Friday, 8 September 2017

Wihte ealond (1)

Its Celtic name was Ictis and under Roman rule it became known as Vectis. To the Saxons and those enigmatic people the Jutes it was Wihte eolond but we today we know it as the Isle of Wight. Whatever the origins of its name it is, to me, a fascinating little island from which Chris and I have just returned after a short break with our friends Ann and John. The one-hour crossing was from Southampton to Cowes and this town was to be our base. It must be admitted that, for many, the views of Cowes as the ferry approaches lack the glamour of, say, Funchal or Nice, but for anyone interested in boats and marine paraphernalia in general, it is fascinating. 
The town is split in two by the River Medina. The ferry docking point is in East Cowes but our accommodation was to be in West Cowes. The river is crossed by a rather curious chain ferry; this normally functions well but it is currently out of use. We thus made a journey inland to Newport to what geographers refer to as the 'lowest bridging point'. There we crossed the river and travelled back down the west bank - a detour of eight or ten miles. It is not known when the ferry will re-open.
A mariner's Mecca. The harbour at Cowes.
4 September, 2017
For our first full day we paid a visit to the monastery at Quarr, not for reasons of piety but it is situated in an interesting area and ancient, now-pointless institutions do hold a certain degree of mystique about them. Its name is not that of a local village, but refers to the stone used in its construction and is derived from the word 'quarry'; fewer than a dozen monks, members of the Cistercian Order, are now in occupation.
I was pleased to see Ivy Broomrape, Orobanche hederae, on our walk. Broomrapes are complete parasites and consequently have no functioning leaves.  As the name indicates, for this species the host is ivy.
Ivy broomrape near Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight.
5 September, 2017
It was very common on the island whereas in Northamptonshire it is very rare and even when it has been found it has probably been accidentally introduced with garden plants. The hedgerow plants were interesting without any obvious rarities and I was pleased to take this photograph, showing a curious juxtapositioning of dogwood and wild privet. The black berries of Dogwood, Thelycrania sanguinea, are on the left whilst the virtually identical black berries of Wild Privet, Ligustum vulgare, are on the right. Despite their

similarities the two species are unrelated.  

Dogwood and privet near Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight.
5 September, 2017

We first visited the remains of the original monastery, largely robbed-out for its masonry and now consisting of only low walls, before moving on to the monstrous structure which is the modern building. In architectural terms the building is rather fine and Nikolaus Pevsner - Nick the Brick - greatly admired it. (Ref 1) and I use the word 'monstrous' in relation to its function. I just have a teeny feeling that Christ would have preferred the vast sums of money spent on its construction to have been used to give direct help to the sick and needy.  We also visited the parish church in the nearby village of Binstead. The Holy Cross Church is a pretty building with some lovely, if a little garish, stained glass windows.


Stained glass windows in the Church of the Holy Cross, Binstead.
Isle of Wight. 5 September, 2017

In fact I was more impressed with some fine specimens of Brewer's Weeping Spruce, Picea breweriana, in the grounds. The species has naturally pendulous branches and has been described as 'perhaps the most beautiful of all spruces and one of the most popular of all ornamental conifers'. (Ref 2)
Brewer's Weeping Spruce in the churchyard at Binstead, Isle of Wight.
5 September, 2017

All in all it had been a very interesting day and the odd spot of drizzle had no detracted from our enjoyment - and the forecast for the morrow was encouraging.


1. Pevsner, Nikolaus (1967) The Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
                                                                                                             Penguin Books

2. Anon (1974) Hilliers Manual of Trees and Shrubs  David and Charles

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