Saturday, 29 September 2012


I've strongly resisted getting an e-book reader, but with the prospect of some boring days ahead, out of office, with books I want to read for research, I finally got a Kobo eReader Touch.

The choice was partly down to review recommendation (it was Wired Magazine's 2012 Editor's Pick for Best eReader); partly specifications (anecdotally, I'd seen accounts that it handled PDFs unproblematically, as well as EPUB); and partly cheapskate (it's less expensive than the equivalent Kindle).

This is not going to be any kind of systematic review: what you see is what you get. It has a ambient light display (not backlit) with good black on light-grey contrast, and straightforward touch controls. It charges and connects through your computer USB port, and you synch it with the Kobo site to download books.

Kobo's library doesn't seem wildly large, but I chiefly wanted it for out-of-office reading of PDFs from the Internet Archive (mainly connected with the Maxwell Gray project and quite a few other Victorian novels that are on my to-read list). I loaded a few, but when it came to it on the day - the prospect of five hours having chemotherapy - some less demanding reading appealed more, and I found some obscure Keith Laumer and Philip José Farmer works online.

One slight horror story. I got a Kobo from Argos a fortnight ago, and it was bricked: nothing would turn it on or charge it. Kobo's e-mail support were very thorough, but ultimately it came down to their telling me to try stuff that required it to be charged, and my repeatedly telling them it wouldn't charge. When it got to some request to send in a huge list of specifications, including photos of the device, I cut to the chase and I took it back to Argos, and they replaced it with one that worked straight out of the box. I've no idea how common a problem this might be. Anyhow, I've a working device now, and am very pleased with it.

synching with laptop

Addendum: I should specify that PDFs out of the Internet Archive are a little touchy on e-readers. Because those scanned by Google are basically just big graphics images, you can't independently change font size as with EPUB, only do a global zoom, nor can you search inside the document. Google PDFs also have the annoying feature that, because of end matter, physical page in the PDF doesn't match the page numbering in the book. Nevertheless, they're accurate facsimiles, and better than the Internet Archive EPUB option, which tends to have a lot of OCR errors. For example, the frontispiece of The World Mender by Maxwell Gray (Mary G Tuttiett) reads in EPUB:
Oomian, xqz6, bt M. G. TUTTIErr
Ariscy lift up your hearts^ o  waking millionsy o wearied millionSy
With toil oppressed To Him that worketh ever. That sleepeth neverj But giveth rest!
- Ray

Friday, 28 September 2012

Exeter Cathedral #3

Following from Exeter Cathedral #1 and #2, here's the final section of the roof tour I went on last week.

A final section of spiral staircase leads to the top of the north tower, with its extensive views of Exeter.

N corner of Cathedral Green

NE up new Princesshay development

E end of cathedral

SE to Exe estuary

E end of cathedral

looking E

South Tower

South Tower and view across to Haldon Hills

down to W end of Cathedral Green

summit of North Tower

detail of Princesshay and new John Lewis building
The tour ended with a long descent down the North Tower to emerge at its base by the astronomical clock.

If you enjoyed these images, see also The Spire, a three-part post of my photos of the tower tour of Salisbury Cathedral.

- Ray

Exeter Cathedral #2

Following on from Exeter Cathedral #1, we now move on to the roof tour (here's a ground plan for orientation).

The tour convenes at the western end of the nave, and normally goes up to roof level through a staircase there. Due to renovations, however, we instead went up a first spiral staircase leading from the Chapel of St John the Evangelist at the eastern end of the cathedral.

This takes you up to the level of the roof of the Lady Chapel, where you can see the flying buttresses on the north side ...

... the eastern elevation of the main building ...

... and the buttresses of the southern side, where the cathedral was struck by a bomb in the Blitz on 1942.

A return eastward and down a few steps takes you to an enclosed area called the retro-quire ...

... which has a scary little window ...

... giving a view westward down the nave of the cathedral.

