Abbildungen der Seite

of St. Lawrence is one of the show places of the Undercliff. Many of the churches in the Isle of Wight are very small; but this was, with one exception—the church at Buttermere—the smallest in England. Its dimensions were : length, twenty feet, width, twelve feet, and height, to the tops of the walls, six feet: the roof, of course, was some feet higher; but, as will have been guessed by our manner of speaking. it has been enlarged, and is now neither one thing nor another. Not very far from the church is a rather celebrated well, over which a neat stone shelter, with seats along the sides, was built a few years back. The water from St. Lawrence's Well rises clear and sparkling, and is almost as pleasant to the sight, as it bubbles over the fount, as it is refreshing to the palate. "On a hot summer's day it is quite a temptation to turn aside from the dry road, and sit a few minutes in that cool, shady grot.

Niton is a convenient centre to stay at for a day or two. The seaward walks are bold and fine, and there are several of much beauty inland. On the Undercliff is the favourite Sandrock Hotel, a neat villa-like house standing in its own very handsome grounds, and affording the most luxurious accommodation. Everybody who stays at it is pleased with the attention, the fare, and the ion. For those who desire a less costly hostel, there is, too, a plain, comfortable inn, the White Lion, in the village of Niton, which lies above the Undercliff, at the foot of Niton Down. Niton is a quiet, rustic village, which has changed little of its old-fashioned look in consequence of the influx of strangers to the neighbourhood. But only a few plain folks come here, and the place and the people remain tolerably primitive in habit. There are a couple or three streets of stone cottages-many of them thatched and a shop or two, a church, and a school-house. The church is a building of considerable antiquity, and will repay a visit. It stands by a farmyard, in a lane just on the west of the village, and, with its accompaniments, is more than commonly picturesque.

There is one spot that must be visited, and Niton is a very convenient place to reach it from. This is St. Catherine's Down, the highest ground in the island. The path by the church leads direct to the old beacon, which is on the summit of the hill, and which is an effectual guide all the way. The summit of St. Catharine's Hill is eight hundred and thirty feet above the sea. Here, at least as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century, was a hermitage. A few years later, Walter de Godyton built a chapel here, and dedicated it to St. Catherine, whence, it is believed, the hill derives its present name. Godyton also added to his chapel an endowment for a chanting priest, whose duty it should be to sing masses, and to provide lights at night for the guidance of ships. Both duties were regularly performed till the dissolution of the smaller religious houses, when, of course, both ceased together. The beacon which is now here stands on the site of the original one, if it is not itself, as some fancy, the original. The beacon is an octagonal structure, thirty-five feet high: it is now dismantled, but its thick walls appear capable of braving for another century, the fierce winds that always seem to blow here. It is generally believed that the lower part of the building served as the belfry of the chapel, the upper part being employed as a lighthouse. A new lighthouse was erected close by, some years back, but it was abandoned, it being found on trial to be rather misleading than otherwise, owing to the mists and clouds which so frequently envelope the top of the hill, especially in stormy weather, rendering it seldom visible from the sea when most needed. The view from the hill is of wondrous extent-reaching over by far the larger part of the island, and including the New Forest and the hills of Hampshire, and the south coast as far as Beachy Head. In the opposite direction, the high lands about Cherbourg are said to have been occasionally seen : but it is a very rare occur

On a calm, clear day, the better part of the island lies spread like a map at


your feet; its bare hills, and its long valleys dusky with the thick foliage that everywhere crowds them; the villages and the towns, marked by the lighter or denser smoky vapour that hangs above them; the winding streams growing sometimes into lakes ere they fall into the sea ; and the silver ocean that encircles it, alive with mighty ships of war and every kind of smaller craft; and beyond that, again, the far distant hills, losing themselves in a soft purple haze.

