Q: What's brown, steaming, and comes out of Cowes?
A: The Isle of Wight Ferry.The Isle of Wight is an Island off the South Coast of England, approximately diamond shaped in form and can only be accessed by Ferry (mostly, and see below about that). Once its own Kingdom for short time, now a full part of the United Kingdom—and of England, of which it is a county (it was historically part of Hampshire). Its major industry is tourism and has been known as a holiday destination since the Victorian Era (Queen Victoria herself had a holiday home there called Osborne House which is now a tourist attraction). Also known for its fossils, many which have come up in the West Wight, on the Western side of the Island. The isle has a small population of around 140,000, roughly the same as a small city such as Oxford (more people live in the nearby city of Portsmouth than on the isle itself). An old joke asks, "Where can you find cows you can't milk, fresh water you can't drink, needles you can't thread and a ride you can't ride?" - a series of Incredibly Lame Puns on Isle of Wight place names, much beloved of older postcards..
The Seven Wonders:
- Cowes: A town in two parts, divided by the River Medina.
- Cowes is known for Yachting, in particular Cowes Week in June every year. Location of a Momentof Awesome in 1942 by the Cowes-built ORP Blyskawica, which defended the town from bombing while under refit.
- East Cowes is the smaller counterpart the other side of the river. Despite not much being there, it has a few claims to fame — it was where the first hovercraft was built and tested (in a hangar which is still there). It is also the location of the Red Funnel ferry terminal. Also Obsourne House — one of Queen Victoria's favourite residences is nearby.
- Freshwater: A major village in the West Wight, near to Yarmouth.
- The Needles: A set of Chalk Stacks off the Western tip of the Island. One of them actually used to look like a needle, hence the name, but it collapsed in a storm. The remaining stacks look more like white teeth. A tourist attraction which also has two Forts, a rocket testing site and open-top buses that run to the Forts. Much smaller than you'd expect. Close to The Needles is Alum Bay, famous for its multicoloured sand cliffs overlooking a beach. It used to be possible for tourists to collect samples of sand. This is now forbidden for safety reasons, although samples can still be ought at the local tourist shop.
- Newport: The "Capital" of the Island, home to Isle of Wight Council and most of the major shopping chains. And traffic. Has an infamous roundabout called Coppins Bridgenote , known for traffic delays and being one end of The Dual Carriageway — all half-a-mile of it.
- Ryde: The other major Island town. Home of Ryde Pier, one of the longest in the World and one of a few to have regular trains running down it.
- Newtown: Once a rival to Newport, now non-existent. Became a Rotten Borough, and now owned by the National Trust.
- Lake: A large village situated in the middle of its larger resort town neighbours, Shanklin and Sandown. Lake is mostly residential, but has plenty of small shops and a large park, plus access to a more quiet part of Sandown Bay, where there are less tourists but still plenty of sand.
Other Towns & Villages:
- Shanklin: A seaside resort on the East coast of the Island. Known for the Old Village and Shalklin Chine, one end of a PLUTO pipeline used after D-Day.
- Sandown: North of Shanklin and Lake. Another more developed resort, more tourist-y than Shanklin. Has a Dinosaur Museum and an open-top bus service.
- Yaverland: Slightly further North than Sandown, it's a small place. Known for Extreme Sports. Also the Isle of Wight Zoo, built in an old fort, is near here.
- Ventnor: Another resort, this time on the South of the Island. Built on the side of St. Boniface Down, the highest hill on the Island. Has been somewhat run-down since the railway station shut in the late 1960s, but is now slowly being regenerated by cafes and antique shops. Known for the Radar Station on the Down, which was attacked during the Battle of Britain. Famous visitors have included Edward Elgar, Karl Marx and Winston Churchill. The resort was at one point in the 19th century so famous that when a new resort town was opened on the Jersey shore in 1889 immediately south of Atlantic City, they named it Ventnor City.
- Godshill: A village near the middle of the Island. A tourist ‘honeypot’. Has a model village, lots of free parking and lots of cafes and people in the Summer.
- Yarmouth: The biggest ‘town’ in West Wight. Is known as the home of one end of the Yarmouth-Lymington ferry, Yachting, a Fort and a few shops. Of minor significance to Americans: the "Winthrop Fleet" that brought the Puritan founders of Boston from England in 1630 sailed out of Yarmouth. As a result, it lent its name to a few much larger settlements in the New World.
