Access to the Countryside Group Meetings held in 2007

18th January

Thursday had been forecast as the worst day of the week and that it certainly turned out to be. Gale force winds and the sea lashing over the revetment where we were going to walk, made us, regretfully, have to abandon the walk. We shall put it on at another time.

9th February

Tad Dubicki led this walk and reports that nine stalwart supporters braved the elements by meeting at the Jubilee car park on Mottistone Down, for a walk which commenced through the Westover Plantation and proceeded as far as the Harboro Barrows before returning by way of part of the Worsley Trail across Mottistone Down.

Chris Lipscombe started proceedings by explaining the origin of the name ‘Jubilee’. The plantation was planted in the 1960s for the Silver Jubilee of George VI. She gave some historical details of the inception of Westover Plantation.

Our path through the wood provided plenty of winter interest, wispy Beech being much in evidence. On reaching the Harboro Tumuli, at 203 metres, we were able to investigate the four burial mounds, now quite mutilated by early excavators, rabbit burrows and by general erosion. The views, which would have been rather spectacular from this height, were marred by an extensive sea mist. We were, however, able to sight the Longstone field monument.

By this time a full SE gale was blowing and our return to the car park was quite eye watering, to say the least, as we were facing and completely exposed to the blustery conditions.

12th March

Tad Dubicki reports that a fine Spring morning greeted twelve members who assembled at Fort Victoria Country Park car park, for a walk westwards through woodland following the coastal path, thence turning off Monks Lane in an easterly direction, crossing fields via public rights of way (passing Pratlands Copse) before returning by way of Westhill Lane at Norton.

The viewpoint on the coastal path with strategically placed benches provided fine views towards Hurst Point and westward along the mainland coast almost as far as Anvil Point. Passing the old “Cliff End Battery” we were able to take a closer look at the Fort Albert complex.

Our route over the fields became rather boggy and wet under foot, however just adjacent to the copse we were able to admire a fabulous Goat Willow with catkins in full bloom.

The approach along Westhill Lane, was bordered with Wild Daffodils, Primroses and an abundance of Winter Heliotrope.

18th April

The path through Nodes Point woods was extremely muddy so Tad Dubicki led the group on a different route. He reports that clear blue skies and glorious sunshine was the order of the day when seventeen members convened at St.Helens Duver car park for a walk along the Duver foreshore, before crossing the Mill Pond causeway and proceeding along the Bembridge embankment, at the same time admiring the interesting houseboats neighbouring the footpath. We returned by way of the old Bembridge to Brading rail track, starting from east of Home Farm and retracing our route across the causeway and thence back over the old golf course. The botanists in the group recognised many species some examples being Yellow Flag Iris, White Poplar, Herb Robert, Common Storksbill, Hedgerow Cranesbill, Rock Samphire, Common Valerian and Field Maple, to name a few.

In the ponds adjacent to Home Farm, Mallards and Coot were seen foraging in the reeds as were Tufted Duck and Shelduck. In addition Little Egrets and Grey Heron were sighted as was a nesting Swan close by the path. Finally, while crossing the old golf course prior to arriving back at the car park, numerous Holly Blue Butterflies were observed.

11th May

This walk was in the Walking Festival programme. Jill Nicholls led it and reports that after a week of wet weather, Friday came and the sun shone. Another surprise was that 64 people turned up for the walk, 14 visitors from the mainland including a Dutch couple, 15 children from Barton Primary School and 4 dogs on leads. The children were very well-behaved and enjoyed every minute and the dogs behaved well, too.

The walk went from Godshill car park to Moor Lane via the pig farm and up to the main road, returning through the Bluebell woods of Beech Copse and fields to the “Griffin”.

We did think that because of climate change the Bluebells would be over, but, although perhaps not perfect, there were plenty to be seen. This was a relief as we had advertised a “Bluebell walk”. The walk took place in sunny, dry weather but, within half an hour of finishing, rain had started again.

25th May

Jill and John Nicholls led this walk and report that on a lovely sunny morning eleven people arrived at Blackgang Viewpoint car park for a 2.5 mile walk. First they looked at the fine view along the bays and cliffs of the south-west coast of the Island. Then proceeded up to the cliff edge and inland through fields to Niton. There were many flowers to be identified, Thrift, Cow Parsley, Seaside Thistle, Curled Dock, Hawksbeard and Rock Rose. The walk returned along the inland cliff, overlooking the sea. A Raven was seen and Fulmars gave a good flying display. Skylarks were also seen and a Buzzard was soaring above.

The views were enjoyed by everyone, especially the sight of St. Catherines Lighthouse looking very white and spruced up, as they walked above it along the cliff.

21st June

Val Gwynn invited us to come for a walk round “Wild Tracts” at Shalfleet to see the woods and the newly-acquired hay meadows. We had to shelter from the rain while she described how “Wild Tracts” is now graded as a farm and classified as “traditional English pasture”. It has just been accepted into the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and the whole area has to be managed for the benefit of all forms of wildlife. The rain stopped and we walked through a little ivy-bordered path with Dogs Mercury and Hartstongue ferns revelling in the recent rain.

Not all the trees were native. Val pointed out a Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissimo, the only one on the Island. The path now ran beside a stream coming down from the chalk downs. Kingfishers were encouraged here.

Coming out of the woods Val showed us the two meadows which she had recently acquired and which were being returned to traditional wild-flower hay meadows. At least a dozen flower species, excluding grasses, were noted. The hedges were managed to create linking routes for wildlife by cutting every three years. Manpower was used rather than machinery.

