Category Archives: Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond

Virtual Tour Beyond the Solent no12 ~ Guernsey ~ The Isle of Flowers

Guernsey

After pausing on Alderney I continue my journey to significant places features in the Riduna series and Guernsey features in both Riduna and in Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home.

In fact I knew of Guernsey long before Alderney and my first trip to Guernsey was at the age of seven.( I don’t count the visit when I was still just a twinkle in my mother’s eye, but I was there at minus two months so I’m told!) I have fond memories of this holiday, of walking along cliff top paths and down steep steps to secluded bays. I remember the boat trip from Fermaine to St Peter Port and getting about on busses, not to mention day trips to Herm and Sark.

Back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was still more likely that travellers would visit Guernsey on their way through to Alderney and so that was my vision when I took a holiday over there to do some research back in 2002. I took the slow ferry from Portsmouth which took several hours, six I think, and then I spent many happy days researching in the museum and the Priaulx Library, fantastic places for anyone interested in the history of the islands.

I also borrowed many books about the island’s history from my local county archives at home and absorbed myself in the life and history of the times.

What interesting facts did I glean? It would be difficult to sum this up in one blog post but for Riduna it was the military presence with the Victorian fortification;the interesting rules of society, for example that an individual needed a formal invitiation to an island dance by a well respected local family; that the main trades at the time were importing tomatoes, stone and cattle, not to mention the tourist industry, which was vital for the island’s econony back then too. I was fascinated to read accounts of some of these visitors and one comment that struck a note was that the island’s poor seemed at least well fed, clothed and wore shoes. Whether this was true in the outlying villages I’m not so sure, but there seemed to be work during that period. All of these industries were labour intensive, even though the latter was, to a certain extent, seasonal.

What did I know from snippets passed down through my family? That they owned a small guest house; that my great grand mother could ‘dance on a sixpence’ and so she must have gained an invitation to the dances even though they were certainly not a well to do family; that my great grand mother from Alderney was literate but my great grandfather who was born on Guernsey was not;  that my great grandfather was a skilled gold leaf painter and he travelled to France for the pigment. All of these gems helped to weave the story of Riduna as Harriet, the leading lady was exiled from Alderney at 15yrs to stay with an aunt.

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The links with Guernsey did not stop at Riduna but continued to weave through the Ancasta too. It was on Guernsey (Sarnia) in my novel that Sarah, Harriet’s daughter was first made aware that her father had another life far away from Woolston, Southampton. Not only that but he also had a family of whom he rarely spoke. Here is a short extract from Ancasta:

“They strolled in companionable silence down the short cobbled slope of Well Road, between the rows of harbourmen’s cottages. The road narrowed and turned, the way ahead being covered with shadows, before suddenly emerging into the sunlight, with the harbour in front of them. Small boats mingled, chattering messages as they fidgeted against the glittering water. They dodged a Hansom Cab racing towards the jetty and joined the wave of people walking towards the waiting steamer to England. A few were carrying their own bags but most were following on the heels of one of the many barrow boys, who frequently turned their capped heads to smile or make some light-hearted and humorous comment to check that the owners of their burdens were not too far behind. Sarah heard glimpses of conversations: sad farewells, fond recollections of their stay on the island, exciting plans for future visits or the journey ahead as she tuned in and out between the channels of her own thoughts and the reality around her.

                Rose led Sarah to an area above the waiting ship, where wooden slatted seats were occupied by folks enjoying a rest or admiring the view. They found a place to sit beside an elderly couple with lined, contented faces, walking sticks leaning at their sides and wrinkled hands clasped together in eternal love and friendship. The couple beamed as the ladies joined them and it struck Sarah just how similar their features had become as they had aged together.

                Sarah sighed.

‘It’s difficult to explain. Suddenly I feel that I hardly knew my father at all. Here is a world, a place I have barely heard him speak of, the beautiful home of his birth and where he grew up; family, friends and a life I have very little knowledge or understanding of. It’s disconcerting, to say the least.’

                Rose thought for a few moments, wishing to give the right words of comfort to this confused young woman. The day had been a long one. That morning Joe Newton had been buried according to his wishes in a grave alongside his parents, far away from his home in England.

‘Your father was many people: father, husband, son, brother, cousin and friend. Each facet had its own character and its own life, just like a different scene in a play. In each scene he was a special man and lived to please the people around him whenever he could.’

‘I understand what you are saying. During the long journey here yesterday I had time to think. I was wracked with guilt that my father had come over here on a visit and died alone, so far away from his family. His heart attack had been so sudden. He was tired when he left but I never imagined he was ill.  I had visions of him being so far away from my mother and his children, just when he needed us most – but it wasn’t like that at all, was it?’