- Bembridge: The place at the other end of the Island from Yarmouth. Also has boats (and Houseboats), the largest of the two current airports on the Island and a hovercraft factory. The Britten-Norman Islander, a very popular plane that has sold well for the best part of half a century, is also manufactured here.
- Blackgang Chine note : A former smuggling spot near the southern tip of the island, now home to Britain's oldest theme park (allegedly). Has dinosaurs. According to The Other Wiki, the park was one of Rupert Grint's favourite childhood holiday attractions.
FerriesThe only real way to get to the Isle of Wight is by ferry. Fares are expensive in terms of distance (the most expensive piece of water in the World, no less) and are divided up between three routes and three operators:
- Wightlink: Formerly the British Rail ferries, and now owned by an Australian bank, they operate the Portsmouth-Fishbourne car ferry, the Fastcat passenger catamaran from Portsmouth to Ryde Pier Head and the Lymington to Yarmouth route
- Red Funnel: Owned by another Bank, Red Funnel operates a car ferry from Southampton to East Cowes and a catamaran from Southampton to Cowes (the other side of the Medina to the car ferry, which docks in East Cowes).
- Hovertravel: The only regular hovercraft service in the world from Southsea to Ryde Seafront. Runs every 20 minutes and is usually the first service to be cancelled in rough weather.
Buses & TrainsOnce on the Island, Southern Vectis are the major bus operator covering most of the Island. Owned by the Newcastle-based Go-Ahead Group from 2006, SVOC is an expensive - and the only - bus service on the Island (as it has been since the 1970s). Despite the high fares, Southern Vectis actually has a more modern fleet than most of the country, and is well-regarded in the industry for its publicity, and for running buses even on Christmas Day. And by Rail? A lot less than before the Beeching Cuts (but even before then lines were being closed), the Island’s Rail Network is down to one line between Ryde Pier Head (yes, trains on the Pier) and rumbling down the Eastern coast of the Island to Shanklin. That line used to go down to Ventnor and into a rather unique station built halfway up the side of St. Boniface Down, but that was closed in 1966. Anyway, continuing the Island’s traditional use of old rolling stock, the current trains are 1938 London Underground Stocknote due to clearance problems on the tunnel in Ryde. Now owned directly by Island Line and a bit of an enthusiast line, with trains running in a version of their original livery, There is also Isle of Wight Steam Railway, running from Smallbrook Junction to Wootton Bridge. Owns the last of the second-hand Island steam trains named Calbourne (an LSWR O2) and some ex-WD locomotives and a load of Island carriages (also second-hand. That is a theme for the Islands railways - nothing’s new). There’s a small airport at Bembridge where the Islander aircraft is made by Britten-Norman. A few air services have been tried but nothing came of it. And the roads? Apart from a few main roads, and 1/2 mile of dual carriageway in Newport, it’s good to remember that Island Roads are Differentnote .
Media:As well as receiving the regional BBC South and ITV Meridian television and national and regional radio stations, the Isle of Wight has its own local newspapers and radio, which differ in some ways from the mainland:
Newspaper:The major local newspaper is the Isle of Wight County Press, published every Friday since 1884 and read by an estimated 90% of the Island's adult population, after seeing off all competitors. Formally a broadsheet, it moved to a compact format in 2008. Other more local newspapers are produced.
Radio:The local radio station is unsurprisingly, Isle of Wight Radio. Founded in 1990 as a locally-owned station, it bounced around several corporate ownersnote until it was brought out by local interests in 2009. Quite a successful station that has won many industry awards, it plays a variety of popular music, old and new. Not to be confused with Our Wights Are Different.
The Isle of Wight has appeared in:
- Destroyed in Nebulous, after an attempt to be moved to the left by Professor Nebulous himself.
- Home of most of Level 42
- ...and the Isle of Wight Festival. The Original Festivals were in 1968-1970. The revived Festival has been based outside Newport since 2002.
- The British military evacuated the Royals here during the events of Dies the Fire, and used it as a base to recolonize an England reduced to a scattering of cannibal savages.
- In the ''