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One of Sandown's sandy beaches
|Population||11,868 (2011 Census)|
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Sandown is the northernmost town of Sandown Bay, known for its long stretches of easily accessible, sandy beach. The outer Bay is also used as a sheltered anchorage, with ships requiring salvage periodically towed there (such as the Tarpenbeck). The wreck of a salvage tug could be seen until recently at low tide under Culver Cliff, (the Harry Sharman) which had been assisting the stricken tanker Pacific Glory in the 1970s.
Sandown is a Victorian seaside resort surrounded by a wealth of natural features. To the north is Culver Down, a chalk down accessible to the public, mostly owned and managed by the National Trust. It supports typical chalk downland wildlife, and along with seabirds and birds of prey which nest on the adjoining cliffs. Nearby are Sandown Levels in the flood plain of the River Yar, one of the few freshwater wetlands on the Isle of Wight, where Alverstone Mead Local Nature Reserve is a very popular spot for birdwatching. Further inland the woodland of Borthwood provides delightful woodland walks, and bluebells aplenty in the spring.
The area's most significant wildlife designation is the Special Area of Conservation which covers the marine sub-littoral zone, including the reefs and seabed. At extreme low tide, a petrified forest is partially revealed in the northern part of the Bay, and fragments of petrified wood are often washed up on the beach.
Until the 19th century, Sandown was on the map chiefly for its military significance, with the beaches of the Bay feared to offer easy landing spots for invaders from the continent. It is the site of the lost Sandown Castle. While undergoing construction in 1545, the castle was attacked by a French force which had fought its way over Culver Down from Whitecliff Bay, resulting in the French being repelled. It was built too far into the sea and constantly suffered erosion, until now reduced to a pile of rocks. Later forts in the town include the Diamond Fort (named after its plan), built inshore to replace the castle and which fought off a minor attack from privateers (probably French) in 1788, and the present "Granite Fort" at Yaverland, now the zoo.
The arrival of the railway in 1864 saw Sandown grow in size, with the town's safe bathing becoming increasingly popular. In the summer of 1874, the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany and their children leased a number of properties in the town and took regular dips in the Bay. Sandown's pier was built in the same decade, opening in May 1878. The town laid further claim to becoming a fashionable English resort when the Ocean Hotel opened in 1899. However, Sandown's destiny in the 20th century was to be a favourite bucket-and-spade destination for all classes. The Canoe Lake opened in 1929, followed by Brown's Golf Course in 1932 offering 'Golf for Everybody'. The golf course and its ice cream factory were adapted in the 1940s to disguise pumping apparatus for Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO) designed to pump oil to the D-Day beaches. The Art Deco Grand Hotel, now closed and awaiting demolition, was built next to Brown's in the late 1930s.
Today, Sandown esplanade has a mixture of Victorian and Edwardian hotels and their modern counterparts overlooking the beach and the Bay. Sandown Pier hosts an amusement centre with arcade games, children's play areas and places to eat and drink. The pier is also used for sea fishing, with designated areas for anglers. Further north is the Isle of Wight Zoo (also known as Sandown Zoo) which specialises in tigers. Nearby is the Dinosaur Isle geological museum and Sandham Grounds, offering a skate park, children's play park, crazy golf and bowls.
The town's summer carnival has been entertaining visitors since 1889. Today's organisers put on a series of events including the popular Children's Carnival and Illuminated Carnival, as well as November Celebrations later in the year with entertainment and fireworks.
Since 2017, a further Sandown event called Hullabaloo has been held over two days in May, organised by Shademakers UK Carnival Club in collaboration with local businesses and charities.
Sandown offers an assortment of pubs and restaurants. The pubs range from the more traditional offering a selection of local ales and ciders, to more family-friendly 'gastro-pubs' with a wider menu. Restaurants in the town offer a varied cuisine and there are a variety of traditional tea rooms on High Street. A full listing of places to eat and drink in Sandown is now available online.
As well as the Island Line Railway, Sandown is served by regular buses run by Southern Vectis on routes 2, 3 and 8. Destinations which can be directly reached include Bembridge, Newport, Ryde, Shanklin and Ventnor. Night buses are run on Fridays and Saturdays, along route 3. Local bus services previously run by Wightbus have now been re-absorbed by Southern Vectis.
The TV series Tiger Island chronicles the lives of the more than twenty tigers living at Isle of Wight Zoo.
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