Access to the Countryside Group Meetings held in 2008

28th January

We needed reasonable weather for this walk, which was to see the winter birds on the sea and on the mill pond at St.Helens. There would be quite a lot of standing about to view through binoculars and telescopes and we did not want it to be cold and windy. Luckily it was not and a good group met at St.Helens car park and walked down the footpath to the Duver. There was plenty of Winter Heliotrope to be seen in flower.

We crossed the Duver to the sea front where telescopes were set up and everyone who wished could see Great Crested Grebes, Oystercatchers and Grey Herons in close detail. We crossed back to the Mill Pond and along the Mill Wall. The tide was rather lower than we wished but there was still plenty to be seen with a Little Grebe really being the star of the show, disappearing and reappearing on the Mill Pond. A total of 40 birds was seen or heard, either on the water, wading in the mud or flying.

13th February

A small group met at Winchester House car park, Shanklin, to try again the walk which was abandoned, because of bad weather, on the previous programme. This was a winter walk as it followed metalled paths all the way, with no mud, which could have been found on field paths further away. The route followed the cliff top with fine views towards the chalk headland of Culver Down. The geological
change to the sandstone of Redcliff could be clearly seen.

When nearly into Sandown the group descended, via the steps, to the revetment below. Several clumps of Butcher’s Broom could be seen, their apparent leaves actually being flattened stems or cladodes. Back along the revetment, with the cliff towering above, there was time to look at the sea and the ships sheltering there, before climbing steeply up the steps to the cliff path and the car park.

26th March

In spite of a less than promising forecast, the weather was mild and dry as a group of 15 met for a walk towards Kern and Knighton. Beth Dollery, Maureen Whitaker and Jackie Hart were leaders and send this report.

On the downhill path towards Kern there was a fine display of Primroses and one or two clumps of Violets. We turned towards Knighton and went past the still active Knighton Sand Pit, although not much activity was taking place. Shortly afterwards somebody spotted a Red Squirrel but it was so quick that only a few of us managed to catch a glimpse of it. We also noticed some Town Hall Clock, an ancient woodland indicator and, although early in the season, some Red Campion in flower.

Passing the small group of houses near the Knighton water treatment plant we turned right onto the main road, noting Greater Stitchwort on the bank, and then paused by the entrance to Knighton Gorges. The house itself was one of the noblest in the land and was demolished in 1820, leaving only the gateposts to show that it ever existed. On top of the posts are two stone decorations. They are believed to be Caps of Maintenance. “A Cap of Maintenance is a ceremonial crimson velvet cap lined with ermine. It is one of the insignia of the British sovereign and paraded directly before the monarch during the coronation procession or on such state occasions as the State Opening of Parliament. The origin of this symbol of dignity is obscure. It may have had a purely practical origin being used to help a crown fit more firmly or to protect the head from bare metal on the crown “. (from Wikipedia, the free Internet

Turning right back towards the top of the downs we passed the grounds of the water treatment plant and observed the Barn Owl nesting box erected by Southern Water. The gentle slope gradually turned into a more challenging ascent and the last 100 metres needed stout legs and determination.

24th April

Chris Lipscombe’s celebratory 90th birthday walk started rather wetly but a group of 8 members met Beth and Maureen at St Helens Green car park. The proposed route had to be changed because of the possibility of mud and was re-routed via the Duver and drier paths. However they all arrived, smiling, at her house for a choice of nine cakes and a cup of tea. The “kitchen staff’” of Jill & John Nicholls, Janet & Tad Dubicki and Chris’s mainland friends were tireless in seeing that everyone had food and drink. Many thanks to them.

Chris Lipscombe's celebratory 90th birthday walk

Chris Lipscombe’s celebratory 90th birthday walk

The wet weather gave a chance to look at her lovely birthday cards and flowers and to admire the “Tree of Nine Decades” made by Tad Dubicki. The sun came out about midday, allowing people to wander round and explore the garden looking for the 90 plants on Chris’s list. No-one found them all, but Margaret Burnhill found 84 with several others not on the list. David Biggs found 17 Galls and Leaf Miners and Chris was glad to give homes to so many tiny creatures. 85 people signed the Visitors’ Book, having come in at different times of day, and it was good to see so many old friends there. Altogether it was a memorable birthday and Chris sends her thanks to all who made it so.

