THE ISLE OF WIGHT AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY

The Isle of Wight has two heritage coasts.

The Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was designated in 1963.  Covering approximately 191 square kilometres, the AONB covers half the land area of the Island. In 1974 two heritage coasts were defined in West Wight, Tennyson in the south and Hamstead in the north.  Together these special areas represent some of the best land and seascapes of lowland England.

The Hamstead Heritage Coast is a tranquil and secretive coastline with inlets, estuaries and creeks, a wooded hinterland and gently sloping cliffs. This beautiful area of the Isle of Wight is a haven for wildlife such as red squirrels and migrating birds. It includes the national nature reserve at Newtown.

In marked contrast, the Tennyson Heritage Coast is a breathtaking open aspect with long distance views to the Channel. There is a special quality to the light.

Shorwell, Isle of WightThe Isle of Wight’s distinctive character is defined by the sea. In West Wight the heritage coasts with their soaring cliffs, long beaches, creeks and harbours are matched in distinction by the inland landscape and stunning panoramic views. Chalk downs, sandstone hills and gravel ridges stand high above the rich tapestry of traditional enclosed pastures that spreads across the open countryside.

This diverse landscape supports a range of wildlife. The salt marshes, reed beds and mudflats of the creeks and estuaries support marine animals and wildfowl including kingfishers, teal and widgeon. The grass and vetch on the  chalk downlands support adonis blue and chalkhill blue butterflies. Many of theses areas are designated as sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs)

Isle of Wight, tourismThe landscape and seascape of West Wight offers a variety of things to do from sailing, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking and fishing to walking, cycling, painting or writing, or simply taking time to relax.

Almost half the Isle of Wight is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Unusually, the Island’s AONB is not one continuous area but is formed of five separate areas of the Island that cover the coastline, downland and wider countryside. This diversity defines the Island’s beauty and unique character.

The Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was the 14th of 40 landscapes to be protected. Protected Landscapes, which include AONBs, National Parks and the Norfolk Broads, are created under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. This keeps the most valued areas of green and pleasant British Landscape safe, for the enjoyment of current and future generations. There are 32 heritage coasts in England, two of them here on the Isle of Wight. For more information on protected landscapes visit www.naturalengland.org.uk or www.aonb.org.uk.

Mark Buckett
Isle of Wight AONB

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The West Wight Marketing Group works within the community fundraising for the West Wight lifeboats in Yarmouth and Freshwater. The group also supports the Eco Island Partnership and Wight Challenge.

6 Responses to “THE ISLE OF WIGHT AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY”

  1. Esme Ballard says:

    Wildlife in West Wight includes water voles and kestrels.

    The water vole is Britain’s fastest-declining wild animal. It is threatened by the loss of habitat and a prediator, the American mink. We have no mink here on the Island.

    The Isle of Wight’s water vole live along our rivers, streams and ditches, around ponds and lakes and in marshes, reedbeds and areas of wet moorland. Burrows in riverbanks, often have nibbled grass like a lawn round the entrance. The water vole is much bigger than other voles and has chestnut-brown fur, a rounded nose and small rounded ears. It also has a furry tail.

    In West Wight you can see kestrels in the open countryside of the Military Road between Freshwater Bay and Chale, particularly between the road and the cliff edge.

    The kestrel is the commonest bird of prey in Europe. However, in Britain it declined by 32 per cent between 1995 and 2010. It likes to hover and keep its head totally still, even in strong winds. This allows it to pinpoint and catch small mammals by sight alone. Hovering makes the kestrel one of the easiest birds of prey to spot.

    If there is lots of prey, kestrels sometimes kill more than they need and store what they don’t eat.

  2. Esme Ballard says:

    I’ve also been spotting little egrets.

    This small heron’s plumage is all white. It has black legs and bill, and yellow feet.

    Until the 1990s the little egret was a rare vagrant to Britain and it did not breed in the UK until 1996.

    The little egret is now at home on numerous south coast sites, both as a breeding bird and as a winter visitor. However, while around 4,500 birds winter in this country, only 750 pairs breed here and it is classified as a rare breeding species.

