Everything’s all Wight
UNLIKE Ransome’s Walker family—about to appear in cinemas in a remake of Swallows and Amazons— we did mean to go to sea, or at least across to the Isle of Wight, from Chichester Harbour. It was the first time we’d done it in our RIB, one of the rigid inflatable boats that are ubiquitous as speedy runabouts along the south coast. Our friends had said ‘just aim for the church steeple and go left a bit’. The spire at Ryde is certainly a distinctive landmark. Two island forts, Horse Sands and No Man’s Land, built on Palmerston’s orders in the 1860s because of a feared invasion by Napoleon III, acted as reassuring waymarkers. It was a relief to open the throttle after Chichester’s eight-knot speed limit, but even on a balmy summer’s day, the waves and swell prevented us from really letting rip. It’s one of the busiest waterways in the world, so we kept a beady eye out for the enormous container ships lumbering into Southampton Water.
Once in the sleepy village of Seaview, we were transported back to a world of 1950s innocence: klinker-built dinghies with colourful sails, gritty sausages for a picnic on the beach at Priory Bay and a walk via Bembridge passing sandcastles, kite-flyers and an old Thames sailing barge anchored for lunch.