5th May

John Hague led the walk and sends this report. The day dawned damp and drizzly but didn’t stop 17 members meeting at Brighstone Car Park for a 2 mile walk to look at the Open Access land to the north of the village. The walkers started up a hollow way, Rowdown Lane, looking at the sandstone rock formations and the range of flora growing on them. The rain cleared and a bright but breezy morning

The CROW Act, 2000, created Open Access land, allowing walkers to wander wherever they wish providing that the area is respected.

On the open hillside members enjoyed a spectacle of Bluebells in full bloom with a backdrop of yellow Gorse. A variety of flora was identified including the tiny purple flowers of Ground Ivy and numerous other small plants clinging to the slopes.

Reaching the ridge, views extended to the coast and along the sandstone valley. Members were told about the Landscape Character of the Sandstone and Gravel Ridges leading up to the higher Chalk Downs.

The walk continued on public footpaths, through a new plantation, to reach the junction of Pumpfold, Hoarstone and Rowdown Lanes. Members heard about the meaning of the names of these historic routes which gave access to the downs for grazing in medieval times.

The return route followed Rowdown Lane back towards Brighstone, passing another section of Open Access land. The party remained on the bridleway, as this area was overgrown with Brambles, but it was hoped that, when a stile is erected to connect the two parcels of land through a wire fence, walkers will be able to investigate the small pond hidden in one corner.

Returning to Brighstone, John explained that his information had been accessed from the AONB Unit and the Historic Environment Action Plan papers.

14th May

Tad Dubicki sent this report of the walk which the Access Section put on the IOW, tenth anniversary, Walking Festival programme.

Almost perfect weather, with a slightly cooling easterly breeze, greeted the 25 people who mustered at Playstreet Recreation Ground car park. This short, circular walk included paths by way of Millennium Wood and Dame Anthony’s Copse, in addition to following footpaths and rights of way through part of the Binstead housing estate. The return was made by following part of the Quarr Abbey boundary trail, protected by its ancient hedging, before rejoining Play Lane.

In the Millennium Wood, walkers grouped to hear Colin Black give a comprehensive, historical account of this area, including the origin of the name ‘Ryde’, with some interesting facts about the wood, detailing the recent planting and pointing out some of the aged oaks of 300 years or more. Colin also gave an explanation of the positioning of the Ryde\Binstead parish boundaries and, later, told us about the ancient hedgerows that bordered our return footpath and were once part of the Quarr Abbey Estate.

Near the end of the walk, a short detour enabled most of the group to take a break for refreshments at the Brickfields Equestrian Centre, before returning to the start point.

11th June

Colin Black led the walk and sends this report of a fine, sunny morning, crystal clear visibility, a northerly breeze and perfect for walking. Starting from the car park on Afton Down the group crossed to the coastal path to Freshwater Bay.

Pyramidal Orchids and Horseshoe Vetch lined the path. The sea was flat calm in the bay but no one was swimming.

Mike Cotterill pointed out the many features of the geology in the chalk, clays and gravel deposited at the end of the Ice Age some 10,000 years ago.

Walking past the Thatched Church, with its new roof, to Green Lane we headed towards Farringford, past the golf course. Red Campion, Butcher’s Broom, Goose Grass, Hedge Woundwort and Greater Stitchwort were spotted with many other plants too numerous to name.

At the Tennyson Bridge Colin gave a short history of the Tennyson family and pointed out the Green Door entrance to Farringford.

Passing Farringford Farm the false grain silo was noted across a meadow. It is a phone mast. Golden Hill Fort could also be seen. After a short road walk we came to a cottage with an interesting wall where Mike spotted many fossils built into it.

The next path took us back to the north side of High Down and we walked back towards the bay. Colin pointed out the trees and scrub growing on the down land which was clear until 1954 when Myxomatosis arrived and the rabbits were wiped out. In ten years scrub and rough pasture took over and then trees.

