The car-ferry from Lymington in the New Forest to the westernmost port of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight is only a 35 minute trip, but it includes a subtle time-shift; one that seemingly turns the clock back a few years to a gentler time. The last century used to mean the 19thC – now it means the 20thC, so don’t expect to be transported to Victorian or even Edwardian sepia toned splendour. You have only got to drive for a very short time on the IOW roads to find that boy racers and impatient 4WD idiots are still on your tail as you try to avoid the worst of the pot-holes on the island’s main roads; and coaches full of elderly visitors are a definite hazard on some very narrow roads both in country areas and through villages that were built for horses and carts, pony-traps and that wonderful newfangled method of transport – the bicycle.
Everthing existing on the island, beaches, villages, cottages are, of course present on the mainland. Dorset abounds with tempting, over-restored, thatched cottages for rich down-sizers, featured in the pages of lifestyle magazines lying casually on the coffee tables of Camden Town. Long beaches of golden sand line stretches of the coasts of both north and south Devon and Cornwall. The muddy estuarine creeks (my stamping – or indeed sploshing grounds) in south Devon and Cornwall, plus those of north Norfolk, will for me be always second to none. However the Isle of Wight has mini versions of all of these in an accessible compact area, a concatenation of coasts, a concentration of cottages, a yachty kaleidoscope, in a time-line imported from the 1970s.
Oh the boats! The boats! The gaffers were in Yarmouth with crews of old Gaffers – the rich were in Cowes with the occasional Cow. The well heeled, young ever-so-well-behaved college graduates, who sailed to the island across the busy Solent in Uncle Freddie’s yacht, were having their stag dos in fancy dress and moneyed security, leaving their hens in the fleshpots of London, Oxford and Cambridge to do they dare-not-think-what.
These images- captured in a week – are a personal attempt to express my experience of the Island’s subtle time-shift.