DICKENSIAN: A LONDON TALE

Having watched every episode of Tony Jordan’s 20-part brilliant evocation of Charles Dickens’ world (Dickensian, BBC 1), it has whetted my appetite for the London of the novels, for the streets and alleyways that he populated with an array of the most colourful characters ever to leap from a page.

Traitor's Gate at The Tower of London
Traitor;s Gate at The Tower of London

The series is a true celebration of a master story teller, where people like Miss Haversham, Nancy,  Bill Sykes, Fagin, Jaggers the lawyer, and the Cratchit family, are all cleverly interwoven into a Victorian tapestry, perfect for the small screen.  Dickensian carried with it a constant surprise, as there were no hints given as to who would pop up or from which book.  And as always, with a BBC production, the location, the settings and the atmosphere are pitch-perfect.  And it’s fun trying to remember in which book a character appeared, and in admiring the clever way Jordan has stitched together a new story using these familiar characters.

Although Dickens wouldn’t recognize London should he return today, we are lucky enough to be able to suss out some of the haunts he mentions, the alleyways, streets, pubs and inns, many of which survive, although what the Blitzkrieg couldn’t destroy, the city planners have almost managed to accomplish.

Houses of Parliament, London
Houses of Parliament- Photo Mari Nicholson

The City of London was once a walled city covering a mere square mile, inside which the Guilds and Liveries reigned supreme – in fact they still do, along with the money merchants, the financiers, the major world Banks and the controllers of a shadowy world of high finance.  Established in around AD50, seven years after the Romans invaded Britain, the City, or Square Mile as it has become known, is the place from which modern-day London grew.  Walk through the surrounding areas, and with just a little imagination, you can begin to populate the streets with Dickens’ characters.   A good place to start from is  St. Paul’s Cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren, who, while his great church was being built, lived in a house on the other side of the River Thames from which rowed across the river daily, to check on its progress.

A Familiar Sight at The Tower of London
A Familiar Sight near the Tower of London

 

 

The historian Dr. Ruth Richards claims to have discovered the workhouse, the Strand Union in Cleveland Street, that inspired Oliver Twist.  This was near where Dickens lived as a child, and it is thought  possible that he worked with a lot of the poor apprentices from that workhouse during his time at the blacking factory.  Most workhouse children were hired out, or apprenticed, to places like these, and if the young Dickens did work with the workhouse paupers, he would have heard tales of the hardship in that establishment, all of which were grist to the mill when it came to writing what is one of the best loved, and most often filmed, stories of all times.

The Guildhall, London
The Guildhall, City of London

 

 

When Pip in Great Expectations arrived in ‘ugly, crooked, narrow and dirty’ London he got off the coach at the Cross Keys Inn on Wood Street, a posting Inn and a terminal for the coaches from the countryside bringing passengers and parcels to the City (read Great Expectations for his description of the nearby Cheapside market and ‘the great black dome of St. Pauls).   Little remains of the Cross Keys inn today save a paved area in the nearby churchyard in Wood Street, marked by railings with cross keys on them, the symbol of St Peter, keeper of the gates to Heaven.

This is also the inn where the young boy, Charles Dickens, aged 12 and alone, arrived from Rochester in Kent after his spendthrift father had once again made the family destitute (Dickens senior subsequently spent time at the Wood Street Compter just a little bit further down the road from Cross Keys).  From Wood Street, Pip walked along London Wall to the offices of Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer, through narrow streets where the houses are crammed tightly together and jostle for space.  You are near Postman’s Park here so a detour to this delightful spot can be recommended and although nothing to do with Dickens, I would recommend a detour to see this very Victorian location.

London Child Hero -
One of the Tiles in Postman’s Park – Photo Mari Nicholson

But it was Southwark, a less reputable area, that haunted Dickens and coloured his outlook and his novels ever afterwards.  A portion of the Marshalsea Debtors Prison wall still stands in St. George’s churchyard off Borough High Street, the prison in which the Dickens’ family languished, and his vivid description in Little Dorrit leaves the reader in no doubt of his intense loathing of the place.

The George Inn, just off Borough High Street, has survived, one of the many “rambling queer old places” that the writer described in The Pickwick Papers.  A little further along is Lent Street where the writer lived and from where he walked to the hated job at the Blacking Factory in the Strand.  The factory that caused such grief to the young man but which gave him so much material for his novels is no longer there: on the site now stands Charing Cross Station.

