Amusements.-Concert party in Winter Gardens Pavilion. Orchestral Concerts in Pier Pavilion every morning, dancing or community singing in evenings. Band concerts once weekly in Ventnor Park. (These arrangements of course apply only to the season.) Dramatic companies appear at the Town Hall, and there is a Cinema. For outdoor sport see separate headings.
Angling.-Sea angling from the Pier and from boats. Plaice, Pollack conger, bass, grey mullet, brill, halibut and skate in season. Facilities afforded by the Isle of Wight Sea Angling Association.
Banks.-Barclays and Lloyd's, Church Street; National Provincial and Midland High Street.
Bathing.-The shore is mainly of fine shingle, but there are large and increasing stretches of sand, particularly towards the west side of the bay. Machines are in general use, the room available for tents being somewhat limited. charges: Machines, 6d. per bathe. Tents from 10s. 6d. per week. Lock-up huts, 17s. 6d. per week.
Boating.-The sea is much more exposed than at Sandown and Shanklin, and knowledge of local currents and reefs is advisable for those who venture beyond the bay. Motor-Launches make frequent trips to Shanklin and out to sea. A regatta is held in August. There are two clubs, with head-quarters on the sea-front, one for sailing boats and the other for rowing and sports.
Miniature boats on the Canoe Lake. Charges: 6d. per half-hour. Closed on Sunday mornings.
Bowls.-Public Bowling Green in Mitchell Avenue, near railway station. Charges: hour, 6d; week, 5s.; season, 25s. Closed on Sundays. The Ventnor Bowls Club has the use of some of the rinks.
'Bus Service.-Ventnor is connected by bus with Ryde, Sandown, Shanklin, Newport, Niton, Wroxall and intermediate villages. The coastal service from Ryde to Alum Bay (summer only) also passes through the town.
Churches and Chapels:-
St Catherine's (Church Street-H.C. 8, also 1st and 3rd Sunday after morning service, last Sunday after evening service; Morning Prayer 11; Evening Prayer 6.30.
Holy Trinity (Trinity Road)-H.C. 8, Mattins 8.45, Sung Eucharist and Sermon 11, Evensong and Sermon 6.30.
St. Alban's, Zigzag Road-Low Mass 8, Sung Mass and Sermon 11, Evensong 6.30. H.C., weekdays 7.30 am.
St. Boniface, Bonchurch-H.C. 8, 1st and 3rd Sundays also at 12. Morning Prayer 11, Evening Prayer 6.30.
Bonchurch Old Church-H.C. 8 a.m. during August only.
St. Luke's Chapel (Royal National Hospital)-10 and 5. Open to public.
St. Lawrence New Church-8 and 11.15
St. Lawrence Old Church-6.30 p.m.
Baptist (Pier Street), Congregational (High Street), Methodist (Newport Road and High Street)-all at 11 and 6.30.
Roman Catholic (St. Wilfred's) Bonchurch)-7.30 (summer only), 8.30, 10.30 and 6.30.
Society of Friends, Literary institute, 6.30 summer, 3 p.m. winter.
Climate.- See pp.10 and 95-96.
Clubs.Conservative, Hambrough Road; Liberal, High Street; sailing, cricket, football, bowling, tennis, sea angling, rowing, and, all open to visitors.
Coaches.-From Ventnor motor-coaches run to all parts of the Island.
Cricket.-The ground of the Ventnor Cricket Club is on the Steephill Road, beyond the Park. A cricket week is held in August and throughout the season there are bi-weekly matches of good class. Visitors welcomed as playing members.
Golf.-Nine hole course on Rew and Week Downs, north-west of the town. Visitors, 2s 6d day, 10s. week, 15s. fortnight, 25s. month, 40s. two months.
Hotels and Tariffs-See p. xii.
Hunting-The Isle of Wight Foxhounds and Harriers meet within easy distance of Ventnor.
Inquiries may be addressed to the Town Clerk.
Newspapers.-Isle of Wight Mercury (local), Fridays, 1d. Isle of Wight County Press, Saturdays, 2d.
Parking Places-Municipal Car Park, The Grove (behind St. Catherine's Church); part of Esplanade east of Pier (limited accommodation) Hambrough Road. The car park at the Winter Gardens Pavilion is free and for patrons only.- Post Office in Church Street, near St. Catherine's Church. Open 8 to 7.30; Sundays, 9 to 10.30. Bank Holidays, 9 to 12 and 5 to 7.
Putting Greens.-Upper Plateau, Ventnor Park, 4d. per round of 18 holes; 12 rounds 3s.; 18-hole course on cliff-path at western end of Esplanade, 4d. per round. Both above courses closed on Sundays. The excellent 18-hole course at Church Hill, next to Holy Trinity Church, is open on Sundays; 6d per round. There is also an 18-hole course at Flower's Brook, opposite Steephill Castle (4d per round. Open Sundays.)
Railway Stations.-Ventnor Station (for Shanklin, Sandown and Ryde) is above the town, on the flank of St. Boniface Down. 'Buses meet the principal trains and convey passengers and luggage to and from all parts of the town.
Ventnor West (for Newport, Cowes and Freshwater) is at the west end of Park Avenue, near Steephill Castle (see plan),
Reading Room (free after 6 p.m.) at Literary Institute, High Street. Free Library open to residents only. At the Institute is also a Natural History Museum. There is also a reading-room open daily (9 to 9) on the first floor of the Winter Gardens Pavilion. Admission free.
Steamers.-In summer there are services to Sandown, Ryde, etc., to Southsea direct, and to Bournemouth and other popular South Coast resorts, also to Cherbourg. See announcements at Pier-gates and p.5.
Tennis.-There are public grass courts at Ventnor Park, and hard and grass courts in St. Boniface Road (charges in both cases 2s. per hour, singles and doubles). In both these cases the courts are closed on Sundays.
There are also hard courts under private management in Dudley Road. (Similar charges in summer. Open on Sundays in summer.)
