The Long and Winding Pathway from the Needles to Alum Bay

The Long and Winding Pathway from the Needles to Alum Bay
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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.

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. The sands are coloured due to oxidised iron compounds formed under different conditions.

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.

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.

A traditional product of Alum Bay, and a fixture of Isle of Wight tourist shops, is the creation of ornaments using the coloured sands layered in vials and jars. The sands also were used for pictures, 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, but are now discouraged from doing so because of Health and Safety restrictions. The Needles Park has a facility where people can 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 ones own sand pictures and bottles at home.

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The Isle of Wight /ˈaɪl əv ˈwaɪt/, is a county and the largest and second most populous island of England. It is located in the English Channel, about 4 mi (6 km) off the coast of Hampshire and is separated from mainland Great Britain by the Solent. The island has several resorts which have been holiday destinations since Victorian times.

The history of the Isle of Wight includes a brief period of time as an independent kingdom in the 15th century. Until 1995, like Jersey and Guernsey, the island had a Governor.

Home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes, the island has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat building, sail making, the manufacture of flying boats, the world’s first hovercraft, and the testing and development of Britain’s space rockets. The Isle hosts annual festivals including the Bestival and the Isle of Wight Festival, which, in 1970, was the largest rock music event ever held. The island has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.

The Isle of Wight was part of the County of Southampton until 1890, when it became an independent administrative county. Until 1974 it continued to share its Lord Lieutenant with Hampshire, when it was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan ceremonial county which gave it its own Lord Lieutenant and was recognised as a postal county.

The quickest public transport link to the mainland is to and from Southsea (Portsmouth) by hovercraft, while five ferry services shuttle across the Solent.

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