I’ve mentioned before that I am wary of taking children on educational outings during school holidays. The thought of holding a clipboard in August did not appeal to me as a child. There were footballs that urgently needed kicking and trees that needed climbing.
However, child one’s eyes lit up when I mentioned that we might visit a Roman Villa, so I booked ourselves in at Brading Roman Villa. I think Horrible Histories and a recent school project were behind her enthusiasm.
The Isle of Wight has two Roman Villas which are open to the public. Others have been discovered but then re-covered so your options are Newport or Brading.
Brading is by far the bigger of the two and it has a proper visitor centre, gift shop and cafe. Newport’s Roman Villa is tucked in between houses and is only open on certain days. It has a charm about it but as they’d say on a movie poster: “If you see one Roman Villa this year, visit Brading Roman Villa".
The welcome team and staff at Brading Roman Villa were on top form. I’m not sure if they were volunteers or staff but they deserve a round of applause for doing their bit for Isle of Wight tourism.
We were given some paperwork to keep the child entertained and politely asked to keep our masks on. I was delighted to see that everyone listened and kept their masks on, unlike on the ferry recently. Perhaps the polite but firm volunteers at Brading Roman Villa should sit at the ferry port with a megaphone.
The children’s trail was designed for our eight year old, but it was actually at my kind of level. If I’m given no information I tend to wander in and out of a museum or historic attraction in 10 minutes. If I’m given too much information or a great big guide book then I lose interest and start looking at my phone.
The highlight of Brading Roman Villa is probably the mosaics but we also filled some time with a giant jigsaw and a spinney thing where you can jumble up Roman costumes.
After an hour or so, we pottered about in the gift shop and bought two pink pens that we definitely didn’t need. Child one originally wanted a teddy bear, so I got off lightly.
Sandham Gardens has slowly turned into a good time-sucking attraction on the Isle of Wight. The free playground is one of the best on the Island but it’s also got modern minigolf (about £6) bouncy sky nets (about £12) and go karts (£4.50). I’m still wondering what happened to the London 2012 themed outdoor gym. Is it in someone's back garden?
On our most recent visit, we tried out the go-karts which are the sort which are aimed at the under 10s rather than lads on a stag do.
I was relieved to discover that one of my children was too short to race alone which meant that I could join in. Our eight year old had her own kart and had no problems controlling it.
When we visited, we had to buy a race ticket from the ice cream stand. Thankfully, another dad alerted us to this fact so we didn’t waste 15 minutes in the wrong queue.
Once it was finally our turn, we stepped onto the tarmac and waited to put the pedal to the metal.
The young attendant was surprisingly cheery and seemed to be enjoying his job, which isn’t always the case with seaside ride attendants.
Pole position was determined by whoever managed to get to the kart at the front first. I smugly stood next to the kart at the front before being told that the kart was out of action and I would have to swap to one nearer the back.
After a good start I pulled us from fourth to second and felt the rush of wind in my hair as I approached the first corner.
I should explain that the rush of wind was caused by the gale that was howling through Sandown rather than the speed of the cars, which was akin to a brisk walking pace. I have seen milk floats move faster.
My closest competition was a mum and son team up ahead. As we pulled level, I imagined our rivalry as a Prost-Senna scenario and tried to lock eyes to raise the stakes.
She didn’t quite take the bait and seemed to be rather relaxed about the rivalry I had created in my head. I don’t ever remember Alain Prost shouting ‘coooey!’ to his family during a race.
After a couple of laps I saw my opportunity and muscled my way into first. Three or four laps later, the cheery attendant told us we were on our last lap and I could taste victory.
I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter.
In all honesty, we won by an embarrassingly large margin. My older daughter had performed well during her final lap and finished in third place.
A crowd had gathered by the time I crossed the line/finishing area. My wife insisted that the crowd was just people that wanted to go on the ride next, but I’m pretty sure some of them were spectators.
As we exited, we were given a medal to share. Of course, I let my four year old wear the medal which we received. But once she had lost interest, I put it on myself and proudly wore it round the playground.
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