Now we were at the end of a most informative tour, thanks to Val’s enthusiasm, and she also provided us with tea and biscuits afterwards.

4th July

We were grateful to Dr.Anthony Roberts for letting us park at Haseley Manor as it allowed us to explore a different area without having to walk too far. We followed the footsteps of Dowsabelle Mill, an extrovert lady of the 16th century, who, after a party, danced all the way up to the downs along the broad track, which was then the main entrance to the manor. We turned off across the fields where young cattle were grazing. A fine example of Welted Thistle was found.

Crossing the main Arreton road we entered a delightful area of old-fashioned fields with little bridges crossing ditches. Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Dovesfoot Cranesbill and Meadow Buttercup were found, with the Yellow Irises being past flowering but showing some seedpods.

The cycleway traffic lights provided a convenient road crossing to the track beside the River Yar. Himalayan Balsam was showy here. Now the group split, with some going through the Nature Reserve and a path lined with head-high Hemlock and some taking the bridleway, where a cluster of small black caterpillars was found on the nettles, before arriving back at the manor via an interesting collection of old farm machinery.

20th/21st July

We made our annual visit to St.Helens churchyard to count the glow-worms. The weather was good on both evenings, with a bright moon on Friday and fireworks in the distance on Saturday. There were people from the church as well as from the Society in the groups. The grass was long in many parts but trimmed along the grassy paths. This was where most glow-worms were found. On Friday there were 22 females and on Saturday 28 females including one actually in the car park, making a good start to the evening. No males were identified. On Friday a large toad was found. Do toads eat glow-worms?
14th August

The planned walk was to go from Brading Down, led by Tad Dubicki, but the weather was wet and windy. Tad and the one lady who arrived to do the walk decided that walking was not a good idea and the walk was abandoned. We shall try again in the next programme.
7th September

The group met at St.Saviours Church, Totland and were grateful to be able to use the parking space there as it reduced the walking distance to Headon Warren, their goal to see the Heather and the views. Jill Nicholls led the group and this is her report. Thirteen members met and walked up the road and on to the National Trust property. It was quite misty at the start but they hoped that it would clear, which it did and became quite hot. The views of Fort Albert and Hurst Castle were very good on the way back. The Heather was lovely, both Bell Erica cinerea, and Ling Calluna vulgaris, going over in a few places but mainly brilliantly excellent. Many other wild flowers were spotted including Stinking Iris Iris foetidissima, Bristly Oxtongue Picris echioides, Centaury Centaurium minus and Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata. A buzzard was circling overhead.

After getting to the highest point and seeing the tumulus there, the group turned and made their way back to the parking place.

18th October

Colin Black found a different car park for this walk. The parking place at Nunney’s wood, near Hamstead, provided a good starting point and made the walk not too long.

Colin reports that the group started up the lane and across the bridge between Western Haven and Ningwood lake. Little Egrets were seen.

A well way-marked footpath turned off the lane and wandered through the woods to an open meadow and back to Ningwood Lake. Following more stiles we came to a viewpoint towards the downs, Chessell, Westover and Brighstone.

Now a rough road led to a junction where Chris turned off to shorten the walk while the rest of the group went on to look at Ningwood Common, a SINC, Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, and up beside and through broad-leaved woodland to West Hamstead Farm. Following a well-worn path, a wonderful view over Newtown anchorage was seen. Then the route followed a good track past the Piggery, which had a lion in the gate, and Pigeon Coo, on the right, back to the bridge and car park.

13th November

A new leader, Pat Ruwaidan, met the group at Carisbrooke Priory car park and led them on a two mile walk to the Castle, Lukely Brook and Froglands. Pat reports that they started off down Froglands Lane and along the footpath to the Castle. Spindleberries had opened beautifully to show the orange seeds. The footpath from the Castle was lined with Oak, Beech and Field Maple trees with Hartstongue ferns relishing the shade beneath them. A stile led to a little bridge over a lovely little limestone stream where watercress at one time was grown.

Then the route went ahead along the valley with many stops to “just look” at the Tennyson Trail in the distance and the Lukely Brook running along parallel to the path. A buzzard was soaring above.

Leaving Plaish Farm on the right, the route turned left to pass Froglands Farm, with some lovely horses and the “Cow Shed”, an antique furniture concern, back to the car park.

6th December

The Access Section Christmas event was based on Godshill Scout Hall, where tea and coffee could be made and mince-pies warmed up.

It was a grey and drizzly morning when Chris and five other walkers set off round a tree-lined lane. Scotland Farm was on the right, its name having nothing to do with kilts or bagpipes but was derived from the Middle English “scot” meaning a tax. The drizzle was getting worse as we passed the school with its stone plaque revealing that there had been a school in Godshill since the 16th century, started by Lady Anne Worsley. Now, by general consent, the walk beside Deacon’s Nursery was abandoned in favour of a shorter route back to the hall and the mince-pies.

Here, other people had arrived and were puzzling over the “Christmas Songs” quiz printed in a Christmassy way by Tad Dubicki. Beth and Lorna only got one wrong answer, so were the winners. Margaret Burnhill won the Caption Competition with the caption “Where`s Snow-White?” for the picture which made everyone look dwarfed. Chris presented her Chocolate medals to all those who had helped with the section and led walks during the year, Jill, John, Tad, Janet, Colin and Margaret and to those who helped with the tea and mince-pies. Everyone seemed to enjoy the morning.

Chris Lipscombe