Last week we went camping on the Isle of Wight for my first visit to the Island. I had read that it was 'the new Cornwall', and one of the homes of 'cool camping', thanks to Vintage Vacations, who rent out various vintage caravans and locations including the converted chuch below:
Originally we planned to stay in a yurt, but as we have got all our own camping gear, it seemed like a bit of an exgtravagance. Since the election, David Cameron and George Osborne have got us scared witless facing ten years of tax rises, pay cuts and redundancies, so we are trying to save every penny.
In the end, this had to be the cheapest holiday we have ever had, with the ferry to the Isle being the biggest cost at £80. The camping cost £55 for five nights, which paid for this view out of the tent:
We stayed at Chine Farm campsite on the South coast. It is right next to an old derelict and vandalised holiday camp, which was a bit eerie, but as long as you didn't look in that direction, it didn't really put us off. Even the petrol didn't cost us that much as it is quite a modest distance from London, and the Island itself is only 27 miles across at the longest point.
We brought all our own cooking gear, and it was the first time we had gone camping with the dutch oven and the firepit/barbecue, so we were eager to get cooking.
I was desperate to explore and form my own opinions of the Isle. Looking at reviews on tripadvisor, it is either a paradise of picturesque countryside and old-fashioned seaside resorts or incredibly dull and past its best. I suppose both of these could be correct, depending on which part of the island you are on. The Isle of Wight has a surprisingly dense population, and it feels as though there are too many hideous 60s bungalows ruining picturesque seaviews. Parts have a feel of a fading resort that was once very busy and developed, now fallen out of favour. Things such as the deserted holiday camp and the Isle of Wight Pearl have a quite tragic air about them.
But to judge the whole island on these alone would be a travesty. The rolling hills and idyllic beaches combine to make you feel you have stepped into a 50s advert for Anchor butter. You can't ignore the fact that the place has the highest hours of sunshine in the UK, something we really appreciated as we drove round the stunning coastal road.
The surf at Compton Bay on the south coast was like nothing I have ever seen before in the UK.
The National trust offers great value leaflets showing walks round the nature reserve of the Newtown estuary, which we almost had to ourselves, even on a sunny day in half term.
Ignoring the more run down gift shops selling cheap imports from China, you can find some real hidden gems by scratching the surface. These ranged from Liz Earle's skincare shop in Ryde to a small farm which was selling 100 flavours of home made ice-cream (I had elderflower).
There are picturesque villages such as Godshill, which didn't even lose its charm on the rainiest day of our break:
For gardeners, Ventnor Botanical Gardens have the largest range of tender and half-tender plants growing in the UK. You can buy great value seeds from many of the specimens in the gardens, which are collected each year by enthusiasts and volunteers.
To top it all off, we visited Shanklin Chine, which is a pictureque gorge running towards the sea:
I think it's safe to say we'll be back!