Saturday September 15th 2012
Ahoy landlubbers! This is a report on a trip we undertook to the Isle of Wight in September 2012. I am typing this up in 2018 so I have no doubt forgotten plenty about the holiday. I will post a few chunks that have somehow remained in the memory bank and, hopefully, this will form a tale of drinking in taverns endowed with a rich seafaring heritage. The Isle of Wight's pubs may not boast the buccaneering legacy of nearby Portsmouth but on Vectis, with its treacherous coastline, there is a rich heritage of selfless valour and assiduous nautical endeavour. However, the question we had to answer was whether this spirit still prevailed within the walls of watering holes once frequented by hardy fisherman and robust lifeboatmen who put sail in perilous waters, or whether the invasion of "overners" from the North Island had diluted the character of the boozers. In other words, was the prevailing wind that of bountiful jugs of Stingo or was the shoreline a case of Southern sophisticates sipping Sancerre?
Our visit to the Isle of Wight was to be a two-wheeled exploration of the island so we undertook a bit of 7 P's [proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance] before setting off. We were not intending to visit every pub on the Isle of Wight as we wanted to combine some sight-seeing and cycling adventure. Lawrence Wilson's book on the island was most informative in terms of contextual setting and historical background. The local CAMRA branch had also outlined much information on the island's pubs on their Wightwash pages. This was a little out-of-date but still very handy when determining a shortlist of taverns worth further investigation. Accordingly, we butchered our OL29 OS Explorer Map as we mapped routes, plotted pubs and pasted historical information in order to save carrying guidebooks. The most palpable element of perusing the map was the worrying number of contours that were hideously close to one another. The riding was clearly going to be lumpy bumpy and I viewed the prospect of hauling our boxer dog over the climbs with a little foreboding.
Our journey south to the Isle of Wight meandered a little in order to enjoy a sojourn through the New Forest. As we were approaching the forest, we had a bet who would be the first to spot a wild pony. In the end, it was a case of there's one, oh there's another, blimey there are five, oh wait a minute, here comes a bunch of them, to hang on a minute ... you can't move for wild ponies. It's equine ecstasy. Another reason for heading to the forest was to enjoy a beer in the Royal Oak at Fritham, a historic thatched tavern at the end of a quiet lane within the forest.
Forming part of a working farm, the Royal Oak run by Pauline and Neil McCulloch is thought to date back to the 16th century. The village itself is just a scattering of cottages. Indeed, the visitor would not imagine that, until the 1920s, Fritham was the location of the Schultze gunpowder factory. One hundred people worked on a site, of which just the superintendent's and gatekeeper's houses remain. Another surprising fact about Fritham is that, from a village with a small population, four men went down with the Titanic in 1912.
As we rolled along the lane towards the Royal Oak we thought it would be fairly quiet but when we arrived it was clear that, on warm sunny Saturday at least, everyone comes out of the trees and the pub is rammed. Some people have driven to the pub but most seem to have cycled. Thirsty ramblers turn up for a welcome pint and some drinkers even arrive on horseback! Most folks are happy to sit in the sprawling beer garden - and with the forest forming the perfect backdrop who can blame them? However, we wanted to soak up some of the pub's atmosphere so nabbed a table in the bar.
The Royal Oak is a nice old pub. A recent refurbishment has combined old and new timber which will look great in about fifty years time. The interior is still a pleasant place in which to savour the excellent beer on offer. The ales are served straight from the cask on a stillage behind the servery. Despite the resurgence in the popularity of real ale, few pubs store and sell cask beer in this fashion. Of course, I wish there were far more as we'd be all the richer for it. In the above view of the stillage, the beer on the left which I wish I could have tried [but had to drive] was Upham Stakes from another brewery local to the pub. The beers we did try were perfect and cost £3 per pint which is not bad for a pub close to the south coast. Ales sold in this fashion are a lot easier to manage, saves on pipe cleaning and simply looks good and is a talking point. Come on landlords and landladies, let's have more beer straight from the tap.
I had not quaffed a beer from the Stonehenge Brewery for a few years so was delighted to find their "Eye Opener" on sale. The citrus and spicy flavours of this ale were superb. The Venerable Bead then enjoyed the Itchen Valley IPA whilst I sampled the house beer. I think the Royal Oak Bitter is produced for the pub by Downton Brewery.
Some may describe the food as basic but it is absolute perfection. Ploughman's, quiches and pork pies form the basis of a single-page menu. Other pubs could learn a lesson from this place. The McCulloch's endeavour to use as much local produce as possible. For example, almost all cheeses on offer are produced nearby by Mike and Judy Smales on their farm just outside Nomansland, further north in the forest. Using local free range eggs, all the quiches are homemade. The award-winning pork pies and sausage rolls are produced by Upton's of Basset, rated one of the top five butchers in the country. When available, the Duck Breasts are cured and smoked in Cherry Wood at the Royal Oak. The gammon is cooked and honey roasted in the pub's kitchen where they also make their own paté. Dishes are served with freshly-baked bread, jars of real ale chutney and cider mustard.
Needless to say we fell in love with this pub. We later learned that, in 2009, the Royal Oak was awarded the "Best Country Pub" in Britain by The Good Pub Guide. We'd go along with that. Indeed, if we lived within an hour or so of Fritham we'd be pointing our bikes in the direction of the Royal Oak on a regular basis. Calling in at The Royal Oak was a most excellent start to our holiday.
We sailed to the Isle of Wight on the Red Funnel service from Southampton to East Cowes. As far as I can tell they have four boats, Eagle, Kite, Falcon and Kestrel, rotating across the Solent in order to ferry tourists to-and-from the island. The vessels are a bit shabby but they do the job. Interestingly, it costs twice as much to sail to the Isle of Wight as it does to make the crossing from Dover to Dunkerque. Dog owners have to sit on deck so I am not too sure how folks cope in January - they probably have to chisel customers off the seat at the other end, along with pouring a kettle of hot water over the pooch. Even in late September the wind is bracing. We sat on deck and got our heads blown off in the breeze. No wonder Cowes is home to sailing - there is enough wind here to fill the breeches of Johnny Fartpants.
We based ourselves at Milk Parlour Cottage, just to the north of Godshill. Originally the milking parlour of Lower Yard Farm, this proved to be a good central location for cycling to all parts of the island. Visiting during the tail-end of the season, we thought we would be OK without bothering to book up for dinner on the first night of our holiday. However, the Pointer Inn, a Fuller's house at Newchurch, was packed to the rafters, though co-tenant Rachel Burrows is very polite and professional as she informs you that you have zero chance of a table and to sling your hook. Consequently, we made a note to return to this popular tavern and headed for the Dairyman's Daughter at nearby Arreton.
After finding the Pointer Inn full we telephoned ahead to check that they had a table spare at the Dairyman's Daughter. They had tables to spare and when we arrived we could see why ... it is a very big pub! It was dark by the time of our arrival so things may look different in the light but, by heck, this seemed a bizarre place. It is a theme park with a bar-restaurant. Despite the old enamel advertisements for fags and soap, the type you see at preserved railway stations, the place felt like a fake western town. Having seen Yul Brynner in "Westworld" I was kind of worried, so I shoved a Colt 45 down the back of my trousers before walking inside. As it turned out, the clientele were a fairly anodyne crowd. The place felt like a holiday camp with families chomping their way through meals with chips. Or, it would appear in some cases, chips with chips.
The Dairyman's Daughter is part of a local chain that includes the Bargeman's Rest in Newport and the Steamer Inn at Shanklin. The bar's name commemorates Elizabeth Wallbridge - click here to read more about the wife of Oliver Cromwell's grandson. Considering that the "Dairyman's Daughter" is a story of spiritual enlightenment, I'm not too sure that the name of this bar is entirely appropriate. I cannot really call it a pub, though in fairness to the proprietors, they have made a half-decent job of it. And it would appear they spent a considerable sum of money on the place. Plus it is great to see a bar billiards table. I also quite liked some of the exhibits on display in the Dairyman's Daughter. There were a number of old slot machines, the sort in which you slide an old penny in and, by skilfully directing a ball bearing, try to win your penny back. This evoked memories of a machine I played as a youngster on the pier at Weston-super-Mare. The machine paid out packets of Polo Fruits and I figured out how to win every time. I was stacking up so many packets I was giving them away to a crowd that had gathered around me. The buzz of excitement alerted the management who sent over a couple of heavies wielding spanners that looked like they had just been used to undo the wheel nuts of a tipper lorry. An ugly scene ensued during which I quickly filled up my pockets with a month's supply of Polo Fruits before doing a runner for the shoreline!
The beams of the building support a vast array of accordions and squeeze boxes - I could almost hear a sea shanty coming on. The site's impressive display of old enamel advertisements continues inside the bar; our favourite being an old Cycling Touring Club sign. On the ceiling there is a large advert for W.B. Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd., a 'lost' brewery founded in 1873 at nearby Newport. We started our I.O.W. drinking with the locally-brewed Yates' Undercliff Experience, a beer supposed to have lemon kick amid the bitter finish but, unfortunately, this example was a bit flat. We switched to another of the island's brews by ordering Goddard's Fuggle-Dee-Dum which was OK but not dazzling. We would later find that this beer was the most widely-available of the local beers and the quality varied considerably from pub-to-pub. The bar of the Dairyman's Daughter also served some very average examples of Ringwood Fortyniner and Best Bitter. It wasn't a great start to the boozy bit of the holiday. On the plus side, the bar sells a large selection of meals and the standard is not too bad for pub fodder. They serve very large portions for £10-12, though we would have been happier with £8-9 with smaller portions. I could have done with a smaller portion of the Cobra Blues Band, a combo booked for Saturday's entertainment. A shocking version of "Route 66" told us it was time to hit the A3056. I couldn't help but feel that we should have been in the nearby White Lion, the surviving historic hostelry of Arreton. The village once had a Red Lion further along the road, a pub subsequently converted into cottages. We made a mental note to come back to the White Lion for a balanced view of Arreton.
