Whitecliff Bay

Whitecliff Bay is a sandy bay near Foreland which is the easternmost point of the Isle of Wight, England about two miles south-west of Bembridge and just to the north of Culver Down. The bay has as a shorline of around three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) and has a popular sandy shingle beach which is over half a mile long.[1] It is a tourist site with three holiday parks in the vicinity of the bay, it has two cafes though minimal facilities. Access is limited and only possible down two steeply sloping concrete tracks.

The site is of a major geological interest, being part of the Whitecliff Bay And Bembridge Ledges SSSI.

Sandown Bay
Whitecliff Bay

Whitecliff Bay
Sandown Bay is located in Isle of Wight
Sandown Bay
Sandown Bay
Location within the Isle of Wight
Civil parish
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament


Whitecliff Bay, IW, UK
View of the bay from Culver Down

Whitecliff Bay has nearly identical geology to the lesser known than Alum Bay, being a coastal section of the same strata which run east-west across the island. It displays a classic sequence of fossil-bearing Eocene beds of soft sands and clays, separated by an unconformity from the underlying Cretaceous Chalk Formation forming the headland of Culver Down to its south. Due to geological folding of the Alpine orogeny, the strata in the main section of the Bay are vertical, with younger rocks to the north.[2] In the bay, there are around 500 metres (1,600 ft) of well-exposed sands and of late Palaeocene to late Eocene clays which make the site is a good spot for fossil hunting, with an abundance of prehistoric shells, sponges and molluscs.[3] The bay itself is shallow up to around 350 metres (1,150 ft) from shore getting to deep water 12 nautical mile (0.6 mi; 0.9 km) out.[4]


Whitecliff Bay was one of the landing points for the French invasion of the Isle of Wight (1545) where they planned to then go on to attack Sandown.[5] The bay gets its have from the chalky cliff on the headland, Culver Down, which rises over 340 feet (104 m) at the south-eastern point of the bay.[4] Owned by Martin Humphreys in the 1970s.


  1. ^ Google (5 September 2018). "Sandown Bay" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  2. ^ West, Ian M. 2007. [1], Geology of the Wessex Coast of England. School of Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Southampton University. Internet site. Version: 25 July 2007, retrieved 3 August 2008
  3. ^ "Whitecliff Bay". UK Fossil Collecting. 8 February 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Whitecliff Bay". eoceanic.com. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  5. ^ "Pilot the Isle of Wight: Puckaster Cove to Bembridge". Yachting Monthly. 20 June 2012.

External links

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.

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. 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.

Bembridge School

Bembridge School was an independent school in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight founded in 1919 by social reformer and Liberal MP John Howard Whitehouse. Set in over 100 acres (0.40 km2) on the easternmost tip of the Isle of Wight Bembridge was a public school intended to challenge the traditional concept of education. Many of the radical ideas first employed by Whitehouse, such as teaching of woodwork, American history and modern languages, were not to become mainstream for half a century.From 5 boys sited in what is now known as Old House the school rapidly grew, New House and the Ruskin Galleries and the chapel being built in the 1930s as well as the refectory and library and teaching blocks. By the end of Whitehouse's life there were 264 boys and the school continued to grow and to flourish.

During the Second World War the site was used as a military base by the Army and the school moved to The Waterhead Hotel in Coniston, close to Brantwood, the former home of John Ruskin and owned by the school. The school returned to Bembridge in 1945.

The school was noted for its collection of art, books and memorabilia relating to John Ruskin, the largest of its kind. This included many notable manuscripts and the school was founded on the teachings of Ruskin. This collection is now housed in the Ruskin Library at the University of Lancaster.

The school continued to grow and thrive into the 1990s, over the decades building and acquiring many new buildings including Kilgerran House, the music block, squash courts, the Stedman Sports Hall and additions to the preparatory school and the formation of a popular pre-prep. Bembridge School greatly considered the importance of sports in its students' lives and the grounds contained three cricket pitches including the centre pitch, the largest and perhaps the best fast-bowling wicket in the county, a nine-hole golf course, two football/rugby pitches, tennis courts and a hockey pitch. Pupils also had the opportunity to go swimming in the sea, shooting and climb the cliffs at Whitecliff Bay.

Shortly after celebrating the school's 75th anniversary the Education Trust, a hereditary committee with few links to the school, announced their intention to dispose of the school, whilst retaining possession of the valuable Ruskin collection.

