Isle Of Wight

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: Maria Bell

It’s surprising what a stretch of water can hide.

The ‘magic’ of the Island is well documented. The endless list of famous people who found inspiration in its quiet cobbled streets, rolling hills and captivating beaches is overplayed. Its “unique” stand-still charm becoming its own cliché. But when asked to explain it to someone new, to convey just what it is that makes the Isle of Wight so special, those things are all I want to say.

For such a small and unassuming place there is so much to discover. The nature reserve on a salt marsh found inside an old, cranky wood. The secret pathways leading down to undiscovered coves, wild samphire hiding on the cliffs along the way. The botanical gardens growing a collection of plants to rival any in Europe. The ancient country pubs with welcoming fire places and even more tempting ales. And then there’s the food - tomatoes, garlic, asparagus, crab, prawns, wine, gin - a list of award-winning restaurants and cafes serving up delicious local wares longer than any one visit can tick off.

It’s easy to think of the Island as that place you went on a school trip as a child, just another English sea-side tourist spot fading away like that forgotten childhood memory. But put in the effort to see beyond that and it will reward you in kind.

Only a few years ago when I driving along a coastal road a flash of white caught my eye. I pulled into a lay-by, crossed the winding road, slid between the stile and then it hit me. The smell. What I thought might be a small patch turned out to be a wood stretching as far as the eye could see with wild garlic everywhere, completely untouched. I’d driven along this stretch of road regularly for years but hadn’t noticed this place because I never looked.

It’s that sense of surprise, the hidden spots that after 27 years here I’m still finding all the time. People say the Island hasn’t changed - but even for me it is still offering up something new every time, you just have to know where to look.

JUNE 2017