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Ryde (Isle of Wight)
Member Name: JJJJ
Ryde (Isle of Wight)
Date: 01/03/09, updated on 02/03/09 (391 review reads)
Advantages: Sandy beaches, variety of entertainment
Disadvantages: Antisocial behaviour
Ryde is situated on the North-East coast of the Isle of Wight and is the largest town on the Island. As a destination, Ryde offers a decent selection of activities and things to do. There are plenty of pubs (which I took a detailed look at in a previous review), a good range of shops and some interesting Georgian and Victorian architecture to keep the building enthusiasts happy. However, apart from the brief history section which follows (feel free to skip that bit if you want) this review isn't going to focus on facts, as I want to write about what it's like to live in the seaside town which has a population of over 30,000.
A Brief History Lesson
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As a small village in Medieval times, Ryde became a crossing point to the mainland due to its proximity to Portsmouth. Since that time, the population increased at a slow but steady rate throughout the centuries. Ryde saw its most dramatic growth when Queen Victoria took up residence at Osbourne House on The Island in the nineteenth century. These days, a good proportion of Ryde is a conservation area which hopes to maintain the look and feel of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian properties. That said, planning seems to be a bit of a contentious issue recently, and there have been quite a few bland and less than impressive pieces of architecture springing up in the town at an alarming rate.
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Nicknamed 'The Gateway to the Island', Ryde has a good transportation infrastructure and easy mainland accessibility. Links to the mainland come in the form of the Wightlink operated Catamaran which runs from the end of Ryde's 681 metre pier to Portsmouth, and the Hovercraft, which departs from Ryde Esplanade and lands at Southsea.
The buses on the Island are run by a company named 'Southern Vectis' (Vectis being the Roman name for the Island), and although pricey, they run a fairly prompt and frequent service.
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From my description so far, Ryde probably sounds like a decent place to live - but like anywhere, if you dig a little deeper, there are social problems which can ruin the town as a destination. From the identikit groups of hooded teenagers who linger in doorways and line the Esplanade at night, to the drunken violence which has become more prominent in the town over the last few years, Ryde has its fair share of trouble and troublemakers.
Every Saturday night there is an incident in the street in which I live - smashed windows, wing-mirrors ripped off cars, and frequent brawls don't do much to help the property prices in the area. It's a sad sign of society these days when, as a fight breaks out, the urge is to film it rather than help break it up. Drug dealing, peeing up walls and on cars is also a regular sight in the backstreets at the weekends.
Walking along the esplanade in the morning is an interesting experience - you have to hop over the discarded chip boxes, half-eaten kebabs, plastic bottles and vomit which line the pavements - I suppose it keeps you fit having to leap over the obstacles in your path, it's like a waste materials assault course! Although it's a generalisation, the youth of Ryde don't use bins, instead using the floor as one big rubbish tip. I think the police have the power to fine for littering, but it's generally not a power which is enforced.
Entertainment and the Positives
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Ryde's sandy beach is a great place to hang out in the summer; when the tide is out, there are miles and miles of golden sand which gets warm in the sunshine, and is raked by beach tractors which remove stones and seaweed. The sea is generally clean to swim in, and after the tide comes back in over the hot sand in the evenings, the water temperature can often feel as warm as bath water.
There is actually quite a bit to do in Ryde, with the Esplanade alone housing a wealth of amenities. From the icerink to the bowling alley, the swimming pool to the skatepark, you certainly couldn't blame the antisocial behavior on the fact that teenagers have nothing to do.
In terms of shopping, the town itself is a bit of a mixed bag, there are some interesting shops, but the majority are of the identikit WH Smith, Peacocks, Somerfield and Ladbrokes variety that you would expect from every other UK highstreet. The architecture of the town is fairly pleasant, although the chewing-gum strewn pavements aren't that pleasing to look at.
Other things of interest to look out for are Ryde's carnival at the end of the summer (the oldest in the UK) - which, although a bit tacky, has in recent years had some entries from the Notting Hill parade to livened things up a bit. There is also an 'Arts Parade' which takes place earlier in the year which is very similar to the carnival, but in my opinion is a little better.
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Over the years Ryde has had its fair share of celebrity residents - both well known and not so well known. Recently deceased Hollywood director Anthony Minghella ('The Talented Mr Ripley', 'Cold Mountain', 'Truly Madly Deeply') was born in Ryde, and his parents still live on the Island. Mark King from Level 42 is a local resident and opened the popular pub 'Joe Dafloe's' (now shortened to 'Joe's') which is housed on Union Street; and who remembers 'Mr Bronson' from 'Grange Hilll'? Until his death, the actor who played him, Michael Sheard, could often be seen shopping in the town. Sheard also starred in 'Star Wars', and as Hitler in 'Indiana Jones and the last Crusade'. Of course, there are many more famous residents - too many to mention them all, but who could forget the controversial David Icke, who lives in the area and can often be spotted out and about.
In popular culture, Ryde has had a few name-checks over the years; although it has a different spelling, the Beatles 'Ticket to Ride' was inspired by a trip that Lennon and McCartney took to Ryde in the '60's.
Continuing the musical link, Ryde Theatre (also known as 'The Venue') usually has a decent selection of tribute bands playing at the weekends, and occasionally features some original artists.
In conclusion, although I have made it sound decidedly dodgy, on the whole, Ryde is a decent place to live. In the summer it's great, being able to wander down to the seafront and lie on the hot sand whilst listening to the waves lapping at the shore, is a very relaxing experience. It's a shame that the low points I have highlighted occasionally mar the reputation of Ryde, but I suppose many UK towns and cities are blighted by the same negatives, and it's societies problem rather than Ryde's.
Summary: Seaside town which is a mixed bag
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