VENTNOR facing due south, contrives as well as any other town in England to get its full "place in the sun." The houses rise in terraces, one above the other, and all alike have open balconies, wide windows, and the indispensable south aspect. Look at the plan of Ventnor: the few streets which run uphill from the sea are as higgledy piggledy as well can be; but observe the regularity of the parallels maintained with such difficulty by the terraces which follow the direction of the shore. The town, in fact, is built on the principle of a theatre, so that the occupant of every seat, no matter how far back or removed, shall have a full view of the stage, which in this case is the sea. Only those who explore the upper levels will realize the full force of this comparison. In various parts are long flights of steps, one or two ascents of which will painfully convince the visitor that occupancy of "the gallery" has its disadvantages. Steps and "zigzags" are indeed as characteristic a feature of Ventnor as are canals of Venice.
Looking at the configuration of the ground, it really seems an impertinence to have built a town at all. Here is a hill, something like eight hundred feet in height, often mist-capped like a real mountain, running sheer down to the sea in a gradient of about one in four, the foot of the hill being separated from the shore by a narrow ledge of perhaps not more than twenty feet.
Nor is this full exposure to the sunny south, with its accompanying protection from the blasts of north, east, and west, an attribute of the town alone. From Luccombe on the one hand to Blackgang on the other, a distance of between eight and nine miles, the same conditions prevail-high cliffs behind; a ledge or perch, in places of considerable width, upon which the adventurous may build; then cliffs again, and the deep sea. But always, and this is the point, the full, sheltered, southern aspect.
The reputation of the Undercliff as a snug, secluded region where one may laugh at the vagaries of the English winter has to some extent militated against it as regards the summer. A conception is abroad that because Ventnor is warm when other places are cold, it is necessarily more than hot when other places are hot enough. Anyone who takes the trouble to go through the meteorological reports can verify that the average summer temperature is from seven to ten degrees lower than that of London and the Midland counties. Several causes contribute to this, among them the lofty situation of the town, the prevalence during summer of cool south-west breezes from the Atlantic, to which the town lies fully open, and the shade afforded towards the beginning and the end of the day by the hills to east and west. The following figures, based on an average of ten years, may be of interest:
Mean temperature, 51.72 degrees-Winter, 41.80 degrees spring, 49.82 degrees; summer, 61.31 degrees; autumn, 53.95 degrees. Mean temperature of coldest month (Feb)., 41.12 degrees; hottest (Aug.); 62.47 degrees.
During the hottest months of summer, when it is possible even in England to have an overdose of sun, Ventnor is again favoured, for as the sun both rises and sets behind the hills, the district gets some two hours less sunshine per day than the majority of other places with a similar south aspect. The same reason reversed gives every minute of the sun's rays in winter, as the sun rises in the south-east and sets in the south-west.
Mr. Edward Miall has, perhaps, put the facts as well as anyone:
"Ventnor," he says, "being a well-known winter retreat for invalids suffering from pulmonary affections, is popularly set down as intolerably hot throughout the summer months. For ourselves we suffered no oppression, no feverishness, no melting down of bodily substance and strength, no longing to sit, as Sydney Smith expressed it, 'in our naked bones'. The balminess of the air was exquisitely luxurious by night as well as by day, and every breath which the lungs inspired diffused a sense of positive enjoyment through the nervous system. The current opinion about the climate of Ventnor we take to be moonshine. It may not possess all the bracing qualities of the eastern and north-eastern coasts; but, as to its reputed oppressiveness, we believe it is to be found rather in the imagination of those who have never tried it than in the experience of those who have."
Ventnor's reputation as a winter health-resort is world wide. As Dr. Bertram Thornton has pointed out, temperature is not the only criterion of a winter resort. "The prevailing winds, the daily range of temperature, the rainfall, the relative humidity, the subsoil, vegetation, absence of cloud, and, last but not least, the aspect of the locality, and the degree of protection afforded by hills, are all important considerations." In all these respects Ventnor has advantages possessed by few other winter resorts.
It may be well, perhaps, to say, as misconception exists on the subject, that the town is not crowded with consumptives. The Hospital is situated at some distance, and patients rarely leave the spacious grounds attached to the institution.
The stranger arriving in the town will naturally first ask how he is to get to the sea. The simplest way is to go steadily down-where you can go steadily-till you come to it. So long as the course of the road is downwards, no matter how it twists and turns, you cannot go far astray. From Ventnor Station the shortest route for the Pier is via Grove Road, High Street and Pier Street. Arrivals at Ventnor West Station, from Cowes and Newport, descend to Park Avenue and then by the steep and winding Bath Road to the Esplanade.
The length of level roadway that does duty for a marine promenade is all too short, but Ventnor has so much to offer its visitors that the lack of a long promenade is more than counterbalanced by features not found elsewhere. And having regard to the configuration of the site of the town, the circumstance that Ventnor has an Esplanade at all is remarkable The sea-front is divided by a cascade, to the east of which is a Canoe Lake where, in water nowhere deeper than eighteen inches, children can in perfect safety navigate canoes, "paddle-boats" and rowing boats. Eastward is a broad promenade with gardens, bungalows, shelters, refreshment kiosks, and seats commanding a view of the channel east and south. The western portion of the front is the resort of those who find their pleasure mainly on the beach, which, half very fine shingle, half sand, with an admixture of rock towards the extremities, is generally packed with boats and bathing-machines and happy groups of children.
Above the cascade is the entrance to the-
Completed in 1937, this striking modern building with its glass fronted tower can hardly be termed picturesque when viewed from the outside. But inside it is a veritable sun trap and is fitted with every comfort. The ground floor is occupied by a large concert hall with comfortable seating for 664 people. In winter, thanks to an excellent floor, the hall can be converted into a ballroom. The front part of the pavilion houses a café overlooking the sea. The stairs are encased in the glass-fronted tower: at every step we can admire the sea view. On the first floor are a reading-room (free) and a sun terrace. Mounting still higher, we find ourselves on a roof sun terrace commanding even wider views.
Attached to the Pavilion is a free car park reserved for patrons.
Eastward of the Winter Garden Pavilion is the East Cliff, with paths and shelters; another excellent spot from which to gaze seawards.
