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GLOBETROTTER: The surf's up
THE day was bright and breezy.The tide was high and the surf was up.
Local youth were holding an impromptu surf competition.
A lad, still in his teens, deftly popped up on his board, flicked it around, dancing on the crest of the wave.
Like a jockey on the back of a thoroughbred, he pumped every last bit of energy out of the swell and into his ride. At the end he went down. Not in a furious splash, but in a simple glide.
Jaunt over, it was time to turn around and paddle back out for the next one.
As he paddled out, the next rider was up. She wasn’t as graceful as the last surfer. But she was sure-footed and sassy. As she came into shore you could see a big smile on her face and a wagging tail.
She was Sherrie... the surfing dog. She is the reason we were at Compton Bay at high tide.
Sherrie is one of the stars of Pawprint, the new publication about the Isle of Wight from a dog’s perspective. Wightlink launched Pawprint this month to coincide with National Pet Month. We were there to sniff out its top tips from island dogs.
When I say we, I am talking of me, Mr Mann, and Roxie, my four-legged, blonde, crossbreed companion.
There we were, at Compton Bay on the south of the island watching “surfers”. Sherrie is a seven-year-old chocolate lab who has gained fame surfing the south side of the Isle of Wight. She and owners Kevin and Pauline Fallon moved there to spend more time near the water.
“The great thing about the Isle of Wight is that if the weather or waves aren’t right for surfing, you can kayak or Stand-up paddleboard (SUP). There are so many things to do in and around the water here,” Kevin said.
Since Roxie is an expert at SUP at home on the River Thames and in the canals of Oxford, I felt sure she’d enjoy surfing.
She got the hang of the board straight away; it was just the waves that seemed to daunt her. She tried a couple of times in tandem with Sherrie, but bailed out early as the board got close to the beach.
It didn’t take long for her to learn the board was actually keeping her dry and away from the breakers. She stayed on for the entire ride. Afterwards she jumped back on the blue and yellow long board, waiting for another go.
Soon the surf was retreating and the two wet dogs were snoozing in the sun, then getting back on the board.
We packed up the pooch and headed inland to The Sun Inn at Hulverstone for lunch. It was nothing fancy, just good pub grub at a reasonable price.
Mr Mann was more than happy with his fish and chips while I did my best to finish a jacket potato with homemade chilli and cheese.
Roxie enjoyed a biscuit from the bar. We finished off in the garden, where the sun had beaten away the clouds and was warming the island.
Roxie and I could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon there, but there were more walks to go on and ‘dog’ beaches to explore.
We drove around the south side of the island through Ventnor and Shanklin, passing cute little boutique shops filled with sophisticated shoes, trendy clothing, glamorous jewellery and gifts that would even put a smile on my editor’s face.
Of course there was no shopping in my future as we had more puppy plans.
Time to go back to our cottage, get out of the sandy wet gear and put on our walking boots.
We had the pleasure of being a guest at Kiln Cottage, Mersley Farm in Newchurch. Mersley Farm is better known as the ‘Garlic Farm’ which started the world-famous Garlic Festival, (August 18-19 this year, dogs on leads get in free).
Kiln Cottage is a sympathetic refurbishment of an old farm building using original beams and stone. It’s innovative use of double-storey windows on the front and back of the house provide ample light on the inside and reflect sunlight back down to the two courtyard patios, creating an enjoyable suntrap. Brilliant for dining alfresco at the beginning of March!
The cottage has all the modern conveniences of central heating; a flatscreen television, wi-fi and two full bathrooms, both en suite in the bedrooms upstairs.
Roxie could have had her own room and bath, but she chose to sleep at the foot of our bed instead.
There was an incredibly-useful utility room/shower room downstairs, complete with washing machine, drying rack and walk-in shower.
It was perfect for changing out of wet clothes and washing sandy paws after a day on the beach.
This is a self-catering cottage with style. Beyond plates, cutlery and glasses, it has a mixture of cookware, pans, steamers and bakeware.
How many times I have heard my mother lament the lack of a proper serving plate or even enough plates while away on holiday?
Or my mother-in-law’s famous rant: “One saucepan and four lids, how can I cook a meal with nothing but lids?”
With such a great kitchen how could I not cook at the cottage?
Our first night there I nipped next door to the Garlic Farm Shop and picked up some garlic and the Garlic Farm Cookbook. When in Rome...
I chose Jenny’s Roast Lamb Fillet with root vegetables and garlic dauphinoise. It was scrumptious.
Unfortunately for Roxie, none dropped on the floor so she had to suffer with the meagre bits left over on our plates.
We started our last day by heading off to Havenstreet Station to take the steam train around the island; a dog ticket is £3.
Of course, we made the classic mistake of not checking the schedule. We arrived to an empty station realising the regular season doesn’t start until April.
Instead we drove to Yarmouth, where walked down the pier and enjoyed fabulous hot sandwiches at the Gossips Café.
Then we took a leisurely walk along the Western Yar Estuary, another Pawprint recommendation.
The day ended searching for ice cream and a sandy beach. This led us back down to Compton Bay. The tide was low, exposing miles of beach and rock pools. Roxie raced around like a pup.
The sun became fiery, painting the normally white cliffs a cadmium orange. I expected steam as it dropped slowly into the ocean.
For a weekend trip, Oxford felt a long way away.