ISLE OF WIGHT: Cowes and surrounding areas

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By Tim Saunders
A butterfly has a 12-week life cycle.
We learn this during a visit to Butterfly World at Newport on the Isle of Wight. It all starts with an egg, then the caterpillar, the chrysalis and then finally the adult butterfly; each a three week process. There are some magnificent butterflies and moths all under one roof. Next door Fountain World is home to a variety of koi fish, which don’t just make for an alternative investment – with some fetching upto £3,500 – but they can live for over 200 years.
We stay in a six-berth static caravan at Sunnycott Caravan Park near Cowes. Here there are 20 caravans on a three-quarter of an acre site. There’s a farm next door. When we wash up we watch the cows grazing. It’s really peaceful. Inside there’s a kitchen, a master bedroom and a second bedroom with two twin beds. A pull out sofa bed caters for additional guests. There’s a flat screen television. But the best part is the shower which provides a good reliable spray of warm water and the oversized shower tray acts as a bath, especially for the little ones, which they thoroughly enjoy. “We’ve owned the site for 13 years,” says Jenny, who runs the site with her husband, Jim.
At Mottistone Gardens we marvel at the well cared for gardens – the children love exploring the vegetable patch and seeing the variety of flowers. At Bembridge Windmill apart from climbing to the top we grind oats to make flour and soak up the atmosphere. Henry gets stuck in and starts sweeping the floor. After the children let off steam, running around the outside of the windmill, we discover a countryside walk that takes in some of the island’s breathtaking scenery.
At The Needles the electric Model T Ford electric cars are the most popular with our children. It’s a joy to watch their happiness. They also like the swirling teacups. The Needles is also home to sweetmakers and glassmakers. We get to watch both in action. While watching how sweets are made little Henry starts to crawl through the legs of bystanders pushing one lady’s legs apart to make his way through. There are fits of giggles. In between this side show we learn that 6kg of sugar product makes 2,000 sweets and this is done in 20 minutes. We get to try some at the end. There’s a wonderful sweet shop. Then we watch glass being made and a steady hand is certainly a requirement. It’s a really challenging process that involves a great deal of care when working with such high temperatures. If time allows there’s an excellent restaurant in Marconi’s named after the great man who carried out his groundbreaking radio work here in the 19th century. There’s a 4D cinema and for dare devils the chair lift provides the best way to see The Needles.
We travel with Wightlink ferries from Portsmouth to Fishbourne. It is surprising how smooth and fast the 25-miles journey is covered. Our 9am sailing sees us arriving on the island before 10am. We stand on deck and wave goodbye to Portsmouth. This is little Henry’s (21mths) first trip on a ferry and he loves waving at the other boats and just savouring the experience. He’s only just mastered saying ‘boat’ and makes good use of this. The ferry is clean. It feels new and well maintained. On our return journey we are meant to board at 7pm and arrive 45 minutes prior to sailing, feeling quite exhausted after a fun packed few days. To our surprise we get on the 6pm sailing, which is great because our tired children would have found it difficult to wait for the later ferry.
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