(Toll 2d Book of 10 tickets 1s., 24 2s. Yearly ticket 5s.)
differs little from the conventional type, but is interesting being, in a way, an engineering triumph, two previous structures having succumbed to storms. Ample accommodation is provided for steamers, and the pier is much used as a promenade. Some rugged rocks are exposed when the tide is low. The view of the town from the pier, with the green bulk of St. Boniface Down for background, is impressive. In the Pier Pavilion an orchestra plays each morning, while in the evening dancing or community singing takes place.
At the western end of the Esplanade, an easy slope gives access to the lower levels. of-
The whole of the south, or seaward slope, including the cliff, was acquired some years ago by the town authorities, providing a delightful promenade, breezy in summer, catching every ray of the sun in winter, and commanding charming views of the town and the sea. Many public parks are so flat as to require the utmost skill of the landscape gardener to make them in any degree interesting. Whatever fault may be found with Ventnor Park, no one can say that it is flat. In the northern part, near the entrances from the town, a small stream forms a series of miniature cascades, and there are some flower-beds which at nearly all seasons bear witness to the genial climate. A simple cenotaph, in local ragstone, is Ventnor's War Memorial. In this part of the Park, too, are well-kept tennis courts (2s. per hour, singles or doubles). There are refreshment and cloak-rooms in the Pavilion, and near is the bandstand where band performances are given weekly. The cliff is wisely left to a large extent as Nature made it, though there are many well-kept paths, and seats and shelters are liberally provided. There is an excellent 18-hole putting green (4d. per round). Owing to the ridge which forms, so to speak, the backbone of the Park, it is always possible to find a cosy spot where there is shelter from the wind, no matter from what quarter it may blow. The Park is deservedly popular with visitors and one of the most attractive features of the town.
No one is likely to perambulate the difficult streets of Ventnor for the sake of doing so, but it may be well to give a general outline of the town.
The main thoroughfare (see plan of town) is a continuation of the high-road from Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin to the Undercliff and St. Catherine's Point. Descending the steep southern shoulder of St. Boniface Down, it passes Bonchurch Church and schools, and then, turning west, forms the main street of Bonchurch, having the much-photographed Pond on its northern side. On its way through Ventnor. this thoroughfare bears a succession of names, and is anything but level or straight. Its eastern extremity is known as Trinity Road, a name derived from Holy Trinity Church; passing that edifice it becomes High Street, a title which it bears for the greater part of its length; at the junction of Pier Street it takes the name of Church Street, because St, Catherine's Church is its chief feature; and, farther west, from a point marked by a huge mass of rock which appears as if it must fall on and crush the houses opposite, it is called Belgrade Road. At the Royal Marine Hotel, Belgrave Road has, as Tom Hood would put it, "no other side of the road," and the street is here so far above the level of the ocean that the seascape is one of the best and most extensive of the many to be had in all parts of the town. The continuation of Belgrave Road, leading to the Park, the West Station (for Newport, etc.), to Steephill, and eventually to the Undercliff, is called Park Avenue.
Opposite the Royal Hotel, Bath Road leads deviously down to the sea; while on the western side of the hotel the trying Zigzag Road climbs the hill and leads leftward to the Newport Road, near the Cemetery, and rightward to Ventnor Station (for Shanklin. Sandown and Ryde), connected with the High Street by Grove Road. In several cases, where the thoroughfares have perforce to bend and double, long flights of steps are available to the pedestrian, effecting a considerable saving of distance, though hardly of breath. The Hundred and One Steps, which cut across the elbow of Gill's Cliff Road, near St. Alban's Church, are a good example. and can be confidently recommended as a training ground to aspiring mountaineers.
For the Golf Links turn to right on leaving Ventnor Station along Ocean View Road to Gill's Cliff Road, and then along the Whitwell Road, when the entrance to the links will be seen on right. The course, of nine holes, is laid out on Rew and Week Downs, 500 feet above sea-level, and commands lovely views both seaward and inland. The chief hazards are furze and gravel-pits.
The east end is Ventnor's "West End" and fashionable quarter, and here it is. that it adjoins-
by the side of which it is a mere child, for the village, though now completely modernized, is one of the oldest places in the Island. It is said to have been the scene of the early labours of St. Boniface, and the little cove among the rocks below the Old Church, close to the entrance of the Landslip, still bears the name of Monks Bay, from a tradition that it was the landing-place of the monks from the Abbey of Lyra, in Normandy, who at one time owned a great part of the Island. But Bonchurch has stronger claims to notice than that of its antiquity.
One can hardly accept without reservation John Sterling's description of it as "the best possible earthly fairy-land, combining all the varied and fanciful beauty of enchantment with the highest degree of domestic comfortable reality," still less Dr. Arnold's declaration that it is "the most beautiful thing on the sea coast on this side Genoa"; while Elizabeth Sewell's statement, "sometimes it has seemed to me that heaven itself can scarcely be more beautiful," rather lowers one's anticipations of the future. But, exaggeration apart, the erstwhile village is certainly one of the fairest spots the average traveller is likely to see in the course of a lifetime. The upper part, high on the slope of St. Boniface Down, is perhaps the best, and offers views hardly to be beaten even in this island of delightful prospects.
Its literary associations, too, would make an interesting chapter had we the space. Tennyson, before settling at Freshwater, often came, and an amusing story is told that on one occasion his "wide-awake" was seized by enthusiastic lady admirers and cut up into mementoes. The Rev. James White, the "fat contributor" of Punch, also lived at Bonchurch, and was visited by Thackeray, Dickens, Richard Doyle, John Leech, and other celebrities of the period. Elizabeth Sewell, whose tales for children used to be so well known, was another writer whose work is inseparably associated with the village.
A plain slab with the name and date, "18 Sept., 1844, aged 38," marks the resting-place of Carlyle's friend, John Sterling, on the western border of the old churchyard. In the graveyard of the present St. Boniface Church lie the remains of Algernon Charles Swinburne, who died at Putney in 1909, but was buried here, within a stone's throw of the former family seat, East Dene.
Macaulay resided for a time at Madeira Hall, on the road from Ventnor to Bonchurch, and at the present day several well-known writers' live in the neighbourhood.