There is to be another series of Dickensian, and I urge anyone who has not seen the first series to catch up with it and then follow on with the second series.  Mr. and Mrs. Bumble we’ve met, Mrs. Gamp and Sarah Peggotty, but there are many characters yet to be given a backstory, characters who lived life on the edges of the tales, like Laura Badger, Ham Peggotty, Mrs. Ticket, and the one remembered by every child that saw the original black and white production of Oliver Twist  – Magwitch.

Dickensian is not Tales from Dickens, it is a re-imagining of a Dickensian London peopled by the colourful characters from the novels of one of England’s greatest writers.  It is not to be missed

London’s Hidden Gems (1)

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London’s Hidden Gems (1)

Postman’s Park in London contains a simple but evocative Memorial to unsung heroes of the 19th and early 20th century, in the form of a collection of glazed Doulton plaques on a wall protected from the elements by a loggia.  Each of these plaques commemorates someone who, in tragic circumstances, died a hero, trying to save the lives of others.

What and where is Postman’s Park in the City of London?

First the name:  the park acquired the Postman’s Park name because during it’s heyday in the 19th century and before it became the site of the Memorial, it was popular as a lunchtime retreat with workers from the General Post Office in nearby Clerkenwell, long since demolished.

Situated between King Edward Street, Little Britain and Angel Street and just round the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral whose steps are normally crowded with tourists hugging backpacks and guitars and where the streets are full of bankers and financiers bursting with self-importance, it contains a gallery of tiled memorials to extraordinary people who were, nonetheless, just ordinary citizens.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral – Mari Nicholson

The brainchild of the Victorian painter and philanthropist, G.F. Watts (1817-1904), a radical socialist who felt deeply about the dreadful conditions of the London poor, and who had twice refused a Baronetcy, it is now regarded as a Memorial to Watts who made no attempt to hide his dislike of the greed of the upper classes of the time.

About the Tiled Memorials

London Child Hero -
Plaque to one of the child heroes on the Memorial of Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park, London –   Photo Mari Nicholson

A long, high wall covered with Royal Doulton ceramic plaques, decorated in burnt orange and blue, names, ages, occupations and means of death engraved on the tiles – this is a wall before which people have been known to stand with tears in their eyes.  Tragedy after tragedy told in a few simple phrases, bring to life drownings, raging fires, train disasters, and runaway horse accidents, in which these workers and children had saved someone’s life by giving their own.

There is seating under the plaques and the garden area of the park is a restful place with bright flower beds and a gently trickling fountain, interesting shrubs and flowering plants. Of special interest are the large banana tree, musa basjoo, which flowers in late summer, and the dove tree, davidia involucrata.  In fact, Postman’s Park is a perfect place for a lunchtime picnic.

In 1887, Watts wrote to The Times to suggest the creation of a park to commemorate ‘heroic men and women’ who had given their lives attempting to save others.  This, he said, would be a worthy way to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year.

His letter to The Times did not stimulate any interest, however, but in 1898, St Botolph’s Church at Aldersgate purchased land that had previously been owned by the City Parochial Foundation, and they approached him regarding the Memorial.   So, on the site of the former churchyard of St. Bolophs, there was erected a 50ft long open gallery along the wall of which he planned to place glazed Doulton tablets commemorating acts of bravery, each one detailing a heroic act.

One of Britain’s leading tile designers at that time, William de Morgan, agreed to work with Watts.  Their collaboration, first unveiled in 1900, is what you see on the early plaques when you visit Postman’s Park. 

About the Tiles and Plaques

London Hero = 60 yer old William Goodrum
Plaque to William Goodrum, a 60-year-old Hero, honoured on the Memorial wall in Postman’s Park – Photo Mari Nicholson

The plaques could easily be overlooked in the somewhat hidden corner of the park, but these beautiful hand-lettered tiles hand-painted at the Royal Doulton factory, when once you see them, live with you forever.  Each one tells the story of a boy or girl, man or woman, who died trying to save another at the expense of his own.   Told in a few poignant words, they nevertheless manage to paint a picture of a life unfulfilled that ended in tragedy.  Take, for instance,

  • the young Alice “daughter of a bricklayer’s labourer who by intrepid conduct saved 3 children from a burning house in Union Street Borough at the cost of her own young life”.   Or
  • William “drowned in the Lea trying to save a lad from a dangerous entanglement of weed”.