‘My poor girl! You must rest assured that he had his sister and many members of his family nearby. Also the nuns up at Les Cotils are very loving, caring people. He could not have been in better hands.’ 

There was another silence as they watched basket after basket of tomatoes and luggage hauled effortlessly on to the waiting ship and stowed securely by the stevedores, the line of laden carts queuing at the dock edge gradually dwindling.’

It was on this trip that Sarah’s love of the islands was ignited. Guernsey is an island of contrasts from the busy streets of St Peter Port to protected coves of Petit Bot Bay; from stunning clifftop walks to long open sandy bays; from busy restaurents to quiet cafes; from stately homes to little intimate museums, places to visit and of course the quaint shell church. Whereas I visit Alderney for quiet, that ‘I want to get away from it all moment,’ I visit Guernsey for a more lively retreat where I know I can also find hidden places to escape to.

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Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Channel Islands, Riduna, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond

Virtual Tour beyond the Solent no 11 ~ Alderney and Competition!!!

On the way to Alderney

On the way to Alderney

To Alderney

There you are

As most people who know me realise, Alderney is my most favourite place in the world and it’s where my story began. The reason my virtual tour goes straight from Calshot to Alderney is because it is the closest Channel Island to the mainland, and the closest to France too! The easiest way to get thereis by their own Aurigny islander plane, unless you are a sailor with a yacht! (This might change though, since there are rumours of a more regular ferry service on its way)

It was on Alderney where I made the decision to write my first novel ‘Riduna,’ allegedly the Roman name for the island, inspired by my Great Grandmother who was born there in the middle of the 19th Century. The ferries used to leave Southampton from what people now know as Ccean Village Marina opposite Woolston on the River Itchen and would have travelled past Weston Shore, the Royal Victoria Hospital and Calshot Castle before meeting the Solent. There they would almost certainly have headed east around the coast of the Isle of Wight and then on across the Channel. I travelled that route on the slow boat to Guernsey whilst doing my research, just to see want it was like. Today the ferry passes the island of Alderney just half an hour before reaching St Peter Port.

Why do I like Alderney, apart from my family history, and why do I keep a photo of Braye Beach in front of me on my desk? (the same photo which is at the top of this blog)

Firstly it is a very beautiful island, with long sandy bays and sheltered coves. There are abundant walks on which to view the wildlife. The island of Burhou, just off its coast, boasts of a colony of puffins, but there are also gannets on Gannet Rock, albino hedgehogs and black rabbits.  Although you may have heard that the Germans did their best to adorn the island with concrete defences, time has been kind and most are grassed over now or reclaimed. The underground defences still in existence adds a new meaning to the word ‘bunker’ on the golf course, I’m told, but since I know nothing about golf I can’t verify or deny the rumour. I do know that the views from the links are fantastic and there are benches where you can sit and admire them (as long as you keep your eye open for the odd stray golf ball!) There are imposing Victorian Fortresses which give quite an impact to the views as you stroll about, some on the island itself, some with tidal causeways and others totally cut off by the restless sea. You can’t help but admire the Victorian architects and builders who conceived them.

We also love to amble along the unspoilt cobbled streets of St Anne, lined with Georgian cottages and more sumptuous terraced houses and enjoy the wide variety of cafes and restaurants from local sea food to Thai, from fish and chips at the famous Braye Chippy to Pizza. The island just about caters for all tastes.

Now, this island has certainly inspired my writing and I call Alderney ~ ‘Riduna’ in my novels, The Riduna Series. I see Riduna as a character in itself, since feelings towards it run high. My characters either never want to leave her shores or they long to escape. For those who escape successfully, or have to move on against their free will, the island continues to drawn them home by its compelling force which seems to continue to hold sway over the next generation too. A bit like me really, two generations removed!

Well, I would really like to have some guest posts about Alderney for once I’ve finished my virtual tour ‘beyond.’

So:

~If you have any memories of holidays there, of humorous or cheerful tales. or of course of your childhood if you were lucky enough to be born there….

~If you have a special place that you would like to describe or trips or walks you enjoyed especially.

~If you’d like to put pen to paper and get in touch with me, then I have a small competition running.

The best two will win a £10 book token and a paperback copy of either Riduna or Ancasta

There will be an ebook or kindle version of Riduna for the first ten entrants too!

As long as you are happy for me to publish your post on this blog, with your name and any links you might like to use related to the island.

The closing date for this will be 12th April, when I have just returned from the island myself!

