Monday, 14 May 2012

Coast: at The Needles

Scratchell's Bay - from The Atlantic Islands as Resorts
of Health and Pleasure, S. G. W. Benjamin, 1878.
The always excellent BBC series Coast returned for series 7 yesterday. Episode 1 - The Mysteries of the Isles - included an interesting segment in which Andy Torbet climbed a treacherous chalk stack, one of The Needles off the western tip of the Isle of Wight, to collect a sample for the British Geological Survey.

If you're in the UK, it's available for viewing on BBC iPlayer until 24th June 2012: The Mysteries of the Isles. The Isle of Wight segment is from around 24:30 to 33:45. Apart from the ascent itself, the segment begins with a nice but brief flyover of Shanklin and Shanklin Chine, views of Alum Bay and The Needles, and a landing at the seldom-visited Scratchell's Bay, which is only accessible by sea.

Scratchell's Bay from Needles New Battery, my photo, October 2009
The beach is about 120m (400ft) down.
Ian West's The Needles page at his  Geology of the Wessex Coast of Southern England has many spectacular photos of this striking headland, along with a detailed geological description; it also includes historical drawings showing "Lot's Wife", a further pinnacle that collapsed in the 18th century (though accounts vary as to the location and date). The forum of 28dayslater - The UK UE Urbex Urban Exploration Forums - has an intriguing report of an expedition in 2008 to the Needles Old Battery, Sea Level Fort.

By the way, check out SGW Benjamin's The Atlantic Islands as Resorts of Health and Pleasure, , 1878 (Internet Archive ID atlanticislandsa01benj). It's rather cool that he considered the Isle of Wight worthy of inclusion alongside "The Bahamas.--The Azores.--The Channel Islands.--The Magdalen Islands.--Madeira.--Teneriffe.--Newfoundland.--The Bermudas.--Belleisle-en-Mer.--Prince Edward Island.--Isles of Shoals.--Cape Breton Island". The section starts at page 234.

- Ray

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