The stories seem almost Dickensian until the very real tragedies these plaques represent hit home and one realises that this was real life, not fiction.  Life was harsh for those who didn’t own land or property of some sort in those days: violence and disease were everyday events.  Prostitution and child abuse were rife in late-Victorian London, and these children who died, many of them orphans or ‘indentured workers’, each and every one of them would have been working at some poorly paid job.

Reading the tiles one is struck by the occupations that don’t exist any more and the causes of death that remind one of nothing so much as a Victorian engraving – a runaway carriage of four with a child trampled beneath the horses, a boy in the Thames (probably a mudlark) attempting to swim to land with his friend in his arms.

Harry Sisley - London Child Hero
London’s Child Heroes, 10-year-old Harry Sisley, honoured here in a Doulton plaque on the Memorial in Postman’s Park, London – Photo Mari Nicholson

G.F. Watts and his Reasons for Erecting the Memorial

GF Watts wanted to use his art as a force for social change and his intention was to build a memorial that honoured ordinary people, people who would not have had a burial tomb at Highgate, Brompton or even St. Pancras & Islington Cemetery.

Watts had for many years collected newspaper reports of heroic actions and the plaques were based on these cuttings.

London Worker Hero
Royal Doulton Plaque for one of London’s Worker Heroes, showing the placement of the plaques side by side and on the row above.  ©  Mari Nicholson

It was planned to have one hundred and twenty tiles in place for the opening, but sadly, it was only possible to erect four.  By this time Watts was too ill to attend the unveiling and only nine more were added during his lifetime.  His wife Mary, took over the work and added what she could before her death.  Then, 78 years later, in 2009, the Diocese of London added a new tablet to commemorate one Leigh Pitt who rescued a nine-year-old boy from drowning in a canal.  The plaque reads:

  • Leigh Pitt, Reprographic operator, aged 30, saved a drowning boy from the canal at Thamesmead, but sadly was unable to save himself.  June 7, 2007.

Today you can see rows of blank spaces, although no doubt there were unsung heroes in the intervening years who were never commemorated.

This wall of tiled plaques to these forgotten Londoners is one of the city’s most moving Memorials and in 1972, along with other key elements in the park, it was Listed as a Grade ll site.

Postman’s Park in Recent Film

The BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning film Closer which stars Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen (based on the play of the same name by Patrick Marber) references Postman’s Park in that the character Alice Ayres (Natalie Portman) fabricates her identity based on Ayers’ tablet on the Memorial which the film character had read.

How to get there:

Tube –  Central St Paul’s

Buses:  4, 8, 25, 56, 141, 100, 172, 521, 242

 

 

 

Winchester, Ancient Capital of Wessex

Winchester Cathedral

It seems a shame that King Alfred, the man who defeated the Danes and united the English, has gone down in popular history merely as the man who burnt the cakes.  But the city he made his capital does the man proud and it is impossible to stroll through the ancient streets of Winchester and not be aware of how “the Great” came to be added to Alfred’s name.

An unspoilt city and England’s ancient capital (the Court was mobile during the Anglo-Saxon period but the city was considered the capital of Wessex and England at the time), the cobblestones, buildings and monuments of Winchester, just an hour from London, ring with history.  If you like big bangs and all things military, it is also home to a host of museums dedicated to all things warlike.  Surrounded by water meadows and rolling downland, it offers the best of city life – modern shopping, quirky open air events, and great entertainment and it can be covered in a day (although a couple of days will show more of what is on offer and allow trips into the surrounding villages).

Fulling Mill Cottage and River Arle

To get a panoramic view of the streets and buildings laid out according to the original Saxon plan, a good starting point is St. Giles’ Hill (a great spot for a picnic), from where you can  pick out Hamo Thorneycroft’s famous statue of King Alfred.  Then follow in the King’s footsteps from the walls erected to keep out the Danes to what is the largest medieval cathedral in the world.   Famous for its treasures, from the sumptuously illustrated 12th century Bible to medieval paintings and a 16-metre stained-glass window 66% of which dates from medieval times, Winchester Cathedral is that much-overused word, awesome.

