Alum Bay

Alum Bay is a bay near the westernmost point of the Isle of Wight, England, within close sight of the Needles rock formation. Of geological interest and a tourist attraction, the bay is noted for its multi-coloured sand cliffs.[1] The waters and adjoining seabed form part of the Needles Marine Conservation Zone and the shore and heath above are part of the Headon Warren and West High Down Site of Special Scientific Interest.[2][3]

Alum Bay and The Needles, IW, UK
A view of the Needles from Alum Bay cliffs, with the Alum Bay chair lift in the foreground.


Alum Bay monocline
The cliffs of Alum Bay, showing the steeply-dipping multi-coloured sands above the white Chalk, with shallower dips towards the northern end

Alum Bay is the location of a classic sequence of upper Paleocene and Eocene beds of soft sands and clays, separated by an unconformity from the underlying Cretaceous Chalk Formation that forms the adjoining headland of West High Down. Due to geological folding of the Alpine orogeny, the strata in the main section of the bay are near vertical, with younger rocks with progressively lower dips to the west.[4] The sands are coloured due to oxidised iron compounds formed under different conditions.[5]

Alum Bay Chine begins as a small wooded valley descending eastward from the junction of the B3322 and the road to Headon Hall. It soon broadens into the clay ravine through which the path and chairlift from Needles Park descend to the beach.


Amusement park, Alum Bay, IW, UK
The amusement park at Alum Bay

On the clifftop there is an amusement park with fairground rides, souvenir shops and a cafe. During the summer season a chair lift takes tourists to and from the pebble beach below. Alternatively, a footpath leads to the beach via Alum Bay Chine. From the beach boat trips frequently leave to tour the Needles.

Alum Bay Sands

Alum Bay, IW, UK
The coloured sands at Alum Bay

A traditional product of Alum Bay, and a fixture of Isle of Wight tourist shops, was the creation of ornaments using the coloured sands layered in vials and jars.[6] The sands were also were used for sand painting pictures,[7] a popular craft in Victorian times known as marmotinto.

In the past, visitors to the bay could climb the foot of the cliffs and dig out the sand themselves. The removal of minerals from the site is now prohibited by law under provisions laid out in notices attached to the Headon Warren and West High Down SSSI designation.[8]

The Needles Park has a facility where people could make bottles of sand, using sand gathered from the frequent rockfalls. In the past it was possible to buy Alum Bay coloured sand by mail order and make one's own sand pictures and bottles at home.[9]


Southern Vectis run bus services from Alum Bay. There are two summer only services, namely the Needles Tour, and the Island Coaster service. The Needles Tour is on an open top bus.


Marconi monument, Alum Bay, IW, UK
Monument to Marconi

On a map of the area produced around 1590, the bay is named Whytfylde Chine.[10] It is possible that Alum Bay was once fed by a Chine by this name, which has long since eroded away.

Alum Bay sand includes extremely pure white silica, which was once extracted for glass and pottery manufacture.[6]

Guglielmo Marconi moved to Alum Bay in 1897 to experiment with radio. He installed a 40-metre radio antenna outside the Needles Hotel in Alum Bay. Initially establishing communication with ships offshore, by early 1898 he had successfully communicated with stations at Madeira House, Bournemouth and the Haven Hotel, Poole 20 miles away.[11][12]

See also


  1. ^ "Alum Bay". Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  2. ^ "The Needles MCZ". Natural England. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Headon Warren and West High Down SSSI" (PDF). Natural England. 1984. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  4. ^ Hopson P. (2011). "The geological history of the Isle of Wight: an overview of the 'diamond in Britain's geological crown'" (PDF). Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. 122 (5): 745–763. doi:10.1016/j.pgeola.2011.09.007.
  5. ^ West, I.M. and Helsby, R. 2007. Alum Bay: Geology of the Isle of Wight. Internet site: School of Ocean and Earth Sciences, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton University, UK. Version: 6 February 2007, retrieved 3 August 2008
  6. ^ a b Handbook to the Isle of Wight, Thomas Brettell, John Mitchell, 1844 Google Books, retrieved 3 August 2008
  7. ^ The Other British Isles: A Journey Through the Offshore Islands of Britain, Christopher Somerville, Grafton, 1990, ISBN 0-246-13317-1 Google Books, retrieved 3 August 2008
  8. ^ "Operations likely to damage the special interest: Headon Warren and West High Down SSSI" (PDF). Natural England. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  9. ^ Sand Shop, Needles Park website
  10. ^ The Alum in Alum Bay Archived 15 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Isle of Wight Industrial Archaeology Society report
  11. ^ Marconi My Beloved, Maria Cristina Marconi, Branden Books, 2002, ISBN 0-937832-39-1 Google Books, retrieved 3 August 2008
  12. ^ My Father, Marconi, Degan Marconi, Guernica Editions, 1996, ISBN 1-55071-044-3 Google Books, retrieved 3 August 2008

