Category: West Wight
Matt and Cat love the Isle of Wight. They love its history, geology, landscape and wildlife. And of course the food. All of these things make it a great place to live and to visit. Almost everywhere you go you’ll see something that adds to its fabulousness.
Take the West Wight for example. It’s got a long-standing reputation for history and culture thanks to its most famous former resident, Victorian poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson. Then there’s some of the south coast’s most exciting geology: chines, landslips, chalk downland, coloured sands and the world famous Needles. Get up close and personal with the grassland on the heritage coast and you may be lucky enough to see a Glanville fritillary butterfly or a rare lichen. At night, once your eyes have adjusted to the spectacular dark skies, you can enjoy feeling insignificant as you gawp open-mouthed at the Milky Way. The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty really is a constant delight. It’s easy to see why the this corner of the Island is so popular with visitors - the holiday camps scattered along the clifftop pay testament to this.
But time moves on and the holiday camps’ heyday has waned. Some local camps are now used for other things - such as Isle of Wight Pearl, which is based in a faded 1930s building, once the thriving Chilton Holiday Camp. With its curvy glass windows, bold architecture and views across the English Channel to Dorset, it's not hard to imagine what drew the ascetic citizens of inter-war years Britain to this remote spot to indulge their new enthusiasm for recreation, health and fitness.
It’s all over. The sun has resolutely taken off its hat, brushed it down and stashed it away until next year.
The summer of 2012, with its diamond jubilee, record-breaking rainfall, Olympics and Paralympics is a distant memory. Wenlock has closed his vast single eye and Mandeville’s name is tainted with the scandal of the late Sir Jimmy Savile’s association with his namesake hospital. Also consigned to the past is the day the Olympic torch came to the Isle of Wight.
Like most of the summer, the torch’s national tour was played out with a backdrop of typically British weather; yet the drizzle didn’t stop the crowds from gathering to see one of the eight thousand torches flicker through their neighbourhood. On the day the relay visited the Isle of Wight - passing through Yarmouth to East Cowes before you could say £11,000 pounds well-spent - Matt and Cat somehow missed the entire razzmatazz.
While hosts of their fellow Islanders were gawping ten-deep at joyous but sodden torchbearers, Matt and Cat were snug inside the dining room of Dandelion Café, enjoying the spectacular view of the heritage coast across Freshwater Bay and beyond.
There was a time when a 'pop-up restaurant' on the Isle of Wight was a phenomenon which drew naive provincial diners like moths to a cosmopolitan flame.
It was beyond exciting when a new one 'popped up'. Tickets would sell within moments. But it didn't take too long for even hicks to discover that pop-ups, like all other restaurants, vary in quality. Matt and Cat have been to some fantastic pop-ups, and - occasionally - the contrary. This summer Matt and Cat thought the trope must have reached its nadir when they saw a street-vending wagon with 'pop-up burger restaurant' written on it. But despite its ubiquity, they can't deny that the pop-up concept still has a slight atmosphere of fun and mystery about it that is oddly alluring.
So when Twitter correspondent @iowjobs drew their attention to Yarmouth's new pop-up fish and chip emporium, they paid attention. Catch is the on-trend name of this stylish installation that is trading for the summer from the yard of Yarmouth Institute, prominently located right by the town's main car park. And on the evening Matt and Cat visited, it seemed to be doing brisk trade.
How does Yarmouth’s Old Gaffers Festival do it?
Every year without fail the organisers manage to pick a scorching weekend on which to hold this celebration of classic boats, street acts and local produce. In 2012, because of the diamond jubilee celebrations, the event was brought forward a week and the decent weather came with it. The summer tempest was in abeyance - saving itself for the Isle of Wight Festival.
Matt and Cat love the Old Gaffers Festival as it gives them the chance to sample food, enjoy the eclectic entertainment and buy the Isle of Wight Cheese Company’s annual Old Gaffer Blue. They’d spent the day hoofing around the historic town and, having stocked up on the limited unpasteurised, they found themselves unexpectedly going down an alleyway. In the twitten was a café and outside the café were some tables: and lo, the sun shone invitingly on a pair of recently-vacated seats. The gods had clearly spoken so Matt and Cat, not a couple to defy the deities, slumped down into the chairs. Well, it would be rude not to.
Some of the Island’s iconic buildings are intrinsically associated with their previous celebrated occupiers.
What would Dimbola be without pioneering photographer Julia-Margaret Cameron? Can you image Osborne minus the pervasive presence of Queen Victoria? And surely Farringford can only be known as the home of poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson?
But perhaps Tennyson’s old hat now: despite Farringford being his signature venue for over 150 years, someone else is staking a claim. And that someone is confident young chef Justin Brown, who has well-publicised aspirations for his ‘Justin Brown at Farringford’ restaurant. Is this starry-eyed chef a mere a flash in the pan or has he got what it takes to usurp over a hundred years of Tennyson's association with this landmark property?