myisleofwight guide to the 'Only on the Wight' season…

According to the 'Wonders of the Isle of Wight' the Island is the only place where there is a "Lake" where there is no water, "Needles" you cannot thread, "Ryde" where you walk, "Cowes" you cannot milk, "Freshwater" you cannot drink, "Newport" you cannot bottle, "Winkle street" where there are no Winkles and a "Newtown" which is very old. The idea for Wonders of the Isle of Wight, a play-on words based on the name of Island Towns or Places, was started over 100 year ago by a Ventnor postcard maker. But to this day there are still events that occur ‘only on the Wight’ and they are all to do with tides.


Through the year equinoctial spring tides on the Island allow for some crazy unique activities that can be enjoyed that day while the sea’s at bay. 

Here’s a guide to some of the best…

Walk on Water

First to kick off the ‘Only on the Wight’ season is the St Helen’s fort walk.

Every year (often in August), there is a mass walk from St. Helen's beach out to the fort and back. As it always takes place on one of the lowest tides of the year, a causeway appears from the sea which was originally used to carry the materials out from the shore to the fort. People also walk out from Bembridge spit and it has become traditional to hold a barbecue on the beach after the walk. The fort walk is entirely spontaneous (although safety boat services are provided by local yacht clubs) and is dependent on the tides – the date is like a state secret with people in the ‘know’ passing the word when the date is set – so keep your ear to the ground…

Surf the Shingle Bank

Moving round the Wight – ever fancied surfing off a shingle bank? Located off Hurst spit, the shingle bank is seen at very low tide, offering the prime location to head out to by boat and have a go at surfing the break out in the middle of the Solent. Constantly shifting, this can be treacherous for sailors, but for crazy surfers it can throw up some seriously fun swell.

Stand on a Wreck

The Varvassi wreck is located just off The Needles and is a peril to all sailors who think they will risk sailing in close to the white stacks to save time. There is a way to ‘thread the needles’ by sailing between the stacks but only true locals know the way without risk of shipwreck! At certain times of the year, it is possible to see the boilers of the wreck poking out of the top of the water and it has been known for some crazy yet fearless few to actually stand on it!

Last seen done by one of Yarmouth lifeboat crew – all we can say is don’t try this yourself – their fearless daredevil had an entire lifeboat standing ready to save him if it all went a bit wrong!

There is an easier wreck to stand on in very low tides, called the SS Carbon, off Hanover Point, at Compton. So make your way there on the next really low tide, and then pop along to the discover the secret underwater caves around Freshwater Bay which are also uncovered for a brief window. These can be explored and the vast underground caverns and secret beaches accessed – but only while the tide is out!

The Brambles Cricket Match

In a nutshell this is a cricket match played in the middle of The Solent on the Brambles sandbank, which appears only once a year - and then only for about an hour - midway between Southampton and the Isle of Wight. When it does members of The Royal Southern Yacht Club at Hamble and the Island Sailing Club on the Isle of Wight race out to it... for a cricket match. Participants and spectators wait around in boats for the sea to reveal Bramble Bank and then the stumps are quickly put up and the match gets under way. The competitors usually dress in cricket whites and there is even a pop up pub 'The Bramble Inn' which serves drinks to spectators. A totally unique event – and definitely one you’ll find ‘Only on the Wight’.

Alix Robinson

19 May 2016

By Alix Robinson in Articles