Her TV presenter and Chief Scout son Bear Grylls is famed for his love of the great outdoors, something Lady Grylls also finds time to enjoy in the Island’s many gardens and bays
I do like to be beside the seaside. As a family we lived in London — my late husband was an MP who represented the constituency of North West Surrey. However, for weekends and school holidays we relaxed on the Isle of Wight. After years renting holiday houses in Bembridge, we bought a cottage of our own, which is now my home. Now my grandchildren can experience many of the same benefits that my family have enjoyed over the years on our uniquely special historical and vibrant Island.
My family call me Granny Salmonella. My great-great aunt was Isabella Beeton, who wrote the Victorian bestseller Household Management, but I don’t cook much these days or very well — my smoke alarm reminds me daily when dinner is ready.
The Island’s greatest natural treasure is Shanklin Chine. Did you know that chine is a word used only on the Isle of Wight and Dorset? It describes a deep narrow ravine with water running down to the sea. The chine in Shanklin is floodlit in the evening and is spectacular after heavy rain. You can feel the presence of bygone smugglers in the Fisherman’s Cottage, now a restaurant.
I love to visit the many wonderful gardens here. The Royal Gardens at Osborne House and the famous Ventnor Botanical gardens are a must-see. However, there are also many other impressive gardens in family homes such as Nunwell House in Brading, a stunning Tudor and Jacobean mansion that has been a family home since 1522 and is where the ill-fated King Charles I spent the last night of his freedom.
You can’t leave the Island without seeing the extraordinary mosaic floors at Brading Roman Villa. Overlooking Sandown Bay, it’s one of the finest Roman sites in the UK — it also has a very a good café. Another favourite spot is Briddlesford Farm, which makes award-winning cheeses and also has a great restaurant and farm shop.
We are blessed with several fabulous theatres. Quay Arts and Apollo Theatres in Newport, together with the popular Shanklin Theatre, offer great entertainment throughout the year. I also enjoy the annual Ventnor Fringe (28 July-2 August) — the town is transformed into a world of pop-up venues and bars squeezed into every conceivable space, hosting 100 different shows, from new comedians to music events — with plenty of craft beers to try. Should gin be more your tipple, the tastings and talks at the Isle of Wight Gin Distillery are good fun. Its award-winning Mermaid Gin is delicious — I am told it is made from locally foraged rock samphire and Boadicea hops.
The Island is full of talented artists. One of my favourites is Alex Williams, who allowed me to use some of his paintings for a 2020 calendar to further spread awareness of the Admiral Nurses serving in communities on the Isle of Wight. It was while l was a patient in a nursing home in Ryde after breaking my leg that I became aware of just how vulnerable elderly people are, especially those living with dementia. I got to know about the vital role of the Admiral Nurses. They are a lifeline to those who are coping with memory loss and their carers and family. We currently have four Admiral Nurses on the Island.
I am privileged to be involved in one of the Dementia Friendly Churches’ garden projects. The first quiet dementia garden on the Island is being created at the rear of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake. Volunteers are planting fragrant plants and shrubs that will attract butterflies and bees and there are benches where visitors can sit to experience peace, calm and renewal.