One of the Anthony Gormley Statues in the Crypt of Winchester Cathedral
One of the Gormley statues in the Crypt of Winchester Cathedral
The-Crypt,-Winchester-Cathe
The Crypt, Winchester Cathedral

The newest acquisition is Sound ll, the Antony Gormley sculpture now permanently installed in the cathedral’s crypt where it looks particularly striking when the crypt floods which it frequently does.  Even if you don’t make a habit of visiting cathedrals, do make an exception to view this magnificent Gormley work.

Cloisters-of-Winchester-Cat
The Cloisters, Winchester Cathedral

Fans of The Da Vinci Code will be interested to know that the cathedral’s North transept doubles as the Vatican in the film of the book, but those of a more classical bent will head for the tomb of Jane Austen which can be found in the  nave where there is also a stained glass window to her memory.

Jane Austen Plaque in Winchester Cathedral

The novelist died in Winchester on 18 July 1817 and is buried in the cathedral.  While in this part of the cathedral, take note of the black font which depicts St. Nicholas of Smyrna giving an old man three bags of gold for his three daughters, said to be the forerunner of the pawnbrokers sign of three golden balls.

Continuing in the footsteps of King Alfred you could then head up the High Street to the Great Hall, all that remains of Winchester castle, and which for 700 years has housed the legendary Round Table.   Old it certainly is, and round, but it hangs on a wall where with its red, black and white colouring it resembles an enormous dartboard.  According to myth, the original was created by the wizard Merlin, but carbon dating in 1976 proved that this particular table was not made in the Arthurian 6th century but in the 13th, and this use of HyperPhysics sadly put paid to the legend.

The Round Table

The Round Table, High up on the Wall

Just outside the south door of the Great Hall, is Eleanor’s Garden, a re-creation of a medieval herbarium with turf seats and a camomile lawn, named after Eleanor, wife of Henry III, and Eleanor, wife of Edward I.  All the plants you see would have been grown in the 13th century, when floral symbols had priority over design.  The rose, lily, iris and strawberry plants represent aspects of religion while the greens – the grass, ivy, bay and holly represent faithfulness.

The oldest continuously running school in the country, 14th century Winchester College which became a model for Eton and for King’s College, Cambridge is nearby.  You can join a guided tour for an intriguing glimpse into the medieval heart of the college, the 14th century Gothic chapel with its early example of a wooden vaulted roof, the cloisters (where graffiti carved into the stones during the 16th and 17th centuries is still visible) and the original scholars’ dining-room.  As a complete contrast, you could later check out medieval Westgate, a fortified gateway which served as a debtors’ prison for 150 years and where prisoners graffiti is also still intact, albeit rather different from that of the scholars! 

The West Gate, Winchester
Westgate

One expects to find ghosts in most ancient cities and Winchester is no exception.   The most famous haunted Inn is The Eclipse in The Square, where the spectre of Alicia Lisle haunts the corridors.  Seventy-one years old when she was found guilty of harbouring rebel cavaliers and sentenced to death by Hanging Judge Jeffreys, she spent her last night here in 1685 listening to the scaffold being erected for her hanging.

Old Prison Gate
Old Prison Gate

At the Theatre Royal in Jewry Street, a wandering apparition haunts the dress-circle and gallery looking for her long lost lover while in the 18th century High Street offices formerly occupied by the county newspaper, the rattling chains of a woman dressed in grey has been known to rattle the staff on more than one occasion.

Streams and waterways punctuate the streets of the city giving it a homely atmosphere – especially when you see someone hauling a fine trout out of the river – and the Bikeabout Scheme means that you can tour around for most of the day for the small registration fee of £10.   Reflective jackets and helmets are also available.

Half-timbered hous in Winchester
Half-timbered hous in Winchester

You don’t need to cycle of course: there is a good transport system from Winchester to the picturesque villages of the Itchen and Meon Valleys,  handsome Georgian colour-washed Alresford (pronounced Allsford) for instance, home of the famous Watercress Steam Railway where you can make a childhood dream come true by riding on the footplate.   Later, stroll down the town’s elegant streets with their antique shops, and discreet fashion boutiques or along the riverside where the thatched timber-framed Fulling Mill straddles the River Arle.  Alresford is the home of watercress farming in the UK, so expect to sample gourmet dishes made of the green stuff – watercress pudding, watercress quiche and even watercress scones with afternoon tea – in smart bistros, tea rooms and old-fashioned pubs like the Wykeham Arms with its award-winning menu.

