I never knew that Brading had the distinction of being a seaport without any sea! It’s amazing the facts that can be learned from geocaching.
I had travelled to the Isle of Wight (again!!) before Cockrobbinn so that I could do the shopping and get everything ready for his arrival (well, that’s what I told him) but to be honest, it’s really pleasant to have a few days to myself doing absolutely nothing but sunbathing, chatting, swimming, chatting, drinking coffee, more chatting and generally being a lazy beach-bum. Oh the joys of retirement.
I had noticed earlier that there was a mystery cache at nearby Brading called Barley Fields. This involved walking around the ancient town and finding the answers to a list of questions; thereby getting the numbers required to make up the co-ordinates of the hidden cache. A slightly overcast morning found me parked at the top of the High Street and heading down the road to the old Church – St. Mary’s, which I was astounded to find stands on an early christian site which has been in use since the 680’s. Apparently local history states that St. Wilfrid came to the Island during the 680s, landed at Brading, preached there to the Islanders and began the conversion of the Island, possibly establishing his first church there. Bede states that King Caedwalla of Wessex killed the pagan population “with merciless slaughter” and replaced them with his own Christian followers, dedicating a quarter of the Isle of Wight to Wilfrid and the Church. Wilfrid would thus have been literally preaching to the converted because everyone else was dead. The church itself is really interesting and the graveyard, although overgrown in places, is somewhere I could lose myself for hours, reading the inscriptions and enjoying the quietness.
At the rear of the graveyard I found out more information about Charles II sailing into Brading Haven. Ships used to lay alongside the quay behind the Bugle Inn and the port was active until the 16th century. The north-eastern part of the haven was closed off by an embankment completed in 1594; and in 1881 the reclamation was finally accomplished by the building of a substantial embankment right across the harbour, with the building of the railway to Bembridge.
Finished with the church, I wandered down the High Street to find out about Gordon Trott winning a sack race and then further on to the Town Hall and the Bull Ring, collecting information as I went. How many times have I passed the Bull Ring without pausing to learn about it? Set in the ground outside the Town Hall, there is an iron bullring which was once used to secure a bull whilst it was being baited by dogs.
According to the diaries of Sir John Oglander, the Governor of the Isle of Wight would donate 5 guineas for the purchase of the bull to be baited; the meat was afterwards donated to the poor of the town. The Mayor attended this ceremony in full regalia and a dog, known as the Mayor’s Dog, would be decked with coloured ribbons and set on the bull after the proclamation had been made. A large wooden carving of a bull decorates the Bullring. Thankfully this rather brutal practice has now been made illegal.
At the bottom of the High Street at the junction with The Mall is a small garden created from a derelict plot. We’ve driven through Brading many times but can honestly say that we had never noticed this garden before. I blame the fact that it is on a very sharp corner of the road! There is even a wooden dragon standing there. How could we have not seen it! It was here I found the answer to another clue.
Onwards to my favourite place in Brading; the little railway station. Crazy as it may sound, I love this station with the back-drop of the downs, the well-dressed mannequin on the opposite platform reading his newspaper with his old brown suitcase and a milk churn nearby (I thought it was a real person for a long time as the newspaper moves in the wind!), the signal box and the weeds growing up along the single track. Not an easy place to take a photograph of as the opposite platform is closed to the public most of the time.
Gathering the information required I headed back up the hill to my car not forgetting to look at the well-preserved stocks, the intriguing door frames and porches, and thinking what a fascinating place this little village is; correction – Brading is an ancient ‘Kynges Towne’ and well worth a visit. I have purposely not given away too many answers to the clues of the mystery cache so that anyone wishing to visit can collect their own.
Once home I worked out the co-ordinates of where the cache was stashed and saw that as we were on the Bembridge side of Brading, Cockrobbinn and I could do the walk from our side rather than return to Brading (have I mentioned that we were barely a couple of miles from Brading but it meant driving back up Suicide Alley to get there – more about that further down!!)
Cockrobbinn arrived safe and sound on the little train after finishing his concert practice for the week. Having taken up choral singing since retiring he is now heading for his very first concert on 11th July; evening suit, bow tie, cummerbund etc. I must say he looks very handsome in a suit …… even better in full dress kilt – well he is Scottish with a lovely accent but I will get waylaid if I think too much about that …………… After a lovely morning on the beach and delicious lunch at our favourite Wonky Cafe, we decided to walk off the excess and attempt to find the mystery cache. We knew most of the route as we had walked some of it before we started geocaching.
Our first leg was up through Steyne Wood to Bembridge Windmill. We had often seen red squirrels in this wood but unfortunately none on this trip. Bembridge Windmill was built c.1700 and was working by wind until 1913. From here we picked up the Bembridge Trail which took us through wonderful open fields behind Bembridge Airport and there really were warning signs of low-flying aircraft. A favourite spot of an evening was the exit gate to the road where we often stand with our grand-daughter and watch the little aircraft soar overhead.
Field after field followed – I suppose with a cache name of Barley Fields it should have been obvious! and a glorious walk it was. We came across the “Stylish End” and found the cache quite easily; a perfect place to sit and enjoy the sunshine and sign the log. We also decided to drop Anna’s 40th World Traveller Travel Bug here; its mission to reach the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA before she does. The bug started in the northeast of England and also wants to visit Niagara Falls, Macchi Picchu in Peru, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Coloseum in Rome. Hopefully we have helped the bug to travel a little bit further south and checking the log, it has already been collected and moved on.
Rather than retracing our tracks we decided to head onwards through the fields to Centurion’s Copse which we knew would eventually lead us to the main road (or as main as they get on the I o W!). Once we hit the copse we turned left down Centurion’s Lane so that we could walk as far as possible in the copse before hitting the road which I call Suicide Alley.
Andy Riley missed a good place when he wrote his Book of Bunny Suicides. With my dark sense of humour I find his books hilarious. The Sandown Road from the junction with Yaverland Road includes Longlands Chute. This narrow, twisty, hilly road meanders among beautiful fields, rolling hills and pastures on either side. Acres and acres, if not hectares of lush green fields giving way to a view of the Solent in the very distance when you reach the top of the hills, and climbing to Culver Down on the other side. The sort of road which makes you utter an oath if you happen to come across a cyclist as it is almost impossible to pass them. Why, oh why, with all this wonderful undisturbed countryside on either side of the road do the bloody bunnies choose to sunbathe on the tarmac of the road !!!!! There is no way of swerving around them on the winding road and their little bodies litter the surface especially in Spring and early Summer.