Get in touch for more details or just to send me your writing  in the body of the email please to:

diana@dianamaryjackson.co.uk

(up to 500 words but could be a poem of only 50!)

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Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Channel Islands, Riduna, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond

Virtual Tour of the Solent ~ The Story so far and where to next?

Solent map googleCalshot

I began this virtual tour to show that a sense of place is important in my writing. I need to describe the areas in my novel enough to help the reader to feel that ‘sense of place,’ but I thought it might be helpful to give a little more background information and description. I have written ten posts around the Solent area so far, but before I leave the shores of mainland England I thought a summary would be helpful:

1 ~ At the beginning of this year I began my virtual tour at Gilkicker Fort on the strategic peninsula guarding the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. It was there that one of my main characters, Harriet’s daughter Sarah, was stationed  with the husband, at the newly refurbished married quarters, back in 1910. It was a life that Sarah found hard to come to terms with but then came the war which changed everything.

2 ~ Close by was Fort Grange, still enclosed in the Naval Station today, where early pilots were trained for combat and reconnaissance missions in WW1 including Anthony, Sarah’s husband.

3 ~ A short distance along the coast is Lee on Solent, not strictly speaking in Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home, but it may be in the no, 3 in the series. Lee was important at that time though, since it was one of the earliest Flying Boat Stations on the south coast.

4 ~ Just up the estuary takes you to the sheltered inlet into Hamble, which is an unspoilt haven for sailing boats. Anthony’s family lived there, with its cobbled streets and a small ferry over to Warsash, much the same today as it was at the turn of the last century, I should imagine.

5 ~ Further up Southampton Water is The Royal Victoria Park, once the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, with only the tall chapel remaining as a signal to the grandeur of the original building which had corridors a quarter of a mile long. It is still a lovely place to visit, go for a stroll, have a picnic and find out about its interesting history. Jane, one of my characters, well known to those who have read Riduna, was stationed there, close enough to Harriet for them to remain friends although Jane had little time to spare for social calls, especially during the war.

6 ~ Visiting the ghostly remains of Netley Abbey en-route, popular with the Victorians, we reach Weston Shore, important in both of my novels as a place to feel the sea and watch those on their journeys too and from Southampton Docks. It could be a place you might overlook, but if you make the efffort and stop and have a walk along its shores, it’s a haven for wildlife and it’s a wonderful place to watch the world go by. It’s here that the name of my novel seemed so apt. ‘Ancasta’ ~ ‘The Swift One.’ Many folks have stood, as Harriet did, on these shores and prayed for the swift and safe return of their loved ones, but for Harriet it was more than that. It was here she watched the Channel Island Ferries as they journeyed to the place of her birth. It was a direct channel to Guernsey (Sarnia in my novel) and Alderney (Riduna in my novel) which she loved but had left behind so long ago.

7 ~ Woolston. The Newton family grew up in the heart of Woolston, working in the local industry, initially as boat builders but subsequently early flying boats. (Supermarine) Harriet ran a popular guest house mainly for travellers. One of her son’s worked in a bicycle shop too. Each of her family played their part in WW1, Sarah returning home for the duration of the war with her little son Timothy.

8~ Southampton. Across the Floating Bridge is Southampton itself, still a thriving port and the window to the world to many of my characters including Edward, also well known to many of you from Riduna, Harriet’s childhood sweetheart from the island of Riduna. Their lives took very different paths but they continue to cross at times and Edward’s occasional visits still have a positive impact on the lives of the Newton family, especially Timothy and Sarah.

9~ Over the Hotspur to Hythe is where Edward lives, when he’s on land, with his more than housekeeper Marie. She’s a larger than life character and I’m quite fond of her, even though I feel a bit disloyal to Harriet for doing so.

10 ~ Just a few miles up to the peninsula we reach Cashot, at the mouth of Southampton Water, and if you want a place to ‘ship watch’ this is it. One of Harriet’s son’s Jack was stationed here before and at the start of WW1, where he was an engineer at the new RNAS flying boat station back in 1913.  He continued to travel home to his young family in Woolston, that was until he joined up and travelled to join the HMS Ben my Chree, one of the earliest sea plane carriers which went out to Turkey.

So, where does my virtual tour go to next? We reach the point when we now travel beyond the Solent, and we’re heading across the sea to The Channel Islands as from Monday. In fact that’s where the original story  of Riduna began.

Meanwhile I’m continuing my real centenary tour

at Waterstones in St Neots this Saturday on 23rd March from 11am.

I look forward to meeting some more of you then.

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Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Early Flight, Events, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Riduna, Southampton, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, Weston Shore, Woolston