Bembridge School And Cliffs SSSI

Bembridge School And Cliffs SSSI (grid reference ST647869) is a 12.58 hectare geological Site of Special Scientific Interest near Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, notified in 1999.

It is listed in the Geological Conservation Review.

This site consists of the coastral strip in the northern part of Whitecliff Bay. Steyne Wood Clays containing fossils from the Quaternary period are found at the site.

Bracklesham Group

The Bracklesham Group (formerly Bracklesham Beds), in geology, is a series of clays and marls, with sandy and lignitic beds, in the middle Eocene of the Hampshire Basin and London Basin of England.The type section of the Bracklesham Group is the sea cliffs at Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight, and it is also well developed on the mainland. The Group gets its name from a section at Bracklesham in Sussex. The thickness of the deposit is around 120 m. Fossil mollusca are abundant, and fossil fish are to be found, as well as Palaeophis, a sea-snake, and Puppigerus, a sea turtle. Nummulites and other foraminifera also occur.

The Bracklesham Group lies between the Barton Clay above and the Bournemouth Beds, Lower Bagshot, below. In the London Basin, these beds are represented only by thin sandy clays in the Middle Bagshot group. In the Paris Basin the "Calcaire grossier" lies upon the same geological horizon.

Culver Down

Culver Down is a chalk down to the north of Sandown, Isle of Wight.

It is believed that its name derives from "Culfre", which is Old English for dove.

The down has a typical chalk downland wildlife on the uncultivated areas (generally the southern and eastern slopes). This includes plants such as Small Scabious, Harebell, Cowslip and Lady's Bedstraw. The chalk cliffs to the north and east are important nesting places for seabirds.

Historically, Culver has been the source of commercial bird's egg collecting from ropes over the cliff. It was also known for breeding peregrine falcons, as well as breeding Common Woodpigeons (Culvers), the source of the cliff's name.

The northern side is intensively grazed by cattle, so fertilization and poaching of the soil, not to mention a spell as an artillery training ground, have all but eliminated the natural chalk ecosystem.

On Culver Down a number of unusual ant species live, including the semi-myrmecophilous Solenopsis fugax (Latr.), a thief ant which was recorded there several times by Horace Donisthorpe. The ant Ponera coarctata has also been taken from this location.

The public parts of this prominent headland are owned and managed by the National Trust, and afford views of the English Channel.

For many years the whole site was a military zone and not open to the public. There are several historic military features on the down, a number of private dwellings, the Culver Haven pub, and the very visible Monument. The military barracks which once adjoined the monument has been almost completely erased, but there is a substantial fort, now under the ownership of the National Trust and occasionally opened to the public. Part of the fort is leased to Micronair, manufacturing crop-spraying and military equipment. It is a Palmerston Fort, constructed in the 1860s. At the end of the cliff is a coastal and anti-aircraft battery from the Second World War.

In 1545 a French force was intercepted crossing from its beachhead at Whitecliff Bay to attack Sandown by local levies under Sir John Oglander and a skirmish fought on the Down. The French were finally repulsed at Sandown.

The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne said in a letter that he had climbed the cliffs at 17, in order to prove his manhood to his family after they refused to let him join the army.There is a legend that a 14th-century hermit lived at the end of the cliffs in a cave, in a structure then known as Culver Ness. He is said to have predicted that the well at Wolverton would be poisoned. When a pilgrim from Jerusalem came to bless the well, the vigilant and pious villagers are said to have murdered him. Shortly after, the French sacked the village and since then it has been lost beneath the trees of Centurion's Copse. They were repulsed from further mischief by Sir Theobald Russell. There was subsequently a great storm which destroyed the Ness and drowned the hermit. This was held to be divine retribution.

French invasion of the Isle of Wight

The French invasion of the Isle of Wight occurred during the Italian Wars in July 1545. The invasion was repulsed.

France had a long history of attacking the Isle of Wight, and the 1545 campaign proved to be the last time to date that the French have attempted to take it. Although the French forces, led by Claude d'Annebault, greatly outnumbered those of the English, the battles fought (including the battles of the Solent and Bonchurch) ended without a clear winner. However, as the French were repelled, it could be considered an English victory. Although the operation was inconclusive, the English suffered heavily, including the loss of the carrack Mary Rose in the Battle of the Solent. Details of the conflict have not been very well recorded, and some accounts claim that the French were defeated at each battle rather easily.French strategy was to effect a landing at Whitecliff Bay and cross Bembridge Down to attack Sandown, and another landing at Bonchurch with a view to marching to link up at Sandown. The northern force was intercepted whilst crossing the Down, but fought its way to Sandown Castle, which was then under construction offshore. Both forces were repulsed after stiff fighting.

