Actually, a ticket to Fishbourne, just up the coast from Ryde – only passenger ferries to to Ryde, so given we needed our car to get around the four piers on the Isle of Wight, the car ferry to Fishbourne it was. This meant an early start (up at 5.30) from Worthing, where we’d spent a lovely evening with our old friend Damian – beer, pizza, whisky and conversation bringing back the good old times!
The ferry from Portsmouth was straightforward enough, and a short journey down the coast to Ryde saw us reach the first pier of the day. We didn’t realise it was actually possible to drive up the pier, so we parked on the land and walked up – this felt more authentic anyway! A strange pier this was, as not only is it possible to drive up it, but there’s a train that goes up to the far end too – linking the foot ferry passengers. We just played three pieces in the car park, and also met up with some friends who had come to meet us and follow us around the island.
Then off to Sandown, which although only a few miles round the coast, took nearly half an hour to get to thanks to roadworks. We also ended up having to park quite a way from the pier, though the walk did help build up our appetite. Sandown Culver pier is a fairly typical commercial pleasure pier in some ways, with a large arcade section at the shore end, and various rides including dodgems further up the pier (and a fishing platform at the far end). It also included large old-fashioned (i.e. saucy) seaside postcard images, with cut out heads for tourists to stick theirs through, and create their own images. All a bit bizarre! We played here for about 15 minutes, and were joined here by another couple of friends (one the same as this morning!) before moving on. A lovely setting, but the pier felt a bit stuck in the past (and not necessarily in a good way).
We got our fish and chips before leaving Sandown – amazingly there didn’t appear to be a proper chippy in the town, so we got a café to do some as a takeaway. Then the longer drive right across the island to Totland Bay, which provided one of the highlights of the day.
Totland Bay pier is derelict (see picture), and there was no way onto it – in fact, there was barely any pier to walk on at all; it is mostly only the structure that remained. By this stage it was raining and the wind blowing, so we found a spot on the beach under the few remaining planks at the shore end, and managed to play “Under The Boardwalk” actually under a boardwalk for the first time! We were also joined there by our old friend & long-time supporter Martyn, together with his wife and parents (who live nearby). Martyn had recently composed a piece, “Dan’s Waltz”, especially for us, and we were proud to give it its first proper outing here.
Then out of the cold and wet, we headed a few miles up the coast to Yarmouth, where we were treated to a nice cup of tea and piece of cake by Martyn’s family in Gossips café at the shore end of the pier. Yarmouth has the longest fully timber pier in the country (see the picture at the top of this post, in which James's cello is sitting on one of our great Jolly Design stands), and is a delightful promenade, used copiously for fishing. After our tea and cake we walked up the pier and back, before playing outside the café itself for those enjoying the refreshments there. This included a second performance of “Dan’s Waltz”, and some impromptu sight-read Gilbert and Sullivan for Martyn’s parents who are big fans of their music!
So, overall the Isle of Wight was very different from what we’d experienced recently: more laid back, only four piers in the day (and no extra media commitments), but still with huge variety of piers. And now, seven days and 29 piers in, we’re exactly half way through! Tomorrow we’re back on the mainland (staying in Portsmouth tonight), and playing at Southsea South Parade (10.00), Southsea Clarence (11.00), Southampton (13.00), and Hythe (15.00). Another quieter day, before it starts getting more hectic again at the weekend…
Weather report: Despite the varying wind and rain conditions, the Jargar Strings did a good job yet again. Today’s temperatures varied between 19.9 and 22.4 celsius, with humidity between 53.3% and 77.7%.
Quote of the day: “Here are eight pieces of cake. Choose whichever one you want!” Our supporter Martyn knew just what we wanted to hear on arrival at the café this afternoon!
Pier of the day: Yarmouth