So it’s the Monday before Ventnor Fringe Festival, be sure to enjoy the scenic pastimes available in and around our beautiful, bizarre town and coastline before everything kicks off tomorrow.
1 – Crabbing
For a few pounds, you can purchase yourself a bucket, some fishing wire (Wendy’s in town can
supply these) and some bacon (from any of the local fresh meat sellers). Head down to the left of Ventnor Haven, to Wheelers Bay or to the right of the Spyglass. With this Holy Trinity of cheap fun, you can have hours of fun dangling your enticing bait and luring many a crab. When you have a bucket full, throw them back in and start again. Maybe name the crabs. Maybe race them. But be sure to treat them with kindness and respect.
2 – Paddling
Take off your shoesies, roll up your jeans and get in. The Ventnor waters and fresh sea air were once reputed by the Victorians to cure many complaints such as consumption, syphilis and ennui. Freshen up your feet and get the blood flowing and then maybe you may be tempted by…
3 – Swimming
You have paddled. NOW COMMIT. Ventnor beach has the lifeguard keeping a watchful eye should you be a novice sea swimmer, but if you are mindful of currents and stay in your comfort zone, the more secluded coves and beaches such as Bonchurch beach, Woody Bay, and Steephill Cove are magic to dip into. P.S. Night swimming is delicious, but take great care, especially when leaving one’s undergarments behind.
4 – Kayaking
Heading West from Ventnor you can take a stroll along the coastal pathway to Steephill Cove, once a quiet, local secret (until the weekend supplements found out about it) and go see a bearded man about a kayak. You can hire a vessel, paddle out solo or tandem and admire our luscious Island from the mermaid’s point of view.
5 – Bonchurching
Bonchurch is the other-worldly village next to Ventnor to the East. Take in the famous Bonchurch
Pond, where there are many water fowl to feed (fowl friendly food available outside the old post
office), fish to admire and maybe the errant naughty terrapin to marvel at. Though I have it on good authority the terrapins were evicted recently due to antisocial behaviour, I am sure one or two have avoided the nets and are sunbathing as I write. Carry on to the oldest church on the Island, the 11th Century Bonchurch Church, step inside and take some advice from Depeche Mode… (enjoy the silence).
6 – Rock Balancing
Immediately below La Falaise car park, down a sturdy flight of wooden stairs, is a place with all the right rocks to get balancing. Create towers as tall as you can build, then either leave them there for future travellers to marvel at or use for target practise.
7 – Beachglassing
No, this is not Begbie’s favourite beach based leisure activity, but a rather more sedate affair. Ventnor Beach has a good crop of small pieces of smooth beach glass in a variety of colours. Beach (or sea/drift) glass takes 30 to 40 years, and sometimes as much as 100 years, to acquire its characteristic texture and shape from years of rolling and tumbling around the sea bed. Sky blue, bottle green and misty opaque are the most common shades. However, with a keen eye and some patience you can find autumnal reds and browns and sometimes a golden amber.
8 – Downsing
Look out to the sea. Now look behind you. That large, mountainous, wooded mound rising from the town is Ventnor Downs. It is the highest point on the Isle of Wight and is home to Old English feral goats, the Blue Adonis Butterfly and a range of other uncommon beasts. Getting up there is not easy. You can zig zag through the woods, being careful of slippery, sliding leaves, or you can hike straight up the side, starting at the site of the old Ventnor Railway Station on Mitchell Avenue (by the Warehouse). Climbing equipment is not needed, just a fairly strong constitution and willing calf muscles. It is worth it. The scene that awaits you is glorious, with an unparalleled view of the Island’s rolling landscape and a chance to look down on our little town.
9 – Outdoor gymming
Just above Ventnor Park is the marvellous outdoor gym, as affective for fun as it is fitness. With an incredible view of the Channel, you can work out solo or (more fun) in pairs or a group. I like the tandem rowing machine. And the thrusting machine. And the swingy – leggy machine. I don’t know the proper words.
10 – Rock pooling
As the tide retreats, try and find a quiet spot far from the madding crowd and observe a micro sea life centre in amongst the rock pools of the Ventnor coastline. I have had it on good authority you can cook limpets in butter and garlic for a foraged feast, but I prefer to just observe the aquatic splendour and take a sandwich.