From the retro-quire, then it's up another spiral staircase into the nave roof level. It was a bit dark for photography, and not vastly interesting; unlike Salisbury cathedral, it's internally-divided by fire partitions to reduce the insurance premiums, so its sheer length (covering the longest uninterrupted medieval vaulted ceiling in the world) is not visible.

Anyhow, you proceed westward along this until you reach the walkway that spans the gap between the north and south towers. You go left via the roofing lead workshop into the bell-ringing room of the south tower:

The belfry itself is apparently unsafe to access, but the tour goes instead up the north tower, which houses the single tolling bell, "Peter", and its timing mechanism. You re-cross the nave roof space and go up ...

... into the north tower to watch the mechanism trip and hear the bell ...

... then on up past the level housing "Peter", where again it was too dark to photograph with my pocket camera ...

... and out to the top of the tower.

Continued to the tower-top view in Exeter Cathedral #3.

- Ray

Exeter Cathedral #1

The week before last I was in town on various errands, and decided to visit Exeter Cathedral. I've been before, but not fully explored it; and further, I decided on impulse to go on the roof tour. First: a quick preamble at ground level. Click any image to enlarge.

Exeter Cathedral - north tower

Exeter Cathedral - nave

astronomical clock and old clock mechanism

chest with complex lock mechanism

Memorial to Rachel Charlotte O'Brien

I was rather touched by this memorial. Among the many conventional and pious inscriptions on the tombs of ecclesiastical fatcats, it was refreshing to see this honest commemoration of a young mother who died saving her child.

south aisle

nave - roof vaulting

detail of vaulting with bosses

boss level - detail of roof bosses
nave looking to north aisle

Further reading:
Exeter Cathedral: official site
Exeter Cathedral: Wikipedia
Exeter Cathedral Keystones & Carvings: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculptures & Their Polychromy. Extensive online resource with descriptions and high-resolution images.

This scary cadaver tomb seemed a good excuse to repost a link to Henry Glassford Bell's 1832 anthology My Old Portfolio; or Tales and Sketches, which contains the highly pertinent story Dicky Cross, the idiot of Exeter, whose setting is Exeter Cathedral and its environs, during the reign of George III. Starting with the hoary old framing device of its being allegedly based on fact ...
"Should this volume be fortunate enough to find any readers in Exeter, they will doubtless perceive that the above story is by no means a mere fiction"
... it concerns a virtuous young woman who takes a short-cut through the cathedral at dusk, and finds she is locked in with a murderous idiot who lurks among the tombs. All ends happily.

I haven't been able to find the tomb described in the story:
There was one tomb nearly directly opposite to where Mary sat, on the other side of the chapel, well known to all the inhabitants of Exeter, by the remarkable recumbent figure which was carved upon it, and which no one ever passed without pausing to look at. The figure was that of a skeleton, very ingeniously executed, and grinning as if in silent mockery of all the vanities of life. A helmet with the vizor up, partially concealed the skull, and in the long bony hand was a broken lance. It was a vivid and painful representation of what the once powerful tenant of the sepulchre beneath then was, and of what all humanity must one day be.
Did I miss it, or is it fictional?

Continued in Exeter Cathedral #2

- Ray

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Barnstormer in Oz

1982 Berkeley trade p/b cover
I mentioned Philip José Farmer's A Barnstormer in Oz briefly before, alongside Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (see Keith Laumer ... and Oz, Sept. 2007).

Both are revisionist views of L Frank Baum's Oz mythos. I read Wicked a few years ago, and despite the rave reviews, I found it very ponderous. Its central thrust is that the Wicked Witch of the West (called Elphaba by Maguire, after "LFB") is a more complex character, driven into the role of wickedness by resistance to the Wizard's tyrannical policies concerning the rights of sentient animals in the world of Oz. Even though I like the Oz books and films, I didn't find much connection with them, because the majority of the events in Wicked are a prequel to the arrival of the well-known Oz characters. The whole handling seemed to me a very dull polemical exploration of the portrayal of good and evil, and the problems of Animals (sentient animals) vs ordinary animals, all countersunk by a study guide at the end posing various questions on the moral issues raised. Wicked just drips with its own sense of Significance.

