It’s been glorious weather for getting out and about I had the opportunity to show a new friend a bit of the Island the other week, so we headed west to see the Needles.
I was so glad that she chose this part of the Island to explore as it is one of my favourites, especially on a clear and sunny day. There didn’t even seem to be a breath of wind and the sea was like a mirror as we walked to the edge of the cliff at Needles Park for her first view of the famous chalk stacks and she seemed suitably impressed.
On the day we went the steps down to the beach were out of action to be mended. Luckily she was as wary of chairlifts as I am – or in my case heights generally – so I didn’t have to face that ordeal. So I suggested that we walk up to the New Battery at the top of the downs to get a good view of the coloured sands. You can’t go to Alum Bay and not see the coloured sands after all.
As we walked up the little road that cuts into the cliff as it wends its way to the battlements at the end, the sands below gradually came into view and I had the beginning of that feeling you get when you’re showing the Island to a new person. Pride I think it is, or just a proprietorial sort of pleasure. It’s hardly as if I made it myself after all.
Towards the end we veered off and up to the New Battery and then over the top and down to the former rocket testing site. How well I remember when I first found these weird post-apocalyptic looking structures back in the late 70s. It was like walking onto the set of some futuristic film. I recall going home and asking my parents about it and they didn’t know what I was talking about – it was top secret after all.
Now it’s deserted and derelict but there is an amazing lookout point leading down from the track that runs between the former rocket docks. The platform is literally inches away from the edge of the chalk cliff and every time I walk to the edge of it I get that ‘stomach falls into your abdomen’ thing that is actually quite exciting in a terrifying sort of way. But the view of the Needles and the beach below is absolutely stunning.
We had an ice-cream from the kiosk in the New Battery and walked back, with Alum Bay in front of us and the amazing view of the Solent and Hurst Castle in the middle distance. I found I had a wealth of information stored in my head about the area and its history so out it came.
At the end of the road, just before you get to the car park, is a weird little house that is clearly going to go over the cliff one day. The front garden is full of funny little people and things interspersed with signs with witty sayings and odd jokes. I suppose you must need a sense of humour to be so near the edge.