It took us about an hour an half to travel down the M3 to Southampton dock to catch one of the car ferries to the Isle of Wight where we’ll be catching up on sleep over the next sleep. That is to say, busy not packing, not carrying books, and not driving.
I used to joke that I’d visited every county in the United Kingdom except Rutland and the Isle of Wight, which alternate as England’s two smallest counties. That’s because the island’s boundary extends further than Rutland’s at low tide. Nevertheless it all fits many times over within the M25 ring-road circumscribing London.
It’s only a few miles off shore, but the ferry costs about the same as crossing the English Channel. There’s a duopoly between WightLink and Red Funnel Ferries which reminds me of that which has existed on Australian domestic air routes for many years. Their websites are so awful that booking the short journey is more cumbersome than planning an international expedition.
We’re staying in a B&B near Freshwater on the western side of the island, only bicycle distance (as the fish cycles) across the Solent waterway to the New Forest where we spent a few days in August 2011. Then I was nursing a blister or three from my Offa’s Dyke walk; this time it was a pair from my trudging around Paris last week.
Munson was able to ride on the top deck of the ferry with me. It was a beautiful day and a calm crossing, but still rather chilly. It may only be biking distance from the mainland but the boat travels about tricycle speed so I spent a lot of time huddling away from the wind and dodging the smokers who liked to sit or stand upwind from wherever I went.
About an hour later we disembarked in East Cowes and I drove straight through to Freshwater (about forty minutes away). The island was much hillier than I had imagined, quite different to the flat landscape across the water. I felt like I was driving across the broad back of a great whale moored offshore between Bournemouth and Portsmouth.