A Barnstormer in Oz, which I finally read today, is completely different in tone. It's essentially a hard SF take on fantasy, whose central premise is that Oz is far more complicated than the Baum portrayal (within the book's mythos, it's written by Baum after interviews with Dorothy, but spun for the children's market).

Dorothy's son, the stunt pilot Hank Stover, flies through a mysterious green cloud and lands in Munchkinland. He's initially detained - for reasons of disease quarantine - and immediately finds the place to be a complex and sophisticated culture. The Munchkins are not infantilised dwarfs, but pygmy descendants of Ostrogoths who passed through a dimension portal to the Oz analogue of Earth, Ertha; they speak a slightly Latinised Germanic language, which he has to learn. The country is run as a benevolent dictatorship by the centuries-old Queen Glinda the Good, with some democracy at a regional level, and is a bizarre mix of cultural features: for example, there are strict rules for population control via a herbal spermicide, but the same spermicide allows wide pre-marital sexual freedom (Hank, though he yearns for Glinda, rapidly forms a relationship with the blonde guard Captain Lamblo). Despite the mediaeval formality, Munchkin culture has extremely syncretic Christian / Norse / pagan religious practices, some of which Hank finds abhorrent, such as its primitive tribal funerals with painted naked mourners and ritual bloodletting. The issues of sentient animals are addressed in far more concrete details than in Wicked, such as the taboos on killing sentient animals, and the accommodations that let sentient carnivores indulge their instincts under certain circumstances.

Hank, as a pilot with wartime experience and an armed Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" biplane, rapidly finds himself involved a key player in two conflicts that are brewing, both involving territorial ambitions. One involves an invasion of Erakna the Uneatable, a new Wicked Witch with armies of sentient hawks and flying monkeys. The other is an attempt at invasion by the USA, which in a project instigated by Warren G Harding has discovered how to open the portal to Ertha, and sends in an expedition force ostensibly seek diplomatic contact to "protect" Oz (an offer that Hank knows will rapidly repeat America's exploitative history when the US visitors realise Oz's wealth of precious stones and metals). Despite his loyalties as an American, Hank takes the side of Oz. This is helped along by his plans to marry Lamblo, and the friendly but cynical manipulation by Glinda, who spots him as a powerful wildcard who is free to use guns and explosives that would be taboo for Oz inhabitants.

During the military campaigns, which involve an undercover attempt with a couple of folksy rogues to assassinate Erakna, Hank encounters more mysteries about Oz. The chief one is his attempt to understand the nature of 'firefoxes', a form of ball lightning that possesses animals and inanimate objects with sentient intelligence (hence the lion, scarecrow and tin man) - in a thunderstorm, the same happens to Hank's biplane Jenny. He concludes that firefoxes and anomalous creatures such as the flying monkeys are the creations of the "Long-Gones" (reminiscent of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones), the original inhabitants of the Oz dimension.

The US invasion is forestalled first by Glinda's devastating attack on the ill-equipped military expedition - as this is 1924, an era before large-capacity passenger air transport, the US sends a small suicide mission arriving through the portal in a multifarious collection of co-opted commercial aircraft. Although further missions seem inevitable, the US is ultimately warned off by a terrifying demonstration of Glinda's ability of precise magical teleportation from Ertha to Earth. The book ends with a magical battle to the death between Erakna and Glinda, who Hank ultimately concludes would be better named "Glinda the Ambiguous".

