Monday 16 May 2016

New Mosaic

Stokey's Solar System Walk is to gain a fabulous mosaic at the start of the walk in Bonchurch. Inspired by the idea of the walk, the Bonchurch Community Association has commissioned the Ventnor School of Mosaic to produce a piece of ceramic mosaic depicting the Solar System.
Artist's depiction of Solar System from NASA
The work will be based on this image from the space agency NASA, an artist's montage of the solar system. The planets are not to scale, and are depicted close together so as to show some of the features of each planet.
Solar System mosaic design
Ventnor School of Mosaic Solar System Design
The project was displayed on the Mosaic School's stand at Ventnor Day on May 4th, where Jan Pargeter and Ken Knapman told me the mosaic would take several months to complete. The mosaic will be placed next on the wall to the mosaic of the Glanville Fritillary.


Tuesday 22 March 2016

Telling the Time by the Stars

Recently, I mentioned that Stokey had shared with the Allnatt Centre's staff his method of telling the time from the stars, which we had later put into practice on a clear, starry night.
If you want to have a go, here it is:
First, locate the constellation known as the Plough, Ursa Major or Big Dipper:

The stars marked α and ß are Marak and Dubhe and can be used as a pointer to the brightest star in the sky, Polaris. Next, imagine a clock centred on Polaris, but upside down and back to front. Take the number the pointer shows (the Sky Hour) and double it (1 x 2 =2). Then take the month and double that (e.g. August is the 8th month so 16). Add the two together (18) and take that away from 41.5 = 23.5. So the time in this example would be 11.30pm!

Easy! Try it out next time there's a clear sky!

Thursday 3 March 2016

Evening of Reflection at East Dene

With spring in the air, the Allnatt Centre at East Dene in Bonchurch is gearing up for the new season. East Dene was once the home of the Romantic poet Algernon Swinburne but is now one of the Island's most popular outdoor education venues. 

Every summer the centre welcomes school parties from the UK and abroad to enjoy a programme of education, play and inspiration in the peaceful coastal and woodland environment. This week the centre invited the new staff for East Dean and the sister centre at Swanage to train up for the season.
Allnatt Centre at East Dene, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight
Last night's training focused on Reflection, a regular activity undertaken on the programmes, where youngsters reflect on themselves, their team and their achievements during their stay. Karen Chislett, East Dene's Head of Teaching, who attended Stokey's Solar System Walk launch event, said, "Many nights we finish with a bit of stargazing and I thought Stokey's Solar System presentation was really inspiring and knowing his knowledge on the night sky, wanted to share this with the new staff to inspire them, as they too expressed a wish to learn more and to pass this on to the students. Both centres get great views of the night sky and students love hearing about our very limited knowledge."
Stokey Woodall delivers a presentation to staff at Allnatt Centre, Bonchurch
So Stokey once more delivered part of his Wonders Of The Universe course, bringing to life the distances of the Universe and the constellations of the night sky. After the presentation, the team moved up into the woodland, lit a fire and enjoyed putting their knowledge into action, spotting the planets and constellations visible in the clear, dark skies. We could see Orion, the planet Jupiter and Sirius, known as the Dog Star and the brightest star in the night sky.
Also visible was the orange giant star Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus and so huge that our Sun appears tiny in comparison.
Aldebaran and the Sun
The team really enjoyed the evening and practised using their new-found way of telling the time by the stars....which I'll share in the next blog post!

Monday 4 January 2016

Who is Stokey Woodall?

Hi, Lin here, wishing you all a Happy New Year wherever you may roam!

Well, we have all heard of Stokey's Solar System Walk and many of us have been walking it over the holiday period, but who, you may ask, is Stokey and how did he come to set up the walk in Ventnor?

Stokey” is Peter Woodall, who originally hails from Stoke and is still a keen supporter of that football club. But he is better known as an ocean sailor who has crossed the Atlantic some 30 times in 33 years and amassed more than a quarter of a million sea miles. He is a highly respected and much sought after teacher in celestial navigation and has sailed to the Azores some 89 times to teach students completing their Ocean Yachtmaster certification. This week will see him delivering a presentation to expert sailors at the London Boat Show.

After working in mechanical engineering at British Steel, Stokey joined the British Army, skippering yachts for all ranks up to full generals. He travelled the world for 5 years delivering vessels and for 25 years has headed International Ocean Services (Britain’s first ocean sailing school and and weather centre).

He has taught many clients their navigation skills, including Ellen Macarthur, Emma Richards (around the world alone female sailors), the late Barbra Harmer (only female Concorde Captain), John Howard Davies (head of comedy for the BBC), Philippe Khann (inventor of the camera phone), Sir Alex Crampton Smith (world leading anaesthetist), Dr Wittingham (pioneer of ultra sound), and Leven Brown and Matt Craigwell (Trans-Atlantic rowing record holders).

Between 2006 and 2011 Stokey set up the Atlantic Circuit Programme, comprising two trans-Atlantic sailing events: the Trans-Atlantic Adventure starting in Porto and finishing in Barbados and the Trans-Atlantic Challenge from Antigua /Azores to England. Over 450 novices and experienced sailors had the chance to cross an ocean, of all ages, nationalities and social backgrounds.

