Out and About - Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
Hampshire is a county on the south coast of England. The county borders Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey and West Sussex. The county has an area of 1,455 square miles (3,769 square km) and at its widest points is approximately 55 miles (90 km) east?west and 40 miles (65 km) north?south.
Hampshire is a popular holiday area, with tourist attractions including its many seaside resorts, the maritime area in Portsmouth, and the motor museum at Beaulieu. The New Forest National Park lies within the borders, as does a large area of the South Downs, which is also scheduled to become a National Park. Hampshire has a long maritime history and two of England's largest ports lie on its coast.
Martin Down National Nature Reserve, which is on the Dorset/Hampshire border, is jointly owned and managed by Natural England and the Hampshire County Council. I found it easy to find as the A354 is crosses the reserve. The reserve is 14 km south west of Salisbury, 1 km west of Martin village.
By car, access to the site is via the A354 and minor roads leading from it. There is a car park on the A354 which is free; the only risky bit is going in and out because the A354 is a busy road. There is another one at the end of Sillens Lane, a minor road from the village of Martin, 1 km east of the reserve.
There are notable plants found in the area. I found the reserve rich in wild flowers and the colour and smell was awesome. Five bat species have been recorded in the area, and brown hare is found throughout the site. Birds found at Martin Down include turtledove, grey partridge, nightingale, skylark, yellowhammer and linnet. I found many butterflies and there are reports of varieties of skipper, blue and fritillary.
For those with an interest in history there is a massive linear prehistoric earthwork, the Bokerley Dyke can be seen on the down and the whole area is rich in archaeological features. Farmers from the Neolithic age some 5000 years ago cleared the site and there are Bronze Age enclosures and other features such as the remains of the Second World War firing range.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer map 130
Old Winchester Hill
Old Winchester Hill is a chalk hill surmounted by an Iron Age hill fort and a Bronze Age cemetery. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve managed by English Nature.
Despite its name the hill is around 11 miles (18 km) from Winchester. It lies to the east of Corhampton on the eastern side of the Meon Valley, opposite Beacon Hill. The South Downs Way and Monarch's Way long distance footpaths cross the summit of the hill, which reaches 197 metres (650 ft).
This is a great site for those interested in history as already said there is on the summit of the hill is an Iron Age hill fort. Within the hill fort can also be found Bronze Age barrows. The barrows date from between 4,500 and 3,500 BC whilst the fort itself is believed to be Celtic in origin. More modern archaeology dates from World War II when the British Army used the hill as a mortar testing range.
For the wildlife lovers this unimproved chalk downland is home to a number of butterfly species, including the Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Common Blue, Dark Green Fritillary, Essex Skipper, Marbled White, Silver-spotted Skipper and the Small Skipper. There is also a diverse bird population, including the Green Woodpecker, commonly seen feeding amongst the many anthills (which are also very important for in the lifecycle of the Lycaenidae butterflies) and the Turtle Dove. Many species of orchid can be found on the hill or in the immediate vicinity including the Fly, Bee and Frog Orchids.
The paths in places are sleep and you need to take care, the circular walk is supposed to take a couple of hours but it took me three and half simply because I stopped at nearly every flower and butterfly as well as walking around the fort. There is plenty to see so give yourself plenty of time. There is a free car park and the paths are well signposted.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer map 132
The New Forest
The New Forest is an area of southern England which includes the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in the heavily-populated south east of England, and has National Park status. It is the largest remaining area of lowland heath in England and covers south-west Hampshire and some of contiguous south-east Wiltshire.
The highest point in the New Forest is Piper's Wait, just west of Bramshaw. Its summit is at 125 m (410 ft) above mean sea level.
