The Isle of Wight is England’s largest island. Known as ‘the island’, its southerly location, isolation and geology make it a haven for wildlife, much of which is at the northern limit of its European distribution. The northern part of the island is predominantly formed of impervious clays which give rise to wetlands and marshes such as the island’s only National Nature Reserve at Newtown Marshes, home to a variety of waders and wildfowl. The centre of the island is largely formed of high rolling chalk downlands, whilst the south coast is renowned for its soft sedimentary cliffs. Our visit in late spring is timed to give us the best chance of seeing some of the fascinating wildlife that the island has to offer. From our base in a comfortable hotel, we will enjoy the Isle of Wight’s range of habitats and special species, focusing particularly on the island’s rich flora and, provided we get some sunshine, its butterflies.
The Isle of Wight, known to the ancient Romans as Vectis, is England’s largest island. Although separated from the mainland county of Hampshire by a narrow sea channel known as the Solent, ‘the island’ as it is affectionately known, has an altogether different, gentle pace of life — perfect for a holiday break. Its southerly location, isolation and geology make it a haven for wildlife, much of which is at the northern limit of its European distribution. The northern part of the island is predominantly formed of impervious clays which give rise to wetlands and marshes such as the island’s only National Nature Reserve at Newtown Marshes, home to a variety of waders and wildfowl. The centre of the island is largely formed of high rolling chalk downlands, whilst the south coast is renowned for its soft sedimentary cliffs.
Our visit in late spring is timed to give us the best chance of seeing some of the fascinating wildlife that the island has to offer. The downlands are home to a good variety of butterflies, including the scarce and beautiful Adonis Blue, plus Small and Common Blues, Green Hairstreak and both Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, whilst we may also come across the diminutive Early Gentian, a near-endemic British flower.
On the cliffs and chines of the south coast we will look for the rare and delightful Glanville Fritillary, which occurs here at the northernmost limit of its range. We should also see the Wall Brown, a butterfly that is in dramatic decline on mainland Britain. For those interested in botany, the cliffs and downs offer much to admire, from diminutive clovers to showy Yellow-horned Poppies, Wild Cabbage and mauve Hoary Stock, the latter thought to occur here in one of its few native British sites. The very rare Field Cow-wheat, with its attractive magenta bracts, occurs here on one of Britain's smallest nature reserves. We will also visit the island’s extensive woodlands to look for the native Red Squirrel. The forest rides are also home to the rare native Narrow-leaved Lungwort and, in places, the parasitic Greater Broomrape.
Based in a comfortable and characterful, family-run hotel, we will enjoy these habitats and special species, focusing particularly on the island’s rich flora and — provided we get some sunshine — its butterflies.
• Look for the scarce Adonis Blue, plus Small & Common Blues on chalk downlands
• Enjoy the island’s rich flora including Early Gentian, a near-endemic British flower
• Glanville Fritillary occurs here at the northernmost limit of its range
• Look for Green Hairstreak & Wall Brown plus both Dingy & Grizzled Skippers
• Clovers, Yellow-horned Poppies, Wild Cabbage & Hoary Stock
• Visit to woodlands in search of the island’s native Red Squirrel
• Rare native Narrow-leaved Lungwort, & with luck the parasitic Greater Broomrape
• Led by expert naturalist guide
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
Mon 31st May - Thu 3rd Jun - 587 €
Mon 30th May - Thu 2nd Jun - 623 €
- Accommodation: Based in a comfortable and characterful hotel ovelooking Ventnor Bay, with en-suite rooms, private cliff-top garden and outdoor heated swimming pool.
- Food: Breakfast and dinner at the hotel (lunches not included)
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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James (known to many as Jim!) has been a keen birder from a very early age and with time has diversified his interests into many other fields of natural history. He has birded extensively in the UK and Europe but has recently expanded his interests with trips into South America, Asia and Africa. Having studied conservation and habitat management, Jim trained in nature reserves on the Hampshire coast as well as with the Forestry Commission in mid Wales. Has also worked in horticulture for many years, he has been able to put his diversity of skills and experience to good use in his home village of Old Basing in north Hampshire where he oversees protected species surveys (including Dormice) and the habitat management of a local nature reserve. Birding remains one of Jim’s great passions though he often looks for any opportunity to indulge this passion further, whether it is working as a surveyor for the BTO for several seasons or undertaking bird surveys for local ecologists and county recorders. At present Jim leads tours in the UK and Spain.
NB. Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather and other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Arrival and Newtown Marsh
Group members will meet up this morning at the Red Funnel ferry terminal in Southampton. Once we have checked-in and transferred our luggage to the minibus(es) we will board the ferry. The crossing to East Cowes should take around an hour. Once on the island we will make a lunch stop at a suitable pub or café before an afternoon visit to Newtown Marshes to look birds and other wildlife. We may see Redshank, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Common Shelduck and estuarine plant species.
