Wight is Wight

Ecrit par Didier Vors / Traduction de Judith Wood

« Wight is Wight, Dylan is Dylan » was a hit for Michel Delpech in the 1970’s, at the time of the legendary music festivals. The isle has calmed down since then, and is a favourite with members of the VEC, who love its old-fashioned, traditional English charm. Although it is close to the English coast, (the sea crossing only takes a quarter of an hour), you can feel the difference in atmosphere as soon as you set foot on land.

It’s like walking into another world. If you want to begin exploring the Isle of Wight on foot as soon as you arrive, you have a long walk ahead of you before you reach dry land. When you arrive at Ryde, one of the sea-ports on the Isle, you are spoilt for choice; you can follow the coastal path on foot, or take either the train or the double-decker bus. These buses can reach the remotest corners of the island; they aren’t afraid to go anywhere. Crossing the Isle of Wight on the top deck of one of these buses is an unforgettable experience, as much for the view of the countryside as for the narrow roads lined with trees whose branches regularly scratch against the windows. The island is just what you expect; a résumé of the countryside of South-East England; a stage-set for a light opera, with its picture-postcard villages, little shops and cosy tearooms.

The top of the hill overlooking the village of Godshill is a place you have to visit on a cloudy day in mid-October. The island’s thatched cottages are one of its main attractions, its trademark. They bring back childhood memories of the cottage where Snow White’s dwarfs lived. You have the feeling that time has stood still. Following tradition, all these villages have graves with granite headstones around the churches; there is no cemetery. St. Agnes’ church is one of the few remaining thatched churches in the region.

It goes without saying that hiking is at the heart of the island’s culture. It is a walker’s paradise. There are paths with easily recognisable signposts covering the whole island. In fact, two walking festivals are held every year, in May and October; and they are extremely popular. On one of your walks you may pass, or sit down on, a bench; if you look closely you will see that it was paid for by a member of the community in memory of a loved one. You can’t think of an island without the sea; and sea means sea-bathing. The British have their own particular attitude to it. Sandown, with its pier, and its 1950’s architecture is an attractive example of this. You can reach this seaside resort on one of the old rattletrap trains, the only ones on the island. In fact, these are tube-train carriages from the London Northern

Line, enjoying a new lease of life. At the West end of the island, at the mouth of the River Yar, the aptly-named port of Yarmouth is another point of entry to the island; It is pleasantly busy, with its colourful fishing boats and its ferries to Lymington in the New Forest,(well-known for its wild ponies). From Portsmouth, Southampton or Lymington, listen to the call of the open sea, and take a trip back in time.

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