Land Rover’s of the Isle of Wight

Any Given Reason has spent the last month on the Isle of Wight, located just off the UK’s south coast near Portsmouth. It’s a pretty little place that was once infamous as the very definition of English seaside kitsch, but that’s rapidly changing and there’s plenty to do if walking, seven-hundred year old castles and small village pubs are your thing. It’s not typical AGR country – good driving roads are rare and the sports car scene is almost nonexistent, but the island is heaven if you’re keen on Land Rovers.

Within a day or two of arriving it quickly became apparent that the island’s supply of the boxy English off-roaders was well above average, and barely a day would go past without seeing a handful. They were even more plentiful on weekends, and as we drove around exploring the island my girlfriend and I started a game of “punch-buggy Land Rover”. Suffice to say we ended up with bruised thighs, and one particular coastal stretch where we found seven Land Rover’s in a ten minute period was particularly painful.

The Land Rover, in Series I, II, and Defender form, is the perfectly appropriate vehicle for the Isle of Wight. There are no motorways here, and there’s only a handful of roads we’ve found where you can sustain 100km/h for more than a minute. Even the main roads are slow and the island is often best covered by the network of narrow lanes, so the Land Rover’s appalling high-speed wobbles and vagueness is not an issue. The relatively small dimensions and good visibility are ideal for navigating lanes often not wide enough for two cars to pass, and the exemplary off-road capabilities are essential to winter life if you live outside the bigger towns.

Not only that, but they’re just plain right for the environment and don’t stand out in a landscape filled with lush greenery, old stone walls and traditional villages. They don’t seem to have hipster value here like they do in Australia; the properly old ones are kept as classics and enjoyed on weekends, and the rest seem to be used as genuine workhorses. Although I’m sure there’s still a small hipster element to it – a Toyota would do the same job for less money and far more reliably, yet I’ve barely seen a single Landcruiser or Hilux on the island. They’re not nearly as salty.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

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