Up the Creek - Isle of Wight
To the South of the Needles on the Isle of Wight is Scratchell’s Bay which can be seen from the cliff top and is only accessible by sea. Its crumbling chalk cliffs were reputedly a favorite training area for some of the more celebrated sections of our armed services. The Bay serves as a very private sunbathing shingle beach with limited mooring just offshore and only in calm seas. Between 1955 and 1971 a top secret Space rocket and missile development centre was built on the site of the old Needles Battery, the new battery being built on the cliff top. The launching of the rockets was carried out in Woomera Rocket Test Ranges in Australia. There were over 2,000 sq ft of control rooms with up to 240 people working there at any one time. They developed the space rockets called 'Black Night' and 'Black Arrow’. The Black Knight rocket was very successful with 22 test missions launched. Originally, the rocket was purely a test rocket but in the early 1960s it was used to carry research modules into the upper atmosphere and in 1971 the only all British satellite was launched into orbit, where it should remain until about 22AD.
Anchor off the beach on a drying gravel mooring but beware of Saint Anthony Rock on approach and the possibility of large swells. Also beware of the Varvassi wreck south west of the Needles Lighthouse. This Bay is very much a Sun Catcher almost until sunset and apart from the Shingle, nothing else. Fishermen occasionally ply the area and that’s about the only vessel your likely to see.