We will then head to our comfortable hotel, the Eversley, overlooking Ventnor Bay in the extreme south of the island, in good time for dinner. Later in the evening your tour leader will outline the programme for the next couple of days.
The Needles, Compton Chine, Ventnor
This morning, after breakfast, we will head to the far west of the island to visit Alum Bay, where the soft cliffs are layered with colourful bands of sand and nearby we will gaze upon the row of chalk stacks known as The Needles which jut out into the ocean on the outermost of which stands the iconic red and white lighthouse. Given fair weather we should start to see chalk-loving butterflies such as Small Blue, Green Hairstreak and Glanville Fritillary. The latter is now confined in the UK to the crumbling chalk and sand cliffs along the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Being at the northern edge of its range it has very exacting requirements and needs warm bare ground created by winter land-slips and an abundance of the larval food-plant, Ribwort Plantain.
We will then head east along the south of the island to take in the spectacular views and to explore the cliff-edges and chines (steep-sided river valleys) which hold rich invertebrate and floral communities.
At Compton Chine, if the weather is favourable, we should see more Glanville Fritillary butterflies as they glide low over the sward seeking out mates or nectar from thistles and daisies. The cliffs should also provide us with sightings of the Wall Brown, Grizzled Skipper, Small Copper, Small Heath and both Small and Common Blues. Bee Orchid is also possible here.
Nearby, at Afton Down, we can see the kaleidoscopic colours of the cliff-top flora, with the yellows of Wild Cabbage and Yellow-horned Poppy, the pinks of Slender Thistle and Thrift, and the whites of Wild Carrot and Sweet Alison. Along the crumbling cliff-edges we will also find the woody Hoary Stock with its deep mauve blooms. Other interesting plant species to be seen could include Early Gentian, Bastard-toadflax, Hairy-fruited Cornsalad, Clustered Clover and Sea Mouse-ear.
Further along the coast we will visit the area around Ventnor. Old walls around the centre of the town are home to the non-native reptile, Wall Lizard and these can often be seen sunning themselves or scuttling about the vertical surfaces. Present since the early 20th century and most probably the result of a deliberate introduction, they have adapted well to the warm island climate.
After lunch, we will visit Bonchurch Down which supports a large population of the stunning Adonis Blue butterfly. If we are blessed with sunny weather we should see this species along with the diminutive Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, Green Hairstreak and Brown Argus.
Nearby, we can visit the tiny nature reserve at St. Lawrence which protects a small population of the Field Cow-wheat, a very rare relic of low-intensity arable farming which begins to flower in June. The spiky magenta bracts over-topping the small two-lipped yellow flowers make this a most attractive plant. Its rarity is due in part to its unpopularity with early farmers who knew it as the ‘poverty weed’ as it discoloured and affected the taste of the flour produced from their corn. As a result, it was ruthlessly pulled from their fields.
Parkhurst Forest & Carisbrooke
This morning we will head to the centre of the island to explore the extensive woodland.. First, we will visit Parkhurst Forest where we shall hope to see Red Squirrel. The future of this native animal in the UK is very much in the balance due to competition and disease transmitted by the introduced North American Grey Squirrel. Fortunately, the Isle of Wight is Grey Squirrel-free so the delightful Red Squirrel continues to survive here. The forest has a good population and has a trail and log-built viewing hide.
We may then visit the grounds of Carisbrooke Castle where the deep defensive ditch provides shelter for a number of butterfly species and the pretty Rosy Garlic and rare Meadow Clary grow.
Nearby, the small reserve at Arreton Cross gives us a chance to see the strange Purple Broomrape, a plant totally without chlorophyll, which is parasitic on the roots of Yarrow. Knotted and Clustered Clover are also found here.
Culver Cliffs, Brading Marshes & Firestone Copse
Today we will head east to visit the cliffs at Culver, near Sandown. These cliffs are lower and can be approached from the beach below. Many interesting maritime plants can be found here with the possibility of Nottingham Catchfly, Knotted Hedge-parsley, Subterranean Clover, Small-flowered Buttercup and Purple Broomrape.
We will then move to the RSPB reserve at Brading Marshes, a beautiful valley that spans the lower reaches of the River Yar before it disgorges into the sea at Bembridge Harbour. Here we may find Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Yellow Wagtail and Lapwing.
Finally, we will visit Firestone Copse where on the forest rides we should find the rare native plant, Narrow-leaved Lungwort, a member of the borage family with sharply-pointed, white-spotted leaves. The terminal clusters of flowers change colour from pink to purple as they age.
In the afternoon we will return to East Cowes to catch the return ferry to Southampton where the tour will conclude.