Sunday September 16th 2012
On Sunday we teleported to the Sun Inn at Calbourne from where we could embark on a journey around the south-western section of the Isle of Wight. Although anticipated from prior map research, it soon became noticeable that there is little flat territory on the island; you are either pedalling three-penny bits up a long hill or rolling down the other side. There's no relaxing on the way downhill as one can generally see the next climb out of the valley or chine. I normally enjoy hill climbing on a bike but pulling our boxer dog in a trailer adds an extra 55lbs to the weight to be hauled up the slope. Still, the effort works up a thirst for a beer!
First things first, we took the dog to the beach so she could get it out of her system. She enjoys riding in her trailer but looks forward to her free runs at regular intervals. So we headed to Brook Bay in order for her to play in the sea. Libby is an old boot now so it was poignant to witness another two year-old boxer, full of beans, running around begging her to play. I think Libby was envious of the athleticism of the younger dog. We didn't realise at the time but this would be the last holiday we would enjoy with her.
Despite access being relatively easy, Brook Chine and Brook Bay appears to be one of the lesser-visited beaches, though we were near the end of the season so perhaps this is not the case in high summer. Brook is an attractive village. From the church up on the hill the chine has been landscaped alongside some ribbon development and opens out at a green where the old lifeboat station still stands. Many lives were saved from the time the station was established in the mid-19th century up until its closure in 1937. Interestingly, the door faces inland but this was so that it could be opened during a fierce storm. From Brook Chine we pedalled a short distance to Shippards Chine, a part of the coast that attracts a large number of visitors. The key attraction is supposed to be the dinosaur fossils though lazy arses who can't be bothered walking down the steps to the beach focus more on the erosion of the car park. Above you can see Shippards Chine's disabled parking facility, or whats left of it! By the way, we would be back in this area very soon in order to visit the Sun Inn at Hulverstone.
From Shippards Chine we followed the Military Road overlooking Compton Bay. There are excellent views of the rugged coastline as you head towards the famous Wight Cliffs. The contours on the map told the tale that there was a steady climb up to Compton Down. As we neared the bottom of the climb I spotted a cyclist up the road who had got shipped out of the back of a small group of club riders. Maybe, I thought, I could bridge up to him. I was pulling the dog trailer but I was feeling good. It was a fairly breezy day with a slight chill in the air but I soon warmed up as I stamped on the pedals with some gusto. As the gradient increased I looked up. The gap was coming down. This encouraged me to give it full gas and I slowly reeled him in. Just before the crest of the hill I came up alongside him and bade him "Good Morning." He looked across. Then he looked down at the dog in the trailer. This destroyed him. He had been overtaken by a bloke on a shopping bike hauling a dog up the hill. But then I thought to myself : The poor chap, it will be a long time, if ever, before he gets over this. I think that the dog even felt a bit sorry for him.
We descended off Compton Down to Freshwater Bay. Having cycled along a gravel track to what looked like the main entrance of the Sandpiper's Hotel, we discovered that we were at the tradesmen's door or the arse end of the building. This made the Sandpiper's about as inviting as the forlorn-looking Albion Hotel. Besides, I had read beforehand that the old Edwardian interior had been ripped out in a recent refurbishment so it would have been hard to witness the 'contemporary' furnishings installed in its place. Instead, we cycled along The Causeway and across the beautiful Afton Marsh Local Nature Reserve which presents one of the best scenes of the island's interior. An open expanse of water, reeds, ducks, and the magnificent tower of All Saints' Church forming the backdrop. I can think of no better place to drop in a quote from John Hillaby who wrote: "Few things are more pleasant than a village graced with a good church, a good priest and a good pub." I have no idea whether the vicar is a good egg, but Freshwater certainly has a very fine pub next to its elegant church.
We pedalled up the slope from Afton Marsh to the Red Lion at Freshwater. It was Sunday lunchtime and the place was heaving. I have been cycling with our dog in a trailer for a number of years so I have got used to people pointing at us as we sail by. To me taking the dog for a spin seems a perfectly natural thing to do. However, to many folks the sight of a boxer dog being trundled along the road makes them go all gooey-gaga. Accordingly, as we rolled up to the front of the Red Lion many faces suddenly appeared at the windows as people pressed their noses against the glass to glimpse Libby in her chariot. Some people actually came outside for a close-up. Over the week, our four-legged cyclist became something of a tourist attraction on the island. She was photographed by locals and holidaymakers so many times I was beginning to feel a little empathy for Alfred Tennyson who was pestered by tourists when he lived on the island. And here we were in the town he made his home for a number of years. The poet laureate endeared himself to the local populace as he would often chew the cud with ordinary folk across the garden gate, showing an interest in the lives they led. It is highly plausible that he walked into the Red Lion from time-to-time to enjoy a jar of ale.
The history of the Red Lion Inn probably dates from the period when The Causeway was constructed across Afton Marsh which provided an important inland communication link to West Wight. Until the late Elizabethan period, the land to the west was, at times, an island, particularly at high tide. Before the opening of The Causeway, passage across to the west was only possible via Freshwater Gate to the south or via the ferry from Yarmouth to Norton Spit. The Red Lion may have evolved into a stopping point for horses pulling waggons and carriages across the island. Its main competitor in earlier times was the Mermaid Hotel at Freshwater Gate. Henry Corney was mine host at the end of the 1820s. In 1839 both the Albion Hotel and Red Lion Inn were operated by Barnabas Plumbley, who later kept the Freshwater Bay Hotel.
The Red Lion has been altered over the decades and the exterior looks to date from late Victorian times. In more recent years, somebody has taken a sledgehammer to the walls that divided the building into separate and distinct rooms. However, the Red Lion's interior remains pleasant and maintains some sense of victualling custom. Flagstone floors, hotch-potch furnishings around scrubbed tables. We later learned that some folks on the island consider the Red Lion to be expensive but, looking at the chalkboards, it didn't seem particularly more for a meal than many other pubs and if it is good then perhaps it is worth paying a little extra. Clearly, it is a popular place for diners and the Red Lion was voted Isle of Wight Best Pub by the Wight Good Food Guide 2010. We tried to book a table later in the week and were turned away so they are onto a winning formula by the look of it. Today however we had different plans for lunch so we simply parked outside for a beer.
The pub was selling Goddard's Fuggle-Dee-Dum but I opted for the Yates' Best Bitter. Little did I know that I would not see this 3.8% session ale again all week. If I had known this I would have been tempted to stay all afternoon as it was fantastic. Superbly kept and served bright, this beer has a subtle fruitiness with a delicate hop bitterness to finish. A perfectly-balanced beer, this was a true highlight of the week. Nothing short of 10/10. The brewery responsible for this wonderful beer was founded in 2000 by Dave Yates, a former brewer at Burt's Brewery which closed in the 1990s. He started off with his 5-barrel brewing plant at the St. Lawrence Inn at Ventnor. His beers were immediately successful and in 2004 the brewery scooped a bronze award at the Champion Beer of Britain awards. In 2001 his son David joined the business and concentrated on developing a wholesale drinks company to operate alongside the brewery. With the company's increased business, they moved to larger premises at Newchurch.
We sat outside the front of the Red Lion so that we could enjoy a view of All Saints' Church and, in particular, the beautiful tower with a 13th century arched doorway and window. Recorded in Domesday, the church is thought to have some remains of a Saxon chapel that was reconstructed in the 12th century. I have developed quite an interest in churches - maybe because, like public houses, many are under threat and many have closed. The wonderful thing about churches is that they are all so different and the furnishings differ greatly. Pubs used to be like this back in the day. That is until big breweries and pub companies thought it would be a great idea to try and make them look and feel the same. Indeed, the Isle of Wight has not been spared of some horrific pub refurbishments and I will be looking at some of these in detail on our travels.
Lord Tennyson, who was buried in Westminster Abbey, has a memorial inside All Saints' Church. The war memorial also has two Tennyson names, that of Captain Alfred Aubrey Tennyson and Navigating Sub-Lieutenant Harold Courtenay Tennyson, both of whom were grandsons of the poet laureate. All Saints' is not the only church in Freshwater. Hallam, the 2nd Baron Tennyson, donated the land on which the Church of Saint Agnes was built. And this is where we cycled to next for it is the only thatched church on the island. Designed by the architect Isaac Jones and utilising stone from an old farmhouse near the Red Lion Inn, the church was consecrated in 1908.
OK, I am going to admit that, as I was looking at the thatched church, I became more interested in a corner structure facing the church. It is a bit of busman's holiday thing spotting former pubs and a habit that probably drives those who cycle with me to distraction. Anyway, the building on the corner of Blackbridge Road was the former Stark's Hotel. The building adjoined a parade of shops that once included a grocery store and chemists. It was established by John Stark who, in the late 1880s, billed it as a family and commercial hotel and posting establishment. In 1927 Stark's Hotel was run by Charles Orman who was also a butcher. The pub was later operated by Mew's.
W. B. Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd., were based at Crocker Street in Newport. Brewing on the site can be traced back to the 17th century but the modern company was not founded until 1814 when Benjamin Mew and his partner James Cull were the occupiers of the premises. The business was continued by Benjamin's son William Baron Mew. In 1873 he formed a partnership with Walter Langton. However, the Mew family remained firmly in control of the business which later passed to Francis Templeman Mew, grandson of the co-founder. Following his death in 1922, the company passed to his son Francis Joseph Templeman Mew. The business was not restricted to the island and, by the mid-1960s, the brewery's tied estate comprised of 200 public houses and 20 off-licences around the Isle of Wight, Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington. In 1965 however W. B. Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd. was acquired by Strong & Co. of Romsey. Three years later Strong's were themselves bought out by Whitbread after which the Newport brewery ceased production.
