Blackgang Chine, Isle of Wight
When I accidentally dropped my gerbil on the kitchen floor and killed it, my Mum’s response was “Let’s go to Blackgang Chine!”. If there was ever a place on Earth where you could forget about the premature demise of your favourite rodent, Blackgang Chine was it. That was twenty five years ago and the place made such an impression on us that my Mum took the family there to celebrate her sixtieth birthday in 2003.
Hanging precariously onto the Southerly cliffs of the Isle of Wight, Blackgang Chine is one of a dying breed of family-run Theme Parks. It was set up in 1842 by Alexander Dabell who saw money-making potential in this spot of outstanding natural beauty. Having landscaped some gardens at the top of the Chine, he then put the area firmly on the tourist trail by acquiring a stranded whale at auction. He sold off the blubber and installed the bleached skeleton in a hut. Blackgang Chine was now officially open for business and people came from all over Britain to see the whale and walk in the beautiful gardens.
To this day, descendants of Alexander Dabell still run the park which now covers an impressive 40 acres of land. There have been a few concessions to modern expectations, such as the recent “Cliff Hanger” rollercoaster but these make little impact when compared to the folk-art qualities of the fibreglass attractions that have remained intact since the Seventies. Walking through the giant pirate’s legs at the entrance, the memories came flooding back. Imagine my joy as I re-entered “Frontier-Land” cowboy town and sat astride the same steed of yesteryear, turning a corner only to find that “The Crooked House” had not fallen prey to the terrible landslides of the Nineties. “Nursery Land” still contained the giant hallucinogenic mushrooms of my childhood and the bizarre ape-men continued to lurk in the trees en route to “Dinosaur Land”.
The dinosaurs of Blackgang Chine have had a fair amount of publicity over the years. During the Great Storm of 1987 they became unattached from their moorings and toppled over the cliffs into the waters of the Solent below. The local news the next day was full of footage of life-size dinosaurs bobbing up and down in the sea off the coast of the Isle of Wight.
Blackgang Chine is still a very special place. That fateful day when I accidentally killed my gerbil could easily have been remembered with nothing but sadness. However, thanks to the foresight of my Mum, it is a day that I remember as my introduction to the delights of Blackgang Chine.
Blackgang Chine photos
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How to get there
Blackgang Chine is West of Niton.
We sailed from Portsmouth to Ryde on Red Funnel Ferries and then took the 1938 tube rolling stock to Shanklin. Local bus services throughout the Island are good and a bus goes direct to the door of Blackgang Chine. Google map.