Seaview Duver – 17th January
Tad Dubicki reports that sixteen members mustered at Seaview Duver car park on what promised to be a rather dank and dismal morning but almost immediately, by some sort of divine intervention, the weather brightened and gave rise to a rather glorious day. We proceeded on a circular, clockwise walk, (part Barnsley Trail) along the foreshore and ascending Fairy Hill via the Salterns, thence down Nettlestone Hill and passing Westbrook Estate and finally descending Oakhill Road, thus returning to the car park. Some members took the opportunity to visit the bird hide at the Hersey nature reserve. En route, the history of Barnsley Harbour and the Salterns was discussed with some speculation as regards the origin and rationale of the naming of Fairy Hill. Seabirds and waders were evident on the beach including numerous Turnstone and of course, the ‘resident’ Barnacle Geese and associated Snow Goose were sighted feeding in the field adjacent Oakhill Road.
Newchurch – 9th Febuary
Snowdrop time again. Jill Nicholls reports that twelve members of the section met at Newchurch car park, on a lovely, sunny morning, so that the churchyard could be visited at the beginning of the walk. Although they are not wild in the woods, the snowdrops at Newchurch are easy to find and always worth seeing before other wild flowers are out. The group looked into the church to see the ‘pelican` lectern which is really an eagle. The parish of Newchurch, until 1866, stretched from north to south of the Island and served both Ryde and Ventnor. After admiring the snowdrops, the group skirted the newly planted woodlands where some of the trees are being cared for by children from Newchurch school. Then down across a boggy stream and up through the Hill Farm wood, which was planted in 1973 by the owner of Hill Farm. The walk finished through the farm, past the old threshing machine and down a path with several stiles to end on the Newchurch Nature Trail where there was a good noticeboard describing the Trail.
Golden Hill Fort – 17th March
Golden Hill Fort was the venue for the Access Group’s meeting for a one and a half mile walk around the Country Park. On a cold but dry morning, with a brisk easterly blowing, eleven members commenced the walk and twelve completed the trek, one member being ‘press-ganged’ en route. The plaque commemorating the opening of the Park by Earl Mountbatten in 1970 was the starting point and walking past the Fort (now closed to the public and being developed into luxury dwellings), we proceeded adjacent to the picnic area and through woods prior to circumnavigating the ‘Nine Acres Christmas Tree Plantation’ to the south before eventually arriving back at the car park via the western boundary of the nature reserve. Tad Dubicki wrote this report and the botanists recorded the following species -Lesser Periwinkle, Wild Madder, Wood Spurge, Arum, Stinking Iris, Black Bryony and the Lesser and Greater Periwinkle. The ornithologists, apart from many of the more common birds, observed numerous Brambling.
Lavender Farm – 26th April
On a beautiful warm, sunny day more than thirty members explored the ancient woodlands at Staplehurst Grange, otherwise known as the I.W.Lavender Farm, led by John and Mary Edmunds. Mary sends this report. Paul Abbott, who runs the farm with his brother Reuben, met us and gave a brief talk about their work and became the newest I.W.N.H.A.S. member! Some members strolled a little way through the valley, which is to be planted as a wild flower meadow and where a Whitethroat was heard and then returned to wander round the farm and visit the shop and cafe. As the rest of the party walked to the furthest of the three woods, a pair of Buzzards soared overhead. In the wood was a mass of Anemones and some rarer species such as Wood Sorrel and Moschatel (Town Hall Clock’), which some people did not know. A few Early Purple Orchids and Bluebells were blooming and this area would be a picture in a few more weeks. Other plants included Violets, Primroses, Wood Spurge and Ferns by a stream, which meandered through the wood. The more intrepid members clambered over a stream and up to the old boundary ditch where we saw an enormous clump of Butcher’s Broom and the Anemones looked like a layer of snow. Some of us then briefly visited the other two woods and returned to a welcome cup of coffee and delicious cakes. Paul Abbott was very pleased to receive our donation of £60 to be given to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.
Newchurch – 17th May
Maureen Whitaker sends this report. In spite of heavy downpours in parts of the Island, before the walk started, we were fortunate at Newchurch as the first spots of rain did not fall until we had returned to the car park. We started by walking down past the church, of which the only remaining part of the 1087 building is a section of the north wall. We noticed the ‘rose’ window in the east wall, which was added in the 14th century along with the south porch. Proceeding down the hill we turned on to the old Newport to Sandown railway track, which was opened in 1862. A lot of conservation work is being carried out in this S.S.S.I. by English Nature, Island 2000 and the landowner, to restore a wetland environment to preserve the flora and fauna. The track is now tarmaced and is a cycle way, a fact we were all aware of as various dedicated cyclists passed, not all giving warning of their approach! On either side of the track there was a profusion of colour with Red Campion, white Stitchwort, blue Comfrey, lacy Cow Parsley, yellow Meadow Buttercups and Bluebells. A short distance along the track we were delighted to hear the Cuckoo, the first one heard this year by all present. Turning off the track we went up the field leading to Hill Farm. The woods were also a blaze of colour with massed Bluebells, prompting those who had not brought their cameras to say they would have to come back in the next couple of days before the flowers all faded away.