 

Main shopping area in Alresford

If there are children in the party, then don’t miss Marwell Zoo.   Home to over 200 species of animals and birds, from meerkats to sand cats, and some of the world’s rarest big cats including the Amur leopard and the snow leopard.  There are volunteer guides around the park to help visitors and to explain and illustrate the efforts the zoo is making to rehabilitate endangered animals back in their habitat.

And after all that history and ancient stones, Winchester can still surprise you with its pedestrian-friendly streets, colourful markets and exquisite boutiques nestling beside large-scale stores.  The High Street – once the Roman’s east-west route through the city – is home to stylish shops with Regency and Elizabethan bow-fronted windows, while The Square offers quaint pubs and restaurants after your exertions, and everywhere you’ll find bronze and stone carvings, many by famous sculptors.    It lies just one hour by train from London, 40 minutes from Portsmouth Ferry Terminal, and 15 minutes from Southampton Airport.

 

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Very Old Barn, NB date of erection in grey bricks at bottom of building.

Winchester’s a winner, and whether you taste runs to real ale or English wines, pub grub or gourmet dining, Goth outfits to designer chic, you’ll find it all here amidst the quiet stones that hold history’s secrets.

Interior Winchester Cathedral

Interior, Winchester Cathedral

 

Ellen Terry Museum, Smallhythe Place, Kent

Needing to get some photographs for an article on pretty Kent villages, took myself off to the Weald last week only to find that places like Tenterden and Biddenden had thrown themselves into Jubilee mode with a vengeance.  Medieval doorways draped with the Union Jack, windows bedecked with red, white and blue ribbons, and bunting strung across the streets wasn’t what my editor wanted for the article, so I had to leave this particular area and postpone the writing.

Looking round for an alternative idea I thought of covering some of the lovely venues in the area and headed for Sissinghurst which I’d visited some years ago.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked opening days and when I got there found it wasn’t open on Wednesdays or Thursdays.  Very disappointed.

I felt it would have been helpful if National Trust had put a sign by the entrance giving the Opening Days, saving visitors a drive down to the car park and then a walk to the entrance, only to be refused entry.

Sissinghurst Castle

However, the sun was shining so I looked around the exterior of the buildings, checked out the plants for sale, was tempted by the David Austin roses for sale and enjoyed the lovely views.    The emerald lawns looked spectacular and the exterior was immaculate, making it even sadder that I couldn’t gain entry to the house and gardens.

Smallhythe Place Museum – former home of Ellen Terry

From there I drove on to Smallhythe Place, the best little Museum I have ever visited.  Also a National Trust venue but they were open – until 4.30 that is.  Smallhythe was the former home of one of England’s most beloved actresses, Ellen Terry, and the house still seems like a home, full of her treasures and memorabilia from various roles she performed on the London stage.

The Barn Theatre, Smallhythe Place

In the gardens is The Barn Theatre where many famous actors have worked (plays are still performed, but it is a private theatre), and the gardens are full of the roses she loved, every one of which had an exquisite smell.

So, all was not lost on my trip to Kent, but I have made a note to avoid all celebratory times if I want to take photographs as the decorations do date them.

Marble Bust of Ellen Terry

Weekend in Lewes, Sussex

Just back from Lewes in Sussex, where Thomas Paine, the famous radical propagandist and voice of the common man, served as an excise officer from around 1768.   His most important work was The Rights of Man, a book in which he urged political rights and equality for all men, calling for legislation to help change the shocking conditions of the late 18th century poor in England.  Paine was influential in the American war of Independence and the French Revolution.

Considering the man’s importance I was surprised to find little to connect this giant revolutionary figure with Lewes, although I did buy an exquisite print of part of a pamphlet from Peter Chasseaud at The Market Tower, Lewes (The Tom Paine Printing Press), on hand-made paper.  Harvey’s, the local brewery, whose well-stocked shop is always busy, sells a tee-shirt on which  Tom Paine’s image is printed, but this is to sell its beer, not to honour the man.

Maybe Lewes, the perfect conservative market town, has little taste for revolutionaries?

That aside, the town is delightful and easily accessible, with cobbled streets leading up to the castle from which the views over the surrounding area are breathtaking.  Shopping is decidedly upmarket, whether for clothing or jewellry, but there are the usual supermarkets and department stores in the main part of town for more budget conscious buyers.