External links

Coordinates: 50°39′59″N 1°34′34″W / 50.66639°N 1.57611°W

Alpine orogeny

The Alpine orogeny or Alpide orogeny is an orogenic phase in the Late Mesozoic (Eoalpine) and the current Cenozoic that has formed the mountain ranges of the Alpide belt. These mountains include (from west to east) the Atlas, the Rif, the Baetic Cordillera, the Cantabrian Mountains, the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Apennine Mountains, the Dinaric Alps, the Hellenides, the Carpathians, the Balkan Mountains and the Rila-Rhodope massif, the Taurus, the Armenian Highlands, the Caucasus, the Alborz, the Zagros, the Hindu Kush, the Pamir, the Karakoram, and the Himalayas. Sometimes other names occur to describe the formation of separate mountain ranges: for example Carpathian orogeny for the Carpathians, Hellenic orogeny for the Hellenides or the Himalayan orogeny for the Himalayas.

The Alpine orogeny has also led to the formation of more distant and smaller geological features such as the Weald–Artois Anticline in southern England and northern France, the remains of which can be seen in the chalk ridges of the North and South Downs in southern England. Its effects are particularly visible on the Isle of Wight, where the Chalk Group and overlying Eocene strata are folded to near-vertical, as seen in exposures at Alum Bay and Whitecliff Bay, and on the Dorset coast near Lulworth Cove. Stresses arising from the Alpine orogeny caused the Cenozoic uplift of the Sudetes mountain range and possibly faulted rocks as far away as Öland in southern Sweden during the Paleocene.The Alpine orogeny is caused by the continents Africa and India and the small Cimmerian plate colliding (from the south) with Eurasia in the north. Convergent movements between the tectonic plates (the Indian plate and the African plate from the south, the Eurasian plate from the north, and many smaller plates and microplates) had already begun in the early Cretaceous, but the major phases of mountain building began in the Paleocene to Eocene. The process continues currently in some of the Alpide mountain ranges.

The Alpine orogeny is considered one of the three major phases of orogeny in Europe that define the geology of that continent, along with the Caledonian orogeny that formed the Old Red Sandstone Continent when the continents Baltica and Laurentia collided in the early Paleozoic, and the Hercynian or Variscan orogeny that formed Pangaea when Gondwana and the Old Red Sandstone Continent collided in the middle to late Paleozoic.

Bagshot Formation

In geology, the Bagshot Beds are a series of sands and clays of shallow-water origin, some being fresh-water, some marine. They belong to the upper Eocene formation of the London and Hampshire basins, in England and derive their name from Bagshot Heath in Surrey. They are also well developed in Hampshire, Berkshire and the Isle of Wight. The following divisions are generally accepted:

Upper Bagshot Beds — Barton sand and Barton clay.

Middle Bagshot Beds — Bracklesham Beds.