The Wikipedia article mentions critical disagreement:
Inevitably, critics have disagreed on the value of Farmer's contribution to the literature of Oz. Jack Zipes called the novel "splendid," while Katharine Rogers considered it "revision to the point of debasement."
- A Barnstormer in Oz, retrieved 27 Sep 2012
I go with the "splendid". It was an enjoyable and intelligent afternoon's reading, with interesting footnotes on Farmer's ideas about the evolution of the Munchkin and Quadling languages mentioned in the book, as well as an analysis of the flora and fauna of Oz in terms of other Earth regions and cultures scooped up in the dimensional warp.

See the Official Philip José Farmer Web Page for other reviews, some of which mention other Oz adaptations. The Royal Timeline of Oz also has an extensive collection relating to the literary history of Oz and its various spinoffs, both faithful and revisionist: see, for instance, The Dark Side of Oz and Beyond the Deadly Desert.

- Ray

Sunday, 23 September 2012

It ain't that kind #1

A service announcement. I've been searching for a literary way to raise this, but these panels from Watchmen showing Edgar Jacobi (aka Moloch, a retired master criminal) sum up the situation as well as anything.
      This week I start chemotherapy for moderately advanced metastatic cancer in the lymph nodes of my chest and neck (the initial diagnosis of cancer followed a CT scan at the beginning of July, but precise identification and treatment formulation took rather longer). There's so far no identifiable primary tumour, and if I have what it currently appears to be - a syndrome called "cancer of unknown primary", aka CUP- the prognosis is not at all good: the treatment aim is delay/remission rather than cure.
      They're giving me a "best guess" chemotherapy - cisplatin/docetaxel combination therapy - based on the location and histology of the cancer. These days, this is actually a pretty good option: not exactly a guess, but an informed clinical decision based on location and cell types. The lymphatic system is the body's drainage system, and where lymphatic metastases turn up gives a good clue as to whereabouts a cancer has come from. So I'm getting these two drugs which target the cancer types from the two main options: lung and throat.
      The nasty aspect is that there's a significant chance - maybe 50/50 - that the chemotherapy won't have any effect. This I'll only know after several treatment cycles (dosing every three weeks). The rather frightening raw stats are median survival rate of 3-4 months after diagnosis, 25% one year survival, 10% five year survival. But I'm otherwise fit and well at present - so far it's all going on at a subtle level that only shows up on scans - and trying to keep an open mind about time scales.
      I know this post is going to be a real downer for many readers I've known for years now, but I'd rather explain the situation than bury it under taboo and mystique. I'm not going to devote much space on JSBlog to writing about it - "lymph node bores" who document every daily up and down of their illness and treatment can be a real drag, undoubtedly worthy though the endeavour is - but the focus may change: less reading, and more photography and travel.
      I've not much else to say about it at present, except to apologise if I'm slow responding to e-mails - it's a complicated time. Oh, and don't e-mail me with recommendations for quack remedies: whatever the weaknesses in the system, mainstream evidence-based treatment is still the best shot I'll get.

- Ray

Update, 14th November 2012
I'm very well pleased. I had a call from the hospital today with full results from a repeat scan last week: "improvement in all areas" - the metastases have shrunk measurably. After just three cycles of treatment, it's still very early days; but getting a response to the chemotherapy is great news, with hope of a longer rather than shorter survival time.
      Chemotherapy hasn't been too bad. The three-week cycle consists of a very boring day in hospital on a drip, followed by a couple of days feeling a bit tired, then 3-4 days a real bitch of aching all over, a week feeling OK but exhausted, then a final week feeling pretty normal before it all starts again. And a lot of pills to take.
      I'm otherwise fine: no symptoms apart from those caused by the chemo (including baldness, though my eyebrows stayed). I'll know about the precise treatment plan at  my next hospital appointment at the end of the month. But it'll most likely involve continuing the chemotherapy into the beginning of 2013, perhaps with some radiotherapy to follow.

