Our thanks to long-time reader and OnTheWight contributor, Wendy Varley, for this interesting observational piece. Ed
“We really should check that place out,” I’d say to my son whenever we drove past the Isle of Wight Military History Museum on our way to the Red Jet at Cowes.
“Mum, we still haven’t been there,” he’d say, as we whizzed past it again the next time.
“They do moving tank displays on a Wednesday, I think. We must come back on Wednesday,” I’d promise, vaguely.
Serve me right
We never did go back on that or any other Wednesday, and now it’s closed. Serve me right for my apathy. (And presumably many others like me.)
What was it like in there, anyhow? Did anyone ever stop to find out?
Crowd-funding to save old cinema
I thought about this when I read about the campaign to save and reopen the art deco Sandown Rivoli Cinema. A worthy cause? Absolutely!
Will Bruce Webb, who’s coordinating the campaign, raise £250,000 to buy it by January 2014? It’s a lot of money, but I hope so. Have I contributed anything yet? No, but I intend to. Would I go if it reopened? I like to think so. But then again, I don’t live near Sandown…
Use it or lose it
So often, we really don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. We’re too busy or complacent to notice or patronise what’s on our doorstep. And that’s a shame.
Here are a few things I liked that have disappeared from the Isle of Wight since I moved here 15 years ago. Please do add to the list by commenting below.
Rare Breeds Park, St Lawrence
The park had one of the biggest collections of rare breed farm animals in the UK, and I loved taking my daughters for bracing walks along the windswept cliff-edge paths to see longhorn cattle, quirky sheep and goats, and snappy geese with a scary sense of entitlement.
In the gift shop, a lady would demonstrate how to tease wool from fleeces and turn it into thread on a spinning wheel.
Sadly, the double whammy in 2001 of the foot and mouth crisis, which made farm attractions no-go areas, and the landslip on Undercliff Drive which affected road access, spelled the end for the Rare Breeds Park.
We also used to visit the nearby Tropical Bird Park, which closed in 1999. There’s rumoured to be a kookaburra population in St Lawrence, descended from escapees from the aviary. Is this true? Anyone know?
It had a working water wheel, and mill exhibition; an array of ancient farm vehicles and equipment, including stationary tractors for children to clamber on; a rough and ready adventure playground; a nature trail past fields of ponies and goats and through woodland.
You could throw fish to Sophie the seal at feeding time, in the large pond near the front gate. It was another low-key attraction that charmed my daughters (and me).
Yafford Mill closed to the public in 2000 and became a private home. Sophie, who had lived there for 25 years, (the last ten on her own, after her mate died) was re-homed at a seal sanctuary in Cornwall, where she passed away in 2006. The farm and play equipment was sold off. One of my friends bought the massive wooden fort and installed it in his garden.
The water wheel has been restored, but doesn’t usually turn. I often walk our dog round the local lanes, and during the decade after the mill closed, I’d happen upon confused families who were on a pilgrimage to find it. They were crestfallen when they realised it had shut up shop. (But as most hadn’t visited for five, ten or 20 years, was it any wonder?!)
There are shops I miss. Even chain stores. Woolworth and Adams both closing down in Newport in 2008 sent me into a “where now?” children’s clothes-buying panic.
I know I’ll miss HMV when it shuts (though – tellingly – I can’t remember the last time I bought anything there).
And I hate to see independents go under. It was the end of an era for me when Godshill Organics closed in 2012. I was a fan of their seasonal winter greens (curly kale, cavalo nero), and the variety of weirdly-shaped and coloured squash that appeared each autumn. They stocked some of my favourite treats: Dragonfly’s Moroccan Mint tea, Roskilly’s ice-cream, Montezuma’s chocolate – most of which I can find elsewhere if I go far enough, but not all in the same place.
But with the expansion of other farm shops like Farmer Jack’s and Briddlesford, my loyalty was tested.
Organics took a further hit during the recession, and everyone at my pilates class started talking about how they were shopping for bargains at Lidl. The writing was on the wall.
It’s a sure sign of the times that the friendly face of Godshill Organics, Lee, is now manager of the new branch of budget supermarket Aldi in Northwood. I popped in there last week to say hello… and picked up some very good (non-organic) dark chocolate for £1.09 while I was there.
This nostalgia for what’s been and gone reminds me of a fascinating resource I came across lately, Historypin.com, where you can digitally pin historical photographs of your local area, or indeed of anywhere in the world. There are some great pics of the Isle of Wight. Take a look.
What do you miss?
What have you been sad to wave goodbye to on the Island?
Please share your thoughts below.