“Let’s go and see the Needles!” they said!
“It’ll be fun!” they said.
My three daughters, two of their friends and my husband, all unanimously agreed that this was the one place they most wanted to visit during our recent trip to the Isle of Wight.
Hazy memories of our previous trip to Alum Bay, some twenty years earlier, began to surface… I recalled a nail-biting ride on an ancient chairlift, equipped with minimal safety features, over a steep cliff-side…legs dangling, shoes being lost forever…
“Well…okay!” I gulped, not wanting to appear the party-pooper.
So, the next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, we jumped in the car and headed for Alum Bay.
Round about half-way there, it dawned on us that as a party of seven, and an odd number at that, one of us would have to ride the chairlift alone.
Emily, our youngest, had already decided she was going to ride with her daddy. And who could blame her?
Grace and Lydia, each had brought a friend with them.
And so that just left…
I steeled myself, placing all my hope on the fact that my life was squarely in God’s hands and that if in His sovereign wisdom I was supposed to die plunging over a chasm…well that was His business, and not mine.
On, to the chair-lift I jumped, before I had time to bottle out.
Up, up, up cranked the chair. Boom, boom, boom went my heart. As we sailed over trees, I fixed my eyes on Grace and her boyfriend who were riding in the chair in front of me, and told myself over and over again: “it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay!
And, of course, although it was awfully high, it wasn’t quite as scary as I had remembered, provided you didn’t spend the duration of the journey trying to figure out just how the chair-lifts were attached.
In fact, I even managed to snap a little photo!
The descent into Alum Bay soon took my mind off things. The views were truly magnificent!
Jumping off that chair lift, and onto the shingly beach, I felt exhilarated, not only to stand on terra firma once again, but also to witness the vast sweep of the Bay, curving round towards the iconic ‘Needles’ – a crop of three chalk rocks that jut up dramatically out of the English Channel.
It was an unimaginably beautiful day – the bright blue sky dotted with wispy cotton-wool clouds, rays of sunlight glinting on the sea. And most importantly, I was surrounded by so many dear faces – all sharing this rare and wonderful moment with me.
NEEDLES BOAT TOUR
We took a fascinating boat tour out to the Needles, which afforded us a much closer look at them.
the missing needle!
The Needles got their name, due to an original fourth rock, known as ‘Lot’s Wife’ which had a very pointed needle-like shape. Even though this rock collapsed into the heart of the sea, during a storm in 1764, the name stuck.
The Lighthouse, three-feet thick at its base, and rising some 80 feet above high water, was built to withstand wild waves of up to 20 feet high, sweeping in from the West. Up until 1944, when the lighthouse became fully automated, it was manned 24-7 by a Lighthouse Keeper and three assistants. This crop of rocks have always been perilous to sailors, and still to this day, the foghorn sounds every 15 seconds in periods of low visibility.
THE COLOURED ROCKS
Alum Bay is also famous for its colourful rock face, caused by geological folding, which over time, pushed the horizontal layers of rock strata to a vertical position,
ALUM BAY SANDS
Because of these colourful rocks, Alum Bay is unique in having 21 possible shades of sand. Ever since Victorian Times, it has been a tradition to collect and layer these colourful sands in pretty glass jars to take home as a souvenir. Apparently, Queen Victoria herself had a glass jar filled with Alum Bay sand in her home at Osborne House!
Many a child, including our Emily, has fond memories of the Alum Bay Sand Shop, in which you can experience choosing a glass (or plastic bottle) and carefully tipping in varying layers of pink, yellow, beige, brown and white sand!
Alum Bay is more than worth a visit if you’re ever on the Isle of Wight! And, I’ll let you into a little secret…you don’t even have to take the chair lift! There are steps, albeit a fair few of them, if you’d rather!) But, however you decide to get down to the Bay, I promise you, you won’t regret it!
What a wonderful, unforgettable day was had by all!