Lower Bagshot Beds — Bournemouth Beds and Alum Bay Beds.The lower division consists of pale-yellow, current-bedded sand and loam, with layers of pipeclay and occasional beds of flint pebbles. In the London basin, wherever the junction of the Bagshot beds with the London clay is exposed, it is clear that no sharp line can be drawn between these formations. The Lower Bagshot Beds may be observed at Brentwood, Billericay and High Beach in Essex; outliers, capping hills of London clay, occur at Hampstead, Highgate and Harrow. In Surrey, considerable tracts of London clay are covered by heath-bearing Lower Bagshot Beds, as at Weybridge, Aldershot, Woking etc. The Ramsdell clay, N.W. of Basingstoke, belongs to this formation. In the Isle of Wight, the lower division is well exposed at Alum Bay (200 m.) and White Cliff Bay (140 ft.). Here it consists of unfossiliferous sands (white, yellow, brown, crimson and every intermediate shade) and clays with layers of lignite and ferruginous sandstone. Similar beds are visible at Bournemouth and in the neighborhood of Poole, Wareham, Corfe Castle and Studland.The leaf-bearing clays of Alum Bay and Bournemouth are well known and have yielded a large and interesting series of plant remains, including Eucalyptus, Caesalpinia, Populus, Platanus, Sequoia, Aralia, Polypodium, Osmunda, Nipadites and many others. The clays of this formation are of great value for pottery manufacture; they are extensively mined near Wareham and Corfe, whence they are shipped from Poole and are consequently known as 'Poole clays'. Alum was formerly obtained from the clays of Alum Bay; and the lignites have been used as fuel near Corfe and at Bovey. The Bracklesham Beds are sometimes classed with the overlying Barton clay as Middle Bagshot. In the London basin the Barton Beds are unknown. In Surrey and Berkshire, the Bracklesham Beds are from 20 to 50 ft. thick; in Alum Bay they are 100 ft., with beds of lignite in the lower portion; and about here they are sharply marked off from the Barton clay by a bed of conglomerate formed of flint pebbles. The Upper Bagshot Beds, Barton sand and Barton clay, are from 140 to 200 ft. thick in the Isle of Wight. The Agglestone (or Haggerstone) rock and Puckstone rock, near Studland in Dorset are formed of large indurated masses of the Lower Bagshot beds that have resisted the weather; Creechbarrow near Corfe is another striking feature due to the same beds. Many of the sarsen stones or greywethers of S.E. England have been derived from Bagshot strata.


A chine ( ) is a steep-sided coastal gorge where a river flows to the sea through, typically, soft eroding cliffs of sandstone or clays. The word is still in use in central Southern England—notably in East Devon, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight—to describe such topographical features. The term 'bunny' is sometimes used to describe a chine in Hampshire. The term chine is also used in some Vancouver suburbs in Canada to describe similar features.

Farringford House

Farringford House was the home of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from 1853 until his death in 1892. The main house dates from 1806 with gothic embellishments and extensions added from the 1830s. Of particular historical importance is the second library built by his wife Emily Tennyson in 1871 with a play room below connected by a turreted winding staircase. The grounds are laid to lawn, rose borders and informal planting. Evidence remains of Tennyson's planting schemes together with a section of the walled garden and wooden footpaths.

The house and grounds have undergone a programme of restoration having been a hotel since they left the Tennyson family's ownership in the 1940s. The house opened in 2017 as a historic house/museum. Guided tours are available to book April to October. Group visits, writers' retreats, creative workshops, concerts and exhibitions are part of the offering. On the estate there are ten self-catering cottages which are available all year round, there is also a tennis court and children's play area.The estate is located on Bedbury Lane, Freshwater Bay, on the western tip of the Isle of Wight. Some of the surrounding houses, particularly those in Middleton at the start of Moons Hill are connected with Farringford's history, once forming part of the estate. The houses at the end of Queens Road, the junction near the farm used to be stables where Fred Pontin's horses were kept.

Southern Vectis' Needles Breezer open top bus has a stop outside Farringford and this is the only bus that goes down Bedbury Lane towards Alum Bay.

Tennyson wrote of Farringford:

“Where, far from noise and smoke of town

I watch the twilight falling brown,All round a careless-ordered garden,Close to the ridge of a noble down.”

Tennyson rented Farringford in 1853, and then bought it in 1856. He found that there were too many starstruck tourists who pestered him in Farringford, so he moved to "Aldworth", a stately home on a hill known as Blackdown between Lurgashall and Fernhurst, about 2 km south of Haslemere in West Sussex in 1869. However, he returned to Farringford to spend the winters.

Freshwater railway station

Freshwater railway station was the westerly terminus and largest station of the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway, the platform being extended to accommodate the "Tourist Train", a non-stop service from Ventnor. Incorporated as the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway Company in 1860, and opened over a ten-month period between 1888 and 1889, it closed 65 years later, having been situated too far from the tourist honeypots of The Needles and Alum Bay to be consistently profitable. There was a run-round loop, and a goods siding often used for cattle loading. After closure the station was built over by a factory, but this in turn has been demolished and a supermarket now occupies the site.

Geology of the Isle of Wight

The geology of the Isle of Wight is dominated by sedimentary rocks of Cretaceous and Paleogene age. This sequence was affected by the late stages of the Alpine Orogeny, forming the Isle of Wight monocline, the cause of the steeply-dipping outcrops of the Chalk Group and overlying Paleogene strata seen at The Needles, Alum Bay and Whitecliff Bay.

