Reptile Centre - Reptilarium & Terrapin Sanctuary at Fort Victoria

The opening day of the Isle of Wight's newest reptile attraction at Fort Victoria, The Reptilarium and Terrapin Sanctuary, saw the staff nervously excited and the visitors curious and interested as to what lay ahead of them in the old fort's tunnels.

Through an unassuming entrance lies 4 rooms of biodiversity: Desert, Jungle, a Terrapin Pool and a Nocturnal Room with reptiles as rare and diverse as Moroccan Uromastyx to Painted Wood Turtles.

Entrance to Reptilarium and Terrapin Sanctuary
Entrance to Reptilarium and Terrapin Sanctuary

With anticipation, I stepped through the green doors to find myself in the desert with some living stones, South African succulent plants with a stone-like appearance.

Living Stones display
Living Stones display

To my left and right was a row of vivariums, each one individually climate controlled to the ideal temperature for its inhabitants.

I peered into the enclosure at hollowed logs strategically placed in the wood chip, vines angled against the wall for optimum climbing and perfect camouflage, succulents taking root in their new environment. Something on the branch moved then froze again.  An untouched bowl of food lay at the front of the vivarium and then an eyeball looked around and I noticed just how effective the camouflage was as I followed the eye of the tiny lizard down to the tip of his tail.

"Ah he's out now," said one of the friendly, green t-shirted volunteers.  The volunteers were extremely helpful and knowledgeable.  They turned what at first appeared to be a lifeless glass box into a world full of interest and on almost every occasion could spot the resident or residents inside. 

One of the residents popping out for a look
One of the residents popping out for a look

Luckily, the reptile centre operates a hand stamp system allowing visitors to return as often as they like throughout the day so they can pop back and see if the spiny-tailed monitor has crawled out from under his rock or the hispaniolan curlytail lizard has been tempted by his leafy lettuce.

Individually Climate Controlled Vivarium
Individually Climate Controlled Vivarium

In the large terrapin pool, there are currently 30 terrapins of varying ages and size and it is hoped that they will be able to rescue up to 100 yellow-bellied slider turtles altogether.  The terrapins will not be allowed to breed but they can lay their eggs in a sand box at the side of the pool allowing them to lead as natural a life as possible and prevent them becoming egg bound.

With so much to see and do at Fort Victoria, including the Planetarium, The Sunken Secrets Archaeological Centre and the Model Railway, you can easily spend a whole day there, exploring the beaches for fossil turtle and alligator, following the nature trail through the country park or taking in the views over The Solent to Hurst Castle and Lymington from the roof of the old fort batteries giving you plenty of opportunity to pop back to the Reptilarium to see if that elusive snake, lizard, cockroach or scorpion has ventured into view.

Alligator and Turtle murals on the Fossil Art Trail at The Reptilarium at Fort Victoria
Alligator and Turtle murals on the Fossil Art Trail at The Reptilarium at Fort Victoria

You will also find another part of the Fossil Art Trail on show at the reptile centre.  A mural by Tony Trowbridge depicting images of the turtles and alligators that used to swim in the waters in that area and whose fossils can now be found on the beaches around the fort is on show in the gift shop of the Reptilarium.

A New Willow Wetland Walk in Sandown

Where there’s a willow there’s a way.  

Determination will overcome any obstacle says the saying and that’s certainly what Arc Consulting have done when they enlisted the help of the Community Payback Service to create the Willow Walk, Sandown Bay’s newest wetland walk.

Willow wetland walk winding woodchip path
Winding Woodland Walk

Wyatt & Jack Upcycled Bouncy Castle Tote Bag

When Wyatt and Jack asked me to road test their bouncy castle tote bag, I literally jumped at the chance.

The white PVC tote (also available in 13 other colours including tangerine, cherry and purple) arrived in a strong brown paper envelope with no extra packaging to throw away, no plastic bags or bubble wrap around it  - a feature, I was to discover,  in keeping with the reusing and recycling message promoted by the company.

coloured PVC tote
Other colours of Totes are available

Yestival – A Festival for Adventurers & Adventurous Thinking 20th - 22nd October 2017

Have you ever fancied going on an adventure but don’t know where to begin?  Do you dream of living an adventurous life but are too scared to take that first step?

Yestival could have all your answers.  Yestival started in 2015, the brainchild of adventurer, TED Ex speaker and author, Dave Cornthwaite, following a summer of SayYesMore campouts where total strangers met at an agreed location, chatted around a campfire, spent the night out in the wild and left as friends the following day.

The first year of Yestival saw over 30 experienced adventurers share their secrets and tales and dish out help with the same amount of enthusiasm as they put into the adventures themselves.

Yestival Promo Pic 23rd to 25th October

Facing my Fears & Climbing out my Comfort Zone at Sandown Rocks

An unexpected invitation to tea took me to a new high when I agreed to meet my friend Matt at Sandown Rocks 45ft climbing wall the other day.

“Right, what I thought we’d do is climb to the top, tie ourselves in and have tea.  What do you think?”  Suggested Matt.

“Of course we will,” I said dubiously.  “Who wouldn’t drink tea at the top of a climbing wall? It’s not like Mary Poppins has exclusivity on lofty tea parties.” I joked nervously.

Sandown Rocks Climbing Wall

Rock Pools and Seaweed

As I went for a walk at sunrise this morning, my eye caught the sunlight shining on the seaweed that hung from the groin at low tide.  Fucus serratus or more commonly known as The Toothed Wrack, it is usually harvested for cosmetics or seaweed baths but can also be used to make tea or Japanese noodle soup. 

Another thing I discovered recently was the joy of rock pooling.  It was something I hadn't done since I was a child when we would visit the seaside for a day trip or our annual summer holiday.  I could spend hours staring ignorantly at the creatures and seaweed in the pools but with no book or expert to identify them for me, I remained totally ignorant until I found myself on a guided walk last weekend to Horse Ledge near Luccombe on the Isle of Wight, one of the best places on the island for rock pools.

Fucus serratus The Toothed Wrack Seaweed

5 Fascinating Facts about Iceland's Animals

Iceland is a wonderland of extremes and as such, Iceland's animals have to be very adaptable to survive. It is a country that must be experienced from the boiling hot mud pools to the frozen massive glaciers, from deafening waterfalls to silent and eerie lava fields.  I found the whole country fascinating including these fascinating facts about some of Iceland's animals.


Whenever I visit a new place, I like to get out and explore it on foot, to orientate myself and meet the local people.  Reykjavik was no exception except many of the locals I initially met were geese.  They seemed to be just wandering around on grass verges at the side of busy roads, so I commented on this to one of the locals, who wasn’t a goose, who said that they were quite common at this time of year, late August, because the shooting season has started and there is a law banning anyone shooting the geese within the city boundary.

Geese in Reykjavik Photo by Roman Gerasymenko