On the way up to the Church of St. Agnes we pedalled along Camp Road where another former pub can be found on the corner of a lane called New Village. The former Star Inn has a date of 1895 along with a large star painted on the building. Funny that, as I have seen a reference to this pub in a trade directory dated 1889 in which Mrs. Jane Denham is shown as the licensee. Clearly therefore the pub is older than the date displayed on the building. An old postcard of this pub shows that it was once an outlet for Allsopp's ales. The New Inn, another former pub in the parish since converted into a holiday cottage, can be found at Norton Green. This was also run by the Denham family in the Victorian period. Some of these pubs may have been supplied by John Emberly who was a maltster and brewer in Freshwater in the 1880s.
Having enjoyed our time in Freshwater, we made our way up the climb along Moon's Hill. We enjoyed a slight respite to look at two former lime kilns on the side of the road. These were once thought to have been ice houses. In fact, a certain Robert Walker excavated these in the late 1800s and rather wildly espoused that they were evidence of a Phoenician settlement on the Isle of Wight. We cycled past the High Down Inn as we were on a mission. However, before I whizz past mentioning the place, I ought to point out that this would be a good port-of-call for those walking the downs and visiting Tennyson's monument. Fresh local fish and seafood is served with real ale in this traditional-looking establishment.
Unfortunately for the High Down Inn, we intended to fill the cash register at Warren Farm in order to enjoy some cream tea. Visiting cafés forms an important part of cycling club runs and, combined with my love of a good pint of beer, I should be the size of a double wardrobe - it's the pedalling that helps to keep things in some sort of proportion. Anyway, before our trip to the Isle of Wight, I had read on Trip Advisor that the cream teas at Warren Farm were the best on the island, if not England. Now, how can you resist such a claim? No pressure then for the ladies baking and serving!
The caption for this photograph should be something along the lines of "if you think I am making do with Markies whilst you pair tuck into cream tea then think again!" As usual, we caved in to her begging eyes and gave her some of the savoury scones. Anyway, as it turned out, the reviews for Warren Farm weren't far off the mark - the cream tea was magnificent. I almost had to turf Libby out of her carriage in order to transport the huge scones to our table. These come with nice big portions of jam and clotted cream. La Goddess du Vélo meanwhile had the cheese scones served with Lyburn cheese and date chutney. This was also awarded top marks. So, if you find yourself on the island head down the lane by the old coastguard's house for a superlative cream tea that is enjoyed in tranquil surroundings.
Fully fortified at Warren Farm, we headed for Alum Bay where tackiness prevails on quite a large scale at the Pleasure Park. However, hidden in the complex behind the bus stop is a bar-restaurant that has recently traded as The Pantry. This was once the Royal Needles Hotel. It is not the original as that edifice burned down in 1910 and a replacement was erected shortly afterwards. In the late 1830s the earlier hotel was run by James Groves. It was from the hotel that, in December 1897, Guglielmo Marconi made the first successful radio transmissions. Continuing with his pioneering work, he erected a 168ft mast in the grounds of the hotel. The proprietor attempted to cash in by putting up the Italian inventor's room rate but this forced Marconi to move to another site within the bay.
Once in a blue moon cyclists get to laugh in the faces of motorists and at Alum Bay the joy is priceless. Drivers are forced to pay £4 for a parking space at the pleasure park and then the vehicle's occupants are faced with a long walk up the hill to the Old Battery overlooking The Needles. I reckon there are countless numbers who have given up before getting halfway, finding some excuse why they didn't want to see the rocks anyway. Or they get so far they simply have to press on but then realise it is the same distance back to the comfort of the car. Cyclists however get to ride all the way to the end of the road for free! The gradient is nice and easy until you get to some devilish switchbacks that make you think you're on Alpe d'Huez. But once you are up the views are fantastic.
The excellent quality of the road surface to the Old and New Battery is down to the fact that the site was used to test rockets in the cold war years. Over 240 boffins used to work in the concrete buildings that have mostly been claimed by the elements. The first lighthouse was erected on top of the Downs in 1785. This was hardly effective in poor visibility and work on a replacement built directly on the rocks was started in 1859. According to legend, The Needles took its name from a slender rock, locally dubbed "Lot's Wife." that once formed part of the formation but collapsed into the sea in 1764. However, a Dutch painting of the period has cast doubt on the actual shape of the rock - either that or Lot's significant other was rather plump. Three men, doing shifts of two months on and one month off, used to staff the lighthouse but it has been automated since 1994. We had read up on Lord Palmerston's Follies before our trip so didn't visit the Old Battery but this is probably worth a visit if you find yourself at this extremity.
The ride back down to Alum Bay is lovely and from the road you can appreciate the different colours of the cliffs for which the place became famous and developed into a tourist attraction. You are not allowed these days, but in the bay's halcyon days people used to pay for a bottle and then fill it up with layers of different coloured sand - you've probably seen the sort of thing I am on about when you visit your grandmother's wondering what that thing is on the mantlepiece. There is a geological explanation for the colouring on a number of websites so click away if you are curious. The bay's earlier name of "Whytfylde Chine," suggests that Alum was produced here in earlier times. The compound was a principal constituent in paper making, cloth dyeing and leather tanning. Alum Bay once had a pier but a storm caused considerable damage in 1927 and the iron landing stage suffered a long agonising death. The remains were still visible in the 1960s.
We pedalled off in the direction of another ailing pier at Totland Bay. There is a sharp drop downhill to the pier and, as ever, one thinks about climbing back up again! It was heading towards tea time when we rolled towards the pier and we had the whole bay to ourselves. There is a sorry-looking chippy at the beach end of the pier and the proprietor's eyes lit up when we rolled down the hill. He had probably been waiting for a customer for several hours. Whilst keeping his merchandise warm, he'd no doubt solved the cryptic crossword. Mind you, by the look of things he'd had time to figure out the answer to life and everything. When he realised that we weren't ordering he stuck his head in the deep-fat fryer and begged us to turn up the gas.
The old lifeboat station still stands down the other end of Totland Bay. If you think that there is a level of iniquity with the government not funding the air ambulance, then this building serves as a reminder that it was ever thus. The money required to open a lifeboat station at Totland Bay was raised by the local Sunday school children in 1870. We rode along the seawall to take a look and this became a theme for the rest of the week - it was blissful gently rolling along seafronts with the sound of waves lapping on the beach or crashing up against the sea wall. We headed in the direction of Yarmouth but, being gluttons for going up-and-down hills, we went to take a look at another forlorn-looking pier at Fort Victoria, the location of a mid-19th century fortification forming one of many to defend the Solent and coastline. Built on the site of an earlier fortress, the military complex remained in use until 1962. Today part of the fort forms a Country Park that houses an underwater archaeology centre, a planetarium and a model railway.
It was late by the time we got to Yarmouth. We'd had a fantastic day and this means falling behind schedule so we decided to come back later in the week. The town looked interesting and we felt we couldn't do the place justice in half an hour. However, there was just enough time to sneak into the Bugle Inn, a 16th century building that was re-fronted in the 18th century. It is thought that it is not the original Bugle on this site, though it is not known exactly how many preceded this structure. If, as it is claimed, a hostelry dates back to medieval times, it is likely that the French destroyed the place, along with the rest of Yarmouth.
There are a couple of taverns with the Bugle name on the Isle of Wight. It is suggested that the reason for the popularity of the name is because a wild bull is a supporter of the arms of Henry Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Warwick. He was crowned King of the Isle of Wight in 1444 by his childhood friend King Henry VI. It is said that the King wished his lifelong friend to be on a more equal standing. The term bugle is derived from the Latin "buculus," for bullock. A link that seems a little tenuous but what the heck! Isaac Butler was the licensee of the Bugle Inn during the mid-1840s when it is claimed that it was a coaching inn. However, the only conveyance noted in trade directories for this period is that of John Legge's "Spring Van," for passengers and goods, which started out from his house. Some mail was delivered inland but most letters at this time arrived by steam packet. George Cleary was the hotelier in charge for much of the early 20th century.
The Bugle is certainly well appointed. We felt a bit scruffy as the interior retains some sort of dignified ambience. There were few customers and a very young barman who looked like he was possibly approaching puberty. Sharp's Doom Bar and Goddard's Fuggle-Dee-Dum were among the six beers on offer. I am not sure why it is the Fuggle-Dee-Dum which is the most prevalent of Goddard's ales. At 4.8% it is not a session ale so perhaps the Scrumdiggity should be the most widely available. And yet it was almost impossible to find the latter on sale during the week we visited. The Fuggle-Dee-Dum was pleasant enough but I do not find it refreshing. It's more like a beer with which you round off the evening. Or perhaps it was just the batch that I sampled which seemed to have these qualities.
From the Bugle Inn we pedalled off in the direction of the Sun Inn at Calbourne. We followed a pleasant route through Thorley, Wellow and Newbridge. This pub was rebuilt for W. B. Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd. following a fire in April 1894 that destroyed the old thatched tavern that stood on the junction. It was thought that the fire was the result of the upsetting of a lamp. At the time the pub was kept by a Mr. F. G. Piper but when the new pub was erected the licence was granted to Thomas Beard.
The Sun Inn overlooks Westover Cricket Ground. I don't wish to sound harsh but this place needs a little investment in both time and money. I noticed that although the pub has a space allocated for pentanque it looked like it hadn't been weeded for ages. The interior has some of the worst of 1970s rural pub trends and furnishing. The novelty of a model train operating on a track above the servery was however an amusing distraction.
