There’s only one way, really, to travel. I suppose I always really knew it, but only now am I starting to put it into practice, for it’s a way that Travel Professionals, the airlines and hotels of the world at their head, do their very best to prevent us from using.
My answer will be that I will rarely use them.
For the only real way to travel is at leisure. Without constraint. As slowly and freely as one likes. When I think of the angst I suffered chasing that airplane schedule at East Midlands Airport … and now ... as I lounge in leisurely fashion round Wight ... what a joy!
What brought this bit of serious contemplation upon me was my day out today. A gentle, thoroughly enjoyable day, during which I didn’t really go anywhere I hadn’t been before. Red Fred’s rubber didn’t touch a patch of road that he hasn’t gone over at least once already. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I truly enjoy the nicest places – as I did in Jersey – more the second time around. I mean, the first time, just getting there is almost the main thing, the second time getting there is second nature, and exploring and/or enjoying the destination takes over.
Today we went on my favourite route. Hermitage-Dolcoppice Lane-Chale Green-Shorcross-Brightstone-Calbourne-Shalfleet-Newtown. And back exactly the same way. At Shalfleet, my mission was to lunch at the New Inn. At Newtown, to visit the interior of the Old Town Hall. But, good heavens, Fred takes that road with his headlamps shut now, and in little over half an hour there I was at Shalfleet. This time I parked in the hard-to-find parking lot (hardly anyone else did, they used the roadside!) and decided on a stroll before lunch. So I headed past the National Trust sign, down the dirt road that leads into the Nature Reserve, and finally came upon Shalfleet Quay. It’s a quay with a history. Like so many things on this island, it had mediaeval beginnings, as a commercial and warring anchorage. Now it’s a little pleasure port, full of protected birds and wildlife. And apparently those steaming chimneys in the distance … they are on the other side of the water, on the mainland! That’s how close we are.
After the quay, I explored the old mill. Like the Brightstone one, its now a wheel-less house, but this one was imaginatively adapted. I liked it. Shalfleet has a great inn, and a grand church, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a village. It looks as if it were originally just a grandiose manor house and handful of rather impressive farms, whose large farmhouses seem now to be large houses mostly without farms.
I lunched at the New Inn on a most delicious warm black-pudding salad and a bottle of their superior ginger beer. I can still taste it! Notice, I’m working my way up. Last time it was a sandwich. But now I am tempted to a full meal. Mind you, I was lucky. The place was so heavily booked that, while I ate my salad, something like forty people had to be turned away. So note, New Inn, Shalfleet, definitely recommended, but book.
I felt, given the throng, that I’d better move on swiftly from my barstool, so I arrived early at Newtown, and waited on the grass till the kind lady at the Town Hall let me in, a bit before the hour. I had plenty of leisure to investigate the Hall, and I found that the story I’d got last time wasn’t quite right. People did come to Newtown, and it flourished briefly. But, in the 14th century (I think), the Danes and the French ransacked it, and it was only after that that it got underpopular and underpopulated and shrivelled away. I also found I’d photographed the Town Hall -- which is a defiant statement from Newtown's underpopular 17th century -- from the backside. So here is the frontside. A little wonky, but solid.
Inside, the Hall is a wee treat. Upstairs, just the council chamber, a garderobe and a little parlour for the mayor to wash and brush-up in. In true National Trust style, it’s all beautifully restored, furnished and maintained, and it has a kind of warm, living feeling about it. Downstairs, in a corner of what must have been the ‘offices’ of the place, is a tiny exhibition of locally important documents (repro) and a little bit – not enough for me! -- about the Ferguson Gang. As in Carisbrooke, I felt some of it was aimed a tad too ‘young’, but in those few square metres, upstairs and down, I spent a full 25 minutes and felt my two pounds well spent.
On the way back, I thought I would try, on my fourth time through, to see what Calbourne was all about. If I could find somewhere to park. As I arrived in its vicinity, however, I had hurriedly to throw out anchor. The entire road was blocked by a tour bus. RT Tours of Deal, Kent, if you want to bring folk to Wight, bring them in a vehicle suitable to the island’s roads.
My sudden halt, however, was a godsend. Since I could go no further, I simply 'parked' where I was, at the side of the road, and walked down the hill. The tour-bussers had come here to look at Winkle Street. What is Winkle Street? Well, it’s a row of jigsawpuzzle-box thatched cottages the charm of which rests in that they front onto a little, stone-bridged stream and green meadows. It has an information board which insists on its possible connections (“Queen Elizabeth slept here badly’ sort of stuff) with Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett, some royal or other and … I forget. When Scenic Attractions have to lean on ‘famous name associations’ for their appeal, they lose me. If I was under-impressed with Winkle Street, however, I was much impressed by the village’s grand church, its vast and luxurious Rectory, and Westover Hall, opposite the church, gated and fenced, once the home, apparently, of some of the Moulton-Barrett family, but more importantly of the Worsleys. On a lake amid its lawns, a little boy and his father were feeding the ducks. We’ve had enough churches, so they are going to be my picture of Calbourne.
Fred squeezed past Mister RT Tours (still there!) and on to our favourite road, and we tootled merrily back to Hermitage Court Farm in time for afternoon tea, the end of the Dauphiné Libéré (I gave those blokes a second chance, but they were masticatng again, so I zapped them), a blog, and … ah, it’s 6pm. I think after coffee for breakfast, ginger beer for lunch and tea for .. well, tea .. its time for a Guinness. For pleasure.
Yes, this is the way to travel!