The Needles on the Isle of Wight are something I have wanted to see for a while, but my determination to see them was invigorated after seeing them from the shores where Hurst Castle stands. They are surely one of the most photographed groups of rocks in in England if not the world. This row of three distinctive Chalk stacks features in all the classic views of the island, a truly unforgettable image – and a photographer’s dream.
The name ‘Needles’ is believed to have been derived from a slender tapering rock pinnacle which was formerly situated a little to the north (i.e. on the Alum Bay side) of the present central rock. This needle-shaped rock, about 120ft high and known as ‘Lot’s Wife’ collapsed into the sea in 1764 with a crash which was said to have been heard many miles away! The stump of this pinnacle can still be seen at low water where it forms a dangerous reef.
The Needles form the western tip of a band of chalk that crosses the centre of the Isle of Wight, stretching to Culver Cliff in the east. This chalk ridge continues west under the sea to Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck, and is believed to have been connected at one time to Old Harry Rocks, about 20 miles away. In 5,000BC this ridge was breached by the Solent River, creating the Isle of Wight with its jagged white rocks at the western tip. These unusually vertical rocks are a result of the heavy folding of chalk and the remaining stacks of very hard chalk are extremely resistant to erosion.