The New Forest Heritage Area covers about 580 square km (143321 acres), and the New Forest SSSI covers almost 300 square km (74131 acres), making it the largest contiguous area of un-sown vegetation in lowland Britain. It includes roughly:
- 146 km² (36077 acres) of broadleaf woodland
- 118 km² (29158 acres) of heathland and grassland
- 33 km² (8154 acres) of wet heathland
- 84 km² (20756 acres) of tree plantations ("inclosures") established since the 18th century, including 80 km² (19768 acres) planted by the Forestry Commission since the 1920s.
It is drained to the south by two rivers, the Lymington and Beaulieu.
As well as providing a visually remarkable and historic landscape, the ecological value of the New Forest is particularly great because of the relatively large areas of lowland habitats, lost elsewhere, which have survived. The area contains several kinds of important lowland habitat including valley bogs, wet heaths, dry heaths and deciduous woodland. The area contains a profusion of rare wildlife, including the New Forest Cicada, the only Cicada native to Great Britain. The wet heaths are important for rare plants, such as Marsh Gentian and Marsh Clubmoss . Several species of sundew may be found in the Forest, and the area is also the habitat of many unusual insect species, including the Southern Damselfly, and the Mole Cricket (both rare in Britain).
Three species of snake inhabit the Forest. The Adder is the most common being found on open heath and grassland. The Grass snake prefers the damper environment of the valley mires. The rare Smooth snake can be found on sandy hillsides with heather and gorse.
A program to reintroduce the Sand Lizard started in 1989 and the Great Crested Newt already breeds in many locations.
Numerous deer live in the Forest but are usually rather shy and tend to stay out of sight when people are around, but are surprisingly bold at night, even when a car drives past. Fallow Deer are the most common followed by Roe and Red Deer. There are also smaller populations of Sika and Muntjac. There also of course the semi-wild ponies which are possibly the New Forest's most famous animals.
The New Forest is a great place to visit, although there is plenty of busy roads that cross the forest there are also plenty of quiet and peace-full places to go. I would recommend you visit these web sites before you visit.
- The official tourism website of The New Forest
- New Forest National Park Online Magazine
- New Forest National Park Authority
I would also recommend you have suitable outdoor clothes when walking in this area.
- Recommended map:
- Ordnance Survey Explorer map OL22 or Outdoor Leisure 22
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a favorite place of mine after working here for a year as an agricultural student in the late 70s. Back then it seemed the Island was split in two with the East being mainly tourism and the west of the island being very much a rural setting with some stunning scenery around the Needles. On recent visits to the island it seems nothing much has changed.
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) off the coast of Hampshire, separated from mainland United Kingdom by a body of water called the Solent.
The Isle of Wight is roughly diamond-shaped with 57 miles of coastline. Slightly more than half of the island, mainly in the west, is designated as the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. West Wight is predominantly rural, with dramatic coastlines dominated by the chalk downland ridge, running across the whole island and ending in the Needles stacks—perhaps the most photographed place on the Isle of Wight. The highest point on the island is St Boniface Down, at 241 metres (791 ft).
The rest of the island's landscape also has great diversity, with perhaps the most notable habitats being the soft cliffs and sea ledges, which are scenic features and also very important for wildlife, and are internationally protected. The River Medina flows north into the Solent, whilst the other main river, the Eastern Yar flows roughly north-east, emerging at Bembridge Harbour at the eastern end of the island. There is another river in the west of the island called the Western Yar, flowing the short distance from Freshwater Bay to a relatively large estuary at Yarmouth. The Isle of Wight is one of the few places in England where the red squirrel is flourishing, with a stable population. Rare and protected species such as the dormouse and many rare bats can be found. The Glanville Fritillary butterfly's distribution in the United Kingdom is largely restricted to the edges of the crumbling cliffs of the Isle of Wight. The island has one of the most important areas in Europe for dinosaur fossils. The eroding cliffs often reveal previously hidden remains particularly along the region known as the Back of the Wight.
The island being out in the channel is a good place to watch migrants pass by out at sea so St Catherine's Point at the southern tip is the place to be, especially in spring for Skuas.
Here are some useful links:
© Simon Thurgood 2017
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