Tennyson Down

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Tennyson Down
Hampshire
Freshwater Bay, IW, UK.jpg
Tennyson Down
Isle of Wight
Summit: 482 feet SZ325853
50°39’59"N, 1°32’29"W

Tennyson Down is a hill at the west end of the Isle of Wight, Hampshire’s great south island, just south of Totland. It is a grassy, whale-backed ridge of chalk which rises to 482 feet above sea level.

The Down is named after the poet Lord Tennyson who lived at nearby Farringford House for nearly 40 years. The poet used to walk on the down almost every day, saying that the air was worth 'sixpence a pint'.

Tennyson Down is part of the chalk ridge that forms the backbone of the Isle of Wight, this ridge extends to the west for three miles where it ends with The Needles. To the east the hill descends gently down to Freshwater Bay where the sea has cut through the ridge. To the south is Highdown Cliffs, a near vertical chalk cliff drop of over 350 feet to the sea below.

The top of the Down is fairly flat and is predominantly grass downland which provides a wide area for walking. There is some scrubland and small trees mainly on the northern side which is away from the prevailing wind.

The Down is owned and managed by the National Trust and is grazed by cattle and rabbits which ensures that its grass surface is closely cropped. It is open to the public.

Memorials to the poet

The Tennyson Monument on Tennyson Down

At the top of the Down at a height of 482 feet stands a huge granite cross commemorating the life of Alfred Lord Tennyson. From here on a clear day it is possible to see Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Purbeck to the west in Dorset; Yarmouth and Lymington in Hampshire to the north; and to the east, much of the Solent, Fawley Oil Refinery, a large part of the western half of the Isle of Wight, and St Catherine's Point, twelve miles away across Brighstone Bay. Surprisingly it is not possible to see the Needles from here as they are hidden beyond the next hill to the west which is known as West High Down.

The Tennyson Trail, an Isle of Wight footpath, passes right along Tennyson Down and also makes up part of the Isle of Wight Coast Path in this area.

Tennyson Down is one of the most significant downland sites in Britain. It forms the western end of the ‘Tennyson Heritage Coast’. It is part of the Headon Warren And West High Down Site of Special Scientific Interest and is part of the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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