The Sun Inn has not got a great track record in terms of fires. In this building during March 1953 a customer was injured when an explosion occurred in the fireplace of the bar. Mr. W. Tanswell was taken to hospital where his injuries were treated. He was sitting close to the fire whilst enjoying a beer with his friend when an explosion, thought to have been caused by a detonator in the coal, caused damage to his thigh. The landlord, Mr. A. J. Harvey, had apparently had the coal in store for about two years. A window of the pub was smashed as if by a bullet. Mr. Tanswell and his companion were the only persons in the bar at the time which was, perhaps, fortunate as the Sun Inn was crowded during the evening when a darts match was played.
Three real ales were on sale, one of which is was Greene King IPA - so two really because this beer is not deserving of its name. We seemed to see it in loads of pubs on the island. However, it simply cannot be called an Indian Pale Ale as the title suggests so we simply refuse to drink it. We braved a half pint of Courage Mild which tasted odd. The other beer was Exmoor Gold which was OK but a bit tired. I suspect it had been on sale for a while. Being as it was Sunday we ordered some traditional Sunday dinners. This was combined with a pudding for £11 per head. Having pedalled all day we were hungry so we didn't mind too much that it was a bit like a school dinner. It really was. If I said that the Exmoor Gold was tired then our vegetables were completely knackered. On the plus side the banana sponge pudding and custard was very nice. I was all ready for classes and lessons again. The couple running the pub were very friendly so I feel a bit guilty for typing up some criticisms but I have to be honest with my reporting. An elderly couple made a fuss of Libby and then on the way out, said to the landlady "same again tomorrow night" as if they came here every night of their holiday and ate the same meal on each visit. They were probably named Howard and Hilda and had an Austin 1100 in the car park.
Spending less time at the Sun Inn that we had planned, we had time to address the previous night's oversight of not nipping into the White Lion at Arreton. Billed as a 200 year-old staging inn, the exterior of the pub is superb. It raised our hopes that we'd find plenty of history within the building but the place simply had the ambience of a chain pub with lots of generic memorabilia that you can find almost anywhere. Not that the interior was without soul as a quiz night was in full swing and the White Lion was packed. I suspect that the quizmaster was also the licensee and, if this was the case, he certainly knew how to work a crowd. He had banter to spare but remained professional throughout. In aid of the of the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, the quiz had, as is always the case, a table with extrovert numpties who think it is amusing to shout out witty answers to the questions, the sort of people who like to make a meal of going through the supermarket checkouts whilst wishing they were starring in some sort of docusoap entitled "The Only Way is Vectis."
Beer choice in the White Lion was also predictable. Greene King IPA and Sharp's Doom Bar were both present. I have already mentioned that the former, the weakest and most insipid of all India Pale Ales, can be found in many of the island's pubs but now is the time to point out that almost EVERY pub on the Isle of Wight has Doom Bar on offer. I can remember drinking Doom Bar in Cornwall during the 1990s and it was a beer to savour. Those were the days when it was produced in a small brewery and was not that easy to find beyond the county border. Now that it is owned by Molson Coors, some marketing bods have seemingly decided that this should be brewed in vast quantities and sold throughout the land. Indeed, not all Doom Bar is produced in Cornwall so a key ingredient is missing from the recipe! Like many once-mighty beers that have been marketed in this fashion, the very essence of what made it a great product in the first place has been lost somewhere along the line. The beer that was named after a sand bank at the mouth of the Camel estuary close to the brewery, and famed for being treacherous to ships, should perhaps carry a label warning of corporate treachery.
Talking of "if it ain't broke don't fix it," the White Lion's third beer has also suffered from a drop in tastbud zing of late. It is still possible to find excellent pints of Timothy Taylor Landlord Bitter but it is now so widely distributed to pubs that do not know how to store and sell it. Experts seem to agree that beer is best stored at 12 degrees Celsius [54 degrees Fahrenheit] but too many outlets seem to think it would be great to stillage their real ale in the same cellar in which they keep the fizzy lager. They then set the cooler to run at a ridiculously cold level. Result? A beer with little or no flavour and often a chill haze toboot. Funnily enough, this seems to be what my Landlord was like in the White Lion. On the plus side, the menu of the pub looks reasonable and they have promotions such as "all you can eat" curries for £8.75p on Wednesdays, whilst Friday night is Italian night.
Another positive is that a page within the menu does mention some history of the White Lion. The tenants claim that a small window in the corner of the bar area used to be a dole window through which the landlord used to pay the poor. The window starts at a high level so that the landlord could not see who he was paying. The sheriff would stand outside the window to make sure that the poor only got what was entitled to them and not a second helping. Delving into some records for the White Lion, I found that it was run by James Davidge for many years during the mid-19th century. He concentrated on his role as an innkeeper and took in a number of lodgers before extending into the grocery trade. In the 1880s Frank Woodford combined running the pub alongside his farming enterprise.
Monday September 17th 2012
We started Monday with a reconnaissance mission. From our cottage in Godshill we headed up the hill to Rookley to check out the menu at the Chequers Inn. Surprisingly, the pub was open at 09.30am and the servery had a massive breakfast spread. Apparently, this is available every day. There were only two punters in the pub so I wondered how they were going to shift the mountain of bangers and mushrooms.
Thought to date from the late 18th century, the building previously traded as the Star Inn. It is marked as such on a map dating from 1866. The Morris family kept the Star Inn in the early 19th century. Frederick Morris died on the premises in 1841. The name of the tavern had changed by 1885 as the house was named as the Chequers in a couple of inquests held within the pub. One case was the apparent suicide by Laura Attrill who had got into financial difficulties. It was concluded that she had taken a fatal dose of Strychnine.
In the late 19th century the Newport-based W. B. Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd. took over the Chequers Inn. In October 1887 they were offering the house with immediate possession. James Reynolds was an early tenant for the Royal Brewery at Newport. Indeed, the Reynolds family remained in charge of the Chequers Inn for many years. In the early 1890s James's eldest daughter, Mary, became the licensee and, along with her sister Bella, remained at the helm for nearly 60 years. Mary was a prominent member of the Girls' Friendly Society, a philanthropic body established by members of the Anglican church in 1875.
For a brief spell the pub fell under the umbrella of Strong's Brewery who had took control of W. B. Mew, Langton & Co. Ltd. However, they were hoovered up by Whitbread in the 1960s. It was Whitbread who made the decision to close the Chequers Inn during the 1980s. However, in 1988 the pub was saved by Sue and Richard Holmes, a local farming couple who, together with their son Mark, have been running the Chequers Inn ever since. We came back for a meal and a few beers at the end of our long day of cycling.
With the reconnaissance mission completed, we undertook the rather lumpy ride to Chale Green. We nipped into the village shop and were amazed to find that it was quite an emporium. Fresh bread and cakes, a deli counter, the post office and, well just about everything that a small supermarket would retail. There was even a good bottled beer section with Isle of Wight breweries well represented. The place was spick and span and the service excellent - oh why can't every village shop be like this?
Whilst Chale Green can justifiably be proud of their shop, sadly they have no tavern to which they can wander along for a pint and a natter. The New Inn is a distant memory and the Star Inn closed in the 1980s. Located on the corner of Town Lane and Chale Lane, the Star Inn was the tap house of Sprake's Brewery which operated behind the pub. The buildings have since been converted into flats.
Born locally in the 1790s, Robert Sprake established the brewery in 1833. Ten years later he was succeeded by his son Robert who was both brewer and beershop operator at what was known as Corner Cottage. In the mid-19th century he was joined by his sons Charles and Robert. Local folklore has it that the beers produced by the Sprake family were rather good and very popular. However, the family business was somewhat parochial and they only supplied a modest tied estate of public houses around the Isle of Wight. It was these properties that attracted the attention of Brickwood & Co. Ltd. of Portsmouth. In the autumn of 1928 they acquired Sprake's brewery, ending four generations of family ownership. The acquisition of the six Sprake pubs increased the number of Brickwood houses on the Island to 13.
Despite the fact that the brewery buildings had been expanded and plant renewed, it was found that the premises still preserved numerous relics of the old smuggling days, including a rusty candle lantern, which was used for signalling from the cliff to the smugglers at sea, and a cleverly constructed small pump, which was worked through a hole in the hearth stove to secure liquor from a cask hidden below whilst the family were seated in the chimney corner. The first brewers licence issued for the house had still been preserved. It showed that the Excise duty on beer at the time was 6d. per 36 gallon cask.
At the time of the takeover in 1928, Brickwood's announced that they intended to maintain the old brewery buildings as a malthouse for barley grown on the island. Brickwood & Co. Ltd. was another regional brewer to be mopped up by Whitbread in 1971.
From Chale Green we undertook another gentle rollercoaster ride to Shorwell, a very attractive village with another 'lost' pub. Located opposite the Post Office, the Five Bells closed some years ago. In the 1850s this was run by Frances Coombes. Naturally, the pub's name celebrated the fact that the tower of St. Peter's church features five bells, three of which date from the 17th century. The church consists of a nave with north and south aisles which is supposedly because there are three manors in the parish, all have which have fine houses. Talking of which, Shorwell has retained a fine pub.
Parking up the bicycles we were rather taken by the trout stream and ducks pottering around the large garden of the Crown Inn. The pub's website claims that the building "is believed to date back to the early 1700s" but it is more likely an 18th century building that has been extended in more recent times. Nonetheless, it is an attractive pub and very inviting. Isaac White was mine host for many years during the Victorian period. He and his wife Ellen incorporated a grocery shop within the building.