The coast off here is very dangerous ; whence, on the failure of the lighthouse on St. Catherine's Hill, it became necessary to provide another. The new one has been built on a point of land close down on the beach. It lies in our way on resuming our journey along the coast. The new lighthouse is named St. Catherine's; it has only been four or five years completed, and the whole arrangements are on the most approved principles. Externally, it is rather an ornamental building-certainly the best-looking lighthouse we have seen : it is said to be found very serviceable. Here the rocks begin to assume a very wild character. Soon after passing the lighthouse, we lose sight of cultivation; the beach is strewed with huge blocks of chalk and sandstone ; the surf is very heavy; and the whole scene wears an air of savage grandeur. At Rocken End this is especially the case. A long ledge of rocks stretches far into the sea ; only one or two masses are visible at high water, and against these the sea breaks in vast sheets of spray, while it rushes roaring and foaming over those that are below the surface. The spot where the sea makes this mighty turmoil—and it ought to be seen as the tide is setting in-is called Rocken End Race. The black cliffs, too, are torn and riven into rudest confusion; only the lofty wall of rock that rises behind the Undercliff seems stable. It is altogether a wild spot. Beyond this the scenery grows rather less savage, and presently we come upon a sheltered nook, where is a fisherman's hut, and perhaps a boat or two may be seen on the beach. It is quite a place for the sketcher to delight in. The broken heights between Niton and this spot afford a series of grand views over the sea and coast. Chale Bay, with the sun sinking among crimson and gold behind the distant headland, is a glorious prospect.

We are now approaching the termination of the Undercliff—a very different kind of place to its commencement. Just where it ends we have another of the Chines, and one scarcely less famous than the first we saw. Some there are who have described Black Gang Chine as the finest sight in the island. Guide-books give very hyperbolical accounts of its “savage sublimity.” To one who has read these accounts the first view is disappointing, especially if he has already seen the magnificent falls of Scotland or Wales, or the North of England. The ravine is bare of tree or shrub; but it does not retreat far,—there is not depth enough for solemnity of gloom, at least in ordinary weather. A sort of semicircular coomb has been hollowed out in the dark marl, over the top of which a thin line of water falls lazily, from a height of about seventy feet, and is dissipated before it reaches the “ gloomy vault” below. The rocks, instead of the deep black he is led to anticipate, are of a dingy brown, banded with lines of red sandy strata. The banks on each side are of but mean height and lumpish form. Far above, indeed, soars to a height of some three hundred or four hundred feet, the lofty wall of cliff that has been our companion all along this district; but it is partly hidden here, and appears diminished by distance. Nine out of ten who see the Chine are disappointed ; though perhaps they will hardly confess it. From the sea, indeed, the surrounding cliffs stands out majestically, and St. Catherine's Hill forms a noble back-ground; but then the Chine is a very inferior feature in the landscape. Seen, in stormy weather, however, the Chine will seem to deserve its fame. There is a “rude path"-a good deal ruder than that at Shanklin

- formed down the side of the Chine, by means of which it may be seen quite at case : the key is kept close at hand. Above the Chine a neat hotel has been erected and a little collection of houses has grown up around it, also chiefly for the accommodation of visitors.

FRESHWATER.—Over the next few miles we need not linger. To one who is staying in the neighbourhood and has time to stroll about, the coast all along here will be found full of interest, and so will the villages above: here we need only mention their character. Chale Bay, in which Black Gang Chine is situated, is a wide and noble-looking bay; the cliffs are bold, precipitous, and deeply cloven ; they are of the iron-stained sand and blue marl, crowned by chalk and sandstone. Huge masses impend over head; and numerous shattered fragments are strewed along the beach. Both here and in Brixton Bay, which immediately succeeds to Chale, the cliffs are broken by a number of Chines. Some six or seven of them occur in as many miles, and all of them have some differences of character. Some, as Whale and Brixton Chines, stretch far inland, without any positive waterfalls ; others, as Brook and Chilton, would be thought sufficiently striking elsewhere to be sought after by strangers. The shore here is shallow and rocky, and the sea sets in, in rough westher, with a heavy ground-swell, which nothing can brave with impunity. Along Brixton Bay the cliffs are lower; but the beach is more rocky, and the bay itself no less dangerous than Chale Bay. At Barnes there is a cavern of considerable height, known as Barnes' Hole; and at Grange, not far from Grange Chine, is another, called Dutchman's Hole, from a Dutch ship having run into it. Several of the ledges of rock along here have received trivial names from a fancied resemblance to some object, and sometimes from ships to which they have proved fatal. This is the most dangerous part of the island, and many a spot in both these bays is pointed out by the old fishermen, as that where some vessel has been wrecked. The inhabitants of the villages along this iron-bound shore had, in olden time, a bad reputation as wreckers ; in more modern days, they were no less notorious as smugglers. Their wrecking and smuggling propensities are both pretty well subdued now.

