"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

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!


Countryside Tales said...

Super post. What gorgeous views across the fields. Hurst castle is one of our regular jaunts. Sorry to hear the humidity set off your asthma- hope you were OK. Fascinating about the history of the landscape around Hurst- I didn't know any of that x

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks very much CT :) I remembered some of your posts on the area (Keyhaven marshes from memory?). If you go back to the Castle there is an exhibition that gives a lot of information on the geology and wildife of the area plus geographical features (I was in my element :) ).

For some reason I always have problems with asthma on holiday - especially when its very hot. Stress is the other trigger - I think its trying to keep everyone happy all the time!!! Not easy when its four adults all liking to do different things!

Millymollymandy said...

You certainly pack a lot into your holidays! The castle is really interesting, but a shame about the heat when you were at the nature reserve. It's not fair is it, we want nice sunny weather but not that hot! I think it's a Small Skipper too. Great post. :-)

Deb said...

So sorry to hear you had an asthma attack, I suffered from asthma for a while when we first moved over here so I know how horrible they are. Lovely photos of the castle and countryside. The Dorset cake looks very tempting. :-)

amanda peters said...

Just catching up..
Another lovely set of photos and interesting post from your holls, like the Pepperpot building.The Marbled Whites are such a lovely Butterfly.
It's a shame but the drama of sorting the holiday and like you say keeping everyone happy is not much fun, I get really bad home sickness when I'm away!
So now the boys are doing their own thing we have just gone away for the weekend, I can just about manage that...
Amanda xx

amanda peters said...

It has been a lovely set of posts, showing me round the Isle of Wight.
I do like the paintings by John Reilly, and looking at the stained glass windows.
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks so much - also for confirmation re: Small Skipper :) OH would much prefer more time spent relaxing when on holiday! - D and E just want to make the best of the time though and go out! I love the sun but anything over 20 degrees I start to wilt and over 25 I melt!!!

Deb - Thanks very much. The asthma attacks are a real pain and yet I rarely get that home which worries me a lot about what might happen if we did move :(

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda. Love the Marbled Whites too but it wasn't easy trying to get photos of them - I think the heat was making them exceedingly active!!

So sorry to hear about how you feel when away - must admit its always good to get home to all my things and the asthma seems to disappear as soon as I walk in the door. Its great that D and E still want to come with us but the tension over keeping everyone happy can be a bit much at times. It was so easy when they were little as they were happy to go anywhere although we did spend a lot more time on the beach flying kites and building sandcastles!!

So glad you enjoyed the stained glass windows :)

David Turner said...

What lovely countryside, so typically English what with the woods, rolling fields, and of course your delightful thatched holiday cottage! The lighthouse is an interesting building and despite a personal interest in lighthouses I have never come across the Pepperpot before.

The tour of the castle was very enjoyable and the Dorset Apple cake looked rather yummy :-)

Best wishes and kindest regards to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David Turner - Thanks so much David - IofW countryside is a total delight :) The Pepperpot is a wonderful building - you can walk up to it though its a steep walk but its well worth the effort. There is something rather mystical and magical about it :)

The house where we used to stay in Chale had great views of the Oratory and St Catherine's Down from windows on one side of the house. Sadly, its no longer a holiday cottage. In fact when we drove past this year it was being totally renovated!

Still trying to find a recipe for Dorset Apple Cake :)