    A good place to see little egrets is the estuary of the western Yar at Yarmouth. Like the grey heron, the little egret likes its own company and is usually spotted alone as it forages in the mud at the water’s edge.

    For me, seeing this attractive bird is always a pleasure. I am very conscious that it was not a bird I knew in my childhood.

  3. Esme Ballard says:

    Red Squirrel Alert

    Red squirrel numbers are now at their lowest on the Isle of Wight for 20 years.

    Woodland monitoring by the Wight Squirrel Project has revealed that numbers have dropped to about 2,000 from a peak of 3,500. It is unprecedented to have no sightings locally in woodlands at Bouldnor or across the Island in Borthwood.

    The fall in population is blamed on “road kills;” disease passed on by cats, which also hunt squirrels; and predatory buzzards.

    Instantly recognisable by their red fur, ear tufts and long fluffy tails, red squirrels were once the only squirrel species in Europe. This changed when grey squirrels were introduced to the UK in the late 1800s from America where they are know as tree rats. Though reds are still plentiful across Europe and northern Asia, they’ve been out-competed by the highly competitive greys.

    Red squirrels spend most of their time in the treetops and maintain several drays within their range to aid escape from predators. Daily activity centres around obtaining food, mostly seeds and acorns that they can open in just a few seconds.

  4. Esme Ballard says:

    Grey long-eared bat

    The grey long-eared bat, a rare and endangered species, is doing well on the Isle of Wight. This bat is considered to be one of the United Kingdom’s rarest with only around 1,000 left. Its recorded distribution is primarily confined to the extreme south of the British Isles, from Sussex to Devon, including Somerset, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands.

    The grey long-eared bat is a medium-sized bat with ears almost as long as the body. It is similar in appearance to the closely-related but more common and widespread brown long-eared bat. The dorsal fur of adults is long and grey and the muzzle is usually dark grey and slightly longer than that of the brown long-eared bat.

    Grey long-eared bats prey almost exclusively on flying insects. They are rarely found in large forest areas preferring to forage in more open habitats including meadows, marshlands and the edge of woodlands. The species roosts in old buildings with large roof spaces. Winter roosts include caves, mines, and cellars.

    Its decline is most likely due to the dramatic reduction of lowland meadows and marshlands. Preserving these habitats is vital if the grey long-eared bat is to survive.

  5. Esme Ballard says:

    More on water voles
    UK water vole numbers plummet
    Water voles, immortalised as Ratty in Toad of Toad Hall, a play by AA Milne based on the 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, were once a common sight in the UK’s waterways. But since the 1970s their numbers are thought to have declined by more than 90 per cent. Alarmingly, water voles have decreased by about 20 per cent in the last two years.
    Conservationists say that habitat loss, predation by American mink, and changeable weather are to blame for the plummeting numbers. A contributing factor was last year’s drought as falling water levels exposed burrows, leaving the creatures vulnerable to predators (weasels, stoat, polecat, mink, fox, kestrel, buzzard, harrier, heron, barn owl and short-eared owl.) To escape predators water voles take cover in dense vegetation, dive into water or dart into underground burrows.
    Conservationists say more needs to be done to save this species from extinction.
    Water voles are the largest vole species in Britain. They are rat-sized, but with rounder faces, smaller ears and eyes, and a shorter tail. They live in tall reeds and tussocks of grass beside streams, ditches, lakes and ponds, as well as open moorland and high ground.
    The small mammals only live for about two years. Often a single female produces up to five litters of five or six babies each year.

  6. Nights under the Stars
    A holiday in West Wight gives you plenty of opportunities to study the heavens.
    Local astronomers are helping the Island move towards “dark sky” status. They encourage us to reduce the outdoor lighting that keeps so many stars hidden. This will restore the spectacular views that have inspired scientists and artists.
    Meanwhile, dark cloudless skies above the cliffs between Compton Farm, Freshwater, and Grange Chine, Brighstone, let you see the Milky Way. You will also spot planets, satellites and the space station as they pass overhead.
    Further east, Vectis Astronomical Society welcomes visitors to the observatory in Newchurch after 20:00 each Thursday.
    Check out http://www.darkwightskies.com and http://www.wightastronomy.org.

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