Of celebrities in other walks of life, mention must be made of that old sea-dog, Admiral Hobson, who was born of poor parents at Bonchurch, and apprenticed to a Niton tailor, from whom he took the earliest opportunity of running away to sea. His adventurous spirit and readiness of resource soon led to promotion, and he was finally knighted by Queen Anne for the exploit of breaking the Vigo boom.
One of the most attractive and famous features of Bonchurch is-
It is worthy of a more romantic name, being a really beautiful little sheet of shallow water, overhung by a steep acclivity, on which grow willows, elms, firs, fuchsias, and other shrubs and trees. Swans and several varieties of ducks lead a somewhat pampered existence on the surface of the water. In 1934 Mr. H. de Vere Stacpoole, the novelist, and a Bonchurch resident, presented the pond to the town as a memorial of his late wife.
Passing the Pond and turning to the left at the corner where the School looks down upon the road, we ascend a few yards to the new, or-
built in 1847-8 in Norman style. The font is a memorial of the Rev. William Adams, author of The Shadow of the Cross, who laid the foundation-stone of the church and whose cross-shadowed tomb may be seen in the old churchyard (see p. 102). In a little enclosure close to the path leading round by the south door, is the grave of the poet Swinburne. It is of the same pattern precisely as those of four other members of the family who lie side by side. The inscription reads: "Algernon Charles Swinburne, born April 5th, 1837, died April 10th, 1909." It is interesting to recall that the poet's father, Admiral Swinburne, was chiefly instrumental in securing this beautiful "God's acre" for the parish. Shelley's words have been well applied: "It might make one in love with death to think one would be buried in so sweet a place."
Along the hill, high above the church, runs the upper road from Shanklin, which descends into Ventnor near Holy Trinity Church. The views all along this road are superb. Descent can be made to the lower road by the 101 Steps, cut through a fissure in the cliffs.
Returning by the steps to the lower road, we turn right (seawards) at the School, and almost immediately reach-
Admission 6d. Open in summer from 10 to 1 and 2.15 to 7. If verger is not present, keys kept at School House just above the church. Not shown on Sundays.
Built, it is said, on the site of an eighth-century Saxon church, this diminutive Norman building, overshadowed by elms and partly by creepers and roses, provides an irresistible temptation to artist and photographer. It is reputed to be the oldest church in the South of England. The Norman door dates back to 1070. On the north wall are traces of frescoes. Since 1848 the church has not been used for worship except on St. Boniface Day (5th June), and for Holy Communion at 8 a.m. on Sundays in August. Though now so near the sea, old maps show the church as half a mile away. The churchyard contains, as has been mentioned, the graves of John Sterling and the Rev. W. Adams.
A short distance beyond the church is a path on the left leading to the Landslip (p.84) and a little way along on the right a path descends to Monks Bay (pp. 86 and 100).
|Arreton||. . . .||71/2||Godshill||. . . .||5|
|Bembridge||. . . .||111/2||Newport||. . . .||11|
|Blackgang||. . . .||51/4||Ryde||. . . .||121/2|
|Brading||. . . .||81/2||Sandown||. . . .||6|
|Brighstone||. . . .||121/2||Shanklin||. . . .||4|
|Carisbrooke||. . . .||113/4||Shorewell||. . . .||101/2|
|Cowes||. . . .||17||Steephill Cove||. . . .||1|
|Freshwater Bay||. . . .||20||Yarmouth||. . . .||22|
THE two principal directions for easy and beautiful walks are east from Bonchurch by the Landslip to Luccombe, and west from Ventnor along the Undercliff. For the active pedestrian there are delightful walks over the Downs. In fact, the uplands and valleys immediately behind Ventnor offer almost endless possibilities, and variations from the routes suggested can easily be made by means of the map.
The following itineraries are arranged in the order most helpful to the vigorous walker who will attempt all the routes. First come the Downland walks, then the coast walks west-ward. The less vigorous will probably prefer to begin with the short walk to Steephill Cove (Route IV.). It should be emphasized that these routes by no means exhaust the many walks possible from Ventnor. Train and motor bus make it possible, too, for the Ventnor visitor to enjoy the walks outlined in other chapters, especially those from Shanklin.
In 1922, Mr. Llewellyn Evans, carrying out the wishes of the previous owner, the late Mrs. Caroline Ann Evans, of Bryndir, Roehampton, presented the fine stretch of Downs between Ventnor and Shanklin, known as St. Boniface Down, to the National Trust, to be held for the benefit of the nation. The property consists of 221 acres of unspoiled downland commanding magnificent views. It was the donor's wish that nothing should be done to interfere with its natural beauty, but that it should be kept as far as possible as it was.
The pedestrian has a choice of paths-all steep-to the summit. We will indicate the most popular. (The town plan will be found helpful in every case.)
1. The most direct route is approached by steps behind The inn against the upper- the Ventnor- Railway Station. Pass towards the station in front of the inn, and bear right for the steps.
2. Take the Newport road, and opposite the Cemetery turn right up Down Lane, thence following the track past the reservoir up the Down.
This route can be reached by another path which, as a lane, leaves Mitchell Avenue just beside the Ventnor station, on its west side. When the lane turns right follow the path and leave it in favour of the path climbing straight up the Down towards the Reservoir.
3. Take the path starting behind the Council Schools in St. Boniface Road. Passing through the iron gate, go slightly left to begin with, and then, turning right, climb straight up the face of the Down. This difficult and steep path is hard to follow when one is climbing it, but can be easily distinguished from the gate already mentioned. It is therefore best to stand at the gate and study the route, which passes the Wishing Well.
The Wishing Well is interesting to the geologist on account of its unusual height, and to the superstitious from the reverence formerly paid to it on account of a popular belief that if one achieved the difficult feat of climbing to the spring without looking backward, any three wishes formed while drinking its waters would be gratified. The "well" is difficult to find and distinguish, as only in wet weather is any water apparent. In summer it is merely the chalky bed of a dried-up spring, situated in a clump of trees about three quarters of the way up the face of the Down. Looking down from it one finds oneself directly opposite the first pair of houses west of the Council School.
The Wishing Well can also be reached by the path leaving Mitchell Avenue opposite the Bowling Green.