The villages along the summit of these cliffs have some attractions in point of beauty, and are full of interest to the antiquary. Chale, that nighest Black Gang, is a very pretty place, its scattered houses straggling irregularly for a mile along both sides of the road. The church is a good-sized, a very good-looking, and a very old one. It has lately been thoroughly repaired. Chale farmhouse is also an old build. ing worth looking at: it has some windows, and other details of a strictly ecclesiastical character; a peculiarity the rambler will notice in a good many of the oldest cottages and small farmhouses about the island. They were evidently built by church masons, and may probably have been the property of some of the religious establishments. Mottestone church is worth turning aside to see: it is of different dates, and has the peculiar picturesqueness that so many of these old churches possess, which have thus grown into their present form by the addition of new limbs in different ages. The old manor-house just by it, was the birthplace of Sir John Cheke, the tutor to Edward VI., and one of the revivers of Greek learning in our universities. The little secluded village of Brooke, lying in a hollow betwixt the hills, close by the Chine of the same name, and looking upon a rough rock-strewn beach, might also be seen; but it will be well to ascend the Downs, at Mottestone, and proceed along them to Freshwater, The views from these grounds are of vast extent, and are hardly surpassed in the island in any respect. The prospects from Afton Down have always been famous; the view over Freshwater is cspecially striking. Freshwater Bay stretches round in a splerdid curve, the chalk cliffs rising perpendicularly to a height of some five or six

hundred feet from the sea, which rages constantly against their base, and crowned by the Needles' lighthouse. Beyond is the broad belt of ocean, along which ships of all sizes are constantly passing to and fro. In the extreme distance lies the coast of Dorset, which is visible from Poole Harbour to Portland Bill, while the foreground obtains boldness and strength from the shattered and detached masses of rock that lift their heads far above the waters at Freshwater Gate. Nor, though less grand, is that inland view less pleasing where the Yar wends " its silver winding way” along the rich valley to which it gives its name, enlarging rapidly from a scarcely traceable rivulet, till, in a mile or two, it has become a goodly æstuary.

The village of Freshwater is about a mile from the beach, and on the river Yar, where it begins to expand into a broad stream. The village itself is but a little gathering of cottages, with one or two houses of a better class on its outskirts. The church is old, but has been a good deal altered; it is, however, a noticeable pile: in the interior there are two or three curious monuments. A bridge crosses the river near the church ; and a good-sized mill is worked by the stream. From various points of view these several objects combine in a very picturesque manner, and often find a place in sketch-books. From the village there is a pleasant walk over the fields to Freshwater Gate: it leads by the source of the Yar, which is only a very short distance from the beach. This little river thus rises close by the coast on the opposite side of the island to that in which it enters the sea, and thus nearly insulates the western extremity of the island. In rough weather the ocean waves frequently beat over the narrow barrier, and mingle with the fresh water of this spring.

Freshwater Gate lies in a deep narrow valley between the Downs, whence it is thought to owe its name—it serving as a gate, or opening, from the village of Freshwater to the sea. It is a very favourite resort of the tourist, and is in considerable repute as a bathing-place. There are a couple of large hotels here, as well as a few small houses; and there is a wooden box, which styles itself the Royal Museum, and contains a collection of sea-weeds, and shells, and bits of rock, and fossil remains. To one who should come down this little dale without knowing what he was to expect, the bay would be perfectly startling. On the one hand is a long ridge of chalk cliffs of enormous altitude with huge fragments scattered far into the sea ; on the other are lower, though still high cliffs of sandstone and chalk, with several huge detached masses of strange forms rising boldly out of the waves; and on both sides the heavy billowy sea is beating furiously over the outlying fragments, and against the bases of the cliffs, which it has worn into grim-looking black-mouthed