The wonderful views of the Island’s south coast were admired and so back to the car park.

Chris Lipscombe

9th July

Lee Farm, Wellow. Walk to be led by Stephen Cowley. The weather was against us on this day. Early in the morning Stephen rang to say the farmland was under water owing to heavy rain the previous day and with more rain over night it made walking impossible. With regret he would have to cancel. Another date will be arranged in 2009.

18th July

Glow-worms. Annual count at St Helens Churchyard (day 1).

16 people gathered in the car park at 2200 hrs, to be greeted by Chris Lipscombe with her books about the worms, or should I say beetles. As this was the last walk to be led by Chris it was fitting to see a firework display as we set off. It was at Osborne House and we had a spectacular view. 27 worms were counted, two had males with them, their combined lights must have been the brightest and were found by Paul Scott.

19th July

Glow-worms. Annual count at St Helens Churchyard (day 2).

5 people assembled for another count and 35 Glow-worms were found. Although these counts over the years have not been officially reported, they do seem to be fairly accurate as the numbers are always about 25 to 35. (Glow-worm records have now been entered into the Society Biological Database – Ed.)

Thanks to all the people who had the interest to come. Many of them remembered as children seeing the glow in hedges and gardens. If you live in rural areas you may see them, but I suspect very few are now seen in suburbia.

22nd August

Brading Down – A fine morning greeted eleven members plus two guest walkers as they assembled at the viewpoint information board on Brading Down, overlooking Sandown. This vantage point gave us fine views towards Shanklin to the south and Arreton to the north-west. Numerous deep draft tankers waiting in the anchorage south of the Nab Tower were also noted.

We started our walk on the south side of the Down, adjacent to the Newport road. From there to the gate at the north-west corner of the enclosure and then crossing the road to the Nunwell side of the Down. We followed the Rights of Way track towards Nunwell Farm by way of part of the Nunwell Trail (footpath B30).

Many impressive and historic trees lined our route (southern boundary of the Nunwell Estate) and of particular note are “two in one” Beeches known as the ‘King and Queen’. Taking a small detour on the Nunwell Farm approach track, we paid special interest to the notorious mushroom shaped Oak, in the latter stages of its life and rotting away from the top.

The final stage of our trek took us along ‘Ladies Walk`, which enabled us to inspect some truly magnificent trees, in the main Beech, Lime and Oak. One Oak being 400 year old and reputed to be one of the oldest on the Island.

Leaving ‘Ladies Walk’ we took the path that led us back up towards the Down’s road, passing the chalk quarry and reservoir and thus returning to the car park.

14th September

Luccombe Walk – 13 people attended for this walk on a fine morning after a long spell of wet weather, although showers were expected.

Starting at the St Blasius car park, we crossed to a footpath that led to Popham Road. Colin Black gave a short history of the Popham family, who were Lords of the Manor of Shanklin from the early 1700s. St John the Baptist was their private chapel, although it was renamed in 1890 as St Blasius.

Walking up towards Luccombe we passed a new development, with many comments by the group on how it did not blend into the architecture of the area. A Victorian Hotel and the Cottage Hospital were pulled down to make way for the development.

Towards the village we passed a site owned by the National Trust called Haddons Pit, but we have no history of this site.

Turning into the village we had another view of Sandown Bay, with the rain clearing Selsey and the South Downs beyond was clearly visible.

Taking a permissive footpath at the top of the village, we had good views of Shanklin and St Boniface Downs. A Small Copper butterfly was seen on Fleabane, with the sun shining it`s colours were stunning. A lot of Speckled Wood, Gatekeepers and Large Whites were also seen. We turned onto Luccombe Farm road, walked past the farmhouse and we all stopped to admire the cottage garden and the beautifully kept holiday cottages. Past the farm and walking on, to a footpath over stiles and down to meet the coastal path by the old tea gardens.

The Footpath sign to Luccombe Chine was on our left and we stopped to reminisce on past exploits down the steps and walks along the beach.