The Chronicle of Charles Wriothesley (died 1562) reports: "The 21 day of July the French galleys and navie came before Portesmouth haven, and landed certeine of theyre armye in the Yle of Wyght, and there burned and camped there about to the nomber of 2,000 men, and came every tyde with theyr gallies and shott their ordinaunce at the Kinges ships in the haven; but the winde was so calme that the Kinges shippes could bear noe sayle, which was a great discomfort for them." Three days later a muster of 1500 men was sent from the City of London to repel them, but by the King's command turned back at Farnham, the French having left the Isle of Wight "and divers of them slaine and drowned."

Contemporary accounts suggest that the French (or their mercenaries) sacked the area in order to provoke the English fleet into battle against a far larger fleet. Martin Du Bellay wrote: "...To keep the enemy's forces separated, a simultaneous descent was made in three different places. On one side Seigneur Pierre Strosse was bidden to land below a little fort where the enemy had mounted some guns with which they assailed our galleys in flank, and within which a number of Island infantry had retired. These, seeing the boldness of our men, abandoned the fort and fled southwards to the shelter of a copse. Our men pursued and killed some of them and burned the surrounding habitations..."A later mention by Sir John Oglander evidently paraphrases du Bellay: "They landed at three several places at one time, purposely to divide our forces. Pierre Strosse landed at St Helens where there was a little fort, and beat our men, being divided from the fort, into the woods. Le Seigneur de Tais, General of the Foot, landed at Bonchurch, where there was a hot skirmish between them and us, and on either party many slain."The French seem to have landed at undefended points and then attacked defences from inland. At Whitecliff Bay and at Bonchurch they moved swiftly to seize the high ground. However the attacks were expected and in both cases local forces reached the high grounds to oppose them. The settlement at Nettlestone and its manor were burnt.

At Bonchurch the French landed easily at Monk's Bay, but were then faced with the difficulty of breaking out from what is known descriptively as the "Undercliff". Their solution was to ascend the extremely steep slopes of St Boniface and Bonchurch Downs, which are over 700 feet (210 m) high. The defenders thus had them at a considerable advantage, having taken up positions on the top of the hill.

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.

Headon Formation

The Headon Formation is a geological formation found in Hampshire, England. It preserves fossils dating back to the Bartonian stage (Eocene).

Homarus morrisi

Homarus morrisi is a species of fossil lobster from the Eocene of southern England.

Horseshoe Bay, Isle of Wight

Horseshoe Bay is a small bay on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, England. It lies at the east end of the headland of Culver Down. It faces south-east towards the English Channel and its shoreline is approximately 100 yards (90 m) in length. It should not be confused with a similarly named Horseshoe Bay about 8 miles (13 km) southwest at Bonchurch.The seabed is rocky and the beach comprises a steep bank of flint pebbles. The cliffs are sheer, concave and are made of chalk, which is unstable and persons on the beach are at risk of being injured by falling rocks dislodged by the many seabirds that use the cliff as a breeding ground. Horseshoe Bay lies north-north-east and adjacent to, two caves known as The Nostrils. These can be reached by scrambling over a small rocky outcrop and are partly submerged at high tide.

The beach can only be reached at high tide by boat; but in low tide it can be reached at beach level from the headland from Whitecliff Bay. At a certain time of the year, on very low tides, it is possible to reach Horseshoe Bay from Sandown Bay. Walking to the bay should only be attempted on an ebb, a falling tide. This entails some scrambling and a short traverse even at extreme low tide across the submerged base of the cliff between an old collapsed cave and the nostrils. The coastguard and the lifeboats (rescue) are sometimes called to rescue people trapped by a rising tide, or unable to cope with the terrain.

Isle of Wight Coastal Path

The Isle of Wight Coastal Path (or Coastal Footpath) is a circular long-distance footpath of 70 miles (113 km) around the Isle of Wight, UK. It follows public footpaths and minor lanes, with some sections along roads.