Nearby Brighton is, as ever, a great city in which to spend a few hours, and I spent nearly 3 at the exhibition on The Land Girls from both world wars at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, always a pleasant place in which to browse the changing exhibitions and display rooms.  The icing on the cake is the excellent cafe alongside and a shop selling the most tempting array of gifts I’ve ever seen.  Definitely my No. 1 Museum Gift shop.

The Land Girls exhibition highlights personal stories, propaganda, paintings, posters and photographs, revealing women’s experiences as they left home to live on farms and learn milking, rat catching and tractor driving, to help the war effort.  A fascinating glimpse into a world many people know little about.

The Brighton Film Festival is running until 6th December and I managed to catch up with some films I’d missed as well as viewing the more recent arrivals.

And then came the rain – but this is England in December, so what can we expect?  Brighton still put on its sunniest smiles and welcomed visitors despite the downpours.  It says a lot for this busy, energetic city, often called London by Sea, that the restaurants and cafes were packing them in and the people in the streets seemed stoic in the face of the torrential downpour.

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The Isle of Wight -Sea, Sand and Festivals

They flock here for the walking, the cycling, the clean, fresh air, and the sea and the sand.  They also come for the Pop Festival which takes place every year and is such a success that the organizers are now talking of having two per year. Top groups headline the event, from The Rolling Stones, to Lily Allen, and the island almost sinks under the crowds that arrive for four days of music and fun. The original pop festival was way back in the sixties, when the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Doors, Tiny Tim (remember him?) and various other singers and groups thrilled the fans who flocked to the island from all over Europe. Now that pop festivals are two a penny, we don’t make the headlines as we did then, but it’s still an important date on the festival calendar.

Buddle Inn, Isle of Wight, famous pub in connection with smugglers.
Buddle Inn, Isle of Wight, famous pub in connection with smugglers.

When the visitors recover from the heady excitement of sleeping in tents and living on burgers and chips, they usually head off to see the sights.  Osborne House,  Queen Victoria’s Italianate villa near Cowes and an English Heritage property, is high on everyone’s list as it is one of the few royal summer palaces that still resembles a family home.  It is much as it was when Queen Victoria was on the throne, and the children’s nursery, their toys, her desk next to that of her beloved husband Albert, and the many stone statues of the family pets are still scattered about the house and grounds.  Victoria’s tiny bed where she died is still on view along with the bathrooms and part of the kitchens and an amazing collection of family photographs.

There is now a delightful cottage in the grounds of the estate which can be rented for long weekends or a week, during which time the renters have the use of the grounds after the visitors have gone. Queen for a day!

Osborne House, Queen Victoria's Home on the Isle of Wight

Round then to Cowes to view the sailing boats battling the currents and the winds on the Solent. The world’s most famous Regatta, Cowes Week (actually ten days in August) may no longer attract a dozen crowned heads of Europe but it still attracts the royally rich in their magnificent yachts to sport on the Solent’s famous waters.  Yachts owned my billionaires and crewed by millionaire they say.

View from The Downs, Isle of WightA stop at Farringford House for coffee in the former home of the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, where one can sit on the terrace and gazed at the magnificent lawns that sweep down to Freshwater Bay and then, suitably refreshed,  a hike across Tennyson Downs where it is said the poet composed The Charge of the Light Brigade, reciting it as he strode along the coastal path, cape flapping in the breeze and breathing in air that he described as “worth 6d. a pint”.

Quiet evening on the sea

Time must be allowed for visiting Carisbrooke Castle from which Charles I was taken to London and beheaded, the delightful Brading Roman Villa with an excellent shop on site, good restaurant/cafe and daily activities for children which involves dressing up.   The island has a reputation of great pubs serving good beers (and wines) and in between visits to famous landmarks and museums, the traditional pubs – old, thatched, with flagged floors and old beams, offer great places for lunch or a snack, morning coffee or afternoon cream tea, and for the fresh home grown pork and lamb, home cured bacon and sausages, our own garlic dishes from the garlic farm, lobster, crabs, prawns and fish straight from the sea.

Truly, an Isle of wonders.

Shanklin, The Crab Inn

And maybe, book up again for the next music festival?  The Blues Festival, or Bestival in September, another great week-end of music under the stars on an island that Karl Marx described as “a little bit of paradise”.