The summit of St. Boniface Down has an elevation of 787 feet. St. Catherine's Down, farther west (p. 113), nearly equals it in height, being 781 feet. From the summit a clearly-defined pathway leads eastward to Shanklin Down (but see Route II.).
This is a walk on no account to be missed.
Follow High Street under its various names eastward, past Holy Trinity Church and Bonchurch Pond, till the School is reached, when turn down to the right between the lodge of East Dene and the old Church. The beautiful walk through the Landslip is described on pp. 83-6.
The distance from St. Catherine's Church, Ventnor, to Luccombe Chine is 21/4miles. If the walk be extended to Shanklin, the distance on foot, exclusive of detours, will be under 4 miles.
The return from Shanklin is made over the Downs as on p.86-8. This Downland walk is especially suitable for an evening return, as it commands wonderful sunsets.
The visitor who does not wish to tackle the whole of this somewhat arduous eight-mile walk in one day can train or 'bus back to Ventnor from Shanklin, and return by the same means to Shanklin to take the walk over the Downs. It is best to take the Downland walk from Shanklin.
Leave the town by Zigzag Road and the Whitwell Road. Just beyond the Golf Club-house take the path to the right, and having mounted Rew Down, keep along the ridge until Appuldurcombe Park is seen below. The views during this walk- which is capable of numerous variation- are superb. On the left are Whitwell and Niton, and beyond is the extending bulk of St. Catherine's Down, with its lofty column. To the right are St. Boniface, Wroxall, and St. Martin's Downs. Presently we overlook Godshill with its well-placed Church (see p. 89), and, in the distance, can discern Carisbrooke Castle and the towers of Osborne. A descent can be made to Appuldurcombe Park and thence to Godshill, or eastward to Wroxall.
There are two variations for the return route. Arriving at the gate of Appuldurcombe Park by the lane leaving the main road half a mile east of Godshill one can either enter the park and follow the drive, passing the House and leaving by the Span Lodge, or by following the lane which runs outside the park, climb Stenbury Down, and work round to the by-road coming from the Span Lodge (see plan overleaf). After passing Rew Farm this road joins the main road from Wroxall, entering Ventnor near our starting-point at the Cemetery.
A more exhilarating route is across the Downs again, ascending by Wroxall to the Downs above Shanklin and thence following the ridge till above Bonchurch.
This delightful little spot, about a mile west of Ventnor, is usually the objective of the first short stroll, and is, in fact, the only walk that involves no climbing, a point of importance to invalids. From the west end of the Esplanade ascend the easy slope to the cliff-path through Ventnor Park. Parts of the path are extremely pretty. After some distance an oblique path on the left descends directly to the beach at Steephill Cove, or the main path can be continued to the upper part of the tiny settlement. Here are some half-dozen villas and cottages, as close to the sea as heart can desire, and beyond the rocky foreshore is a lovely stretch of sand that will appeal to the bather. (Use of huts 6d. Macintosh bathing from the beach 3d. Undressing on the beach is not permitted.) Flowers grow almost to the water's edge, and tea can be obtained at the tea huts and at some of the cottages. For a restful lounge during an "off" morning or afternoon Steephill Cove is hard to beat.
Those for whom the distance is too paltry can continue the cliff walk towards St. Catherine's (Route V.).
NOTE-Owing to frequent falls, this cliff walk is very difficult in parts, often becoming a scramble. After a fall, stretches are sometimes temporarily impassable and it is necessary to turn inland for a short distance, regaining the cliff at the first opportunity.
The walk is a continuation of Route IV. Leave Steephill Cove by the path up the cliff at the west end, and continue along the top of the cliff, past Orchard Bay. Next comes Woody Bay, just below the station at St. Lawrence. Here is a row of cottages formerly used by the coastguards. Tea and light refreshments can be obtained. The prominent knoll overhanging the sea a little to the west is known as the Sugarloaf. For the next half-mile the path is comparatively good, but just before reaching Binnel Bay it becomes very rough. At Binnel Bay, therefore, it will probably be advisable to turn inland to the main road. Beyond Binnel Bay is Puckaster Cove, where Charles II came ashore in 1675, as recorded in the registers of Niton Church. Bathing here is excellent; the bay is also a delightful spot for picnics. The walk now develops into a scramble in parts, and most visitors will turn inland to the road.
Admission.-Visitors are permitted to inspect the lighthouse daily (except Sundays) from 1 p.m. to an hour before sunset except when the fog-signal is in operation.
The Lighthouse, 5 miles from Ventnor, is placed, 136 feet above the sea, on St. Catherine's Point, the most southerly cape of the Island.
The light (electric) has an intensity of 3,000,000 candle-power, being nominally visible from a distance of 18 miles, although it is seen in clear weather even from the French coast. A flash of a fifth of a second's duration is given every five seconds. In addition, a fixed red light (22 feet below the main light) shows always along the back of the Island to the Needles. The revolving part weighs 21/2 tons, but may be easily set in motion with the little finger and will then continue to revolve for some time. It moves in a trough of mercury, about 816 pounds being required to float it. The engine-room contains three internal combustion engines with belt-driven air compressors. The current for the electric light is drawn from the public mains, while the engines and compressors are employed to compress the air for the syren or fog horn by which vessels are warned of their danger when mist obscures the light, as frequently happens. The syren gives two blasts in quick succession every minute. Within the lighthouse an ingenious instrument records each blast, so that in case of wreck there may be no dispute as to the warning having been given. During the migrating season a number of perches, supplied by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, are placed within full view of the light, but not so as to obstruct it. They are used by the swarms of migratory birds attracted by the light, large numbers of which formerly fluttered about in search of a resting-place until they died from exhaustion.
Eastward of the Lighthouse is a Lloyds' Signal Station.
At Niton is a wireless directional station for ships in the Channel.
This is a beautiful walk, one of the best in the Island for those who are not nervous of heights. The distance is rather more than four miles, of which two can be cut off by taking 'bus, or train from Ventnor West Station to St. Lawrence, and there ascending the cliff. To reach the point at which it is ascended, one passes through a gate on the right, about 400 yards beyond the station, and crosses the railway.
