INNS AROUND THE ISLAND
Drawn and written by A W R Caws
The Blacksmith's Arms
SITTING IN THE TINY SALOON BAR OF 'The Blacksmith's Arms' one morning recently, my attention was drawn to a photograph on the mantelpiece. Dated 1907, it showed the IW Foxhounds meeting outside the inn, and revived memories of visits here on Boxing Day mornings just after the last war to watch these traditional country gatherings.
I recall trudging, usually deep in mud, up the long path, across the road from here, that leads to Bowcombe Down.
To reach the inn from Newport, take the Freshwater road and leaving Carisbrooke Castle on your left climb fairly steeply towards Calbourne. Soon you will find at a bend in the road, standing on your right hand side in splendid isolation, this attractive little inn, a noteworthy feature being its old beamed porch.
From this quite high vantage point to the north of Bowcombe and Apes Downs, still in the Carisbrooke district, and known to the locals as Park Cross, it commands a fine panoramic view of the Island countryside.A wide vista of peaceful pasture land dotted with the occasional cluster of farm buildings stretches to the north with glimpses of the sea, near the entrance to Newton Creek, Thornes Bay and the approach to Southampton Water in the distance Nearer to the eye the dense mass of Parkhurst Forest creates a dark accent in the green landscape, whilst the tall chimney stacks of Fawley Refinery, on the mainland, etch bold shapes in the north- east skyline.
In addition to the small saloon already mentioned, the inn has a spacious public bar, from the large window of which much of the adjacent countryside can be seen. There is a children's room, and a fair sized garden at the rear of the building, equipped with tables and chairs, is available for use in good weather. Something that struck me as quite unique was the considerable number of original drawings which enliven the walls throughout the inn. Many of these, depicting the inn, its picturesque surroundings and other Island subjects are, I understand, the work of artists from Fresh, water and Ryde. Although 'The Blacksmith's Arms' stands in what seems to be a rather isolated position with few dwellings in the immediate vicinity, I have been surprised by the number of people enjoying its hospitality on my recent visits there.
It has been kept for the last ten years by Mr & Mrs W F Cummings who, for eighteen years previously ran a pub at Colegate near Horsham in Sussex. They are planning to retire at the end of this summer but will continue to reside on the Island.
In addition to a good range of liquid refreshments, cold snacks such as meat pies, sandwiches and the inevitable Ploughman's lunches are available.