Isle of Wight Countryside
The variety of geology, topography and habitats on the Island make it an ideal area for the study of nature and the environment. Most of the chalk downland has remained unimproved agriculturally and there is still good woodland cover over parts of the Island. Wildlife habitats available for study include woodland, downland, coast and sea shore. A description of these habitats follows and it should be noted that the landowners of sites must be contacted before organised visits to them.
A wide variety of woodland is available to visit from coniferous forest to ancient broadleafed woodland. Island woodlands are nationally important for the Red Squirrel and dormouse populations. More obvious wildlife to be seen includes the many spring flowers such as Wood Anemone, Bluebell, Primrose and butterflies such as White Admiral and Brimstone.
Many of the woodlands are worked for timber crops and the open clearings created have a profusion of flowers and insects. Studies of woodland succession and management are particularly worthwhile. Warden led educational visits are available from the Forestry Commission at Parkhurst Forest and the National Trust at Newtown.
Many of the Island's chalk downs escaped war time ploughing and subsequent fertilising and have retained a wealth of flowers and insects. Two accessible sites that provide ample interest for study include Tennyson and Brook Downs. Students can be introduced to downland habitats rich in specialist flowers such as Horseshoe Vetch and Rock Rose providing food plants for butterfly species such as Chalkhill Blue and Brown Argus.
The gorse and thorn scrub habitats are used by nesting birds such as Stonechat, Dartford Warbler and Whitethroat that feed on the abundant downland insects. These habitats provide a good opportunity for the study of food webs.
Coast and Sea Shore
The sixty mile coastline of the Isle of Wight gives rise to many different types of shore providing opportunity for rewarding and diverse study. On the north coast the tidal creeks of Newtown and Yarmouth provide good vantage points for bird watching and the study of the coastal environment. A rocky shore is a rewarding habitat to explore, Forelands Beach at Bembridge and Freshwater Bay would be a good choice for school parties to visit, both sites being rich in crustaceans, anemones and molluscs. Warden led educational visits are available at Newtown National Nature Reserve and Fort Victoria Country Park. Studies can be led from Key Stage 1, 2, 3 and up to A level but visits can be tailor-made to your needs.
The National Trust
Longstone Farm House
Strawberry Lane, Mottistone
Isle of Wight
For Newtown: Tel: 01983 531622 or 741020
Forestry Commission/Forest Enterprise
Parkhurst Forest Office
Isle of Wight
Tel: 01983 522583
Fort Victoria Country Park
Isle of Wight
Tel: 01983 823893