George Brading lodged at the Crown Inn whilst producing beer. He later settled in the village and worked as a maltster. However, it is a post-war publican for which the Crown Inn became quite a famous hostelry. Between 1947 and 1969 the pub was kept by Vivian "Nutty" Edwards who, it is argued, turned the Crown Inn into one of the first pubs that could boast an Island-wide trade. People would come to Shorwell to enjoy the bon viveur of this charismatic character. Nutty Edwards must have been dreamed of a life in show business but, with the Crown Inn as his stage, he would hold court with his customers, combining music hall entertainment infused with anecdotes of his army life and, in particular, tales of the Great Wall of China. Nutty Edwards also gained some notoriety as a window cleaner, a role in which he was accompanied by his dog Skipper. In later years he became a Chelsea Pensioner and no doubt got to entertain those in higher circles.
Our boxer dog Libby clearly liked the Crown Inn. She enjoyed cooling off lying on the flagstone floor of the bar. The Crown Inn is seemingly a pub that, once they arrive, licensees do not want to quit. The licence has only been transferred four times since Nutty Edwards handed over in 1969. Mike and Sally Grace kept the pub for 24 years before Nigel and Pamela Wynn arrived in 2007. Under their stewardship the pub appears to ticking over nicely. The Crown's interior is a pleasant environment despite a refurbishment to cater for modern wining and dining. We settled down with some Goddard's Fuggle-Dee-Dum which wasn't too bad, a lot better than the examples served in the Dairyman's Daughter two days earlier.
There was a distinct smell of sick around the kitchen area which could have been down to the fact that the pub's sound system was playing "The Wind Beneath My Wings," the teeth-gnawing version by Bette Midler that gets my hackles up - but not quite as much as a pub ignoramus. A couple entered the pub with a Labrador that promptly pissed the floor. The first rule of taking your dog to the pub is to ensure the tanks are empty before stepping over the threshold. The idiot on the other end of the dog lead didn't even volunteer to clean up the mess - little wonder that some pub owners are not keen to allow dogs inside their pub which, more often than not, is also their home. The poor barmaid had to come over and clean up the mess. She'd only just been despatched to deal with the smell of sick. At least the pub has a flagstone floor. Anyway, aside from such matters, I was quite impressed with the Crown Inn and wished that we'd made a second visit during our holiday. The menu, by the way, looked pretty good.
Our route from the Crown Inn at Shorwell meandered a little in order that we could look at the mill at Wolverton Manor and Yafford. This lanes here are wonderfully quiet and the cycling nice and easy. Dragonflies were darting around as the sun burst through the trees with the sound of a babbling brook interrupted by the tapping of a woodpecker. Can cycling get any better than this? It looked as though the mill had benefited from some restoration work which I believe was undertaken by Dick and Gilly Steele. The mill is private nowadays but around twenty years ago it was open to the public when the Clarke family owned the building and installed Kathleen Pettit as a live-in caretaker. A tiny tea garden was supplemented with a small shop selling products made on the site. The mill itself dates from the mid-18th century, though it probably replaced an earlier structure. Some brickwork and foundation stones are thought to date from the 15th century. Serving the local farming community, the business operated as a grist mill, producing ground food for livestock until the mid-20th century.
We cycled through Limerstone and headed west for Brighstone. We passed the Countryman, a large property located in an isolated spot half-a-mile from the village. The place looked closed and plants had started to grow above the windows. In terms of Back of the Wight, Brighstone is quite a metropolis and yet it was still a peaceful haven with butterflies dancing around the manicured gardens of thatched cottages whilst one could hear the sound of chinking bone china emanating from the tea rooms. You wouldn't think that we were in the heart of what was once smuggling territory.
We headed for St. Mary's Church, a fascinating building with at least 800 years worth of history. It is quite extraordinary that three of its former rectors were consecrated bishops and this fact is celebrated by the name of the pub. However, the Three Bishops was formerly known as the New Inn and the name change of 1973 is relatively recent. We pondered about having a pint in here but decided to press on towards the Sun Inn at Hulverstone before more boozing. However, due to local intelligence we came back to this pub. Later in the day we were told by one of the locals that the publican of the Three Bishops is something of a local legend. Apparently, he is a dead-ringer for the Gestapo officer out of "Allo 'Allo!" and has been dubbed Herr Flick by the locals. The German officer, sorry Brighstone publican, stands for no nonsense in his pub and bars people for swearing. Well, we just had to witness this for ourselves so we came back to Brighstone later in the week [more details to follow].
On the opposite corner of Warnes Lane stands the former Five Bells Inn, a building that now serves as a hairdresser's and the village shop. At one time the Hall family operated both pubs in the village. In the 1890s the licensee of the Five Bells Inn was Frank Buckett who was also a volunteer on the lifeboat named Joe Jarman. The local station of the Royal National Life Boat Institution was at Brighstone Grange, as that section of the coast was notoriously dangerous in the 19th century. It was in 1860 that the first boat was placed at Brighstone Grange. In November 1892 the Joe Jarman, the fourth boat stationed here, replaced the Worcester Cadet which was moved to Yorkshire. In just 30 years more than 300 lives had been saved by the boats stationed at Brighstone Grange.
There is a museum in Brighstone but the opening times are very limited and we were out of luck so we headed west towards Mottistone. If you feel like stripping down to your Mankini and dancing around waving a flagon of cider above your head then you should walk up to the hill above Mottistone where the island's only Megalithic monument can be found. Feral celebrations are often the order of the day around such ancient monuments - with advancing years, I often have to put up with being encircled by outlandish eccentrics sporting twigs in their hair who hinder my approach to the bar by wildly gyrating around me waving joss sticks. But I digress. However, if you do ever wander up to The Longstone, you can also have a mooch around the site of an iron age fort.
There was a road warning sign at Mottistone warning motorists of red squirrels. I must admit, being a sucker for squirrels, this is one of the things I really wanted to see on the island. No luck here for us, though we did find the village quite enchanting. The medieval church is quite remarkable for it is relatively small but inside there is much light and space. Most architectural boffins are critical of Victorian re-modelling of churches but, in this case at least, the Gothic tracery has bestowed the interior with an unexpected but uplifting atmosphere. It is said that the chancel roof timbers came from the wreckage of a Bermudan barque called Cedrene, which was smashed on the shores of the Back of the Wight only days after it was first launched.
Onwards and upwards to the Sun Inn at Hulverstone which sort of brought us back to where we were yesterday for the pub lies in the parish of Brook. Records of the Sun Inn stretch back to 1816 though its history could be earlier. The building is in quite an isolated position but it is recorded that Lord Mottistone approved of the pub being in Hulverstone as: "it meant the men would be sobered up by the time they got home, having walked in the fresh air back to Brook or Mottistone." Charles Wolfe, the pub's licensee in the mid-1850s, was also a leather collar and harness maker. Indeed, anyone running the Sun Inn during the 19th century would have had another occupation. Few visitors came to Hulverstone in those days and the Sun Inn's trade was almost dependent on locals nipping in for a glass of beer. Later in the century, the Mussell family also operated a small grocery shop from the premises.
There are stories of the pub's popularity in the post-war years and, particularly in the 1960s when Allan Elliman kept the Sun Inn. Locals still talk fondly of this jovial publican who was also a member of the cliff rescue team. Today, the Sun Inn has a large restaurant extension but has sensibly retained a bar by the old entrance. With flagstone floors and wooden benches, this is a very nice drinking room. It would be even better if it were still the original two rooms with a passageway between but the warming fire, flagstone floor and simple furnishings make it a pleasant place to drink. Today, of course, there is a servery but in days of old the publican would have to do cellar runs for his customers and bring it to the table on a tray.
On our visit the pub was selling Wychwood Hobgoblin, Charles Wells Bombardier and Greene King Abbot Ale but, with our palate fine-tuned for anything locally brewed, we dived into some Goddard's Ale of Wight. The brewery produce personalised pump clips for the Sun Inn which is a nice touch. We'd been cycling for a while in the warm sun so the refreshing pale beer was very welcome. So refreshing in fact that we stayed for another! The official tasting notes by the brewery states that: "Drinking lager is no excuse for bad taste when this stunner is on tap!"
We spent much of our time in the pub talking to a nice old bloke who shared some memories of the local pubs. He had lived over this part of the island for 31 years so was still regarded as a foreigner despite living all of his life on the Isle of Wight - and he was now 80! A regular drinker all of his life, he could recall many of the publicans and how the pubs used to look inside before they changed to cater for mass tourism. It came as no surprise to hear him mourning the loss of an old tap room or the conversion of a smoke room into a dining area. For example, he told us how the interior of the Wight Mouse Inn had been ruined and, after cycling along the coast, we saw exactly what he was talking about.
From Hulverstone we cycled down the hill through Brook and picked up the Military Road. This was relatively traffic-free during our autumnal visit but apparently is chock-a-block during the high season. A good alternative to avoid the traffic is to head inland at Grange Chine, cycle past Brighstone Mill and along Thorncross before meandering through Yafford and Atherfield. Just as you start to climb a steep hill you turn right at Pyle Hall Farm and down into Chale for the Wight Mouse Inn. Apparently this was a highly regarded pub in years gone by. We were told that the building used to have quite an individual character and was full of nooks and crannies. The building was formerly known as The Clarendon Hotel and used timbers from the wreckage of the ship of this name, a vessel that sank in 1836 at Blackgang. The Clarendon sank within ten minutes of striking land with a terrible loss of life. Eighteen of the victims are buried in the neighbouring churchyard. The disaster led to the construction of the lighthouse at St. Catherine's Point.
