Walking about Ryde can be very pleasant
in the summer months but from late October until
around late Spring, if the weather is blowing
off the sea, you will feel a chill run through
your bones. Even inside in the winter months
the damp and the cold used to be a blight
and many memories of cold evenings having
to wear several overcoats and stuff newspapers
in the cracks of the single glazzed victorian windows.
They were my bedsit days of living in drafty flats close
to the seafront.
Well back to the walkabout. Walking up Union Street
if wonderful seeing all those old victorian styled buildings,
Gibbs the Chemists, still the same as of 1888 when
Mr. William Gibbs lead the first Ryde Carnival.
On the right hand side you can see the Royal Victorian
Arcade, always used to be a few posh shops.
This was our favourite place to view the carnival
At the top of Union Street turn right into Lind Street where you can
see the Town Hall with it's tower on the right hand side.
Pass St.James Church and then turn left up West Street.
Here you can see Ryde Boys School where I spent 2
years. Also the school of Jeremy Irons whose younger
brother was a few classes above me.
Also Philip Norman the famous writer who like me was
born in London but brought up on the Island, but
ten years my senior.
I recommend a book about his years growing up on
BABYCHAM NIGHT: A BOYHOOD AT THE END OF THE PIER
Ryde and the Beatles connection.
When you are walking up Union Street
from the Esplanade you will notice a pub
on the right hand side called the Bow Bars,
this used to be one of my favourite watering
holes and sadly turned into something else
and no longer serves real ale and
called the Liquid Lounge.
Back in the 60's the place was run
by one of Paul McCartney's cousins.
Inspired by a trip they took to Ryde in the 60's
Paul wrote 'Ticket to Ride',
McCartney confessed to his biographer Barry Miles
that although the song
title has a double meaning with the song it was
primarily about a girl riding out of the life of the narrator,
they were conscious of the potential for a double meaning.
Don Short, who traveled with the Beatles in the '60s,
recalled that John coined the phrase "Ticket to Ride"
for another meaning - The girls who worked the streets
in Hamburg had to have a clean bill of health and the
authorities would give them a card saying they were clean.
Also Paul mentions 'The Isle of Wight' in the song "When I'm 64."
Philip Norman the famous writer who went to the same school
as me in Ryde
wrote "SHOUT!: THE TRUE STORY OF THE BEATLES"
It is probably the best biography on the Beatles.
He had a close personal relationship with each of the Beatles,
he interviewed them many times since 1965 and observed at
first hand the events that led to the split during 1969-70.
At the top of the hill where Johns Street
meets Queens Road and you can see the
All Saints church. This is located in Queens Road
on a road junction known as Five Ways.
I used to sing in the choir here on Sundays
and attend choir practice once a week.
We got 2/6 for singing at weddings and
funerals. It was good money for an 11
year old. I also had a butchers round
delivering meat on a bicycle for a High Street
Butchers just opposite Minghella's Cafe
where Antony Minghella
(Acadamy Award Director of English Patient),
used to help his dad serving in the cafe.
All Saints church was designed by George Gilbert Scott
and finished in 1872. The spire is 54 meters tall.
Sir George Gilbert Scott also built some well known places
Brighton College, Sussex (1848-1866),
St Nikolai Church, Hamburg,
St Pancras Station, London (1865),
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall, London (1861-1868),
Leeds General Infirmary,
the Albert Memorial, Hyde Park.
Also the renovation of Westminster Abbey
+ many more places ...
The Albert Memorial, designed by Scott, between 1864 and 1876,
was constructed in Hyde Park.
It was a commission on behalf of Queen Victoria
in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert.
Queen Victoria spent her last years living on the Island
at Osbourne House.
Ryde where it's good to walk!
I spent most of my childhood in this town,
well from the age of 6 until 13 when I was
shipped off to boarding school on the mainland.
The population of Ryde was around 10,000,
but would swell many times that number
during the summer season with all the
hotels, guest houses, holiday camps and
hundreds of foreign students staying with
Just wondering round the streets up Union Street
from the Esplanade and the pier to Cross Street
and up the High Street one can see lots of examples
of Victorian architechture. Many of the streets leading
down towards the sea have spectacular views of the
Solent and Portsmouth can be seen on clear days.
If you get off the FastCat catamaran from Portsmouth, you will be deposited at the end of Ryde Pier. Now you could get the Island Line electric train, which is worth doing, but you can always pick it up at Ryde St. John's. Instead I recommend a walk along the pier, which really is a slice of history.
designed by one John Kemp and opened in 1814, Ryde Pier is thought to be the first pier in Britain and, whilst many later piers were built purely for pleasure, this one still retains it's original function of moving passengers from vessels to land. Prior to it being built passengers were carried piggy-back style by porters as ships couldn't land there!
The architecture (if that's the right word) really is very pleasing. About halfway along is a small shelter where you can take your ease, should you feel like it. It offers splendid views of the town and coast.
A word of warning, though. If you're walking on the pier be aware that there is vehicular traffic, which approaches quite silently with the tyres on the wooden boards.
When you arrived by the Fastcat ferry at Ryde Pier, you can either walk to Ryde Esplanade or if you are lazy (like me), take the two-carriage old London Underground train to the Esplanade. Turn left and you are on the Western Gardens of the Esplanade where benches greet you for a much needed rest and relax by the sea, or turn right and walk further along the Eastern Gardens to Appley Beach where kids play ball and dogs play catch.
It will be a nice stroll along the beach and after about a km or two, you will reach Appley Tower, just an old tower-like building by the sea. It makes a nice focus on an otherwise plain beach.
You can take buses to Newport, the capital of the Isle of Wight (or also with the "underground") and to other beaches on the south-east from Ryde (to Shanklin, Sandown, etc). I was so let down by the weather that I just couldn't be bothered. Bothered!