A walk along the Yar estuary
I can join the Freshwater to Yarmouth walk just down my road. It is currently my favourite walk as it seems to capture the best landscapes of lowland England. I head out one glorious September morning.
The prominent landscape feature of the walk Is the Western Yar estuary and I cross the river at the Freshwater causeway with a warning sign alerting driver to be aware of the possibility that swans might be in the road. Are Swans that small that they could be overlooked?
Then the walk is along the old railway line that once served Yarmouth town. The railway line which closed in 1953, is long since dismantled but you can still spot the old metal fence posts that once ran along side the line. The woodland growing up here is quite diverse and on previous walks I have once spotted a dormouse and on numerous occasions red squirrels. Today, I spot a Buzzard lurking in the wood and it flies from one tree to another before flying off across the river.
Past Backets copse the view of the estuary opens up and takes centre stage. Today, I see curlew, lapwing and an egret but later in the year, the estuary is full of wading birds and I have seen Avocet, Spoonbill and my favourite goose, the Dark Bellied Brent Geese where at times, they can be seen in their hundreds. And a perfect sight it is too.
The Yar Estuary is internationally recognised for its special wildlife and the designations include a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a RAMSAR and a Special Protection Area. Each one of these designations is from a different body and should give the area, particularly the wildlife and waterscape protection against any potential damaging development. The fourth designation afforded to the river and surrounding hinterland including Yarmouth town is the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is a national government AONB boundary review currently taking place and I sincerely hope that more of the Island will be given AONB status as the current boundary makes little sense to me.
As I head towards Yarmouth I take a diversion to Mill Copse. This lovely woodland manged by the Wight Nature Fund has a rich variety of trees to be found in it. My favourites must be the coppiced Field Maple to be found on the far side along the footpath. Goodness knows when they were last coppiced, but they do look magnificently ancient.
Back on the old railway line, past the old water mill into Yarmouth. Plenty to see and do in Yarmouth, best pub is arguably the Kings Head but I go and look at the newly restored pier – built in 1876 it is said to the oldest wooden pier in the country and has just been beautifully restored, thanks to the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £778,000. I want to see the lobster boats, but all I see is their gear squeezed between some posh yachts.
I cross the Yar over the bridge, bypassing Norton Spit with its sand dunes habitat – the only sand dune habitat that I know of on the Island. Up through Saltern Wood with its No Trespassing signs, I see evidence of badgers and onto the highest point of the walk and views of the chalk downland hills and of Tennyson Monument. But I will leave that walk for another day.
Photos and text Pete Johnstone