Chines are fascinating features of the Isle of Wight’s landscape. Each one has its own character from the vertical, canyon-like walls of Whale Chine to the leafy ravine that is Shanklin Chine. They are real ‘windows in time’ - their steep walls erode so regularly that the rocks are easily visible, throwing up evidence of dinosaurs, swampy deltas and ancient civilisations.
The Island’s chines provide an exceptional example of very old geology changing at a rapid rate, with visible variations from one visit to the next. Chines are often favourite spots for wildlife; their rough vegetation and steep sides providing shelter which is very rare for exposed coastal areas. They have been used by people as the main access points to and from the sea for millennia. They have countless stories to tell about shipwrecks, dramatic rescues and smuggling.
This site is a source of information about the Chines of the Isle of Wight. It contains information about the Island's Chines, derived from the book "Island Chines". It is also a repository for reports related to the Chines for anyone seeking more in-depth information.
What is a chine?
If you were to open up a map of the Isle of Wight, you would soon notice the main river courses which drain the Island - the Medina, Eastern and Western Yar, Newtown River and Wootton Creek. All these main rivers flow in a northerly direction and reach the sea in broad river valleys. However, take a closer look at the map and you will see smaller rivers running in other directions. Often these rivers abruptly meet the sea forming deep ravines, known locally as chines.
So, what are chines? They may best be defined as steep sided river valleys where the river flows through coastal cliffs to the sea. The word ‘chine’ originates from the Saxon ‘Cinan’ meaning a gap or yawn. The term ‘chine’ is used in Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.
The exact number of Chines on the Island varies! The changing nature of the Island’s coastline means that chines are destroyed and new chines created on an ongoing basis.