|Portsmouth looking brilliant on departure|
We rode from my Nan's house in Portsmouth to the ferry terminal and boarded the slightly delayed 10.30 sailing to Fishbourne on the 1987 built 'MV St Cecilia'. Cyclists put their bikes right at the front of the car deck, leaning against the bow door - with nothing holding the bikes in place we were glad of a super smooth crossing. The sailing was 45 minutes long and we were the first to leave the ship and cycle out of the port. We turned right out of the entrance and began our anti-clockwise journey around the island. Thankfully there are permanently marked road signs throughout which direct cyclists on the round the island trail and this is mostly what we followed the whole day, only occasionally deviating in order to see more of the towns or attractions.
The first miles to Cowes were gently rolling and before long you are taken onto quiet country lanes with very little traffic. In order to cross from East Cowes to Cowes proper, there is a chain ferry to take cars and pedestrians across the river mouth. We paid our fee and rumbled across, The cycle lane then takes you right along the seafront and on the right hand side we were afforded views of the Solent and across towards Southampton. We then headed slightly inland and the following few miles were on winding lanes through woods. We were occasionally passed by patient drivers, who all seemed happy to move at the slower pace of island life.
Our lunch stop was at the picturesque port of Yarmouth, where we stopped at a deli for some huge slabs of pizza and some coffee, which we consumed while sat on the railings by the ferry port in the sun. We toppped up water bottles at the free outside tap and moved on. The next stop would be The Needles, not officially on the cycle route, but a nice picturesque place to visit. Being on cycles meant that we could press on past the car park and ride to the top of the cliff and look down onto the Needles from the old Cold War rocket testing site. This site was so secret during the space race that news outlets were forbidden by the government to report on its very existence, despite launch tests being so loud and visible that beaches on the south coast of England were regularly crowded with onlookers wanting to witness the spectacle.
After The Needles we followed the main coastal road spanning the south of the Isle; Military Road. There were occasional hills, but nothing that West Yorkshire legs couldn't handle. We stopped for more liquids at a beach's car park where there was an ice cream van. Holly was in the queue when a man said he hoped we hadn't cycled all the way from Halifax (we were wearing our Imps jerseys), it turned out that he too was from Halifax and was on his annual eight week holiday on the island with his wife. Small world.
The biggest hill of the day was at Blackgang Chine and I seemed to have built it up in my head from last year, as it wasn't as bad as I'd remembered and Holly was almost annoyed that I'd talked about it so much... The next town on the list was Ventnor, which had a distinct Mediterranean feel to it, with steep cliffs and narrow, winding roads. After a quick stop to admire the view and consult the map, we set off towards the twin towns of Shanklin and Sandown, which we seemed to catch in rush hour, but since the towns weren't that big it wasn't long before we were out into the countryside again.
By now we were in the North-East of the island and we ventured through the picturesque villages of Bembridge, St Helens (which happened to be where my Grandma was evacuated as a child during the war, where she had to share a room with 'Some Welsh Bitch') and Seaview, the latter of which is where we stopped for a well deserved pint of bitter from the local Goddards Brewery. This is where we took some obligatory swearing photos for Paul Cre, much to the annoyance of those at an adjacent table in the beer garden. The pub was right by the seafront and looked out towards Portsmouth and we could see a happy collection of yachts and ferries in the calm waters of the Solent.
All that was left was the five miles back to the ferry, which included riding through the biggest town of the day, Ryde. Once we had arrived at the port it was around half seven, we had to wait a little while for the 'MV St Clare' to arrive, but once there we were the first on yet again and went straight up to the lounge and armed ourselves with beers for the journey back.
|The final route|