List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the Isle of Wight

This is a list of the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) on the Isle of Wight, England. The Isle of Wight is an island and county three miles off the south coast of England in the English Channel. Its geology is complex, with a chalk downland ridge running east to west through its centre and important fossil beds from the Lower Cretaceous to the Lower Tertiary around the coast. This geology gives rise to many distinct habitats, with strong maritime influences, including chalk grassland, neutral meadows, and broad-leaved woodland. The Isle of Wight has a population of 140,000, making it one of the country's smaller counties in terms of population.In England, the body responsible for designating SSSIs is Natural England, which chooses a site because of its fauna, flora, geological or physiographical features. Natural England took over the role of designating and managing SSSIs from English Nature in October 2006, when it was formed from the amalgamation of English Nature, parts of the Countryside Agency, and the Rural Development Service. As of 2008, there are 41 sites designated in this Area of Search; of these, 26 have been designated for their biological interest, 4 for their geological interest, and 11 for both.The data in the table is taken from citation sheets for each SSSI, available at their website.

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).

Priory Bay

Priory Bay is a small privately owned bay on the northeast coast of the Isle of Wight, England. It lies 3⁄4 mile (1.2 km) to the east of Nettlestone village and another ​3⁄4 mile along the coast from Seaview. It stretches from Horestone Point in the north to Nodes Point in the south, the bay is surrounded by woodland known as Priory Woods owned by the National Trust. The bay faces east towards Selsey Bill and has a 950-yard (870 m) shoreline and can be accessed by walking round Horestone Point from Seagrove Bay.

Solent Group

The Solent Group is a geological group in the Hampshire Basin of southern England. It preserves fossils ranging in age from Priabonian (uppermost Eocene) to Rupelian (lower Oligocene). The group is subdivided into three formations, the Headon Hill Formation, the Bembridge Limestone Formation and the Bouldnor Formation.

Steynewood Battery

Steynewood Battery (map reference SZ641869) is a battery located between Bembridge and Whitecliff 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 threat of French invasion. Construction of the battery began in 1889 and was completed by 1893.

Whitecliff Bay and Bembridge Ledges SSSI

Whitecliff Bay And Bembridge Ledges is a 131.6 hectare Site of special scientific interest which lies around the coastline of the easternmost part of the Isle of Wight from Bembridge harbour entrance, in the north, around Foreland and stretching to Whitecliff Bay to the south. The site was notified in 1955 for both its biological and geological features.


Yaverland is a village on the Isle of Wight, just north of Sandown on Sandown Bay. It has about 200 houses. About ​1⁄3 of a mile away from the village is the Yaverland Manor and Church. Holotype fossils have been discovered here of Yaverlandia and a pterosaur, Caulkicephalus. The White Air extreme sports festival was held annually at Yaverland pay and display car park between 1997 and 2008, but moved to Brighton for 2009.The older part of the village is spread along the road to Bembridge by the Norman Church. The newer part is along the seafront, consisting entirely of a bungalow estate. The name appears to come from a local rendition of "over land" - being the land over the once-tidal causeway. An alternative derivation is from "Yar Island".

In the fields below Yaverland the archaeological television programme Time Team discovered a Roman smithy.

In 1545 a battle took place in Yaverland between French forces and local levies. The French were crossing Culver Down from their landing at Whitecliff Bay in order to attack Sandown Castle and link up with a force from Bonchurch. The French fought their way into Sandown but were defeated at Sandown Castle, then under construction in the sea.

The Isle of Wight Zoo is in Yaverland. The zoo is noted for its collection of rescued tigers and increasingly realistic and spacious enclosures for them. The zoo inhabits much of the converted buildings of the Granite Fort built by Lord Palmerston as a defense against the French in 1860. The grounds were used by the military during World War II as part of the Pluto pipeline to send oil under the English Channel to France to fuel the Allied war efforts.

By the sea is the Yaverland Sailing and Boat Club and along the seashore are fossil-bearing beds, which may be explored by guided walks from Dinosaur Isle. A holiday camp is located further north in the village, and was once the site of Yaverland Battery.

In November 2008, the Isle of Wight Council opened a new public toilet block which runs completely from renewable energy generated on-site. It is thought to be one of the "greenest" facilities in the UK.Southern Vectis bus route 8 links the village with the towns of Newport, Ryde, Bembridge and Sandown, including intermediate towns. Wightbus run route 22 around Culver Way to Sandown, after Southern Vectis withdrew route 10 from the area.

Around the Bays of the Isle of Wight


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