Update, 28th January 2013
I saw the consultant today and got the results of a recent full body CT re-scan: "stable". If not as positive as further shrinkage, it's an OK result - existing tumours still shrunk, nothing new, and my overall health fine. Tomorrow I have my last chemotherapy (for the moment) and am then signed off for three months - no radiotherapy for now, which is also good - after which I'll get another CT scan.
      The downside is that CUP is a very unpredictable syndrome, and they can't give me even a vague prognosis except that the cancer will come back - maybe even before the three months are up. (Possibly the most chilling point of the conversation was when the consultant rather pointedly sidestepped answering when Clare asked about my prospects for our wedding anniversary in September). I am, they say, in "the better prognosis group" (because - to put it bluntly - if I was in "the worse prognosis group" I'd well likely be dead already) but this doesn't seem to have any clear predictive implications about what length of remission, if any, I can expect.
      Since I still don't have any symptoms beyond those from treatment, I'm increasingly resigned to just getting on with life, with as little time-wasting as I can manage. As I said on the main blog - Bright start - I have every intention of enjoying 2013.

Update, 2nd April 2013
Still feeling fine: much fitter and well-er for having recovered from the chemotherapy. In March I got in a couple of solid walks (one on the Jurassic Coast with a friend, one with Clare on the Isle of Wight when we went down to see my Dad and family). My hair is growing back - distinctly whiter than before the treatment, but I can live with that, as well as with very numb toes, and slightly altered sensation in my fingers (a mild case of the peripheral neuropathy that's mentioned on the side effect list). Fortunately it hasn't affected my fingers enough to disrupt playing the accordion. But it's coming up to a scary point: the three-month repeat scan is in a fortnight, and I'm distinctly jittery.

Update, 29th April 2013
Excellent news: we saw the oncologist today, and the scan results were stable again. Nothing new. Of the existing metastases, some have no change, some are very slightly larger, and some very slightly smaller - and the changes are small enough that they might partially be accounted for by random measurement variation. So - I'm still in remission; no new treatment is needed for the moment, and I'm signed off for another three months.

Update and thoughts, 4th June 2013
I'm coming round to the consideration that I've been lucky under the circumstances (while it ain't exactly "lucky" to get cancer) that this was caught early. I didn't tell you the background of the diagnosis. It came about through a cough that hadn't properly cleared up some months after a very nasty winter bug. I was referred for a chest x-ray, and an enlarged lymph node showed up on that. By the time of the x-ray appointment, the cough had stopped - it seems to have been irrelevant. So, I guess, the cancer was caught long before it became symptomatic. I have the accident of that bug to thank for an early diagnosis of a syndrome that's normally spotted rather late. Anyhow, it's Spring 2013 and I feel fine. However it goes now, I've already had a great deal more - in time, and everything else - than I expected last September.

Update: 29th July 2013.  "Summer's lease hath all too short a date"; the latest CT scan results show the remission is over. This wasn't unexpected, so while it's disappointing news, it's not devastating, and there's a good chance that further treatment will hold things off a bit longer. I'm to have a new round of a different combination chemotherapy, GemCarbo, in three months' time (all being well).
     How this came about: I did ask - stressing that I appreciated no precision was possible - for a ballpark figure about survival time. The oncologist said "Three months ... to three years". Great.
     So the three months is my personal decision about a scary optimisation problem: doing it straight away could have a more substantial benefit in terms of survival time; but do I want to spend summer feeling rather crap as a trade-off for that uncertain benefit? I opted for delaying, as I'm still asymptomatic and having a great time of what's turned out to be a very pleasant summer. The oncologist saw it as an acceptable choice to defer the treatment until October, and go for a "watch and wait" approach, with the option of starting sooner if I show any signs of getting unwell. We'll see what happens.

Update: 3rd September 2013. Silver! - I'm pleased to say I didn't miss out on our Silver Wedding Anniversary.

