The Isle of Wight covers an area 380 km², with just over half designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 258 km² of the island is farmland, perhaps due to the island’s extended growing season. The Isle of Wight is roughly diamond-shaped, with a vertical chalk ‘backbone’ running through the middle of the island from The Needles in the west to Whitecliff Bay in the east. Either side of this is an almost complete sequence of sedimentary rocks dating from 120 million years ago to present day. Sedimentary rocks form over millions of years from layers and layers of rocks building up on top of each other – these lines of sedimentary rocks can be seen in the cliff faces all over the island.
The Needles are the island’s most famous landmark, and by far the most outstanding of the island’s natural attractions. As well as the Needles themselves, there are several other spots of interest in the vicinity. Just up the cliff from the Needles, overlooking the Solent, is the Needles Batteries, an excellently preserved Victorian fort.
On a calm day, a boat trip goes out from Alum Bay beach to the Needles, passing through the gap where the third rock used to be situated. The beach at Alum Bay features multi-coloured sands, which Queen Victoria found interesting. You can reach Alum Bay beach via a chairlift which goes from the Needles Pleasure Park situated at the top of the cliff. There are various activities for all ages at the Pleasure Park, including children’s rides, a glass-blowing house, a sand shop, and a sweet manufactory.
The route 7 buses serve the Needles Pleasure Park, as well as the Needles Breezer and Island Coaster routes. The Needles Breezer bus also serves the Needles Battery, driving along a spectacular winding coastal road on the way.
The Batteries are bunkers constructed between 1861 and 1895 for coastal defence against a threat of invasion by France, and were equipped with gun placements on the top of the Battery. The cannons are still in place today.
The site was re-used for defensive purposes during both World Wars, with a powerful searchlight being installed in a room under the Battery - this room can still be accessed today. During the late fifties the New Battery was used as a testing site for space rocket engines. In 1976 the National Trust acquired the Batteries and restored them before opening them to the public.