As we passed through Hill Farm we provided some entertainment to the three horses looking out of their stables and some annoyance to several geese who hissed their disapproval. We continued on to Martins Wood, a newly planted native woodland. Created in 2001 it is part of the JIGSAW (Joining and Increasing Grant Scheme for Ancient Woodlands) initiative, which hopes to expand the woodland and form a substantial woodland link between Lynch Copse and Hill Heath. A proportion of Scots Pine has been planted to provide a future food source for Red Squirrels. At the top of the new woodland is the newly created Marie Curie ‘Field of Hope’, an area planted with thousands of Daffodils which, although over now, would have made a wonderful display earlier in the year. Two seats are provided and it is a tranquil place to sit and think. Walking across the Newchurch recreation ground we arrived at the car park just as the first drops of rain started to fall.
Briddlesford Farm – 16th June
On a glorious summer’s morning eighteen members met at Briddlesford Farm, one of only approximately twenty operational dairy farms remaining on the Island.
Tad Dubicki reports that Mr.Griffin and his son, Paul, gave freely of their valuable time to recount the family history and explain the workings and integrated farming techniques of the modem day farm. In addition Mr.Griffin outlined the problems present-day farmers faced, under the regime of agricultural policies and supermarket competition. We were shown the recent building work and milking arrangements for his substantial, high yield Guernsey herd. We discussed his crops of grass, wheat and maize grown for the production of silage for winter feed (up to seven tons a day are required). Optimum times and methods of harvest to obtain best quality and maximum yield, were also considered. Fields left unfertilised but grazed to encourage flora and fauna to thrive were pointed out, as were examples of the ‘two metre margins’ adjacent to the hedgerows to promote and increase wildlife habitation. We also visited the woodland area, which is being managed to augment and encourage an environment for ‘nature’. The tour was conducted on a tractor and trailer, with members perched on bales of straw, which must have been a ‘first’ for many of the group. We were all indebted to the skilful driving of Paul who conducted some seemingly impossible manoeuvres with much aplomb. Just when we thought the morning couldn’t be bettered, we were all invited for refreshments with Mr.and Mrs.Griffin in their lovely garden. All in all, a superb excursion.
St.Helen’s churchyard – 14th /15th July
The section, joined by members of the church, paid two visits to St.Helen’s churchyard to count the Glow-worms. The evenings were fine and dry, the moon was giving us light and there was a good number of ‘counters’ each evening. 20 females were counted on the first evening with a number of unidentified flying insects. On the second night 21 females were found with a photogenic mating pair at the back of the church.
Afton Marsh Local Nature Reserve – 17th July
Eleven members met at Freshwater Bay car park for a walk round Afton Marsh Local Nature Reserve. We were delighted to have with us, Bob Edney from the Countryside Management Service, who has had responsibility for managing the Reserve for many years. Bob was able to describe how water levels were kept up by means of sluices and how the scrub invading the reed beds was kept under control. A walkway kept our feet dry here, and we then crossed Blackbridge Road into the second part of the Reserve. Alders overhung the path, enjoying the damp conditions. We were greeted by a host of Mallard ducks and some ducklings swimming along the stream of the Western Yar, which we were now following. At Freshwater village we looked at Robert Hooke’s memorial stone. He lived his young life near here and was a great scientist, inventing the universal joint as well as his law of springs. The group divided here, some continuing through the reed beds to the Causeway and along the old railway track. Others turned back on a different path through the reserve and returned to the car park.
Wetland walk – 15th August
Tad Dubicki led this walk and reports that ten members met at Sandown High School to commence a figure of eight tour around a Wetland walk, on a somewhat cooler, more refreshing day than the oppressive, humid weather of late. The walk incorporated the conservation and permissive access paths at Lake Common (Alverstone) and Sandown Meadows. We set off along the track that connects the Sandown Cyclepath to the Nunwell Trail, just adjacent to the golf club. Proceeding through the old orchard we admired the wooden sculptures before pausing at the viewing deck at the wildlife pond. Unfortunately, owing to the drought conditions this pool had virtually dried out. We crossed into Sandown Meadows by Longwood Bridge and followed the course of the Yar. Kingfishers and Water voles are reputed to be inhabitants of these riverbanks, however none were seen on this occasion. Numerous sightings of the large hawker dragonfly and common blue damselfly were noted. We returned via Perowne Way and the cycle path, crossing the footbridge at Kingfisher Bank close to the water works and thence returning to our start position along Longwood Lane and Golf Links Road.
