Monday 19 October

Today was a rest day from walking. We decided to visit Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s residence near Cowes. To a certain extent it is afflicted by the new rules and regulations, but not too badly: a one way system in the house, and masks to be worn. Otherwise free to wander everywhere, the grounds are extensive. It is a remarkable Italianate building, commissioned by Prince Albert. They loved living there, with their 9 children.

Queen Victoria was also Empress of India and although she never visited India, she liked all things Indian and received many gifts. The passion for collecting is manifest at Osborne. The dining room is also known as the Durbar Room, as is evident from its style.

This is a copy of a very famous painting by Winterhalter, of Victoria and Albert with their first five children. Interesting to read that she did not like being pregnant.

We had very good weather today. Ironical in that the next 3 designated walking days look like being pretty stormy.

We walked down the path seen here to the sea, where we had our picnic, overlooking the Solent, towards Portsmouth. Victoria had a bathing machine here, and the whole family would swim here. Albert was very enthusiastic about the benefits of sea bathing, a man after my own heart. I did have in mind to swim today but the weather turned very rough so I changed my decision.

You get the feeling that Osborne House was very child orientated. Albert commissioned a Swiss “cottage” for them to play in: there was also a miniature fort in which naughty Princess Beatrice once imprisoned her governess and made her bark like a dog in order to be let out!

The children each had a vegetable plot and Albert would buy the produce at the market price.

We then did a rapid tour of some other parts of the Isle of Wight. We drove to the end of Ryde pier, which is the world’s oldest pleasure pier at 681m, built in 1814. A train runs to the end to meet the boat coming over from Portsmouth. It is nowadays an old tube train but in my childhood was a steam train. Oh the excitement! I have been coming to the Isle of Wight from the age of two, so for me, many of these places are a trip down memory lane. My first holiday was at Bembridge, here is the windmill there.

By the time we reached Ventnor at the southern tip, the weather was getting more stormy.

We rewarded ourselves back at base with an IOW Mermaid gin, with elderflower tonic. And very pleasant it was too. If lockdown continues unabated, I predict Mermaid gin sales will soar.

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