IT’S ALL WIGHT!
WORDS: Helen Werin
PHOTOGRAPHY: Robin Weaver
Soon after we land on the Isle of Wight, we meet Dean, who works at the zoo in Sandown. “Just arrived?” he beams. He’s a terrific ambassador for the island. “People think that this is a small island, but the amount of history and things to do is incredible. Their jaws drop when they discover this!” he enthuses.
Dean’s words are very reassuring because I’ve had a bit of a pang on the ferry over from Portsmouth, heading across the Solent instead of in our ‘usual’ direction of France. But we’ve not come just for the island’s tourist attractions – ‘though our teenage daughter Sophie would like to think otherwise. I have rather romantic visions of walking cliff paths at sunset, wandering across windswept downs and along olde-worlde streets of thatched cottages. I also want to see if the view from Queen Victoria’s family home at Osborne House really is as reminiscent of the Bay of Naples as Prince Albert proclaimed.
Even so, The Isle of Wight Zoo becomes our first stop. The zoo is within the ruins of a Victorian Fort built to guard the coast and we park outside overlooking the magnificent stretch of Yaverland beach. Sophie’s read that the zoo owners used to walk their tiger cubs along this beach. We won’t be seeing that today, but we do get to meet a couple of charming old tigers, Asia and Diamond. This pair have been hand-reared by the zoo’s director and we watch them nuzzling up to her like a couple of big softies. It’s immediately apparent that Asia is very much the boss with a bit of a jealous streak and Diamond is very laid back.