Hatherwood Battery

Hatherwood Battery (map reference SZ308857) is a battery located to the east of Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight. It is one of the many Palmerston Forts built on the island to protect it in response to a perceived French invasion. It was sited to cross fire with the nearby Needles Battery

Originally designed to mount six 68 Pounder guns, construction of the battery began in 1865. Before it was completed it was decided to mount seven guns in three groups. This comprised two 9-inch Rifled Muzzle Laoding (RML) guns on each flank and three 7-inch Rifled Breech Loading (RBL) guns in the centre. The battery was complete by 1869. There was no accommodation at the battery for the soldiers who would man it. Instead these men were billetted at nearby Golden Hill Fort. In 1903 the battery was officially disarmed.

Today not much is left of the battery as it has been left to decay, with some parts falling off the cliff due to erosion.

Headon Warren and West High Down SSSI

Headon Warren and West High Down is a 276.3 hectare Site of special scientific interest (SSSI) located at the westernmost end of the Isle of Wight. The SSSI encompasses Headon Warren, a heather clad down to the north, the chalk downs of West High Down and Tennyson Down to the south, and the Needles, The Needles Batteries and Alum Bay to the west.The site was notified in 1951 by the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC), for both its biological and geological features, and that designation is now maintained by Natural England as successor body to the NCC. Most of the land within the SSSI is owned and managed by the National Trust.

High Down, Isle of Wight

High Down is a chalk down making up the western extent of the ridge that crosses the Isle of Wight, England, and overlooking The Needles rock stacks. It includes Tennyson Down.

The Needles Batteries and the Rocket Launching site are located on the Down It is here where the Black Knight and Black Arrow rockets were tested before being shipped to Woomera in Australia. The entire site is now owned by the National Trust, although it is bordered by The Needles - Landmark Attraction at Alum Bay, which is owned by an independent company. The Rocket Testing site is free to enter, although the Old Battery requires a small fee.

List of places on the Isle of Wight

This is a list of towns and villages in the county of Isle of Wight, England.


Marmotinto is the art of creating pictures using coloured sand or marble dust and otherwise known as sand painting.

Originating in Europe, and probably based on the Japanese craft of bonseki (aka 'tray-painting'), marmotinto was fleetingly popular in England following a 1783 dinner party given by George III at Windsor Castle who was taken with a display of unfixed coloured sands, sugars and marble dust arranged under glass upon the surface of the dinner table in decorative patterns and including fruit and flowers, and exotic birds which was executed by the Bavarian table-decker Benjamin Zobel (Memmingen, 21 September 1762 - London, 24 October 1830), a friend of George Morland, a painter prominent in the "Isle of Wight School". The King and his courtiers was so impressed with the resulting picture, it was suggested that Zobel find a way to make his compositions permanent and hence the craft of marmotinto or sandpainting was born and proved most successful under the patronage of various members of the royal household including the then Duke of York.

Woburn Abbey in Bedford, England possesses a fine example of the table deckers' craft in the form of an ornate folding room screen with three panels, decorated with sand pictures protected by glass. The centre one has five spaces for sweetmeat pyramid dishes while the two side leaves of the screen have three spaces for fruit trays. There are four sand pictures in each corner of the side panels of the screen, featuring 18th-century pastoral scenes, while the remaining areas of the screen are decorated with butterflies, doves, fruit, flowers, etc. The screen would be laid upon the surface of a side table where it doubled as a serving base for elaborate porcelain dishes and glass trays containing fruits, bonbons and sweetmeats, from which the hosts and their guests could help themselves while socializing or stretching their legs between the multiple courses being served on the main table in the dining hall. This screen is believed to be the work of F. Schweikhardt, Zobel's predecessor at Windsor who specialised in still-life studies in the style of the Dutch painter Jan van Huysum.

Later the craft became popular in the early 19th century as the tourist industry began to develop on the Isle of Wight particularly at Alum Bay where coloured sands were readily available to the visitors should they wish to try their hand at creating their own souvenirs when they disembarked directly onto the beach from the decks of mainland steamers. The locals soon realised an opportunity to develop and market small framed sand pictures and also compressed sand patterns inside glass jars to supplement their meagre income. There are some examples of Alum Bay sand pictures at Osborne House and Carisbrook Castle while at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the late Queen Mary's collection of Georgian sandpaintings may be viewed by request.

Although marmotinto using coloured sands and marble dust was popular across England and on the continent for a while, it declined after an initial fashionable period. The art saw a comeback in the 20th century using natural coloured sands, supplemented by discarded, recycled and found materials.