I was intrigued to see what the Wight Mouse Inn was like inside. However, the remarks by the old chap we met in the Sun Inn had dampened my enthusiasm. This was compounded by the sight of what is essentially a family restaurant that is so awful it could be any large pub restaurant in any town, such is the homogeneity of the refurbishment. The guilty party is Hall and Woodhouse of Blandford in Dorset. There is an excellent resource for dining out on the island at http://mattandcat.co.uk/ and on the page for this establishment there is a comment: "This is a perfect example of what happens when a national company takes over from a family run business. Give it up Hall & Woodhouse, come back John Bradshaw, all is forgiven!" Well, at least I could make up for this by getting to try out some Badger beer. Unfortunately, this was also lacklustre, bland even. Having lived in Dorset many years ago, I know that this beer can be good but the Wight Mouse Inn was selling beer of a very poor standard.
Almost all of the calories we had piled on by drinking beer were burnt off during the climb up to the viewpoint above Blackgang Chine! The view of the island's south coast is spectacular from this promontory. A canny ice cream vendor, realising that many walkers and cyclists would be in need of an energy hit after the ascent, had expanded into complimentary product lines by setting up car boot-like trestle tables offering a veritable array of snacks. It is a short walk up to St. Catherine's Oratory but the effort is worth it because the views are quite wonderful. On a clear day it is possible to see much of the island. Apart from some areas where cereals are grown, much of the agriculture is conducted on hilly ground so plenty of the hedgerows are still in place, thus providing one the best 'patchwork quilts' in Great Britain.
Dubbed the 'Pepperpot,' the tower of St. Catherine's Oratory looks a little like a medieval space rocket. Built around 1328, it was allegedly erected by a local landowner called Walter de Godeton. He got into a bit of a pickle when he bought the smuggled booty from the local fishermen who had fleeced a stricken ship off the coast. It turned out that the vessel was transporting casks of wine that originated from a French monastery. Consequently, the Church authorities were not best pleased with de Godeton and, as part of his penance, he was ordered to construct a lighthouse high on the land above the scene of the shipwreck. In addition, he was forced to pay for the upkeep of a priest who, in addition to maintaining a light in the tower, prayed for any souls lost at sea in the adjoining chapel. Only the tower of the building survives but it is possible to trace the remains of the chapel. One can only imagine what a lonely life the priest must have led. Standing on the hill I tried to imagine what it would be like on a freezing cold January night. St. Catherine's must have been regarded as a ghastly posting. The origins of the term 'sin bin' must surely stem from this barren windswept place!
As a lighthouse, the Oratory at St. Catherine's was always something of a folly because when it was misty the light could not be seen from the sea. Moreover, it was located too far from the dangerous rocks and underwater ledge so, by the time navigators noticed the light, ships were already in grave danger. Accordingly, following the disaster that befell the aforementioned Clarendon, a lighthouse was erected down on St. Catherine's Point. The lighthouse was operational by 1840, though it was built a little too high. With the light often shrouded in mist, the height of the tower was later reduced. The lighthouse was one of the first to be powered by electricity in the late 1880s. This provided light for a distance of some 18 miles.
It was a long way down quite a steep gradient to visit the lighthouse and the climb back up with the dog in the trailer was a bit of a leg cruncher. Still, a good thirst was worked up so, with a tongue hanging out like a bacon rasher - that was me, not the dog, we staggered into the Buddle Inn for refreshment. Folklore has it that the Buddle Inn dates back to the 16th century and is laced with more than a fair share of the island's smuggling history. Bearing an unusual inn sign, the pub is probably mid-late 18th century but perhaps it replaced an earlier tavern. The Buddle Inn has featured on postcards since Victorian times so it is a building with which I was quite familiar and was looking forward to finally having a beer within its walls.
Parking up the bikes, I was disappointed to see that the area in front of the pub was mostly made up of slabs. Old photographs of the pub show a neat walled garden with a model of St. Catherine's Lighthouse. The interior of the Buddle Inn however remains fairly good. The separate rooms may have gone but the massive fireplace helps to segment the room. Brasses, guns, pewters and horseshoes adorn the walls and low timbers. The servery is tucked away at the back and features a line of six handpulls, none of which are simply for show. Beer choice included Charles Wells Bombardier, the omnipresent Sharp's Doom Bar, Caledonian Flying Scotsman and a hand-written pump clip for Exmoor Silver Stallion. I once knew a pub landlord who refused to buy casks of beer from a company if they did not supply pump clips and I can see the reason why - I generally ignore them so I assume many a punter does the same. We delved into two of the ales on offer. Brewed just across the Solent in Hampshire and named after a fishing fly used for luring trout, the Andwell Gold Muddler proved to be a light refreshing beer and was just the ticket after tackling a hill fit for the Vuelta a España. The local beer was our first sighting of Yates' Holy Joe. We didn't see this again throughout the week and rather lamented the fact that we wouldn't get another chance to taste this spicy golden ale as it was rather agreeable.
From the Buddle Inn, it is still a reasonable climb up to Niton but we didn't get to stop and take a look around the village and enjoy a beer in the White Lion due to the light fading. This was another pub to go on the list of places we needed to return to later in the week. I took the above photograph on the way through the village to the lighthouse but by the time we returned to Niton village it was dusk. Our bikes are fairly well equipped with lights but the Isle of Wight's narrow country lanes really are dark and, although the lack of light pollution results in wonderful star-gazing opportunities, it is a bit scary to pedal at night.
Laden with beer bellies at Niton, we made it back to The Chequers at Rookley in little over 20 minutes - not too bad pulling a dog trailer. Who needs energy bars and gels when you have Yates' "Holy Joe" on tap? The Chequers is in a relatively isolated spot but seems to enjoy decent trade. So, how does a sprawling pub survive in the middle of nowhere? Well, it goes down the route of many of the island's pubs. Turn it into something of a restaurant, upgrade the menu a bit and bung in activities for children to make it a family-friendly venue which will appeal to tourists whilst offering something for the locals too. If they stuck to the blueprint of a truly traditional pub they would be out of business in no time. It is all about covers these days. Personally, I thought the bar area of The Chequers was inadequate so was surprised to hear that a darts match was to take place later in the evening. This seemed a little at odds with the vibe of the interior. There was only one drinker propping up the bar. Anyway, enough of this nit-picking when indeed we too were here to fill our faces with pub grub.
So that we didn't get in the way of the arrows match, we were directed to another area of the building even though this was technically out of bounds to our dog. Not that this is an issue - as you can see, our boxer was exhausted by the end of the day. She is pretty much in this position when we call into a pub for a pint. Absolutely no trouble to anybody else. And now is as good a time as any to highlight the dog-friendliness of the pubs on the Isle of Wight. Not one single pub that we visited had a problem with a dog entering the building. Indeed, in many cases, they made quite a fuss of her and gave her biscuits. I guess it is down to the fact that each publican recognises that they cannot afford to turn away any custom in a retail environment largely dependent on the tourist trade. Of course, we found the canine-welcoming approach most refreshing and something that the publicans on the north island could learn from. We hardly spent a penny on tourist attractions as we spent much of our days in the open, enjoying the scenery, looking at architecture or delving into some local culture and folklore. All of this was free. However, we can quite easily get through £100 per day on cafés and pubs, especially when the average cost of a pint was £3.70p. Chuck in a nice lunch and a hearty dinner and the local economy is getting a decent boost from us. But the story is similar when we go out for the day on the mainland. And yet many a foolish publican has turned us away.
Some of the pubs on the Isle of Wight aim for an attention-grabbing niche and The Chequers takes the locally-sourced meat slogan onto another level. In addition to Godshill lamb, the pub offers Angus beef from a herd managed by the pub's owners. So, carnivores with a little savoir-faire can glance across the road and view the source of their meal. Us leaf-munching herbivores however enjoyed an excellent Veggie Lasagne which was a notch above some pub fodder and very enjoyable. The pub's Ringwood Best Bitter and Forty-Niner was much better than those served at the Dairymen's Daughter in Arreton. We also sampled the Fuggle-Dee-Dum which wasn't bad but I was beginning to tire of this ubiquitous ale. Either it is overrated or it was not being served as it should. The jury is out.
Tuesday September 18th 2012
On Day 4 of our holiday we rode into Shanklin but not before calling into the post office at Godshill. It was here that we discovered a little slice of nirvana. Balls of it if you like. Browsing around the shop's modest display of provisions, I was attracted to some bags marked date balls. Never heard of 'em I thought but, at £1 for a bag of five, I was curious to learn more. Sometimes I often wonder about the explorers of the middle ages and the things they found on their voyages. Imagine in the 16th century a fresh-around-the-collar English sailor happening on a banana tree for the first time and finding that the fruit tastes wonderful. At Godshill we shared a mini-eureka moment ourselves when we first sampled the date balls. Moulded into the shape of a malteser, coated in coconut and with a light dusting of sugar - yum yum. Inevitably, you are faced with the question of who gets the odd ball out? Fancy only putting five in a bag - like it is a test of domestic harmony. For the rest of the week we kept going back to the post office for resupplies. We must have looked like a right pair of desperados. It was if we were prisoners-of-war being presented with our Red Cross parcels. In the end, the shop ran out of stock and we were suddenly like heroine addicts facing a stretch of cold turkey. In cycling terms we were going to have to ride paniagua.
Heading out of Godshill, at the eastern end of the village, we stopped to look at the Griffin Inn, an old stone building that was undergoing what appeared to be a complete refurbishment. I believe the stone building was to become a sister pub to the Horse and Groom at Ningwood. It is thought that there was an older tavern here but the present structure dates from the early-mid 19th century and is thought to have been built by the Earl of Yarborough who, through marriage, had inherited a mansion and estate on the Isle of Wight. Brixton-born Frank Creeth was the innkeeper of the Griffin Hotel for many years during the late Victorian era and into the Edwardian period. He became the oldest licensee on the island. For all its architectural features such as the mullioned windows, the decorative bargeboards, the ornate Griffin above the neo-Tudor entrance doorway, it is a garden feature that makes the Griffin Inn unusual. The difficulty of solving the hedge maze may not be too demanding but this is quite a unique pub feature. The pub can also boast another unusual attribute, and one that few others can match, it is in miniature within the famous model village at Godshill. The Griffin Hotel was once patronised by Princess Beatrice, the youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Mind you, she was not on the lash, simply taking tea with her daughter Queen Ena of Spain. This no doubt enhanced the reputation of the Griffin Hotel as an exclusive and genteel establishment.
