Looking at the Countryside Brading Town – 7th February 2017

Fifteen members met on an unexpectedly pleasant sunny morning, after a run of overcast raw days.

Richard Smout led the group. We started by looking across to the old primary school, now the youth club, and touring the churchyard. Rusty-backed ferns were seen on the churchyard wall, close to a useful noticeboard which gave details of the plants to be found in the area. We admired the small gun house, and looked at a number of graves. These included the graves of Mary Warder (nee Toms) who brought Bible Christian Methodism to the Isle of Wight in 1823, settled in the town and was buried there in 1850. A little further on, in the same line of graves was the headstone for Jane Squibb .. Little Jane, the Young Cottager .. whose short life was immortalised by Rev Legh Richmond in “The Annals of the Poor” published in 1814. The stone itself was a later addition being erected in 1822, when Legh Richmond returned to the parish where he had been curate. We also looked at a set of graves near the churchyard cross. These included the tombs of a Shropshire ironmaster, of Joseph William Bazalgette (the father of the man with the same name whose engineering works had tackled “the Great Stink” transforming the sewage system of Victorian London), and a relative of Sir Robert Peel.

payment of a fee, and while we were there learnt about the goods that would have been taken to the quayside at the end of the lane, and the impact of successive attempts to drain Brading Haven, before the process was completed in the 1880s. We then looked at Rectory Mansion and compared what exists now with a Victorian image which showed that some of the gables and the conspicuous chimney stack are 20th century embellishments. We continued via the church porch. Here there were arches on three sides to allow a processional route around the building when the street frontage would have been obstructed with cottages. From there it was only a short distance down the slope to the Old Town Hall, with its lock-up, stocks and whipping post.

At this point the stroll picked up a certain amount of pace, and we went down Cross Street , past a terrace named in honour of Legh Richmond and into West Street, with an attractive set of cottages on the east side of the road. Near the Bull Ring was saw Summers Hall, (originally the church hall); the new town hall, built in 1902-3 and opened by Lady Oglander, as well as the bull-ring itself. Across the road, Cordwainers was the house lived in by the Warders. Their chapel, which no longer survives was nearby.

From here we moved into the Mall. There were a number of houses to admire at intervals along the route. We compared the brick frontages and the stone sides to two properties, Stoneham and Beech Grove. Other houses attracted interest including Hill House, the wooden boarding to Rosebank, and the porch at what is now the Beech Grove surgery.  Climbing higher we reached the lane that goes up to the downs. Near the bottom of this is Little Jane’s Cottage. Postcards of the house in Victorian times were compared with the building as it is now. There have been some additions but the house from the outside is instantly recognisable. This was a place of pilgrimage for the sensitive Victorian visitor. Two million copies of the Annals of the Poor were sold in English alone. Victorian postcards almost always feature a venerable elderly inhabitant standing by the picket fence .. nothing was allowed to jar with the image that the visitor had in mind for Little Jane’s home.

Back on the Mall we had the chance to compare two late Victorian terraces, Linden Terrace and Woodbine Terrace. The former had narrow windows, arched doors and bow windows at the ground floor, whereas Woodbine Terrace relied on the impact of a line of decorative brickwork to make its mark. We continued on as far as the Congregational Chapel established in 1846, next to the site of the British School set up three years earlier. One of the school’s early teachers was a Mr Bully, who gives his name to Bullys Hill which leads up onto the downs. Before the chapel was reached we admired the whitewashed and castellated manse, and Mall Villa, which seems to have been originally built as the home for the teacher at the British School. From here there were excellent views across to Bembridge Down, Sandown and over the Brading Marshes area. By the Mall here we saw a range of early plants including common field speedwell and a fumitory, and we found a seven-spot ladybird, moving in the warmth.

We then retraced our steps back along the Mall, looked at the Methodist Chapel established in the 1860s as New Road was being developed, spoke of the arrival of the railways and the impact that this had on the town, and then walked back along the High Street, considering where the water’s edge might have come to before the construction of some of the early sea walls in the Tudor period. There were a number of inns to admire on this final stretch, as well as the town reading room. The latter appears clearly on the front of another Victorian image of the High Street which we were able to compare with what can be seen today. We ended up back at the church, still in the dry after two hours, and feeling fortunate that the weather had added to the pleasure of the visit.

