Caravan County: Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a uniquely formed feature of the British Isles. About ten thousand years ago, sea levels began to rise as the great ice sheets of the last Ice Age melted. As the sea level rose, the Solent estuary was gradually inundated until eventually the Isle of Wight became separated from the mainland. This is thought to have occurred around 7,000 years ago.
This separation, along with a high percentage of coastal land has led to the Isle of Wight’s recognition as a maritime centre and wildlife haven – particularly for sea birds. The dominant feature of the island is the ridge of chalk downs running west to east, from the Needles to Culver Cliff, with another group in the south around Ventnor.
The Romans knew the island as 'Vectis' and there have been various invasions throughout history – from the direction of Wessex in AD 685. The Vikings suffered defeat in AD 871 and was sold to Edward I at the end of Norman rule in 1293.
With a mild climate, a wide range of accommodation, restaurants and pubs, stunning scenery and a multitude of tourist attractions it has much to recommend it. There are also many caravan parks, the larger ones situated in the vicinity of Ryde and Cowes.
Although renowned for tranquil, turn-the-clock-back vacationing, the Isle of Wight now also hosts some high profile music events: the Osborne House Classical Concert in July, the recently-revived Isle of Wight Festival in June and September’s 'Bestival', a more recent addition to the live music calendar.
Over half the Isle of Wight is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including two stretches of Heritage Coast, marking nearly half the island’s 60-mile coastline.
The Isle of Wight has a number of stunning landscape features known as 'chines'. A chine is a steep-sided river valley where the river flows through coastal cliffs to the sea and there are 20 named features of this type on the island. On the south coast these are prone to erosion, which, although undesirable from many respects, does illuminate the geology of the region where fossil hunting and collecting is a popular pastime.
There are many possibilities when it comes to outdoor activities on the island. One of the best known is Cowes Week and although it caters for over 1000 boats, bringing 8,500 competitors, you are more likely to be among the 100,000 spectators who flock to this world-renowned sailing event.
Shanklin, Ventnor, Sandown, Ryde and Newport (the 'capital of the county') all have their attractions and the island is easily reached by regular ferry services from the mainland.
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