Those who begin the walk at Ventnor should ascend the Zigzag Road, and at the Lowther Post Office take the road on the west, with the Golf Links above on the right. Follow this road for some distance, with fine views of town and sea, till it bends inland in the direction of Whitwell. (If coming by 'bus, alight at this corner.) A footpath will now be seen on the left, which skirts the edge of the higher, or inland, cliff, far above the railway and the high-road. Entrancing peeps are obtained as we proceed of the richly wooded Undercliff with its bold crags and sheer acclivities A descent can be made at St. Lawrence by a footpath which crosses the railway just beyond the station, but it is better to keep straight on, over High Hat (474 feet). Another opportunity for descent is provided, just before reaching Niton, by the Cripples' Path, a by no means alluring flight of steps cut in the crag. A footpath presently goes off on the right and descends to the village, which is situated a mile from the coast If we continue by the cliff for a short distance farther the path doubles right and then left, and descends steeply between high stone walls to the main road near the entrance to the Undercliff Hotel. Turn to right for Lower Niton, the Sandrock Hotel, and St. Catherine's Lighthouse.
This pleasant spot, amid the finest Down scenery in the Island and within easy reach of the sea, is in growing favour with visitors who prefer when holiday-making to avoid the larger towns. It consists of two distinct parts- the village proper and a more recent settlement on the seashore, frequently called Lower or Undercliff Niton. There are several excellent hotels, and apartments can be obtained in St. Catherine's Terrace, St. Catherine's Road, and the village proper.
Plentiful 'bus routes and the nearness of Whitwell Station make excursions eastward and northward quite easy, while westward stretches the whole length of the sequestered and little-known "back of the Island." The chief charm of Niton, however, is its convenience as a centre for Downland rambles. The parish is an extensive one, and includes some of the most dangerous parts of the coast. The source of the Eastern Yar is in the parish, a little to the north of the village.
The chief object of interest is the Church, with its embattled sixteenth-century tower and squat spire. (To reach the Church turn left at the cross-roads by the village Post Office, i.e. the second cross roads as one proceeds inland from the coast.) In front of the porch is a modern Celtic cross inserted in the four steps of the old churchyard cross. The chancel is of the Decorated period, and has a rich modern reredos. The registers, which date from 1560, show the following entry:
"July the 1st, Anno Domini 1675. Charles II, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, etc., came safely ashore at Puckaster, after he had endured a great and dangerous storm at sea."
Near the Celtic cross a marble monument covers the grave of Edward Edwards, (d. 1886) the pioneer of the public library movement.
Appropriately enough, there is a small Reading Room, with billiard table, in the village, which visitors may use (open 2 to 10 p.m.)
Picturesquely placed on the main road from the village to the Undercliff is a wayside memorial to the men of the parish who lost their lives in the Great War.
The appearance of the neighbourhood has been considerably modified by the fine new road over the uplands to Chale.
It is a pleasant walk along the main road from Ventnor through the famous Undercliff, though as the motor-coaches to Blackgang follow this route many visitors will prefer to see its beauties as they drive through.
It is also possible to enjoy the views from the Ventnor - Niton 'bus, and to walk back to Ventnor by either Route V or VI.
We leave the town by the Royal Hotel and are quickly skirting the northward side of Ventnor Park. On the right is Steephill Castle, a castellated mansion with wooded grounds, built in 1831-3 by John Hambrough. The Empress of Austria rented it for some months in 1874 and the Empress Eugénie three years later. It was for many years the residence of John Morgan Richards, father of that gifted writer John Oliver Hobbes (Mrs. Craigie), who there did much of her literary work. It is now a holiday home.
The extensive range of buildings shortly passed on the opposite side of the road, beyond the Cricket Ground, is-
There are eleven blocks, the church, services in which are open to the public, forming the central block. The houses all face due south, overlooking extensive pleasure-grounds, and accommodation is provided for 163 in-patients. The Hospital is, as its name implies, a national institution, patients being received from all parts of the kingdom, more than half the number coming from London and its suburbs. Opposite the Hospital is a Nurses' Home.
Half a mile beyond the Hospital, on the cliff slope, and reached by a footpath from the main road, are the pretty PeIham Woods, a favourite haunt in spring of lovers of wild flowers. A continuing footpath crosses the railway a few yards west of St. Lawrence halt and ascends the higher cliff, joining the footpath to Niton described on pp. 108-9.
A little farther we reach-
an important outskirt of Ventnor, with a halt on the line to Newport. Just below the station and reached from the main road by a road (sign-post) leading uphill for half a mile is the tiny Old Church of St. Lawrence. (Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Apply for keys at fifth cottage down the hill. Details re keys are posted on churchyard gate.) Until 1842 it was the smallest parish church in England, its dimensions being 20 feet by 12 feet. In that year it was lengthened 10 feet by the chancel, built at the expense of the first Earl of Yarborough (see p.50), who was also responsible for the porch and bell tower. A former rector is said to have been killed by striking his head against the lintel of the north door, now blocked up. Architecturally the church is of little interest, though it dates perhaps from the twelfth century. Its Saxon font is in the modern church designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and opened in 1878. (On Sundays Morning Service is celebrated at the New Church at 11, and Evensong at the Old Church at 6.30.)
Continuing along the main road, we pass on the left the New Church of St. Lawrence, a quarter mile beyond which, just past the St. Lawrence Inn, is Craigie Lodge, where Mrs. Graigie (John Oliver Hobbes) lived from 1900 to 1906. The House is indicated by a tablet.
As we proceed, drawing closer to the inland, or higher, cliff, we are able to enjoy the spectacle of magnificent chaos there presented by the irregular natural terraces known as-
The total length is about 6 miles; the width varies from 1/4 to 1/2 mile. On the land side it is bounded by a cliff some 200 feet in height, and it presents to the sea a secondary cliff which in places gives way to rough broken ground, sloping rapidly down to the shore. Of the formation of this tract there is no historical record.
