Feel like a rubbish Mum? So did I - until I did this!
PUBLISHED: 17:24 15 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:58 16 July 2019
Liz Nice wanted a holiday with her children which went well - for a change! The Isle of Wight, as ever, did its work...
The last time I tried to organise a trip away with my children it did not go well.
We were due to go to Holland but arrived at the ferry at Harwich only to discover that one of my son's passports had just expired.
Cue very disappointed children and a very expensive last minute trip to Alton Towers instead. Not a happy day - and, I was left with a sense that, sweet as my sons were about it, they would have a right to think that Mummy was a bit rubbish.
Mummy certainly thought she was a bit rubbish.
It took a while for that feeling to shake off.
This time, I was determined to do better with our trip to the Isle of Wight. I have been there before, without the boys, and felt sure it would be the perfect holiday for the three of us. I was also going to introduce them to horse riding, which is something I always loved as a child and wanted to share with them.
Readers of my columns in this newspaper will know that my determination to prove to my boys that 'Mummy is not rubbish after all' were almost derailed when, on the day we were due to leave for the Isle of Wight, my car was stolen from outside my house in the few minutes it took for me to go inside to pick up our suitcases (cunningly leaving my keys and handbag in the car, of course).
The chances of that!
I'm doomed, I thought.
But somehow, thanks to wonderful work by Suffolk Police, my car and belongings were recovered within the hour and we made it to the Isle of Wight ferry with minutes to spare.
Fortunately, no passport was required this time (not that that is a mistake I plan to make again!)
We were staying at the Island Riding Centre near Newport, a very easy drive from the ferry which we took from Portsmouth to Fishbourne.
All the cottages - known as The Gallops - are situated around a pleasant courtyard and are beautifully thought out and named after famous horses. Ours was named after Warrior ('the horse the Germans couldn't kill') who has a connection to the island, which was apt, as the one book my elder son had brought with him to read was, in fact, Michael Morpurgo's Warhorse.
The next morning we had the boys' first riding lesson in the indoor school. After all the drama of our car theft, it was wonderful to be on horseback again and see both my boys taking to it as though they had, like me, been born in the saddle. (Like the cliché, my horse-mad mother genuinely had me riding before I could walk).
In the past I have found riding schools to be quite snobby about my riding style - not ever having had riding school lessons, I just tend to ride the way that feels right. But Kirsty and Sophie, the instructors at the Island Riding Centre, were very kind and encouraging. If only I could ride here every week, I would take up riding again.
In the afternoon, the boys and I went to Blackgang Chine, the quirky theme park near Ventnor which was recommended to me by everyone who had been to the island. It certainly lived up to its billing - one minute we were flying down the water slide, the next staging a shoot out in the middle of a Wild West set. By this point I could see from the huge grins on my sons' faces, as they stuffed enormous ice creams and meandered through the maze, that 'rubbish Mummy's' rehabilitation had begun!
The next day we spent a lovely morning at Carisbrooke Castle, where the boys were mesmerised by the donkey who pulls up the water from the well, and stormed about the battlements with swords flying, before stuffing delicious cakes in the Castle Tearoom.
In the afternoon, we were due to go to the Quay Arts Centre in Newport (http://www.quayarts.org/) but the boys baulked at this - to my disappointment, as it sounded lovely and several locals told me it was a lovely place to have lunch before a leisurely browse of the three art galleries. However, although I couldn't get the boys to go for 'art', I managed to persuade them to try a bit of history by visiting Osborne House instead.
"It'll be really boring," my elder son said, yet moments after arriving, he was snapping away at all Victoria's art - the irony! - and Instagramming his discoveries like mad.
The staff at Osborne House are so committed to their task - they'll spend ages, sharing bits of Victorian trivia or fascinating facts and my boys were as gripped as I was, especially by the nursery where the little chairs where the Royal children used to sit look as if they have only just got up and left them.
After touring the house, we then went down to the beach where Victoria used to bathe, and the boys both charged into the sea, fully clothed. There was no stopping them!
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At this point, I suspect quite a few of the people on the beach were looking at me and thinking, 'Rubbish Mum!' but I looked at my boys' faces, pure joy!, and I thought, you know what, maybe Mummy isn't quite so rubbish after all?
How to get there
Liz was a guest of Visit Isle of Wight www.visitisleofwight.co.uk. Check out the website for information.
She stayed at the Island Riding Centre Staplers Road, Newport, Isle of Wight PO30 2NB, tel. 01983 214000/215000, https://www.islandriding.com/ and hugely recommends a stay at The Gallops, as well as the riding lessons - the instructors were brilliant with the children, and with Liz!
Liz took the Wightlink ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne - prices from £60 per car, depending on time of travel.
3 things not to miss
1. Blackgang Chine - The Land of Imagination
There are lots of events going on this summer including Big Night Out which runs from July 20 to August 31.
2. Carisbrooke Castle
Events at Carisbrooke this summer are:
Get Hands On with History at Carisbrooke Castle, 27 July to 4 August
Knights Tournament, 6 to 8 August
Legendary Joust, 13 to 15 and 20 to 22 August
3. The Slow Wight Travel Guide
The new Slow Wight Travel Guide to the Isle of Wight is all about discovering the Island by bus, bike or on foot. See https://slowwighttravelguide.co.uk/routes/newport-niton-ventnor/ and https://www.islandbuses.info/
One for the diary: look out for the Isle of Wight Walking Festival - 2 to 17 May 2020. For more info see: https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/whats-on/isle-of-wight-walking-festival-p1371901