Friday, 30 January 2009

It's Rookley Country Park...on Friday the 13th!

The problem with Sun holidays is that one can't always be certain that one will be given the date of one's choice.

As it happens we did - our fifth choice!

Friday 13th (of February) is when we head off to Rookley Country Park (see article below) for the first of this year's cheap Island visits.

It's not that I'm superstitious, you'll understand. No, the problem with Friday 13th of February is that I'm away at our low-season timeshare in Portugal until the 14th, so will have to join my family on the Saturday night (for the benefit of anybody who is asking themselves what kind of guy holidays alone on the Algarve before taking the wife and kids off for a £9.50 Sun break let me just explain that, this year, my family were unable to travel on that particular week!).

By way of a little peace offering we'll be staying on for another four nights after our weekend is up by extending our break privately.

I'm looking forward to our first family trip to the Island in 2009. And if you're a 25lb carp reading this, now's the time to go on a diet.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Where We've Stayed (Part Three) - Rookley Country Park

The third place they sent us to was Rookley Country Park, in the town of Rookley which is a little inland of Ventnor.

My feelings were mixed. We had kind of adopted Thorness Bay, and this was completely different. Smaller, and independent - the bar was more of a pub than an entertainment complex, indeed one section was largely inhabited on most evenings by locals enjoying the Real Ale rather than by holidaymakers.

On the plus side, for me, there was a fishing lake. Rather, there were two fishing lakes, but one was the sole preserve (no pun intended) of the serious carp anglers, those anoraks of the thousand-quid rods with the irritating alarms and apparently limitless patience.

I had been quite a good angler as a kid, but hadn't found the time to pursue my interest into adulthood. Shortly before my first stay at Rookley I had made a half-hearted attempt to rectify this omission by purchasing some cheap tackle, but I had never been a carp angler at the best of times. For my first few visits to Rookley I contented myself with the relatively untaxing pursuit of small roach, rudd and perch.

Anyway, the site itself then comprised a few rows of caravans. We were impressed, on our first visit, by the size and cleanliness of the one that had been allocated to us. Despite it allegedly being a Bronze Standard model it ranked amongst the best that we had stayed in.

The site, even then, boasted a swimming pool and a pitch and putt course. In the bar, where as it turned out there was indeed nightly entertainment (including an Elvis impersonator called Simon who was resident on the Island), there was also a pool table. The bar area was sectioned in such a way as to create an entertainment area for visitors and a smaller pub-like area, as mentioned above, for the locals.

We have stayed at Rookley several times during the years that have passed following our first visit. It is now a considerably bigger operation, with a few dozen holiday homes having been constructed where the caravans used to be, and the caravans themselves relocated (in greater number) elsewhere on the site. Owned by the Island View Holidays chain, it now boasts a small shop, a fine restaurant-cum-lounge bar as well as a spruced-up entertainment bar (the Midnight Bar), a children's play area and a very modest mini crazy golf course. By an apparent twist of fate, Simon/Elvis is now the manager!

Last year I stayed at Rookley twice on my own (working holidays, when The Sun gave us dates that were inconvenient to us as a family), and once with the clan. On the latter occasion we were lucky enough to have been allocated one of the new holiday homes, which are simply magnificent. The entertainment is often of a very high standard - on one of my solo visits there was a Madness tribute group (the highly-rated Ultimate Madness) which, despite there being a small entrance charge, provided for a really excellent night.

This upgrade in overall quality, as it happens, has been mirrored (again no pun intended) in my fishing, where despite the cheap tackle and light line which I still use I have somehow managed to land several carp - including fine specimens of 11lbs, 13.5lbs and 20lbs successively - as well as innumerable green and golden tench and not a few crucians.

Rookley has long become one of our preferred ports of call on our frequent visits to the Island, and seems to be going from strength to strength.

Friday, 9 January 2009

It's that time again

The Sun newspaper is running the first of its regular £9.50 holiday promotions for this year as I write.

For us unless we are lucky enough to secure a half-term week that means a short weekend, leaving London on Friday afternoon after the kids have finished school, and returning on Sunday night in time for them to go back on Monday. I always feel a tad cheated when this happens, missing the last night of our booking, but one mustn't be selfish.

This time we decided to let the kids choose and interestingly both of them opted for Landguard, a neat little site in Shanklin of which more another time. Other choices (one is required to list a minimum of four) were Fairway, Rookley Country Park, Thorness Bay and Whitecliff Bay.

There was a time when I felt disappointed not to draw our site of choice out of the hat. Now we feel at home at any of them.

