In 1928, Oliver Simmonds started his own company in Weston, Southampton. He had worked for Southampton's Supermarine company, most famous for building the Spitfire. Oliver Simmonds company was known as Spartan, and built club planes and air taxis. Building the planes had been sub-contracted to Saunders-Roe, and soon Saunders-Roe had a controlling stake in the company, transferring manufacture to East Cowes.
Saunders-Roe continued using the Spartan name, and built 13 Arrows, a small two seat biplane. They then designed the Mailplane, a plane for mail carrying services. Only the prototype was built, as it was developed into the Cruiser, a passenger carrying aircraft. Fifteen were built, and sold as far away as Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Egypt and India, but the majority were kept by Saunders-Roe, who started an air-travel company, Spartan Airways, from Somerton in 1933. By the end of 1933 it had proved so successful that it became part of Southern Railways and the Railways Air Services network. You could fly to Ryde, Isle of Wight, as well as services to London and Birmingham. Bembridge Airport, Isle of Wight, was also called at. The last Spartan design was the Clipper, but only one of those was built.
In 1935, Spartan Airways merged with United Airways, which in 1936 became Allied British Airways, then British Airways, which in 1939 became part of British Overseas Airways Corporation, which later became the British Airways we know today.
Catch a train to Portesmouth Harbour from London Waterloo, & you can reach the fast Cat service. There's a cafe & toilets at the terminal, also a reception for enquries. On board you can feel the boat swaying upon the water, but it's nothing to worry about. two TV screens @ the front tell you about life jacket procedures which you will find infront of your seat. The seats are blue & comfortable, there's safety leafletts in the seats.
You can watch a short programme about island life, althrough I couldn't really hear what was being said. There's loo's on board, althrough you are advised not to stand up. The Spinnicre Tower can be seen on the horizon which is quite impressive.
Please visit the website for ticket prices, as they vary. The journey to Ryde doesn't take very long, althrough it can be a bit choppy in bad weather.
Wheelchairs & pushchairs can be brought on board, they use ramps & there are special seats for the disabled.
The Red Funnel Ferry is a blast in warm sunny weather !! It leaves the waterfront in Southampton. If you are lucky, you'll see the QE II when in port for repairs. This is the harbor where the Titanic sailed.
Not recommended in winter.
Vectis is the name the Romans gave to the Isle of Wight, and despite the name "Southern Vectis" it does cover the whole Island. Southern Vectis has been running for around 70 years and has some of the old models to prove it. The company is cheap and very relaible. There are services which cover tourist areas, and double decker orange buses which go from Ryde to the Needles Battery and Freshwater.
Earlier in 2007, Southern Vectis launched it's new ranch of Mercedes buses, which run from Ryde to Newport and back. They may only be single deck but are state of the art, with pavement height ramp, for the disabled. Also this year the Newport bus station had an overhaul and now has a better layout and facilities. They also have a new website with an interactive bus guide.
Anywhere you need to go on the Island, Sourthern Vectis will go there.
Getting off the FastCat at Ryde Pierhead (see seperate tip for FastCat information), I could have been forgiven for thinking that I had mysteriously been transported back to London and considerably back in time. Almost the first thing I saw was a two carriage electric train that looked for all the world like a small, old version of a London Tube train. What I was actually looking at was the Island Line, a quirky little service from the Pierhead to shanklin via smallbrook, Sandown, Brading and Lake. The complete journey takes about 25 minutes.
It's not surprising that I thought the train looked like a Tube train because that is exactly what it was - 1938 stock for the railway enthusiasts amongst you, brought over on car ferries.
Initially opened between Ryde St. John's and Shanklin in 1864 the line was extended to the Pierhead in 1880 and subsequently electrified in 1965 after being saved from the axe of the Beeching Report which closed so many of Britain's railways.
As you can see from the second and third photos, the stations are as delightfully old-fashioned as the rolling stock, in a way that is so typical of the island.
There are a number of ticket options available e.g. a one day unlimited ticket for use on the line and all island buses (see seperate tip for buses) costs £10 adult, or a rail only rover ticket is just £3:99.
I plumped for the combined Island Line / Isle of Wight Steam Railway ticket at £10 which I thought was good value (see seperate tip for steam railway). If you like railways, as I do, this seemed like a great combination.
A cheap way of getting round is by bus. Southern Vectis are the company and they run services to all the main centres on the island. I have to report, in the two days I was there, I found the buses to be considerably less than punctual, although they are clean and the drivers seem friendly. It wasn't too much of a problem for me as I was just enjoying the relaxed pace of the place, but I did speak to a few locals who complained bitterly about the situation.
Rover / freedom tickets are a good option for the traveller. For example, an adult 7 day go anywhere ticket costs just £20. You can buy unlimited travel tickets from the driver or from a number of shops on the island.
Interestingly, the drivers will accept euro notes but will only give change in sterling.
The system is centred on Newport, the capital of the island so if you were going from, say Ryde to Yarmouth you would need to change there. The bus station is modern and there is an information desk there.
One final tip given to me by a local lady is always to hail the bus, even if it is not a request stop. She told me that buses have driven straight past her at the stop before!