Walking again towards Shanklin, we passed the table on the path selling home made jams, but no honey this year. The next stop was at the old café a favourite for ramblers and walkers on the coastal path, sadly it closed several years ago. The path now begins to climb to the point where we turned off past the wartime ARP hut.

It was now downhill, to the start point. On the way down we passed some trees, which are on the Histree Trail Groves and Gardens. We stopped to study the leaflet at the points indicated. We then crossed the main road to Ventnor, into the Big Mead recreation park and to the car park.

An excellent walk, our thanks to Jill and John Nicholls.

8th October

Twelve members met at the Godshill car park for a 2.7 mile walk, led by Tad Dubicki. We passed Godshill Park House by way of the Stenbury Trail and proceeded as far as the Freemantle Gate, then bearing to the southwest and following the Worsley Trail under Gat Cliff. We progressed northwest towards Sainham Farm, before returning through Sainham Woods and finishing by approaching Godshill from the rear of the Griffin Inn.

En route some observant members noticed two Walnut trees, which were bearing fruit. We managed to collect a few of the nuts and shelled them, however they were inedible. Just after passing Godshill Manor Farm a small group of grazing Alpacas became the focus of interest. Soon afterwards we approached the Freemantle Gate, the main entrance to the Appuldurcombe Estate from Godshill. The gate
was reputedly designed and built, in the ‘Ionic’ style by the English architect James Wyatt (1746-1813), famous for the design of Fonthill Abbey. Of particular note, was the hinge mechanism of the gates. Bearing right on to the Worsley Trail, we followed the stone wall, this being the boundary of the estate and once landscaped gardens, by Capability Brown.

Proceeding, we passed under Gat Cliff and returned to our start point by way of Sainham Farm and Sainham Wood.
17th November

7 people assembled at Newchurch Car Park on a misty dull day, however the walk was not dull in the least.

Walking down the south side of the JIGSAW woodland we noticed how much it had grown. Spindle and Rowan berries gave a bright display. Butchers Broom was noted on the hill up to Hill Farm. At the farm there were no pigs to grunt a welcome. A large tree had blocked our way on the walk out, this was now clear owing to ROW guys` efforts. There were no geese past the farm as we walked down to Youngwoods Copse.

The information board was studied, Serotine bats were explained as a large woodland bat which flew on the woodland edges, the Pipistrelle is smaller and can fly through woods. Further on Red Squirrel were seen. We stopped at the Barbara Aze seat for an apple stop. More squirrels around us, 4 in total. We then went through lower Alverstone Garden Village to a footpath very much like a hollow lane, on the east side, passed large clumps of Bamboo and up to the road. Crossing to the next path, Death Cap fungi were spotted. Down to Brett’s Meadow, which had been cleared of bracken, then further on again to Hill Farm. The geese were now out and stopped grazing to look at us.

Through the farmyard, where the hounds made every one aware of strangers in the yard. After passing the farmer, who was very friendly, on to the bridle way, where the trees were in autumn dress, and then down to Hill Heath. The woodland has been harvested and the more open wood will produce flora not seen for some time, and also more Bluebells.

Cross the muddy brook overflow and on to the JIGSAW’s northside. Common Funnel Fungi were all along the footpath back to the car park.

8th December

22 members assembled at the Broadway Centre for the Christmas get together. A walk was followed by coffee and mince pies. 17 decided to walk round Los Altos Park (The Heights).

The weather was crisp and cold with frost, but the sun was shining which gave everything an autumn glow.

Bill Shepard gave us an interesting explanation of the trees in the park and why it is different. Evergreen Oaks dominate the area and were probably planted as hedges for wind cover on the high ground, which was the Los Altos house gardens. Over time these were not cut and grew into large trees. Interesting others, were Pinus nigra, a native of southern Europe planted in groups. A much later planting of Wild Service trees was noticed. These were probably planted when the park was given to the people of Sandown. Hot mince pies and coffee were well received on our return. Two competitions were laid on so the walkers would not nod off after the exertions of the walk.

The leader thanked all members for their support and help over the past year, and the committee for their excellent catering arrangements.

We can now look forward to the Spring and the walks in 2009.

Colin Black