Friday, 17 July 2015
Isle of Wight Day 6 (1st July) : A Walk near Niton, Hurst Castle and Brief Visit to Newtown NR
B and D got up early to do a 4/5 mile walk in the area round Niton. I didn't go this time (too far for me at that time in the morning!) but I've included some of the photos D took as they show the beautiful countryside close to Niton. Its a great place to stay if you like walking as footpaths criss cross the area and there is access to the Coastal Path.
You can see The Pepperpot (or St Catherine's Oratory) in the distance in this photo (my favourite building on the Island). Its the only medieval lighthouse surviving in England and was built in 1314 as a penance by Walter de Godeton (who owned land in the manor of Chale) for stealing wine from a ship wrecked at nearby Atherfield Ledge. He paid for a priest to tend to the light and pray for wrecked sailors.
Approaching Niton - you can see the thatched roof of our holiday cottage in the centre of the photo.
The weather was forecast to be very hot on the Wednesday so we had decided to go on a boat trip. We had been on a boat tour of the Needles in the past so this time we decided to take the ferry from Yarmouth to Hurst Castle.
Leaving Yarmouth harbour.
An unwelcome reminder that we would be leaving the Island in 2 days time.
Approaching Hurst Castle
D got much better views with the zoom on the Canon.
The Needles in the distance again taken with the Canon. Shame about the heat haze!
The first lighthouse at Hurst Castle was built in 1786 (a lighthouse was constructed at the Needles in the same year). The current lighthouse was built in 1867 and since 1968 the light has been powered by gas cylinders.
Hurst Castle was one of a chain of coastal fortresses built by Henry VIII. It was completed in 1544 to defend the western approaches to the Solent. Charles I was kept prisoner here in 1648 before the journey to London for his trial and execution.
During the Napoleonic Wars the Castle was modernised and it was renovated again in the 1870's when two large armoured wings (West and East Wings) were added which made it the largest coastal fort in the world. During the Second World War quick-firing gun batteries and searchlights were installed.
We saw a few Rock Pipits (new bird species for the year) in the vicinity and the area in the photo below was full of Marbled White butterflies.
My heavily cropped photo of the Marbled White and
and D's less cropped picture taken with the Canon.
I think this may be Centaury? growing in the grass.
Model of Hurst Castle as it would have looked around 1640
Time for tea and cake - I had Dorset Apple Cake which I first experienced last year in Dorset (it really is delicious and I must find a recipe).
Hurst Castle is located at the end of Hurst Spit - a feature also known as a barrier beach which has no sea walls or cliffs to stop it moving landwards. It is composed of shingle overlying sand which changes shape depending on the wave and tide conditions.
Formation of the Spit
Around 10,000 years ago a chalk ridge extended continuously from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. The area which is now Christchurch Bay was then part of the lower reaches of a river valley. Sea level was 20 metres lower than at present.
7000 - 8000 years ago as sea level rose to around 10 metres lower than now the chalk ridge was rapidly eroded allowing waters to flood in and resulting in the Isle of Wight being separated from the mainland. Water along a newly formed channel washed sand and gravel into the area and the Spit began to form. As sea-level rose further the Spit moved to its current position.
Should the Spit ever disappear the effects on the Western Solent would be dramatic and permanent. The nearby saltmarsh nature reserve would be devastated and Hurst Castle itself would become an island. Houses and land from Keyhaven to Lymington would be vulnerable to flooding as sea defences gave way. Milford Haven and the north-west Isle of Wight coastline would suffer severe erosion.
We only had two hours at the castle before we had to catch the ferry back. Two hours wasn't really long enough to explore as much as we would have liked. Although to be honest it was becoming that hot and humid that energy levels were dropping rapidly :(
After a brief look round Yarmouth we drove on to Newtown Nature Reserve which, after Compton Bay, is probably my favourite place on the Isle of Wight. Sadly, it was not a good day for me to visit as really hot weather always triggers an asthma attack so I wasn't feeling 100 per cent to be put it mildly!
In the 1960's there were plans to build a nuclear power station at the entrance to Newtown estuary :( but thanks to support from local people and yachtsmen enough money was raised to enable the harbour to be bought for the National Trust. There is a wonderful range of habitats here from standing salt to brackish water to shingle to tidal mudflats to saltmarsh to unimproved meadows to improved pasture to woodland and hedgerows with a range of footpaths.
We decided to do part of the Woodland and Meadow Walk which was so good for butterflies last time.
Butterflies seen included Marbled White, Gatekeepers and dozens of Meadow Brown and Skippers.
The photos aren't that good but I think this is Small Skipper.
It was just too hot to walk far which was a shame as we never made it into the woodlands where I saw White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary on the last visit. If I ever move to the Isle of Wight I would visit this reserve every week - there is a wonderful walk to the harbour where you can see many bird species.
Newtown Town Hall - the building that stands today dates back to 1699. It has a fascinating history including connections with Rotten Boroughs and a group called the Ferguson's Gang who used to anonymously buy up properties and give them to the National Trust. Members wore masks and adopted pseudonyms such as "Bill Stickers", "See me Run" and "Sister Agatha". Its well worth buying the NT Guide to "Discovering Newtown" which has chapters on the Geology, the history, the Old Town Hall, The Meadows, Wildlife, Estuary and habitats and a map of the NNR showing all the footpaths.
In the evening we walked about 100 yards from the Cottage to the White Lion Inn for a meal. By coincidence the present owner (or Manager) comes from an area near where B and I grew up!