The Island

All good things come to an end and I feel a childhood heavily manifested with memories of the Isle of Wight is finally entering the last chapter. In 1996 my grandparents retired away from Gants Hill and ventured to Freshwater. A lifelong dream of my Grandad was to live on the Island and with my Nan by his side they would enjoy the rest of their retirement there.

The distance between Dagenham and the Isle of Wight is by no means light and that substantial distance would prove to cause difficulties on a few occasions. A 3 hour journey each way coupled with a ferry trip that could often be hindered by the weather made travelling from point A to B a somewhat treacherous task.

However, as a family we would travel to the island every couple of months. I have visited so often that it’s impossible for me to even recall my first memories there. There are literally so many. Newport town, the biggest shopping centre on the island, became one of our most visited locales.

I was quite a mischievous child, like many other children I simply wanted everything I clapped my eyes on. In particular I remember Woolworths, it was something of a ritualistic experience. Every time we set foot in Newport we’d stop by Woolworths, my Grandad would get a big bag of the pick and mix whilst me and my sisters looked at the toys. My Mum would often use wrestling action figures to bribe me into good behaviour. I can track my development into my adult years by memories of my pocket money turning into my wages; those funds being spent on wrestling figures before CD’s, concluding with video games.

The promise of Blackgang Chine was an incomparable reward for good behaviour. Blackgang had it all, the atmosphere, the experience… but most importantly, the cap guns. Even now 15 or so years later I can still perfectly envision the small holding cells and the cowboy statues.

Alum Bay provided one of my first encounters with heights, the chairlifts offered a breath-taking view of The Needles. Known for it’s colourfully sanded cliffs, Alum Bay is a very popular attraction. Shops provide glass ornaments that you can fill with a variety of coloured sands- the perfect memento for the occasion.

Godshill Village held a special place in my Nan’s heart and was one of the places she loved most. On top of the hill sits the primary merchandise store, alongside a lovely little café. As you venture down the hill there is a scattering of different trinket shops accompanied by the iconic well.

Tennyson Down would hold significant value as it was my Grandad’s wishes for his ashes to be scattered there. My Grandad, in his more able years, had loved the many walks the Isle of Wight offered and the Tennyson Down trail in particular was his favourite. As a family we had completed that trail a handful of times before we would make the penultimate walk to scatter his ashes.

The beaches are a prominent part of the Island and Colwell Bay and Totland would become frequently visited attractions over the summer. Summer holidays were often spent on the island and we would stay in a chalet, dividing our time between visiting my grandparents and visiting the many different attractions.

Sadly as aforementioned, I feel my time visiting the island is coming to an end. 11 years after the passing of my Grandad, we lost my Nan last year. The bungalow I spent the best part of my childhood visiting is now vacant. The bungalow did not go up for sale immediately after my Nan’s passing, we opted to hold on to it for a little bit longer so family could continue to visit.

However, it was not financially possible to buy the bungalow, nor would it have been practical for any of us. By the turn of March there will be a new owner and the bungalow we have stayed in so often will no longer be open to us.

Our necessity and requirement to visit the Island is no longer there. My Nan was sick for quite some time and had been in nursing homes for a good few years before her death but we had still held on to the bungalow in hopes she may one day return home. With my Nan still living on the island there was still a purpose to go there, we were there to visit her.

The Isle of Wight just seems like a distant memory now. The memories that I’ve built up are how I remember it and I always look back and smile when I think of the many amazing moments I’ve had there over the years. Hopefully in the near future I will find myself visiting once again, hopefully under happier circumstances.


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