 68 mile trail.
The writers of Just Up The Trail are Robert and Hazel Jones but the real stars of the show are the kids, Evan (aged 11) Lillian (9) and Isaac (7). You can find out more about them, and their magnificent adventures at www.justupthetrail.com and @justupthetrail on social media
Our days out are very much determined by the weather. If it rains we've got a list of favourites, including the yellow-ticket-spewing-machines at the arcade in Shanklin and the indoor play area at Tapnell Farm Park.
I'm yet to write a guide for one of those odd days where it is shorts and sandals weather one minute and then raining the next.
Our day in the West Wight was one of those.
We started off at the Compton Bay car park, before quickly abandoning any beach plans when we saw there wasn't any sand and there was a rapidly rising tide. Compton is probably my favourite beach but it is at its best at a low tide with the evening sun reflecting off the pools of water. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it.
We carried on to plan B which was Freshwater Bay. Fun fact: The clifftop up and down road between the two has featured on Top Gear and in a dreary horror movie starring Calista Flockhart.
We spent about an hour choosing stones, watching kayakers and stopping the younger one from falling over before getting back in the car and heading into Freshwater.
Mrs Guru, who understands Instagram, suggested we try the Freshwater Coffee House. It's one of those trendy places with deliberately eclectic furniture and friendly things written on chalkboards.
Thankfully, this was an establishment which had dealt with the strains of drinking coffee with children in tow. I helped myself to their decent selection of toys and books in the hope that they would provide an effective enough distraction for me to down my latte.
The staff were friendly and clearly owned the place, unlike the grunting teenager you might get in some chain. Mrs Guru was impressed with the eco-friendly individual hand towels and I was impressed with the coffee.
After a high-speed coffee we were on our way to our next stop - Fort Victoria.
There aren't many Isle of Wight attractions we haven't visited in the last five years, but Fort Victoria was an omission.
It's an odd selection of small museums and the like, housed in an impressive Victorian battery. The cannons are still there, pointing aggressively towards Hampshire.
We found time for the Model Railway exhibition which is in a metal building alongside the Fort, and the Archaeology Discovery Centre.
Both filled about 45 minutes, which wasn't bad for their £4ish entry fee. We do tend to speed round attractions, so you could happily drag it out if you want. You can also borrow an archaeology kit from the Centre if you want, which you can use to dig up the nearby beach.
The model railway provided a little spotter sheet which kept my 5 year old companion entertained.
The Underwater Archaeology Museum was a little bit bigger and was a bit more hands-on with things like a morse code thing to prod and some sand to dig into. At times I thought she might realise it was educational, but thankfully she didn't twig.
Fort Victoria also has its own little stoney beach, which is a nice spot for a picnic. It's not going to win a place in our beach awards as it's really just a stoney little patch, but we enjoyed digging through the stones.
My conclusion is that we're making significant strides in our ability to cram a lot in, despite having two children. At one stage it felt like an achievement if we got everyone dressed and in the car. Once the younger one drops her nap, there'll be no stopping us...
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