Both the caverns and the rocks are among the curiosities of the place. What is called Freshwater Cavern may be entered at low tide : it reaches to a considerable depth into the chalk cliff. The entrance is by a curious arch, some thirty feet high ; the interior is rough and rugged. From the roof large pieces of chalk hang in a way that seems most unstable, and the many blocks that cover the floor show that they are little more stable than they appear. The look-out over the sea from the gloom of the cave is very singular : just outside, the waves are breaking over the rocky beach in spray of dazzling whiteness, while farther off, the sea is of the most brilliant emerald. Another of the curiosities is the Arched Rock which stands on the eastern side of the bay. It is a very large mass of chalk, which has been originally part of the cliff; but now stands insulated in the sea, some six hundred feet from it. The same power that destroyed the intervening cliff, has beaten a way through this rock, in the shape of a rude gothic arch; the surface of the rock is

worn and shattered : it has altogether a curious appearance, which is considerably increased if the sca-fowl be disturbed that roost about its ledges in vast



numbers. There is another, but more lumpish mass rising out of the sea at a little distance from the Arched Rock.

Alym BAY, THE NEEDLES, ETC.–At Freshwater, you mount the cliffs, and continue along their summit to the Needles' lighthouse. The walk is a most exhilarating one. The view across the sea is glorious, and the balmy breezes come over the wide waters with that delightful freshness which is never felt but in wandering along the lofty hills that rise at once from the broad ocean, The Downs are open, and only employed for grazing sheep; you may therefore make your own path over them, the lighthouse is a sufficient landmark. The cliffs here rise precipitously from the sea ; and they are the highest chalk cliffs in the kingdom. At High Down they attain an altitude of above six hundred feet.

Samphire grows abundantly on these cliffs, and is in common use as a pickle among the


classes. But the main inducement to practise the perilous craft of cliff climbing, is the profit arising from the sale of the eggs and feathers of the various sea-birds which build in amazing numbers on the ledges and in the crevices of the cliffs. In order to get at these eggs the men fasten a rope to an iron bar which they have driven firmly into the ground; and then placing themselves on a rude seat formed of two pieces of wood placed across, they lower themselves by means of a second rope down the face of the precipice. The practice is almost as dangerous as it appears to be ; and many a bold man has lost his life in pursuing it.

The lighthouse stands on the brow of the hill, immediately above the Needles, to give notice of whose presence it is placed there. It is one of the show-places of the island: the prospect from it is, as will be imagined, of wide extent; and the lightmen have a good telescope, the use of which they proffer to the visitor. The inside of the lighthouse is worth seeing for the neat arrangements of the lights, and the perfect order and cleanliness in which everything is kept. It is a low building, but very substantial, as is indeed necessary; for the tremendous force of the wind just on this narrow tongue of land, is hardly conceivable. It is said that the lighthouse people often dare not venture out of doors for days together. A somewhat lower point of land, a little eastward of the lighthouse, is the best place for seeing the Needles from the land; but it is from the water they are seen to most advantage. A boat may be hired at Alum Bay, the path to which from the lighthouse will be pointed out by the keeper ; and a row or sail round to Freshwater Gate will afford a series of views of a far more remarkable kind than any others in the Isle of Wight-and that are as fine of their kind as any in England.

Aļum Bay itself will not be readily forgotten. You reach the shore by a deep and ragged ravine, which prevents you from seeing anything of the bay till you find yourself on the beach in the centre of it. On looking around, you perceive that the two sides of the bay present the most strange and striking contrast to each other : on one side the vast cliffs are of chalk of the purest whiteness ; on the other, they are of sand and clay of the most varied and brilliant colours. But Alum Bay is best seen from a boat, and as so seen Sir Henry Englefield has described the appearance of the opposite sides of the bay with exceeding truth and beauty. He says :—“ The chalk forms an unbroken face, everywhere nearly perpendicular, and, in some parts, formidably projecting; and the tenderest stains of ochreous yellow, and greenish moist vegetation, vary without breaking its sublime uniformity. This vast wall extends more than a quarter of a mile, and is hardly less than four hundred feet in height; its termination is a thin edge, not perpendicular, but of a bold broken outline; and the wedgelike Needle rocks, arising out of the blue waters, seem to continue the cliff beyond its present boundary, and give an awful impression of the stormy ages which have

« ZurückWeiter »