Our tokens go off in the post next week and all will be revealed soon, no doubt.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Your IOW Business Reviewed?

Do you run a business serving the public anywhere on the Isle of Wight?

A café perhaps? A pub, a restaurant, a guest house, a shop?

If so, we'd be happy to visit your premises and publish a review here on this site. Our visitor base is already increasing by the day and we intend to keep on expanding it until it becomes a well-established resource, both for people living and operating on the Island and for visitors.

If you'd like us to review your business please e-mail us at with your details and we'll let you know when we're next on the Island.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Where We've Stayed (Part Two) - Thorness Bay, nr. Cowes

After a few years at Fairway The Sun decided in its infinite wisdom to consign us to a different holiday park.

We were so displeased that we booked up a few days at Fairway independently, to run concurrent with our Sun holiday, but when we arrived at Park Resorts' Thorness Bay site we were pleasantly surprised. Although a larger site, it seemed well organised and there were plenty of activities on offer, even if our children were not by nature inclined to join Sparky the rabbit and his Krew Club on his morning adventures. The caravan was smart, even though it was Bronze Standard, although we discovered after several subsequent visits that the difference in quality between the various classifications does on occasions become blurred - we have had some excellent Bronze caravans and some unspectacular (but never bad) Gold ones.

The site has a shop, which is well-stocked unless your holiday happens to occur at the very tail end of the season, a decent swimming pool, a play area for toddlers, and a small basketball-type court. For socialising it had a pub (now gone) attached to the Reception area as well as the Regatta Bar, where both house and visiting entertainment is offered until late in the evening. Over the years in which we returned the Regatta Bar became a bit tatty, but last year Park Resorts spent a considerable amount refurbishing and redesigning it, and it has now been enhanced with a pleasant lounge and eating area as well as making for a more salubrious atmosphere in the main bar itself.

On our first visit there was a house band called Exodus who were truly excellent, playing a frighteningly diverse range of material which seemed to drift seamlessly from Abba to Black Sabbath to the Spice Girls. The lead vocalist was a guy of about my own age called John who came to our table for a drink during the interval and we enjoyed quite an interesting chat about music, Margate (whence he originated) and lots besides. John was concerned that the owners of the site wanted a female vocalist and indeed on our next visit he had been replaced. Although the young lady who stepped into his shoes put on a good show it wasn't quite the same. I was pleased to discover when googling recently that John still seems to be playing with Exodus, and I make no apology for giving his website a plug.

Anyway, back to
Thorness Bay - anybody who is a beer-head like myself with a long-suffering family who occasionally opt to return to the caravan before the evening is properly finished will appreciate the value of having somebody to engage in admittedly laboured conversation whilst dispensing the drinks. The large majority of the staff that I've encountered at Thorness Bay and indeed at Park Resorts in general have been friendly, sociable and very professional (not to mention tolerant).

Thorness Bay became our next "base" on the Island from then onwards, which we would usually opt for when filling out our Sun coupons as well as on those occasions when we booked up separately such as during the peak season. I would recommend it to anyone.

Isle of Wight Holidays

The island is made up of 3 major towns, Ryde being the biggest, followed by Newport and Cowes. Unlike many of the European resort islands, the Isle of Wight has a very beautiful and has a rugged landscape. It has some of the most stunning coastlines in all of Britain. From the soft sandy beaches, one can view the rocky coastline with its rugged sea ledges. All along the island, rocks from different eras are seen some which date back to 30 millions years ago.

The northern part of the coast is also rich in fossilized shellfish, crocodile and mammal bones. While the actual beach area is minimal the coastline does have a number of cliffs and ledges which appears very precarious. Standing atop the cliffs, one can see the large waves bashing the sea wall- an experience which is thrilling to say the least. The island is also rich in wildlife which ranges from red squirrels and bats.

For the backpacker, there are opportunities to go hiking, cycling, fishing and even sailing. Inland, there are ample sites for camping. For those who want to live in style, there are all types of accommodations available-from the bed & breakfast to the luxury hotels. Dining is not a problem on the island either. Surrounded by the sea, the dining is always something succulent- from lobsters to garlic shrimps. Of course, there are plenty of places which offer the traditional Fish & Chips.

The majority of tourists come to the island of Wight because of its rich natural heritage, geology and wildlife. All the towns have cafes, restaurants, amusement parks, hotels and rides. For those who like the sea, sailing is a big part of the island. Unlike a European holiday, a visit to the Isle of Wight is more of culture and a time to reminisce with the past.

This article is reproduced with acknowledgements to St.Maur - Luxury Isle of Wight Hotel