It's not easy going green, but we tried

It proved quite a challenge when Cole Moreton and family tried an eco-friendly holiday on the Isle of Wight

Oh, we had such good intentions. What do you do when you're on a green holiday, in a green place like the southern tip of the Isle of Wight, where the beaches are untouched and the farmland rises to the downs? You cycle, of course. Even when there are only two adults to supervise a nine-year-old and three five-year-olds.

And where do you go to cycle? That's right, a proper cycle path, of which the island has many. They're graded according to difficulty and set out in attractive maps available from John, the man who agreed to hire us cycles and deliver them to wherever we wanted. And who wore a curious smile as he unloaded the bikes at our holiday home, the ridiculously beautiful Gotten Manor.

He may have been smiling at the wonder of the place. We were, for a whole week. There has been a home on the site since the Domesday Book. The Old House, built in 1305, would make for a deeply romantic bridal room, with its ancient stone walls, huge cast-iron bath, open fire and perfumed garden outside.

We were not in there – next time maybe, without the kids – but across the courtyard in the Milk House, one of two very groovy conversions of 200-year-old barns. Both have exposed stonework and huge windows in the bedrooms, with views of the surrounding designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A mile inland, we were on the side of St Catherine's Down – which is quite steep for five-year-old legs, even on a bike. The only escape is down a tight, meandering lane in which an unexpected tractor might do to the children what a combine harvester does to corn.

The smile on John's face, it turned out, was the sort of indulgent one you might give to a lunatic. "You know," he said, carefully, "we could have delivered these somewhere more ... suitable." Yes. But we had booked the bikes before seeing the place. He left us to an hour of wobbling up and down the lane, scraped knees, some tears and lots of shouting.

That's how we ended up doing something which made us all feel ashamed: we drove. In two cars. One for the people, one for the bikes, because we had no racks. To somewhere that felt safer. Namely ... the pub. The Wight Mouse, with its big playground.

This was turning into a compromise – a bit like attempts to market the Isle of Wight as a place to Go Green. The landscape is certainly that colour, as the brochure says: "The island has one of the greenest landscapes in Britain with high rolling downs, ancient forests and meadows, wetlands, rich pastures..." Half the island is an AONB, and another 11 per cent is set aside as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. From our bedroom we could see a copse and a sloping field on which a pheasant often strolled. Bats flittered at dusk. A screeching noise at night freaked out my daughter. ("The door is alarmed," I told her, "and big bad wolves can't operate electronic keypads. Their paws just aren't built for it.")

A short ferry trip is undeniably less damaging to the planet than a long flight, but once you offer Green Getaways – as the operator Wightlink does – you invite awkward questions. Are those big ferry engines being offset, for example?

Similar questions are asked by Green Island Tourism, a partnership of businesses and environmental organisations, which presents awards every year to the accommodation providers that score best for their water conservation, energy policy, waste recycling, use of local produce and closeness to nature.

Gotten Manor, owned by the former film producer Caroline Gurney-Champion, holds a Gold Award. The water in the taps came from a spring on the down. The barns were converted using materials reclaimed from derelict homes. There were no solar panels but Caroline planned to get them, she said, when she could afford them. And she had a quibble of her own: "The public transport is terrible."

You could cycle the 10 or so miles from the terminal, I suppose, with all your stuff on panniers. But not with my family. Why couldn't we go back, they moaned, to Planet Ice, the rink in Ryde where my two little girls had fallen in love with their brilliant instructor Matt?

Persisting, we found a quiet lane and unloaded – just as a lorry came out of nowhere. This was madness. But an hour later we were all still alive, if shattered and nettle stung. "Dad," said my son, "can we do that again?"

You know what? There had been no mad queues at the airport, no cancelled flights. We'd spent a week in a place that felt enchanted and we had at least tried to do the right thing by the planet. And John had let us keep the maps with the cycle paths for next time.

News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links