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.
The 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)
The 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.
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Way Out West, the West Wight Community Partnership, supports Community Action Isle of Wight, CycleWight, Isle of Wight Ramblers, Friends of Dimbola, Seahorses, Quay Arts, West Wight Arts Association, West Wight Sports and Community Centre, Wight Challenge, and the West Wight lifeboats in Yarmouth and Freshwater.