Dunsbury Farm – 6th September
Twenty-three people gathered at Dunsbury Farm, Brook, on a lovely late summer day, sunny, warm and calm, to walk up to the Downs in search of the Autumn Lady’s Tresses Orchids. We were glad that Mrs. Seely, at the farm, let us use the parking space there, as it meant that although the first 50 metres were a bit steep, the rest of the climb could be taken more gradually. Before leaving the farmyard we looked at some Dwarf Mallow plants with small pink flowers, growing in the grass there. Then we climbed up, under old trees, across the Greensand belt. There were many heavy lumps of Ironstone lying around. Several Badger latrines were noticed along this path. We continued along a Byway, which theoretically could be ‘open to all traffic’. This led us up to the chalk of the Downs. We found Houndstongue, Agrimony and Viper’s Bugloss here, as well as many much smaller chalk-loving plants. These included Squinancywort, Yellow-wort and Clustered Bellflower. We were almost up to the Tennyson Trail when the first Orchid was seen, then more and more and more, far too many to count. These delightful little flowers, so small and yet so perfect, are notoriously variable year by year in their flowering and we, luckily, had chosen a good year. People wandered around for a while, photographing the flowers and admiring the view, some getting as far as the Trig Point among the Burial Mounds, 160 metres above sea level. Then we made our way down by the same route.
Shorwell – 19th October
After a wet and windy night, we were pleased to find 13 people at Shorwell car park, ready for the walk. We started down the road and along the grassy track bordering Wolverton Manor grounds. The manor is Elizabethan, of a typical E-shape and built for £800 in the 16th century. The moat of an earlier house could be seen.
We turned down the drive, passed a fine big barn and a smaller one, standing on rat-defying staddlestones. Now we crossed through “Troopers”, a marshy copse where two of Cromwell’s men, leaving West Court in hasty flight, disappeared without trace. A long boardwalk prevented us from suffering the same fate! We walked up beside the barns of West Court and passed the 19th century ‘pound’ which was used for straying animals. We looked at the manor house, with the help of photographs. The Tudor roof was half stone-slated and the gabled Elizabethan part was creeper-covered. Window-tax blocked windows could be seen. We fancied staying for the Bed and Breakfast which was offered. Growing in the fields here were several clumps of Thorn-apple, a casual and poisonous plant. The walk finished across the causeway over a wet meadow where Brooklime was growing. This path is called Pound Lane and was obviously the way to the pound.
A circular walk to include the beach at Woodside – 14th November
Tad Dubicki reports on the November walk. It was a rather dank morning when seven members, plus two prospective members, met at Wootton Recreation Ground car park to commence a circular walk to include the beach at Woodside. Our first stop en route was the small church of St. Edmund`s, which dates back to Norman times. After discussing the outside architecture of the building, we were able to go inside where John Nicholls gave a short historical account of the church.
Our walk progressed through the churchyard and along the footpath alongside the Manor Farm, thence via Upper Woodside Lane and the path adjacent to the disused Holiday Camp, bringing us to the beach. By this time the rain had cleared somewhat and we were able to appreciate the fine view across the shipping lanes of the eastern Solent and Spithead and admire the impressive Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth, which seemed to dominate the skyline. Fishing boats dredging close inshore for oysters were evident, as were numerous Brent geese and other sea birds foraging on the foreshore. After a short walk along the beach, the return leg of the walk took us past the caravan park and beach cafe, then joining Lower Woodside Lane and passing Wallishall Copse, we progressed towards Palmer’s Farm and the car park at Footways. The rain had returned with a vengeance by this time and I think we were all grateful to have the shelter of our cars close at hand.
The Christmas meeting – 6th December
The Christmas meeting was based on Brading. Those going on the walk met outside the church hall. The weather was good. We set off through the churchyard, the first stop being at the Brading Gun Shed. Apparently every parish had a gun in the old days, but the first time the Brading one was used, it split! We moved on to Little Jane’s grave. Stories were written about Jane’s kindness. Sadly she died young in 1799. The next stop in the churchyard was the place where the plant Elecampane grows. This sunflower-like plant has been recorded here for over 100 years. We moved out of the churchyard to the pound, a stone-walled area where stray animals were kept. Now John Nicholls took over and led the group down Quay Lane, across the railway bridge and past the Water Treatment works. Michael Wright was able to explain how the sewage plant worked. The walk continued to a footpath junction where the line to Bembridge would have gone off, and along beside the main railway route, where a train obliged by passing on its way to Brading station. Crossing the line and walking back through the houses the group returned to the churchyard, where Chris Lipscombe met them and pointed out the Old Town Hall, with its stocks and the unusual open base to the church tower. Then back into the hall where some people were already puzzling over the bird quiz and where tea, coffee and mince pies were being served. After Chris spoke about past walks and future plans and pointed out the photographs of walks, which were decorating the room, she gave rosettes to Jill and John, Tad and Janet who had been such a great help during the year. Then the quiz answers were given. Margaret Burnhill got the biggest score. More mince pies were eaten and the morning finished happily.