Shanklin was fairly busy by the time we rolled into town. However, the popularity of gaudy trinkets over geology resulted in shops looking busy whilst there was hardly a soul venturing into Shanklin Chine. A lot of people might have a whinge about paying £3.90p to walk down one of the island's many chines. However, this is no ordinary chine and it is worth the entrance fee simply for the atmospherics. With only a few other tourists traipsing through the chine at the same time, it was possible to enjoy moments of pure tranquillity. An odd attraction is a segment of the Pluto pipeline, a key fuel supply line to troops following the Normandy invasion of 1944. You can get a great view of the Chine Inn from the Pluto pipeline.
A sign covering the old stone panel bearing the pub's name claims a date of 1621 for the Chine Inn. There is plenty of folklore regarding this old tavern and the notorious smuggling for which this coastline was famous. Some of the stories are, of course, embellished but there can be no doubt that the tavern's location provided the perfect topographical setting for such illegal activity. Some claim that this favourite haunt of the smugglers had a tunnel that led up to Shanklin village as the trade in booty was so rife. In response, the excise officers established a post in Shanklin to counter the illicit traffic of goods. Eventually, a Watch House near Shanklin was established in 1820. Tales of smuggling are often laced with intrigue and romance but, in reality, it could be a dangerous and violent business. The pub has a lovely sign that evokes the smuggling days at Shanklin Chine.
Looking back to more concrete facts regarding the Chine Inn, the tavern was once owned by the Shanklin Manor Estate. However, in September 1931, the fully-licensed freehold property was put up for auction. The tenant at this time was Mr. S. J. Clark who, it was reported, had family associations with the Chine Inn dating back some 300 years. The highest bid for the Chine Inn was offered by Messrs. Burt aud Co., brewers, of Ventnor, who paid £6,600 for the historic tavern. Although the name of this brewery was Burt's, the Burt family's ownership of the company had ended in 1906 when Albert Phillips acquired the business. The brewery was established in 1840 by John Burt, a brewer and coal merchant who originated from the Wiltshire town of Welford. He had already hung up his apron by the early 1890's when he and his wife Janet retired to Godshill. Forming a partnership with Henry Blake, Albert Phillips had previously operated as a brewer in Portsmouth. A decision was made to retain the Burt trading name and the business continued to develop gradually throughout the 20th century. The brewery had to be rebuilt following a bombing raid during the Second World War. The spring water obtained from Saint Boniface Down was a key ingredient for the brewery which employed a modest workforce. The company operated 11 tied houses and supplied the free trade, mainly on the island. The company eventually ceased trading in the 1980s.
It was too early to launch into the day's boozing so we headed to the tea rooms within Shanklin Chine as they were selling homemade scones as part of their cream tea offering. Consequently, we thought we would do a bit of comparison shopping and see how they measured up to those cooked at Warren Farm near The Needles. Match Result: Shanklin Chine 2 [now adopt slightly higher intonation] Warren Farm 4. Post-match analysis: The Chine's scones were pretty good, though they didn't feature any currants. The clotted cream was excellent, though we could have done with more strawberry jam. The tea rooms should afford visitors the opportunity to enjoy refreshments in peaceful surroundings. Unfortunately, the entire outdoor seating area was subjected to a mobile phone call made by a rather loud woman clad in goth clothing. Her chops wobbled as she talked about the state of her current weightwatchers plan. In fact, it wasn't going to plan at all as she had the remnants of jam and cream on her double chin.
After we had piled on our calories, we ventured into the conservatory to enjoy the excellent exhibition of prints showing the Isle of Wight during the 18th and 19th centuries. As a romantic landscape painter, it was little wonder that Turner carted his easel to the island. Keats was one of a number of poets who found inspiration at Shanklin Chine. Our canine travelling companion was so moved by the place she opted to create some sculpture work of her own. Good job we carry poop bags. We wheeled our bikes through the small park in Old Shanklin and were rewarded with our first sighting of a red squirrel. Hooray! We had been very keen to see one of these little creatures so were thrilled that he sat in the tree just above head height and put on a little tail-wagging show for us. He probably clocked the dog trailer and thought that it was us that were the nuts.
From Shanklin there are two ways to cycle to Sandown. There is the flat car-free road on the sea wall where you can whizz along trying to dash the waves crashing in. Oh, and wonder why the dog has opted to go for a swim [see above photograph] The alternative is the roller-coaster ride along the tarmac coastal path high up on the cliffs. We decided to do both for good measure. Actually, I am not sure if you are supposed to cycle the latter but nobody shouted at us and we always give way to strollers in a bid to be regarded as courteous cyclists. You need strong legs for the roller-coaster ride but the views from the cliff top are rewarding. Of course, providing the tide is in, the flat road along the sea wall is more fun, though you have to accept that you may get a bit damp! One of the beach huts near Sandown had been converted into a Boot Camp HQ. I had visions of those old Charles Atlas adverts in which the beach wimp went from eating sand to teaching the bully a lesson. A guy who some may describe as buff was standing outside hoping to sign up some conscripts. I should have shouted "No need mate, towing my boxer dog around the island, I am already ON boot camp!"
Dating from 1869 and built in Neo-Classical style, Sandown's Old Town Hall is hidden away in the back streets. Before the Victorians erected such municipal buildings most council business was conducted in the pub. The Castle would have made a great place for the aldermen to argue over litter bins and parking fines for horses tied up in the wrong place. After a couple of beers in this one-room back street pub, The Castle was rapidly elevated to our favourite pub of the trip thus far. Serving the local community, this tavern has successfully avoided the pitfalls of having to convert the premises into a pseudo-restaurant to pander to the tourist trade. And it would appear that the locals have embraced The Castle to the point that the boozer can boast several darts and cribbage teams. Pub games feature highly on the bill and we were pleased to see a bar billiards table in the top corner of the room.
The Castle was selling a mix of classic beers, a local brew and a couple of unusual casks, particularly the Bakehouse Malt Loaf. This could have tasting notes along the lines of 'does what it says on the tin' because, like John Montgomerie's chewy creation, it had a lovely fruity character throughout with a smooth malty finish. Brewed at the Bakehouse Brewery in Leamington Spa, this is quite a complex ale and uses Pale [Tipple], Crystal, Caramalt, Malted Wheat, Northdown, Celeia, and Styrian Goldings hops. Essentially, all you need to know is that it is awesome. Considering our journey along the cliffs we couldn't resist the Triple FFF Elder Skelter and this was also in tip-top shape and a great ride. On a local level, the Yates' Golden Bitter was lovely with plenty of zingy, refreshing taste. By this point, it was clear that the publican knew how to keep his beer. We were doing the card and coming up trumps every time. Whilst we were supping our ales, he was busying himself making sure everything was in order for the evening pub games. He has converted The Castle from a ruin into a palace over the past couple of years. The interior décor will not be to everyone's taste - the ghouls and skeletons however would go down a treat in Belgium, a country that is home to the themed pub interior.
Considering the interior décor of The Castle, the music system should really have been playing "The Monster Mash" or the theme from "The Munsters" rather than Sweet Sensation's "Sad Sweet Dreamer." What is going on here? On the previous day we'd heard Middle of the Road's "Soley Soley," the first time I had endured this tune since the early 1970s. However, an all-time low was reached at The Castle with the sound of Mike Sarne and Wendy Richard singing "Come Outside." Did the punk revolution not drift across the Solent? Is the Isle of Wight not part of the Brit in Brit-pop? I can sort of understand islanders not playing drum and bass in fear of another part of Blackgang Chine collapsing but all we were hearing was the sound of "The Best Double Top Ten Show in the World. Ever!" But this aside, it is worth venturing through the portcullis of this boozer for it is a bastion of fine beer.
It was our doing. We were enjoying our time in The Castle at Sandown so much that we fell seriously behind schedule. But when you are on holiday you should be able to, every now and then at least, say sod the schedule. We wobbled off to Yaverland to look at the enchanting church of St. John the Baptist, a former garrison chapel that was once detached from Brading before the construction of a causeway. Much of the building dates back to the 12th century when the church was erected by the Norman family of de Aula, incumbents of Yaverland Manor. The church is noted for its Norman entrance doorway and chancel arch. During the 13th century a chantry chapel was added by the Russell family who had come into possession of the manor through marriage. Following its elevation to a parish church in the 15th century, further modifications were made to the structure, notably the Perpendicular windows and the insertion of a hagioscope cut through the southern pier. The Victorians were responsible for the restoration which spoiled some of the historic character of the building. However, there remains a captivating ambience inside the structure.
Noting the mass of contours around Bembridge Down, a hill that we would have to cycle over later in the evening, we headed to Brading. It was throwing-out time at the schools so the place seemed to have more traffic that the London orbital and it was impossible to hear each other talk. We sought solace at the railway station where we'd heard that time had stood still for some years. Indeed, the bread pudding in the café had also been stood for a while and had an interesting culture growing on it. The tea was from seemingly from the ration period and tasted revolting. Still, this was compensated by an excellent tour of the signal box by one of the volunteers. He was a man born too late. Listening to him, "getting all steamed up" was not having wild sex in a sauna but rather the sound of levers and pulleys directing old locomotives around Brading's sidings. However, his enthusiasm was infectious and we warmed to his anecdotes of a period consigned to black-and-white picture postcards. Trains do still run through Brading but they are museum pieces from the London Underground. Mind you, they have upgraded since electrification of the line. Instead of 1923 rolling stock, customers can now luxuriate in modern trains dating from 1938! Wow, we had found something older than the Isle of Wight's pub jukebox playlist.