PO postcode area

The PO postcode area, also known as the Portsmouth postcode area, is a group of 34 postcode districts in southern England, which are subdivisions of 24 post towns. These postcode districts cover southeast Hampshire (including Portsmouth, Southsea, Havant, Waterlooville, Lee-on-the-Solent, Gosport, Fareham, Rowland's Castle, Emsworth and Hayling Island) southwestern West Sussex (including Chichester and Bognor Regis) and the Isle of Wight (including Newport, Cowes, East Cowes, Ryde, Yarmouth, Shanklin, Ventnor, Seaview, Bembridge, Totland Bay, Sandown and Freshwater).

Palmerston Forts, Isle of Wight

The Palmerston Forts are a group of forts and associated structures built during the Victorian period on the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. The name comes from their association with Lord Palmerston, who was Prime Minister at the time and promoted the idea.

The structures were built as a response to a perceived threat of a French invasion. The works were also known as Palmerston's Follies as, by the time they were completed the threat (if it had ever existed) had passed, largely due to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and technological advancements leading to the guns becoming out-of-date.As well as new structures, extensive modifications were made to existing defences.

The defences on the Isle of Wight were built to protect the approaches to the Solent, Southampton and Portsmouth. They consist of three separate groups, those at the western end of the island, those at the eastern end, and four built in the Solent.

The information in the tables is taken from documents for each site, from the Victorian Forts website.

Scratchell's Bay

Scratchell's Bay is a bay on the south west coast of the Isle of Wight, England just to the south east of The Needles. It faces roughly south towards the English Channel, it is 250m in length and is straight. The name is thought to have come from one of the many names for the Devil.

The beach which is made up mostly of shingle cannot be reached any other way than by boat, as there is no access from the top of the cliff. A small cave is located at the east end of the bay, near Sun Corner.

The bay is best viewed from either the lookout point near the rocket launching facility or the Needles Old Battery National Trust property on the cliff top.

The wreck of a 19th-century iron-hulled sailing ship called the Irex lies within the bay.

Tennyson Trail

The Tennyson Trail is a 14-mile walk from Carisbrooke to The Needles on the Isle of Wight. The route goes through Bowcombe Down, Brighstone Forest, Mottistone Down, Brook Down, Afton Down, Freshwater Bay, Tennyson Down, and West High Down to Alum Bay. The name of the trail comes from poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, a former resident of the Isle of Wight.

There are several points of interest along the walk, including The Tennyson Monument on Tennyson Down, Farringford House and The Needles Batteries which overlook The Needles.Much of the trail, being a public byway, was formerly open to all traffic, including motor vehicles. By the early 2000s, off-road vehicles had become an increasing problem, and were damaging tracks, archaeological sites and wildlife habitats. In response, in 2006, the Isle of Wight council banned all motor vehicles from the entire length of the trail.

The Needles

The Needles is a row of three stacks of chalk that rise about 30m out of the sea off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom, close to Alum Bay, and part of Totland, the westernmost civil parish of the Isle of Wight. The Needles Lighthouse stands at the outer, western end of the formation. Built in 1859, it has been automated since 1994. The waters and adjoining seabed form part of the Needles Marine Conservation Zone and the Needles along with the shore and heath above are part of the Headon Warren and West High Down Site of Special Scientific Interest.The formation takes its name from a fourth needle-shaped pillar called Lot's Wife, which collapsed in a storm in 1764. The remaining rocks are not at all needle-like, but the name has stuck.

The Needles were featured on the BBC Two TV programme Seven Natural Wonders (2005) as one of the wonders of Southern England.


Totland is a village, civil parish and electoral ward on the Isle of Wight. Besides the village of Totland, the civil parish comprises the western tip of the Isle of Wight, and includes The Needles, Tennyson Down and the hamlet of Middleton.

The village of Totland lies on the Western peninsula where the Western Yar almost cuts through along with Alum Bay and Freshwater. It lies on the coast at Colwell Bay, which is the closest part of the island to the British mainland.

Wreck Detectives

Wreck Detectives is the title of two TV documentary series from UK Channel 4 aired in 2003 and 2004 presented by Jeremy Seal, Miranda Krestovnikoff and David Manley.

Yarmouth, Isle of Wight

Yarmouth is a town, port and civil parish in the west of the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. The town is named for its location at the mouth of the small Western Yar river. The town grew near the river crossing, originally a ferry, which was replaced with a road bridge in 1863.

Around the Bays of the Isle of Wight
Unitary authorities
Major settlements
Settlements on the Isle of Wight
Civil parishes
Other villages
and hamlets
See also


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.