Update:  28th October 2013. The plan worked. A repeat scan last week showed things are (in the words of the liaison nurse) "progressing but not galloping": a bit more enlargement in the originally affected lymph nodes, but not major; nor do I have any symptoms, or any sign of involvement elsewhere. I saw the oncologist today, and there's a welcome change of plan; as I'm still OK, they advised - and I was happy to go along with this - continuing the "watch and wait" approach for another three months.
     I say "welcome" - but it's actually a combination of welcome and unsettling. Of course I don't want bad news, but you get into a mindset for coping with a specific situation (for instance, the possibility of being dead in three months), and when that situation changes to a newly uncertain one, even if it's slightly better, you're suddenly thrown into having to revise all the coping strategies. And I'll have to do my tax return. :)

Update: 27th January 2013. Wow! Excellent news: my latest scan result summary is "stable" (no measurable change over the past three months) - and this is without further treatment. I'm signed off for another three months.

Continued in It ain't that kind: a year on >>>

- Ray

Friday, 21 September 2012

Brannon on Bonchurch

Bonchurch looking toward Ventnor, from Brannon

Continuing the Bonchurch visit:

Bonchurch, though pretty, is almost entirely a 19th century construct, whose layout hasn't changed much since the Isle of Wight populariser George Brannon commented on it:
Formerly this was one of the most romantic scenes in the island, but has lately been converted into a fashionable village. Amidst a profusion of new houses, more or less tasty in their style — a villa called East Dene, and the neighbouring old Church, are all that will here particularly call the stranger from the carriage road.

Bonchurch abounds in delightful walks : if stopping at Ventnor, a good way of seeing the place is to take the road by the Pond — look at the old Church — ascend the hill, passing the new Church — turn in front of Hotel (just beyond which is a rugged path to the top of cliff) — and reach the lower road by a descent of 99 steps. Or proceed from Ventnor by path on edge of cliffs to the old Church, and then as above.

In the year 1834, this beautiful spot was advertised to be sold off in small lots for building 18 or 20 villas ! — a circumstance much regretted by the admirers of the peculiar scenery of the Undercliff, which was exhibited here in its utmost perfection. Nearly the whole of the land is now disposed of ; some of the houses were built for the purpose of letting lodgings ; one has been opened as a first-rate Hotel ; but the greater number are private residences, — and certainly it must prove a most enviable retreat for families and invalids during the winter months. It is impossible for any spot to be better adapted for a number of houses being built in a comparatively small compass : for the whole of the ground is so romantically tossed about by the sportive hand of Nature, presenting here a lofty ridge of rocks, there a woody dell adorned with a purling stream or a limpid pool, that most of the houses are completely hid from each other's view.

From the bad taste which too generally prevails — we mean the vanity of glare, — the affectation of elegance — so frequently carried out at the expense of all propriety, we were not without apprehension, that many of the gentry at Bonchurch would also neglect the essential rule, that the peculiar character of every scene demands an APPROPRIATE STYLE in building and decoration ; for it avails little to have ivy mantled roeks and mossy cliffs, the sunny knoll and the shaded glen, with their groves and streams, — if the Genius of the place be not consulted, and HARMONY made the rule of every innovation and improvement. In a word, it is too often in building as in dress, that many persons resort to show and refinement as the surest means of attracting the world's admiration for their superior taste and rank ! But in justice to the Gentlemen who have located in this fairy-land, we must acknowledge that they for the most part avoided (as far as was possible) disturbing the natural beauties of the place, and have studied to make their happy retreats...
- George Brannon, Brannon's Picture of the Isle of Wight, 1855 (Internet Archive ID brannonspictureo00bran)
Brannon expressed stronger outrage in his earlier Vectis Scenery, published while the development was ongoing:
Having noticed above that a large portion of Bonchurch is under the hand of Innovation, — or as perhaps some of our friends would say, of Improvement, — the reader will not deem it out of place, if we here put upon record what the character of the scene was previous to its being subjected to the metamorphosis which is in rapid progress. In the year 1837, it was first advertised to be divided and sold off, for the purpose of erecting eighteen or twenty houses! in a style suitable for the retreat of opulence and pomp. From that moment it was doomed to have its venerable features defaced, and every native charm of wildness and tranquillity for ever banished.