"To account in any degree for this singular appearance," wrote Sir Henry Englefield, "it will be necessary to recur to that period, remote beyond all reach of history, when, by some convulsions, this island was exposed to the sea in one vast range of perpendicular cliffs, such as would now appear if the whole Undercliff were removed from the wall of rock above it. The clay and sand strata, attacked at their foot by the sea, in their front by wind, rain, and frost, and above all softened and washed away by the numerous springs which issue from under the rock, became incapable of bearing the vast weight incumbent on them. The rock (divided by numerous periodical fissures) began to part at The fissure nearest to its front, gradually subsided and slipped in an inclined position (or perhaps sometimes, though not often, fell over) until its progress was stopped by the slope of clay on which it moved. But, though at rest for a time, the same causes which set it in motion would again press it forward to the sea. Its fall had left a great front of rock and clay bare while its upper surface formed a basin, in which the waters of the springs collected into a pool; moistening still more effectually the loosened clay below it, which, mixed with fragments of rock detached from the great mass in its fall, and full of interstices formed by the different hardness of its own several strata, was more rapidly washed away than when in its own bed. A second subsidence now took place; while from above another mass gave way, and by its weight urged the first fallen rock still farther towards the sea, whose waves, carrying rapidly away all those parts easily soluble, united with the other causes of destruction to bring down fresh ruins from the cliffs above. In this manner it is evident that the Undercliff was formed, most rapidly at first, but gradually slower as the causes of destruction tended to counteract their own effects; for after every subsidence the mass of fallen clay and rock formed itself into a more gentle slope, which, extending higher up against the face of the clay cliff, tended to keep it from mouldering, while the declivity of the slope itself rendered the material already fallen less apt to slide. The action of the sea, which washed away the clay from among the masses of rock at the bottom, caused those masses to come into closer contact and by degrees formed them into a high and strong bulwark, while those rocks which had rolled farther out became long reefs, extending far into the water, and breaking in a great measure the force of the billows before they reached the shore. Vegetation now had time to cover the face of the ruins, and secured the surface of the slope from the effects of rain and frost; while the springs gradually formed regular courses through the little winding valleys among the heaps of ruin. Thus was the Undercliff gradually brought to the state in which we now see it."
Although great landslips have occurred at the other end of the Undercliff in modem times (there were exceptionally heavy slides in 1799 and 1818), there can be little doubt that, except at Windy Corner (see below), the Undercliff has presented its present appearance for hundreds of years. -
A sign-post on the left shortly directs to St. Catherine's Point and the Lighthouse (p. 107). The 'buses go as far. as the Buddle Inn, only 1/2 mile from the Lighthouse.
Where this road branches from the main road are the gates of a former drive. Following this drive and continuing along the path we reach Puckaster Cove, already referred to on p.107.
We are now in Lower or Undercliff Niton (see p. 109).
It is no longer possible to continue along this road to Blackgang as in former days, owing to the heavy landslide at Windy Corner, about 3/4 mile west of Niton, in 1928. Hundreds of thousands of tons of rock and earth fell across the road, which was carried away along a width of about 150 yards. Engineering experts have declared it impossible to bridge this gap owing to the moving surface of the already fallen ground and the possibility of further falls, and a new road has been constructed over the upper cliff from Niton village to Chale, reaching the old road a little way west of Blackgang.
From Niton are alternative routes to Chale. The road from Lower to - Upper Niton runs up a steep hill. At the top of this slope turn sharply left and follow the path along the Upper Cliff. The walk continues over Gore Cliff (537 feet), past the Chale Golf Links, with the old Lighthouse (see below) conspicuous on the right. A descent can be made either at Blackgang or Chale. -
Another route is along the by-pass, for which turn left at the first cross-roads in Niton village. After a mile, turn left over a stile and so down to Blackgang. But having got so far, one is well advised to climb to the summit of-
Opposite the stile leaving the main road for Blackgang is another stile on the right of the road. Cross this and follow the low stone wall to the summit of the Down. The visitor can avoid most of the main road by forking right, 100 yards past Niton Church, along a lane which soon becomes a mere path, which he must follow (the telegraph posts will act as guide) as far as the wall mentioned above, where he turns right. This route is shorter but harder than the main road.
Still another route to the top of the Down is to follow the lane passing to the right of Niton Church. At the top of the lane turn left through a gate. A path leads from here to a chalk pit; but leaving the chalk pit on the right, follow the path to the summit of the Down.
Prominent on the southern slope of the Down are The ruins of two round buildings. The farther one is that of an ancient Pharos, concerning which Percy Stone, in his Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight, gives some interesting particulars. A hermitage appears to have been founded here early in the fourteenth century:
"Three years after the foundation of this isolated chapel a circumstance occurred . . . explaining very clearly the raison d'être of the still existing lighthouse. One stormy night in the winter of A.D. 1314, a vessel- one of a fleet chartered by sundry merchants of the King's Duchy of Aquitaine to convey a large consignment of white wine to England- drove ashore on Atherfield Ledge. The sailors escaped . . . and sold the cargo to the Island folk- 174 casks of wine, each worth five marks. The merchants took proceedings against the receivers of the stolen cargo, for it clearly did not belong to the sailors, who were, however, apparently not deemed worth prosecuting, even if they could have been traced. One Island landowner, Walter de Godeton, was found guilty of receiving 53 casks and had to pay 2271/2 marks. But another party besides the merchants had to be reckoned with, namely, the Church; for the wine, it appeared, belonged to the religious community of Livers, in Picardy, who had lodged a complaint against de Codeton in the Roman Court. This resulted in the culprit having to build, on the Down above the scene of the disaster, a lighthouse to warn ships, and to found an oratory for a priest to say masses for the souls of those lost at sea, and to trim the light. De Codeton, before 1328, did as he was required, and the existing ruin, repaired at the end of the eighteenth century, is the relic of his work."
At the Reformation the trifling revenues were sequestered; the poor monk ceased his mass, and his lamps no longer shone across the sea. For nearly three centuries the spot was unmarked by any friendly light; and we can readily believe that the number of wrecks was appalling. For the beautiful coast, so pleasant to travel along in fine weather, is cruel and treacherous, pitilessly exacting year by year its tale of sea- men's lives. At certain seasons a dense and impenetrable mist arises, obscuring both lights and landmarks; while, often without a breath of wind and all unconscious of danger, the hapless navigator is borne on the rapid inshore current towards the jagged rocks. These considerations moved the Trinity Board, in 1785, to rekindle the old light and to begin the erection of a new pharos, the shell of which stands side by side with and a little nearer the coast than the older one, The building was never completed, however, experience showing that the fogs and mists rendered it almost useless. The present St. Catherine's Lighthouse (p. 107) was therefore erected on St. Catherine's Point.
