The Isle of Wight’s 2020 Vision

The Isle of Wight plans to build on a hugely successful 2019, in which it played a major part in marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria, and was able to celebrate the news that the whole of the Island had been awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. There’s still a long way to go to the start of the 2020 season, but Visit Isle of Wight already has plenty to shout about in the coming year. Initial details are provided below, but for further updates, please email Sue Emmerson, and ask her to include you on our PR mailing list.

For now, here’s a Top 10 list of what’s new for 2020…

You are now entering a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

2020 will see the first full year of the Isle of Wight’s status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The status it achieved in 2019 is internationally recognised, and illustrates the way in which the Isle of Wight is now recognised as offering one of the best areas in the world for managed landscapes where the human impact is not detracting from the landscape and wildlife. The Island’s elevation to UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status greatly enhances its reputation as a special place to live – and also, in tourism terms, to visit. There are just seven Biosphere Reserves in the UK, and the Isle of Wight was the first area in England to receive this accolade for seven years. The UNESCO accolade will build on its sustainable tourism initiatives, including the recently launched Slow Travel Guide to the Isle of Wight; and will also highlight it as a destination for those in search of outdoors and wellbeing breaks.

In the 125th anniversary year of The National Trust, meet The Ferguson Gang

The National Trust was founded on 12 January 1895; and one of the most fascinating chapters of its history was written on the Isle of Wight, at Newton Old Town Hall, by the notorious “Ferguson Gang”.  Ferguson’s Gang was formed in 1927 with five core members, all of whom were women. Their aim was to raise awareness of the need to protect rural areas and they supported the organisation they considered to be the most dedicated to preserving England’s heritage: The National Trust. The Gang raised huge sums to protect and preserve important buildings and land that could otherwise have been destroyed. ‘Swag’ donations to the National Trust were delivered in strange ways: money inside a fake pineapple; a one-hundred pound note stuffed inside a cigar; five hundred pounds with a bottle of homemade sloe gin. Their stunts were widely reported in the press, and when they made a national radio appeal for The National Trust, the response was overwhelming. The Gang’s members hid behind pseudonyms such as ‘Sister Agatha’, ‘Bill Stickers’ and the ‘Bludy Beershop’. After the Second World War, the Gang’s activities decreased. But in 1989, Sister Agatha visited the Town Hall. She didn’t reveal her real name but had abandoned her mask. When asked why they had done what they did; she replied that they had been young, they wanted to help The National Trust and above all it had been fun.

Better news still, a tranquil sunset photograph of a weathered pier over the saltmarsh at Newtown National Nature Reserve on the Isle of Wight will star on the cover of the 2020 National Trust Handbook (in the 125th anniversary year of the National Trust), following a competition to find a winning image for the annual guide. Les Lockhart, who lives in East Cowes, won the contest with the striking shot of his favourite local spot.

The Isle of Wight welcomes ‘Wylde Sistas’

Wylde Sistas is the latest venture from the creators of Tiny Homes Holidays and Vintage Vacations. The idea is founded upon the desire to create a space for women to come together, spending quality time catching up, sharing ideas and importantly taking time to nurture friendships. Wylde Sistas according to its organisers on the Island comes from “the belief that female friendship is a priority to many of us and great things happen when women come together to support each other. Many of our collaborators are female led businesses, chosen to champion this distinct female energy”. Wylde Sistas will host a selection of packages starting from £40pp encouraging woman-only holidays. Curated with female needs in mind the packages utilise all that the Isle of Wight has to offer, covering a variety of interests – from soy candle making, to forest bathing and meditation, the pic’n’mix approach to holidays means the experience is tailor made to guests wants and needs. Making the getaway as action packed or tranquil as desired. A new website is currently in development and will be found at

Action-packed Aqua Park set to open in Spring, 2020

The Isle of Wight’s first outdoor, floating Aqua Park will be opening at Tapnell Farm in Spring, 2020. Great fun for families, adults and children, the Aqua Park lake will feature a floating, inflatable course with a range of obstacles, suitable for confident swimmers and fun lovers. It is envisaged that it will be open for the season from May to September. The Aqua Park has been designed to complement everything else on the Tapnell Farm site. More detailed information about the Aqua Park will be provided in due course.

The Day of the Dead and Terror Island. Be afraid. Be very afraid…

Following the long-term success of Robin Hill’s Electric Woods’ Festival of Light, a new Day of the Dead event has been announced by the park for 2020. Known in Mexico as Dia de Los Muertos, where cities country-wide celebrate life through the ages, it will feature sensory experiences and culinary delights from Latin America, as well as an explosive fiesta performance guaranteed to waken the dead.