Looking at the Countryside Northwood Park 14 January 2017

25 Members met at the entrance to St Mary’s Church, Cowes on a cold but sunny morning.  David Biggs told them briefly about the history of the church, one of the very few erected during the Commonwealth (1657) and with no mediaeval antecedents; and of the church tower erected 1821 by Nash as a memorial to the Ward family by George Ward. (more…)

Looking at the Countryside – Christmas Walk 2016

22 people met at the Priory car park, Carisbrooke, on a lovely sunny morning. (more…)

Looking at the Countryside Mottistone 5th November 2016

21 members met at Mottistone last Saturday for a guided walk led by David Harding.It was a beautiful crisp November day, with blue skies, sunshine and excellent visibility.

The walk started at the “sunken path”, a delightful shaded area with steep hedgebanks either side which were clothed with ferns including the “Male Fern”, (Dryopteris felix-mas), Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris dilatata) and “Hart’s Tongue Fern” (Phyllitis scolopendrium).

The fungi enthusiasts amongst us found some nice specimens of  Earthballs, probably  Scleroderma citrinum, growing on the hedgebank.Some”Spindles “, Euonymus europaeus bearing their very colourful pink capsules which open to reveal bright orange seeds were also spotted.


Scleroderma citrinum “Earthball” (photo:Dave Trevan)


Looking at the Countryside – Ventnor Downs Wednesday 5 October

9 Members led by Andy Butler met on the top of the downs on a very windy morning (more…)

Looking at the Countryside report – Tuesday 16 August 2016

Six members joined the two leaders in the Big Mead car park Shanklin for a 3-1/2 mile walk on the downs and coast. (more…)

A magnificent Catalpa at Shide

It’s well worth taking a trip to Shide at the moment to take a look at a superb specimen of the “Indian Bean Tree” Catalpa bignoniodes.

This specimen is planted by the side of the main road, and can be accessed by parking at  Shide  Trees and walking back along the road about 500 yards.


Flowers of Catalpa bignoniodes showing purple spots on the corolla.(photo:Dave Trevan)

This fine specimen is one of the largest I have seen on the island.Catalpa is regarded as one of the most beautiful of flowering trees.


Catalpa bignoniodes at Shide, showing habit

(photo:Dave Trevan) (more…)

Looking at the Countryside Friday 15th July 2016 Hurstake to Dodnor

It made a pleasant change to have dry fairly warm weather for the sixteen members and one very well behaved dog, Louie,who met at the Medina Park Picnic Site for a walk beside the Medina estuary to Dodnor and back along the cycle -path.There was much wildlife from start to finish as well as a little local history.

First stop was the Hurstake foot bridge to admire a stone statue of a contemplative sitting lady, inscribed with the artists initials SFE and dated 2007.Nearby is a pentagram inscribed with geological destinations:Nile Delta;Gurnard;Tuvalu (a group of atolls in the South Pacific);Texcel (an island off the coast of the Netherlands) and the Sunderbans (a National Park in Bangladesh).

Stone statue of the contemplative lady

Stone statue of the contemplative lady (photo:Hazel Trevan)

The group then proceeded towards Ship and Launch House and Newport Rowing Club.

Today no evidence exists of the 19th century Hurstake Shipyard where many naval frigates were built and launched into the Medina  Estuary.As well as the shipyard there was a public house, The Ship and Launch.When the public house ceased trading the building was converted into a private dwelling which still retains the name Ship and Launch House


Looking towards Dodnor (photo:Dave Trevan)

Newport Rowing Club has been at Hurstake since 1863. (more…)

Looking at the Countryside – Newtown National Nature Reserve, 17 June

12 Members attended the above meeting with Helen Parry (National Trust Warden) and Hilary Higgins (National Trust Volunteer). This was in celebration of the 21st year of the Reserve being formed into a National Nature Reserve.

Looking at the Countryside-Yarmouth Walk 8th May 2016

Yarmouth Walk

27 members meet at the Boatyard  near Saltern Wood Quay for a walk led by Helen Danby and Michele Van Buren. First of all Helen took us round her 8 acre wood, Saltern Wood East which was looking particularly beautiful with a grand display of Bluebells and Wood Anemones

Bluebells” (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) at Salterns Wood (Photo:Dave Trevan)

There were many Blackcaps singing and the odd Pheasant was heard calling. Blackbird, Buzzard,, Dunnock, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Chaffinch, and Woodpigeon were also seen or heard.


“Tree Mallow”Lavatera arborea Norton Spit

Photo:Dave Trevan

Our walk took us down Gasworks Lane and noted Jay and Green Woodpecker. As we passed the extensive area of reeds we could hear the explosive call of the Cetti’s warbler. (more…)