We followed the enjoyable but rather bumpy ride across Brading Marshes Nature Reserve as we were heading to Bembridge. Time was running out and we decided to target just the one pub in order to make it back to Godshill in what was left of the daylight. We were told that the Crab and Lobster Inn was a bugger to find but well worth the effort. So whizzing past the Pilot [the pub that looks like a boat], we headed through the village in search of this boozer billed as a hidden treasure. Whilst it is true that one has to ride down some small streets to arrive at this tavern, it is impossible to miss the place - there are brown tourist signs all along the route.
Although the Crab and Lobster is not too bad a place, we were rather disappointed with the pub. There was a partitioned drinking area by the servery that seemed to be the domain of the locals. The rest of the building was laid out like a cafeteria with salad cream and red sauce on every table. Reviews of the Crab and Lobster on sites such as Trip Advisor suggest that the pub is resting on its laurels whilst standards have slipped. These reviews are based on the seafood but I cannot comment as we did not eat here. Beer choice was poor with the ubiquitous Greene King IPA and the omnipresent Sharp's Doom Bar. They did have Goddard's Fuggle-Dee-Dum but the standard was very ordinary and, rather than enjoying fine bitter, we were left embittered. On the wall there was a nice old photograph of the pub in what looked like the post-war years and I had a yearning to wind back the clock to enjoy a decent pint of local ale in simple boozer overlooking the sea. The current Crab and Lobster represented a unique type of coastal erosion and the deterioration of a certain point of reference that we know as the village inn.
Wednesday September 19th 2012
Today we decided to explore the north-eastern section of the Isle of Wight so made our way over to St. Helen's. Thought to be one of the largest in Britain, the village has an enormous green with a cricket field. The Vine Inn enjoys a commanding position and is probably the pavilion for thirsty players. We planned a route in order to return to this establishment around early doors.
We cycled off towards Nettlestone, passing the 'church on the hill' that dates from 1717 replacing an older structure on The Duver - but more of that later. We called in for a cuppa at the 2 Ticks, part of the Made on the Isle of Wight shop. We went mobile and drank our tea whilst walking a pleasant sculpture trail and wondered how we'd carry a piece of work called "Fallen Bird" not to mention discussing the price tag of £800. Actually, the piece was worth that but we weren't worth it. If you prefer, you can take your tea in a horizontal position on a hammock! The dog was baffled by this and couldn't figure out how to get involved. I think she ended up barking in frustration. The hammock is ideal for taking a break from pedalling! These tea rooms are totally leftfield and completely rock.
At this point we weren't a million miles from Goddard's brewery and it was tempting to stick our noses in for a whiff. Instead we went in search of red squirrels. We took a pleasant route through Upton to Havenstreet where we turned north-west through Firestone Coppice. It was a great ride but there wasn't a squirrel to be seen anywhere. We sought solace at the Fishbourne Inn but we'd have been better off sticking our heads in Wootton Creek - at least it would have tasted better than the beer served in this place. The pub's interior is one of those trendy contemporary jobs, the likes of which you will notice sprouting up everywhere so that we can spend the rest of our days in blissful homogeneity. These days you can even nip along to a Swedish superstore and order your very own pub by numbers. I had to suppress a scream when I noticed that this was yet another outlet for Sharp's Doombar. You've got to hand it to the sales rep - he or she has mopped up on the Isle of Wight. Making a quick value judgement, I decided that the Goddard's Fuggle-de-Dum was probably going to be second rate in this soulless joint so we took the safe bet of Ringwood Best Bitter. With the duty manager fully occupied by his Sudoku and the indifference of the serving wench who looked like she was daydreaming of starring in a docusoap, we couldn't raise the enthusiasm to complain about the awfulness of the beer we'd just been served. We simply took the glasses, two-thirds full of rank snifter, and plonked them back on the counter and walked out. Nobody noticed, nobody cared.
More to follow ...
The tree is here, the crown is visible and there is a horse without a rider. One has to assume that King Charles is hiding in the tree on this sign of the Royal Oak at Fritham.
Commissioned by Fuller's of Chiswick, the signboard of the Pointer Inn at Newchurch shows a Pointer dog in classic working mode in which it is 'pointing' at sitting game. An extremely athletic gun dog, the Pointer is a breed that was recorded in the 17th century. The colour of the dog is often, as seen here, white with liver markings on the coat.
The sign of the Dairyman's Daughter commemorates Elizabeth Wallbridge, wife of Oliver Cromwell's grandson William Wallbridge and a heroine within the Reverend Legh Richmond's influential work first published in 1814 as "The Annals of the Poor." The book was published in several countries and sold over two million copies in the early 19th century. Richmond was curate of St. Wilfred's parish church across to the east of the island in Brading. He was also in charge of the Church of St. John the Baptist at Yaverland. Elizabeth, the "Dairyman's Daughter," is buried nearby in the churchyard of St. George's [see photograph below], an interesting building that dates back to the 12th century. The grave was once a place of pilgrimage - even Queen Victoria paid a visit to Arreton.
The sign of The White Lion is widespread throughout Great Britain but is particularly common around East Anglia because of its heraldic reference to both Edward IV and the Earls of March or the Duke of Norfolk. The lion has been a signboard favourite and is generally illustrated in an upright position. The most common variant is that of the Red Lion. This evolved because of John of Gaunt who, during the fourteenth century, was the most powerful man in the England. At one time many publicans were former employees of an ancient house, either of the church, the state or nobility and often demonstrated their continued association or loyalty by including their heraldic shield along with a colour prefix such as The White Lion.
If this signboard at Brighstone was a hand-painted effort it would no doubt scoop some for of inn sign of the year award. However, the computer generated artwork still has some merit. Formerly called the New Inn, this hostelry was re-named the Three Bishops during 1973. This was to celebrate the fact that three former rectors of the nearby St. Mary's Church were subsequently consecrated bishops. The first of these was Thomas Ken, one of the fathers of modern English hymnody. Born in Hertfordshire in 1637, he wrote the hymns "Awake my soul and with the sun" and "Glory to Thee my God this night." He was interred in a unique crypt at the Church of Saint John the Baptist at Frome. Samuel Wilberforce, dubbed Soapy Sam, was appointed rector of Brighstone in 1830. The son of the anti-slave trade campaigner William Wilberforce, he was later the Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Oxford. The Clapham-born orator is best remembered for his opposition to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Brighstone's third bishop was the Russian-born academic George Moberly. The former headmaster of Winchester College moved to Brighstone in 1866. He was later appointed Bishop of Salisbury.
With many taverns being named the Star Inn, The Sun Inn was also a very popular signboard on the Isle of Wight. This version of the sign is quite traditional in that it simply features the smiling face of the sun with a few rays radiating outward.
I am not sure when this pub started to trade as the Wight Mouse Inn. The building had formerly been called The Clarendon Hotel and used timbers from the wreckage of the ship of this name, a vessel that sank in 1836 at Blackgang. Eighteen of the victims are buried in the neighbouring churchyard. The disaster led to the construction of the lighthouse at St. Catherine's Point.
An unusual name is the Buddle and there is many a theory of how it came about here at Niton's undercliff. A buddle is a shallow trough in which ore is separated from gangue. For full details see "Paint Your Wagon!" On a more cerebral level, some historians make a case for nearby Puckaster Cove [claimed to derive from the Latin "Portus Castrensis"] being a port for the export of tin. Other considered opinion suggests that the name Buddle derived from an old English word 'Bothele,' meaning a dwelling. A lease document dated 1776 records the sale of land and property in 'Bundle Place' and sixty years later the site was referred to as 'Little Buddle or Bundle.' The earliest document recording a Buddle Inn is in a will dated 1859. Putting the two tales side by side, I still like the sound of "No Name City."
This legendary creature is clearly of local significance though it does not feature in the crest of the Earl of Yarborough who is cited as the estate owner when this buildng was erected. This fabulous signboard is the work of the noted inn sign artist Peter J. Oldreive. His roadside illustrations have graced many a tavern in the South of England. This is a curious interpretation of the sign because, although a Griffin features within the small shield, the main illustration is that of a Wyvern. The artist seems to have drawn inspiration from a carved stone Wyvern above the front entrance to this Godshill hostelry - but this begs the question why a Wyvern and not a Griffin when the building was erected? A mystery indeed. The Wyvern features a dragon's head and wings but has a reptilian body supported by two legs. The legendary creature is generally pictured with a tail ending in an arrow-shaped tip. Used widely in heraldry, the Wyvern is often displayed as a fire-breathing creature similar to the dragon.
Not the sort of illustration I expected at Brading for the Bugle Inn. I am hoping it is a reference to a prize bull owned by a previous publican. However, I fear that it observes the fact that bull baiting took place nearby. The 'sport' is commemorated by a wooden carving by the wood sculptor Paul Sivell and stands near the modern Town Hall.
An obvious name for a tavern located next to the reefs of Bembridge Ledge, a source of crabs, lobsters and shoals of mackerel. This coastline has also been dangerous for shipping and was known for shipwrecks and smuggling. There is a passage or channel within the Bembridge Ledges known as "Dickie Dawes Gut," named after a notorious smuggler, a fisherman by trade, who was renowned for outwitting the local excise men through his navigational expertise in these waters. His daughter Sophie became famous as the 'Queen of Chantilly,' a rags-to-riches tale laced with mystery and intrigue.