The whole of this spot (previous to the year 1837,) was distinguished by the boldest variety of surface, and a range of cliffs, the most interesting for their craggedness and tone of coloring that could possibly be imagined. No part of Undercliff was so much admired by all tastes, — it was considered Fairy-land itself. Many were the huge rocks seen rearing themselves in lofty pyramids of the most picturesque forms and grotesque appearance; or spread into grassy terraces of considerable extent, enriched by the ivy's vivid green, and the light waving foliage of self-sown ash, firm -rooted in the deeper clefts: groves of magnificent elms intermingled with knots of the choicest exotic shrubs, alike flourishing in the open air: here a genteel cottage -residence ; there the lowly habitation of a fisherman or peasant; almost concealed in luxuriant flowers and ivy mantling to their chimney-tops. Every dwelling was thatched with straw (so conducive to the harmony of effect), and seated among the towering rocks and ridges in a way to be shut out from each others' view. There was nothing in the whole scene obtrusive or alien in appearance ; for even the abodes of the rich were quite in character — homely and unpretending, comfortable rather than elegant in their construction. In short, every feature, however minute, was of a harmonizing complexion : each contributed its share to the production of a splendid whole, — a Picture of the most delightful keeping in light and shade, in coloring and composition, which the island could produce.
- George Brannon, page 38, Vectis Scenery, 1840 (Internet Archive ID vectisscenerybei00bran)
(See also ... in the Isle of Wight #1, which mentions the poet John Gwilliam's similar reaction expressed in polemical verse in his 1844 Rambles in the Isle of Wight).

Given its general residential nature, then, very little of Bonchurch's intriguing terrain is accessible to the visitor. The main street - Bonchurch Village Road - lies in a linear valley (historically called the Vale of Bonchurch) between the descending hillside and a long ridge of slipped rock, with interesting features. At the eastern end opposite the church, the ridge is topped by a summit called Flagstaff Rock, still visible among the trees:

Here's a print of the same rock from Gwilliam's 1844 Rambles in the Isle of Wight (it's called by its alternative name Undermount Rock):

This, however, is on private ground, as is the discreet driveway and tunnel through the ridge to the house on the other side, Undermount.

Bonchurch Village Road is adjoined by a long duckpond - originally on private land, but donated to Bonchurch by its then owner, the previously mentioned H De Vere Stacpoole. Its environs, however, are not visitable on conservation grounds.

Probably the best chance to see the hidden Bonchurch is to go on one of the annual The Beautiful Gardens of Bonchurch open weekends, which take place in July each year.

You can read more about mid-1800s Bonchurch in WB Cooke's 1849 Bonchurch, Shanklin & the Undercliff (Internet Archive ID bonchurchshankli00cook). It mentions some of the origins of the modern landscape; for instance, after enthusing about the Pond, it mentions its embellished nature:
Passing onwards, the Vale of Bonchurch begins. Here, on the way-side, to the left, appears a bold, rocky scene, from whose dark chasm beneath issues a copious stream of the most pellucid water, filling a small pond, or natural basin containing gold and silver fish, and so transparent as to show the aquatic plants at its bottom, in the most lovely green, while its glassy surface is here and there adorned by the water-lily, its white bloom resting on its expanded leaf. From the upper part of the rock descend a few silvery threads of crystal water, splashing and sparkling in the morning's sun, exhibiting at times, in front of the dark chasm, the prismatic colours of the rainbow.

Proceeding along the vale, we hear the gushing of the Waterfall, — a recently-formed cascade, admirably contrived by the spirited proprietor of Pulpit Rock,* who seems to spare neither expense nor trouble in improving and adorning this little earthly paradise.

* This handsome addition to the beauties of Bonchurch, was converted from a rude osier-bed into the elegant scene it now presents. It was completed early in the spring of 1849.
Addendum, March 2014. I just found a good illustration of the 1840s development of Bonchurch: see Newport: research visit and Little London.

- Ray