Also building on the success of 2019, sister park Blackgang Chine will be introducing terrifying new event to the Isle of Wight calendar in autumn 2020. ‘Terror Island – Part 2’ at the Chine will open in October with new chilling attractions, innovative storylines and brand-new nightmares

Best foot forward for the 2020 Isle of Wight Walking Festival

The Eastern Yar is the longest river on the Isle of Wight arising from the chalk downs at the southern end of the Island and flowing for some 20km to outfall into the eastern Solent at Bembridge. It drains a quarter of the Island and is home to some of its major biosphere species such as water voles, kingfishers and a variety of dragonflies and damselflies. The revamped 19-mile Yar River Trail follows it from source to sea taking in a variety of wetland landscapes. To celebrate its recent “refresh”, the Isle of Wight Ramblers will be leading four circular walks as part of the 2020 Isle of Wight Walking Festival, which enable keen walkers to complete the trail. Additionally, two new trails have been established that link the towns of Shanklin and Ventnor with the Yar River Trail, and these will be premiered during the Festival. The dates for the 2020 Isle of Wight Walking Festival have recently been announced as May 2 to May 17.

New all-weather facility for steamy weekends, and stormy days

The Isle of Wight Steam Railway is constructing a new barn in the Havenstreet station show field – the venue of a wide range of events including the Island Steam Show, 1940s Experience, Island Real Ale Festival and Island Motor Show. The total cost of the project will be close to £300,000 and will provide a substantial all-weather space for events and a variety of functions. The Railway has been staging events at Havenstreet for around 45 years, and the weather has proved to be a constant challenge. Work is expected to be completed by May 2020.

New motorsport event announced for the Isle of Wight in 2020

Following nearly two years of preparation, Solent and the Isle of Wight Car Club have announced the dates for the first Isle of Wight Speed Trials – ‘The Sandown Sprint’. Scheduled to be staged over the weekend of March 28/29,2020, this new motorsport event will be one of the first of its type to be held on public roads in England.

Visitors are invited to go Under The Pier, on the Isle of Wight

Under The Pier is a free event organised by Isle of Wight environmental businesses Arc and Artecology, which uncovers the coastal wildlife under Ryde Pier. This year alone, it has brought attracted around 600 visitors, with dozens of species discovered…while trains, hovercrafts, fastcats and cars buzzed past above them. The pier’s 200 years old architecture, and the sandflats Under The Pier explores to the west of it, are home to an enormous array of fascinating marine life, which can be spotted by visitors with the help of local ecologists and volunteers. This has been the sixth year of Under The Pier but it has been an extra-special for organisers who could also celebrate being part of the Island’s recently awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. Better still, there are plans to make the 2020 schedule even busier.

‘Dinosaur Capital of Britain’ given another mammoth boost

The Isle of Wight’s profile as “Dinosaur Capital of Britain” has just been given another mammoth boost. It is already widely recognised as the best place in Europe to follow in the footsteps of Dinosaurs or go fossil hunting along its sandy beaches, and was named in 2013 by The Natural History Museum as the “Dinosaur Capital of Britain”. Now the Island is back in the headlines once again – thanks to the discovery of fossilised remains of a giant prehistoric creature with a wingspan of at least 20 feet. The giant pterosaur fossil, known as Hatzegopteryx, lived about 125 million years ago and could be one of the biggest species ever to fly.

Getting on track, on the Isle of Wight

The Minister of State for Transport has recently announced a major investment of £26 million in Island Trains, on the Isle of Wight – including new rolling stock. This will improve connectivity with cross-Solent sailings and it also complements the allocated funding from Network Rail to renew Ryde Railway Pier. Hovercrafts and ferries link with train services on the Island, to help visitors get around the Isle fo Wight.  Rolling stock tends to be former London Underground carriages. It is likely to be May 2021 before the new timetable and services are fully operational – although visitors will find some changes in the meantime.

Isle of Wight is a cruise destination for Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection have announced today that their ship Evrima will be coming to the Isle of Wight next summer. The inaugural season voyage will depart London on July 14, and visit Cowes on July 16 before heading to Rouen, Bruges and Amsterdam. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s offer is one of “immersion in life’s exceptional experiences; exploration of unexpected hideaways…delivered in an intimate setting with a heightened level of care and attention” ( This has partly come about because Cowes Harbour Commisson has facilitated the development by shoreside tour operators of several new land and water-based excursions to further enhance the range of unique experiences available to cruise passengers, including for the first time tours based in and around the vibrant Cowes town. And the Isle of Wight is ready to provide itinerary planners with a host of tour options for cruise passengers wanting high quality and authentic experiences at destinations.

For further information, visit

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    UNESCO Biosophere Reserve

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    Under the Pier

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    Tapnell Farm Aqua Park

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    Newtown Old Town Hall

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    Walking Festival

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