If I were writing a travel guide then it would read: A gentle uphill stroll with rewarding views across Harrington Sound. I suspect you won’t be satisfied with that, so, having made the steep climb last weekend I have done a little research. The one piece of information frustrating my search is Who was Abbot? I am clearly not the only person to wonder – the Bermuda-online website has left it as Abbott (sic) is an old Bermudian family name. (Both spellings are to be found on printed information and websites but I am using the one given on the road sign.)
Morris Abbot, 1565-1642, was an investor in the Virginia Company – that sponsored the fleet of ships including the Sea Venture that was grounded on the Bermuda reef and so laid claim to the island for England. Could he have been related to the eponymous cliff? Wikipedia and some genealogical pages make more of his role in the Virginia company than is perhaps warranted since it seems from more detailed biography that he was more involved with the East India Company and with his life as an MP for Hull. I can find no mention of him even having travelled as far as Bermuda but two shares in Pembroke are allocated to a Morris Abbot in Norwood’s map of 1622. Locals will be pointing out to me that Abbot’s Cliff is in Hamilton Parish, not Pembroke.
Geologically Abbot’s Cliff is a wall of limestone between My Lord’s Bay and Church Bay. According to Geoview it is 22 metres above sea level.
I chose to walk up the path from the other side.
The park is about 18 acres that was adopted as a nature reserve in the 1980s. It appears on maps as a green patch as far back as the Thomas Jeffery’s map of 1775. Certainly today it is dense with vegetation and the path in some parts was a find-it-yourself-and-step-carefully type.
You begin on North Shore Road opposite Francis Patton School. The road soon becomes dirt track and winds around a field of banana trees (field here means small patch of land, not the vast expanses farming in UK brings to mind)
I suggest a water bottle is worth carrying. The view, once you have reached the top, is amazing.
Back in 1993 the conservationist David Wingate listed Abbot’s Cliff as a site at risk since many such escarpments have been quarried for building stone. There is another story regarding his cliff-related-activities: In 2002 he led a group to remove Casuarinas from the area, enthusiastically extending their clearance to Cockroach Island at the foot of the cliff only to discover later that the island was actually privately owned with its landscape previously carefully managed by the owner! The non-infested-island above is the result of cliff-fall rubble thousands of years ago. Future falls are inevitable for the cliff has significant undercutting below the water level due to bioerosion – rock eaten away by organisms, with the wonderful name of Boring Pelecypods. I learnt that this can be distinguished from tidal erosion by its flat roof and position below the inter-tidal range.
In 2005 Abbot’s Cliff was the site of the gruesome find of two murdered young men. A sad reminder that Bermuda is just like the rest of the world, inhabited by humans.
My first Google searches resulted in many pages on Abbot’s Cliff in England – near Folkestone, the site of an old concrete sound mirror a military leftover. Some days I am easily sidetracked: You will be pleased I was not distracted by the naturist beach at the base of that cliff.