About a mile northward along the Down stands the Alexandrian Pillar, or Hoy's Monument, seventy-two feet high, surmounted by a ball. The column is a prominent feature in the view from every point and a well-known landmark. The inscription reads:
"In commemoration of the visit of his Imperial Majesty Alexander I, Emperor of All the Russias, to Great Britain, in the year 1814, and in remembrance of many years' happy residence in his dominions, this pillar was erected by Michael Hoy."
With a curious lack of appropriateness, the monument bears on its south face a tablet to the memory of British soldiers who fell in the Crimea, fighting against the "Emperor of All the Russias."
Our route now continues over Chale Golf Course. (For fees see p.119.) On reaching the main road we turn left, and shortly reach-
Admission to the chine is gained by passing through a BAZAAR at the top. Here a number of useful articles are displayed (including this handbook), and visitors have the option of making a purchase of 1s. or more or paying an
entrance fee of sixpence. On Sundays the BAZAAR is closed and visitors must pay 6d. entrance. In summer months the Chine is open until 10 p.m. From 9 p.m. onwards it is flood-lit.
Hotels-.Blackgang Hotel and Chine Tea House.
Visitors whose idea of a chine is based on that at Shanklin will here experience some surprise. A greater contrast could scarcely be imagined, the only feature common to the two being the fact that the cleft in the rocks has been caused by a running stream. The chasm does not wind so far into the shore as do those at Shanklin and Luccombe, nor are its sides so steep; but it is of much greater depth, one of its flanks rising four hundred feet above the level of the sea. But little vegetation appears on the surface of the glen and its sides are continually crumbling. They are composed chiefly of dark blue day, through which layers of yellow sandstone extend at intervals, naturally split into cubical blocks, giving the front of the rocky barrier the appearance of vast courses of masonry, built at certain heights to sustain the fabric of the mouldering hill. The name is said to be derived from old-time smugglers, who must have found this wild inlet a very convenient base for operations. The stream (when there is one) flows through the glen like a silver thread, heightening the sombre appearance of the ironstone and black clay of which the sides are composed. The chine is a favourite spot for picnics.
Many visitors miss one of the best features of the chine, namely the Observation Peak, to reach which the ascending path on the left near the entrance should be taken, as it is a stiff climb up from the foot of the chasm. On the highest point of the cliff is a raised wooden' platform, and close at hand is a summer-house, with seats. On a clear day the view is one of the finest in the Island. The coast-line of the whole of the back of the Island can be followed, and the Needles are plainly seen, while farther westward the eye distinguishes the coast of Dorset,
On summer evenings the chine is often very effectively flood-lit, and lined with small lights. As we descend we can easily distinguish on the cliff to our left the "smuggler's face" thus outlined.
The west wing of the bazaar by which we enter is filled with the skeleton of an 82 ft. whale stranded here in 1845.
With such a wealth of downland and rural lanes at hand, few walkers are likely to set out to explore the eleven miles of main road between Ventnor and Newport, but something must be said of one or two places either on or within reach of that busy highway.
Access,-'Bus Service, Newport to Ventnor; (Summer only) Ventnor to Niton. Railway: Train from Ventnor West.
Whitwell, pleasantly situated 3 miles south of Godshill, and 2 miles north of St. Lawrence, has a Church of more than ordinary interest. The fine-jointed masonry of its sixteenth-century tower is said to point to French workmen having been employed on it. Originally the building consisted of a chapel of a single aisle (forming the present nave and main chancel) dedicated to St. Radegund, and belonging to the parish of Gatcombe. The thirteenth-century south aisle with its chancel was added as a chapel-of-ease to Godshill. The south pillar of the chancel arch is peculiar, having been made of a short column and a huge capital. The pulpit and the communion table in the south chancel are Jacobean. The church bell now at the west end of the middle aisle is sixteenth-century.
Some miles farther along the Newport road a turning on the left leads to-
Access-'Bus: Newport to Ventnor via Chale.
Rail: Blackwater station is 13/4 miles distant.
Gatcombe Church, almost hidden in the woods surrounding Gatcombe House, once the residence of the Seely family, was founded in the thirteenth century, and, though for the most part rebuilt, has a well-proportioned fifteenth-century tower. In a recess in the chancel is a wooden effigy of a knight in armour, which may be Jacobean.
In the centre aisle is a monument. by Brock to Charles Grant Seely, who was killed on active service at Gaza in Palestine in 1917, and is buried in Gaza Cemetery. Shortly after its erection the monument was unfortunately defaced by an insane woman.
The church is reached by the lane leaving the road by the lodge north of the estate.
on the main Newport road, is principally of interest to holiday-makers as a starting-point for walks over St. George's Down, on the eastern side of the Medina valley. The highest point, 363 feet, is a little to the right of the spot at which the plateau is reached from Blackwater. The finest view is northward over Newport and down the Medina valley and away over the Solent to the mainland. To the north-west is Carisbrook; then sweeping round southward, the view includes Chillerton Down, above Gatcombe, and the whole valley of the Yar to St Catherine's and Shanklin Downs.
The road along the summit leads north-west, over Pan Down (fine viewpoint) down to Shide (11/4 miles) and Newport (2 miles). Eastward (i.e. to the right) the road can be followed to Arreton (11/2 miles) and Horringford Station.
Little need be added to the detailed directions given on fore-going pages. The routes to the Back of the Island and Freshwater leave Ventnor by the Steephill Road (see town plan), passing along the Undercliff to Niton. This, too, is the easier way to Newport; the shorter route climbing steeply, out of St. Lawrence. There are various ways of reaching the Sandown road, all of them more or less surprising, and the ascent through lofty Lowtherville is the way to Wroxall and Godshill.