After over 30 years sailing the seven seas, and having seen pretty much all the world has to offer, Stokey chose to put down his roots in Ventnor in the Isle of Wight which is a pretty big endorsement for the town! From here he plans routes for trans-Atlantic sailors and teaches courses in navigation and ocean sailing and shares his love of the heavens with locals through his popular 'Wonders of the Universe' courses.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Launching the Solar System Walk

Once we had secured funding and had set up the walk, all that remained was to get the word out that it was there and encourage some folk to try it out. The walk is laid out on the 1,000 yard scale, where 1 inch represents 100,000 miles. At the Bonchurch end is a scale model of the Sun and the distance to Pluto can be walked in 1,019 paces, the equivalent of 3,666,000,000 miles! Each planet passed along the way is marked by a plaque with some key facts on.
Stokey's Solar System Walk in Ventnor with model of the Sun

On Saturday28th November, Dave and Dianne from the Crab and Lobster Tap kindly accommodated us for coffee and lunch when a group of invited guests attended Stokey's presentation in the Masonic Hall opposite. He used his expert knowledge to deliver an engaging interactive presentation to illustrate the size and timescale of the solar system, and introduced the concept of the Solar System Walk.

Sadly the weather was so inclement that we were unable to complete the whole walk, but, armed with newly acquired knowledge, most of the guests have since been able to enjoy the walk in kinder weather.

Among the guests were teachers from St Catherine's School, The Island Free School and the Allnatt Centre at East Dene, who were keen share Stokey's knowledge with their students and use the walk as a resource. Liz and Stephen Izatt came along from Ventnor Arts Club, as did Helen and Frazer Cunningham from Vintage Vacations. Bernard Cawley represented Ventnor Enhancement Fund and we were pleased that Wightlink  journalist Karen Woods came all the way from Fareham to see what the walk is all about.

We were very pleased with the enthusiastic response to the event and have since enjoyed to seeing locals and visitors enjoying the walk and taking in a bit of knowledge with the sea air!

Stokey's Solar System Walk in Ventnor

Thursday 22 October 2015

From Idea to Reality

Lin here...

I came away from Stokey's 'Wonders of the Universe' course inspired with the idea of re-creating the walk along the revetment, but with no real idea of how to achieve it. But then I chatted to a few friends about it and one, Joan Barton, felt it fitted really well with her work for Ventnor Enhancement Fund.

VEF was founded as a charity in 2006 as a group of volunteers who raise funds to provide decorations and additional facilities to enhance the ambiance of the Ventnor area. Donations from businesses and residents, together with grants have enabled the fund to undertake a number of projects that have now become part of the character of the town.

Their flowerboxes fill the town with summer colour and the fund provides  Ventnor Park and the Cascade waterfall with atmospheric floodlighting. 
Flower planters in Ventnor High Street
Image with permission of Ventnor Enhancement Fund
The outside gym above Ventnor Park and the children's playpark behind the Winter Gardens were set up with VEF funds. Another project was the enhancement of the Flowersbrook area of the coastal path with wildflowers and landscaping.
Flowersbrook, Ventnor
Their latest venture is the creation of a labyrinth on the grass above the car park at La Falaise, drawn in the shape of a giant diplodocus.
Ventnor Enhancement Fund Labyrinth marked out in white paint in the shape of a dinosaur
Image with permission of Ventnor Enhancement Fund
When approached, VEF agreed to support the project by providing the funding for the plaques to set out the positions of the Sun and the planets. Chairman Mike Gaukroger designed and set up the model of the Sun, and Adam White joined Joan and me to put up the plaques.

Our next step was to produce the signs themselves. Our starting point was the set of facts that Stokey uses to illustrate the walk. Since we wanted to make the walk family friendly, we simplified these to five or six key facts per planet and designed the plaques showing the distance to the next planet in paces.

We then approached Signpost Express, a Newport based company, to advise on a suitably durable material and produce the signs for us. Lee from Signpost Express came up with an attractive finish that would tone in well with the environment, and made the signs for us, also volunteering to fit them to the railings for us.
Signpost Express operative sets up the plaques for Stokey's Solar System Walk

All that remained was to let everyone know it is there!

Thursday 8 October 2015

Welcome to Stokey's Solar System Walk!

Images of Sun and Solar System
Welcome to Stokey's Solar System Walk Blog!

First of all, I am Lin, not Stokey! This walk is Stokey's brainchild, but he is too busy sailing and teaching to spend his time blogging about it! So I will be keeping everyone up to date with how Ventnor's latest attraction came to be and how it shapes up in the future. Stokey's sailing and training services can be found here https: International Ocean Services. In October 2014, an evening in Perks Wine Bar somehow ended in an invitation to attend one of Stokey's 'Wonders of the Universe' courses the following day. Like many people, I had always looked up at the stars and planets and asked myself questions like 'how many stars are there?', 'how far away is the Sun?' and 'what is beyond the Milky Way', so I thought, why not?

Stokey's presentation was accompanied by fabulous visuals, models and practical demonstrations that answered these questions and more and included the original walk. The talk was fascinating, as Stokey shared his enthusiasm for the mysteries of the solar system and a lifetime of knowledge, presented so that we laymen could grasp the concepts. Stokey led the group down to Horseshoe Bay at Bonchurch, held up a large orange balloon and pronounced it to be the Sun. He then walked us along to Wheelers Bay, pacing out the distance between the planets to scale. At each stop, we learned some interesting facts and figures about the planet. Thankfully it was a clear night and we finished the course with a stargazing experience as Stokey pointed out the features of the night sky. As we walked along it occurred to me that it would be great to see this walk marked out so locals and visitors could discover the Solar System as they enjoyed a stroll, and so the Solar System Walk was born!