The little Isle of Wight, that I now have the delight to call home, receives a mixed reputation. Sometimes seen as a place to retire, an island lost in a time-warp ad remote. However, little do people know, there are secret beaches, hidden caves, and turquoise waters, it has forest-lined creeks, botanical gardens and miles of mesmerising views.
Every weekend on the island is an adventure for me and it is one that that I have so close to home. The island is only 23 miles from east to west, however, after 3 years of living here, I am still finding unknown camping spots, different footpaths to follow and quiet creeks to paddle. Adventure, to me, doesn't have to be miles away from home, it is finding space, breathing in the fresh air and stepping away from routine. I take myself away from home distractions and find a headspace free of to-do lists, which allows me to be inspired by my surroundings. I find the urge to paint and create new artwork, immersed by nature.
Words and sketches by Bethany Mercer | Photography by Global Shots
I wake up, socks still on, my shoulders and the end of my nose are cold where they have been peeking out of the duvet. I pull back the curtain and look out through the condensation of the window to see a pink milky sky, the sea birds dunk and dive and the sun not yet up. I am unable to pinpoint the time.
I sit up and look out to see small waves breaking, a couple of vans have pulled up close by and people change into wetsuits ready to surf, making the most of having the whole of Compton bay to themselves whilst it is early.
Tea comes first no matter where I am, but especially waking up in the van. I pull on my thickest knitted jumper, listen to the whistle of the kettle and take my tea outside. Salty air, low morning light and the sound of the waves. You can never wake up in a bad mood with the sun and the sound of the sea.
I sit and think of stories, from millions of years, that sit beneath the cliffs where I have parked up in my yellow campervan, and now sipping tea. The low tide exposes a three-toed foot-cast of the Iguanodon dinosaur, fossilised ammonite in the chalky rocks and Lignite fossilised wood that sparkles gold in the wet sand. This stretch of coastline is a geologists dream.
The sun beams through the back window of the van. Time to get up and get to the sea. The feeling of putting on a wet wetsuit never gets better. I brace myself and put it on as quickly as I can and head out to join the only other two people on the water. The light hits the small wind spray from behind making it sparkle. The shock of the cold salty water on my face is the best way to wake up.
Back to the van for dippy eggs and coffee, feeling fully awake and hungry after a morning surf on the small mellow waves. I pick up my paints and sketchbook and head off along the coast path with the dog, up towards the downs to sit and sketch for a little while. As the sun comes up, the glare through the sea mist is so bright you can almost taste the moisture in the air.
The view from the top of the downs overlooking the west coast is one of my favourite views on the island. On a clear day you can see the whole stretch of coastline from the needles at the most western point, following along to the Tennyson down, the famous monument, Freshwater Bay with its turquoise waters and white cliffs, all the way along to the southern beaches near Blackgang.
The island inspires me so much to draw and paint. The waves and rock formations, the wildflowers and brightly coloured fishing boats, the people, the landscape and the stories. It inspires me not only in terms of what to paint but puts me in the mood to pick up my brushes. I could spend an entire day parked up at the cliff's edge with just a cup of tea, sea view and my sketchbook, everything I need is packed up in my Smith, from my paints to a woolly jumper, a spare pair of socks plus a camera. Luckily the rolltop means I can squeeze a lot more in than you'd think.
We sometimes forget that we don't need to catch a flight and travel hundreds of miles to embark on an adventure. Sometimes it is only a few miles from your front door or just around the corner. Take the time to escape the everyday and get outside; whether it is a night of camping, breakfast with a view, a river walk with a flask of tea or a weekend with no real plans. It's so important to have that regular escape, to breathe fresh air, switch and be inspired by familiar, and maybe not so familiar, surroundings. Sometimes a day is all it takes.