Tel: 01983 855397

The Tunnel

Our regular Tunnel Tours are currently postponed. Please email if you'd like to enquire about a private tour.

Ventnor Botanic Garden has many secrets, some dating back to the days of the Royal National Hospital that formerly stood on the site. Underground caverns, secret passageways and a tunnel through the cliff can be found by the visitors to the Garden.

A proposal to dig a tunnel from the gardens down to the shore was mooted in the late 1800s.  The Royal National Hospital annual report for 1875 states that “There can be no doubt that if the patients were able to obtain free access to the shore it would be very conducive alike to their recovery and their enjoyment.” Money for the tunnel at that time was not forthcoming and although it was built later, its function was by no means the rather romantic conception that has given rise to a good deal of speculation and comment; it was in fact used as a conduit for rubbish that was propelled through it and dumped into the sea. Steel tramlines are still visible on the floor. Exactly when the tunnel was built is unknown; possibly it was in relation to a new system of drainage and sewage disposal that was completed sometime in the 1880s. The tunnel was closed at both ends in 1940.

The 350 foot long vaulted roofed tunnel exits through the cliff midway down and is inaccessible. DO NOT attempt to locate the exit, or try to enter unless with one of our guides, as the cliff is extremely dangerous. Bolted gates are also in place for safety.


Dr Hill Hassall’s Eucalyptus Mixer

Our Hill Hassall Eucalyptus Cordial Mixer is currently in its development stages. Experimenting with ingredients we grow on site, we are perfecting the recipe as we speak!

Delicately infused eucalyptus leaves create a refreshing taste with herbal tones. Eucalyptus gives a light, citrusy flavour that is cleansing on the palate. The aromatic, fragrant oils in the leaves carry through our sous vide process and impart a warming, distinctive character to our mixer which goes well in cocktails, mocktails and long drinks. Why not experiment, using it whilst baking and making delicious puds too!

To buy Dr Hill Hassall’s Eucalyptus Mixer follow this link to our shop.


A little bit of history…

In 1770 the verdant and towering eucalyptus forests of uncharted Australia were first seen by western eyes; specifically those of James Cook and his crew of explorers, scientists and seamen.

During this era of colonial discovery the Church’s loosening grip on the sciences allowed for medicine to encompass the once demonised herbalist practices of other cultures…

Cook’s crew learned of the healing power of the exotic eucalyptus tree from Australia’s Aboriginal people. Samples were collected and brought back to England. Now the nation too could experience the tree’s capacity to unblock respiratory pathways, eradicate bacteria, sooth burns, alleviate joint pain, and serve as a fragrant bath oil for those in dire need of unwinding.

Now here’s where we come in. The unique, sun-doused microclimate of The Ventnor undercliff, in which the essential ingredient of this mixer begins, replicates that of Australia, allowing us to continue the legacy of Cook’s discovery through fostering the largest naturally growing eucalyptus collection in England.

Now we must introduce Dr. Hill Hassall. Distinguished physician-scientist. All round champion of botanic healing and our beverage’s namesake. Rather ironically the doctor, famed for his contributions to combating diseases of the lung, was struck with a near fatal bout of tuberculosis. So in 1866 in the face of his own mortality he decided to move to the seaside. Specifically, Ventnor, Isle of Wight. Upon moving to the site of what was to become our botanic gardens he found his lungs gradually renewing.

This motivated the doctor to establish on site The Royal National Hospital, a live-in sanatorium far from the carbon laden air of London’s hospitals, to help out “his other poor brethren suffering from diseases of the lungs”, as he so benevolently put it in his book: “the narrative of a busy life”, he wrote himself, about himself…seemingly for himself.

Dr. Hill Hassall’s hospital was demolished in the 60s alongside tuberculosis, however his legacy and his beloved garden remain. Now we must fast forward to the present day, where the garden is now home to a renowned selection of plants instead of failing lungs. Walking through this renowned selection is a professional herbalist and our curator who decided to, much like the aborigines, tap into the power of Eucalyptus and present you with this mixer.

It may not cure tuberculosis, provide as actual medicine, or have grown from James Cook’s hand plucked specimens, but it does serve for an apt metaphor for broadening Victorian scientific endeavours and colonial discovery…and it doesn’t taste half bad either.


Contact us

Refund Policy

Tel: 01983 855397  |  Ventnor Botanic Garden Community Company C.I.C  | Company Number: 07976468 | Registered Address: Undercliff Drive, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1UL