My original Red Funnel Flip post dealt with the ferry journey between Southampton and Cowes on the Isle of Wight. I did not post any images of Cowes for some strange reason and am now, almost 5 years afterwards I am going to rectify that state of affairs. I will be honest though, it all happened in 2013, and lots has happened between then and now. For starters I haven’t been to Southampton since 2014!
The “Red Jet” ferries have their berth at West Cowes, while the larger car ferries have theirs on East Cowes. Cowes is really bisected into East and West by the Medina River, with the chain drawn ferry (aka floating bridge) carrying passengers and vehicles between the two banks.
Because I like being difficult I decided to head to West Cowes first because I want to have a look at the Northwood cemetery on that side of the river. (Northwood is at the bottom of the map). Similarly I wanted to visit Kingston Cemetery on East Cowes (also at the bottom of the map) .
This is the view of West Cowes from the ferry, way too many yachts for my liking.
That crane in the distance was interesting, although I doubt whether it worked any longer. It is however the sort of thing you would find at a ship or boat builders yard. Boat building was probably once a thriving industry on the island, now it is more geared towards pleasure craft and small boats as well as the “yacht set”.
Having disembarked I headed towards where the floating bridge was not floating. In fact it was stuck on the opposite bank of the Medina! How to cross the river? Fortunately a Jenny Boat came to our rescue. This one is Jenny Lee and she was doing duty as a ferry. The floating bridge was built in 1975 and has space for 19 cars on it and was built in East Cowes.
A few minutes later and I stepped ashore in West Cowes and turned my bows towards the cemetery. As usual I took a brisk walk, keeping an eye open for interesting buildings or objects. I did not really have much of a goal in mind though, it all depended on what I encountered along the way. Way back in 2013 I was not really photographing war graves as I did not have anybody that wanted them so I was free to have a good look around without having to tack my way from headstone to headstone. I was soon at my destination and the cemetery did not really look too impressive compared to those I had been visiting in London earlier in the year. However, there was surprise in store for me, and a dog walker that I met in the cemetery told me the story.
The incident happened on the night of May 4–5, 1942, when the Polish destroyer, ORP Błyskawica was instrumental in defending Cowes from an air raid by 160 German bombers. The ship was undergoing an emergency refit at the J. Samuel White yard where she was built, and on the night of the raid, fired at the German bombers from outside the harbour, her guns becoming so hot they had to be cooled down with water. The gunnery from the ship forced the bombers to stay high, making it hard for them to target properly, and the ship laid a smokescreen hiding Cowes from the high flying bombers. However, the town and shipyard were badly damaged, and it is generally thought that without the destroyer it would have been far worse, although there are those say that the destroyer may have been the reason that the Germans targeted the shipyards.
She then took me to the front of the cemetery and some of the railings around it show signs of shrapnel damage, and embedded in a tree is one of the railings that was blown into it. The tree was much smaller then and it has carried this railing high into it’s branches. There is also a Civilian War Dead Memorial and mass grave in Kingston Cemetery.
Then it was time to leave and head back towards the town to see what I could see.
Like so many places in the UK the buildings have been in use for many years and the weight of ages hangs heavy on West Cowes. I was hoping that there would be one of those wonderful old parish churches that I could have a look at, and I found one after peering at my handy map.
This is St Mary’s Church and as you can see it has a very nice churchyard, unfortunately I was unable to get into it for a closer look. The town itself was compact and very clean with a mix of the usual businesses interspersed with yacht supply sellers and trendy clothing and coffee shops. There was very little there that interested me.
Cowes is also home to the famous Beken of Cowes, Any collector of ocean liner books will acknowledge that an image by Beken of Cowes is something to look at with envy. And, by sheer chance I came across the shop where they were based. And, typically it was closed! (which may be a good thing because I would go gaga amongst those wonderful period images of ships passing by). Sadly the collection was put up for sale in 2014, and at a hefty price tag of £5 million. But, that collection is of very historical value because it documents a maritime history that is long gone.
Beken wasn’t the only place that was closed though, for some reason or other quite a few more places were closed, including the museum!
Fortunately the view of the Solent and the coast of Hampshire was still open, just consider this view if there had been a ship in that stretch of water.
Actually I was trying my best to reach that stretch of water, but sometimes it is one thing seeing something and a whole different ballgame trying to reach it. Finally though my perseverance triumphed and I was at the seaside (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).
Naturally there wasn’t a ship in sight. So I ambled off along a promenade for a bit, but as you can see the weather was looking decidedly lousy and I had to start making a few decisions as to what I wanted to do and how far I would go from the ferry terminal. The problem is that the weather can change very quickly, and what starts out as a nice pleasant sunny day can quickly become a cold and wet walk.
I seem to think that around about this point I turned around and started to wind my way back to town. Pausing at the Holy Trinity Parish Church which was perched on a hill.
The churchyard was not a large one but two things caught my eye:
I have a vague recollection of seeing a documentary about the race and the disaster that it became.
“Held generally every two years the 605 mile long course stretches from Cowes direct to the Fastnet Rock and then to Plymouth via south of the Isles of Scilly. A worse-than-expected storm on the third day of the race wreaked havoc on over 306 yachts taking part in the biennial race, resulting in 18 fatalities (15 yachtsmen and 3 rescuers). The rescue operation involved some 4000 people including the entire Irish Naval Service’s fleet, lifeboats, commercial boats, and helicopters. “(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_Fastnet_race)
The other thing that caught my eye was this view of the Solent:
Just to the right of the house is a tall structure on a spit of land, that is Calshot Spit and ships entering or sailing from Southampton water pass that spit of land, just like I did earlier in the morning.
Very close to where Holy Trinity Church is I found this slightly decrepit gate and decided to go explore what lay behind it.
It turns out that I had found one of the entrances to Northwood Park and Northwood House. Northwood Park was originally a 19th-century landscape park with pleasure grounds. The grounds were presented to Cowes Town Council in 1929, and have been used as a public park ever since. The landscape park was redeveloped in the 20th century. I could not fit all of the house into my viewfinder, and it seemed to be closed too. I also had a nagging feeling that I may have popped up in a place where I was not supposed to be.
There is much more to it than what is in this image though, but I really did not feel too comfortable being there and decided to scarper as fast as my rapidly tiring legs could move me. Going by the sequence of images the next discovery that I made was the War Memorial. This Memorial to the Residents of Cowes, Isle of Wight, is interesting because was damaged during an air raid on the night of 4 and 5 May 1942. This period is popularly known as “the Cowes Blitz“. A Polish destroyer, ORP Blyskawica was berthed at JS Whites’ shipyard on the Medina River and she helped defend the town against the incoming bombers. although she may have been the primary target. The memorial may be found in Northwood Park, West Cowes.
And then I was on my way downhill towards the ferry.
And there is the ramp of the ferry with assorted banging and hammering going on. Not a good sign at all. Now where is the Jenny Boat now that I need her.
Across the river we go to be continued in East Cowes. See you there.
DRW © 2013-2021. Retrospectively created 12/12/2017