Alum Bay & ‘The Needles’

“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…

The Hairy-Scary Chair Lift!

“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…

me.

Great!

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!

ALUM BAY

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.

The Needles!

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.

The bluest of skies over the Bay…

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

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!

Carefully does it!
Emily’s cute jar of Alum Bay sands – which she aptly named ‘Clifford’

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!

‘Grandad’s Island’

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide,
Is a wild call and a clear call that cannot be denied,
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying!

From the Poem, 'Sea Fever', by John Masefield

Our kids are fortunate enough to have a grandfather who lives on an Island. Going to visit him is always an exciting adventure that begins…with a trip on a car ferry!

THE ISLE OF WIGHT

The Isle of Wight is a diamond shaped Island, situated just four miles off the South Coast of England. It’s famous for its beautiful scenery and beaches, for boating events such as Cowes Week and for Osborne House, the historic holiday home to Queen Victoria.

There are several ways to get to the Isle of Wight. We use the Wightlink Ferry Service, from Portsmouth to Fishbourne, a 40-minute crossing. But there are other ferry routes from the mainland, namely Southampton to Cowes and Lymington to Yarmouth.

Cottage & garden

Grandad lives in a stone cottage, with the loveliest of gardens, not far from the villages of Nettlestone and Seaview.

Flowers abound!

The Isle of Wight, boasts a temperate maritime climate, with warm summers and cool to cold winters. The weather is rarely extreme and so things seem to grow like Billy-o! In fact, Henry Higgins might well have been correct when he taught Eliza Doolittle to say:

In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen!

From the 1965 Musical Film, ‘My Fair Lady’

Grandad’s garden in full bloom is quite a sight, with pots full of Geraniums, not to mention his Begonias, which I’m convinced could win prizes. As you can see, it’s also been a very good year for the Roses!

Seagrove Bay & seaview

Grandad’s cottage is a short walk, down a winding stony lane, from Seagrove Bay, a very special beach.

Seagrove Bay has somehow managed to move with the times, whilst retaining all of its old-fashioned charm. With a mix of Victorian houses and modern holiday cottages, the seafront has a very smart facade. A short walk around the next curve, and you reach Priory Bay – another lovely beach, with rocks to clamber over. When the tide goes out, it leaves the most gorgeous crop of sea-weedy rock-pools, which look like something out of an Enid Blyton Novel.

A short walk away from Seagrove Bay, is the lovely village of Seaview. It has a handful of charming shops, and eateries, including a pharmacy, a Deli, and an ice cream shop, plus a great pub, serving delicious home-cooked food, such as Fish and Chips and Prawn Linguine; the perfect spot to sit and sip a long, cold drink, whilst watching the boats bobbing about on the Solent.

My favourite Interiors Shop

A stroll around Seaview
The pub!
Outside the ‘The Old Fort’ pub – a great place to watch the world go by…

I’m sure you’ll agree, Grandad lives in a very special place! The more years that pass by, the more our family have come to appreciate having a seaside home to escape to, especially in light of the recent pandemic, which has made travelling abroad more difficult.

I really hope that you’ve enjoyed this little tour around our home from home! I hope you can hear the surf and the Seagulls squawking and imagine the breeze tugging at your hair!

How very blessed we are to be able to enjoy this place!

Keep an eye out for future posts, featuring trips to Yarmouth, and Alum Bay.

Pebble on the Beach

Last summer, as I was walking around Seagrove Bay on the Isle of Wight, I happened upon the brightly painted pebble that you can see pictured above. It had been left on the beach – quite deliberately – to bring a smile to whoever was fortunate enough to find it. Wasn’t I the lucky one? And what a sweet, sweet idea! An idea worth sharing, I thought, hence the poem below. And when I return to Seagrove Bay, I shall paint a pebble and leave it for someone else to find!

I found this pebble on the beach,
Quite by chance, the other day,
Painted brightly,
Just for fun,
And hidden there along the way.

I saw this pebble lying there,
Whilst walking round the shingly bay,
Coincidence?
A random chance?
A gift to make another's day.

I'll keep this pebble from the beach,
Because it always makes me smile,
Reminding me
That joy is free,
And kindness always so worthwhile.