The FastCat service of Wightlink are comfortable catamaran vessels which ply the Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pierhead route in a brief 18 minutes. The vessels are clean and well-maintained and run from 0415 in the morning weekdays (0615 Sundays) until 2315 weekdays with the last one returning to Portsmouth at 2315 (2345 Sundays).
Bicycles are permitted on board and a day return for a foot passenger is £13.
Probably the only remaining hovercrafts still running in Europe run from Southsea to Ryde.
Hovercraft takes 10 minutes to cross,small video of them on their web page.
Click for TIMETABLES
HERE for maps of the ferry terminals.
3 different ways to reach the island.
Portsmouth to Fishbourne DETAILS cars and passengers,40 minutes.
Portsmouth to Ryde DETAILS passengers only,18 minutes.
Lymington to Yarmouth DETAILS cars and passengers,30 minutes.
Timetables on a PDF download but to check quickly try HERE
Fishbourne and Ryde MAP
Parking prices listed on the pages for people wishing to leave cars on the mainland.
2 ways to get to the island from Southampton.
Slower ferry which takes both passengers and vehicles takes 55 minutes,goes to E.Cowes.
Faster ferry takes just passengers takes 22 minutes,goes to W.Cowes.
Nice web site telling you everything you want to know on how to get around the island.
Web page at bottom will give you an interactive map.
Four special open top HOP ON HOP OFF bus tours are also run in differing areas of the island.
ROUTES AND TIMES
My picture shows the ferry coming into Yarmouth. Lymington and Yarmouth (the towns 'at either end') are very picturesque, and, for that reason, this is a recommended route.
Ferries run every half-hour (ish) through the day and there are less frequent sailings through the night. For prices and timetables, see the website given below. On less busy days you can get a bargain deal: a car and up to 4 people for £55. The checking-in and -out is hassle free, we thought.
Yarmouth is an attractive introduction to the Island. The white building in the photo is a pub and hotel, called the George, that has a nice garden overlooking the sea. For a ferry port, this is pretty and secluded. However, it is also a good place to shop. ATMs and shops selling everything you'll need for your holiday.
There are several car/passenger ferries from the mainland to Isle of Wight. We went with Wightlink and booked through the internet. They sail between Lymington - Yarmouth and Portsmouth - Fishbourne. It takes about 30 minutes to cross the Solent.
Redfunnel ferries sail between Southhampton and Cowes.
The first one after the war was the Kittiwake amphibian flying boat. It was a twin-engined craft capable of carrying up to seven passengers. In 1921, Vickers Ltd. gained a share in the company, and soon Saunders built the Valentia flying boat, based on Vicker's Vimy landplane bomber. By 1923, three Valentias had been built, and Vickers no longer had a share in the company. Saunders started work on building Felixstowe F5 Flying Boats, and flying boats of their own design, including the Medina and the Valkyrie in 1927. The Valkyrie was the last consuta-built flying boat that Saunders built, after which they concentrated on metal-hulled flying boats, starting with the Severn. In 1928, Samuel Saunders was seventy-one, and so retired. Sir Edwin Alliot Verdon Roe (1877 - 1970), who had been the first man in Britain to build his own aircraft and responsible for the Avro aircraft company, took over the company, and renamed it to Saunders-Roe. One of the first things that happened after he joined was a contract for the Blackburn Aircraft Company. They built 55 Bluebird IV Aircraft, which were all-metal biplanes. Also contracted was the development of the Meteor, a twin-engined monoplane, for Sir Henry Segrave2. After the prototype was built, Sir Henry Segrave died on Lake Windemere on 14th June 1930, trying to raise the water speed record even further, and so only the prototype and three other aircraft were ever built.
The Second World War
During the Second World war, all private projects of Saunders-Roe ceased so that they could concentrate on the war effort. For this reason, Saunders-Roe spent the war years concentrating on building Supermarine aircraft under contract, namely the Supermarine Walrus3 and the Supermarine Sea Otter, as Supermarine were busy building Spitfires. Even J. Samuel White And Co. started work on aircraft again, building Spitfire, Mosquito and Lancaster parts, although they concentrated on shipbuilding. 461 Supermarine Walruses were built, and 290 Sea Otters by Saunders-Roe, during the war.
The only project that Saunders-Roe had started just before the war was to do with Flying Boats. Before the war, Imperial Airways had flying boats on scheduled flights to America, South Africa, India, Singapore and Australia. The flying boats they started off with were "C" class, and had been upgraded to the larger "G" class. Saunders-Roe anticipated an even larger flying boat, three times the size of the "C" class, weighing 80 tons. Saunders-Roe then built a one-third scale flying boat to act as a research vessel. It was soon nicknamed "Shrimp", but it was larger than both the Sea Otter and Walrus. Sadly, however, it was finished in the same month in which war broke out with Germany.
We have just returned from a most excellent stay in this hotel, excellent in ALL respects. The...more
Stayed at the Cygnet Hotel 10th to 14th August. Hotel under new management; hotel rooms clean, with...more
High street, Wootton Bridge, Ryde, United Kingdom
Good for: Couples