In IdeasWalks

Explore the Yar River trail

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to follow a river on its journey from source to sea? Here on the Isle of Wight you can do just that. We like to confuse our visitors and we have two rivers called ‘Yar’ – the Eastern Yar and the Western Yar, and both offer the opportunity to walk their entirety.

The Western Yar is a very short walk, consisting of reedbeds, marsh and estuary, it can be walked in less than 2 hours. However, the Eastern Yar is far more challenging. The Yar River Trail is 19 miles long. Spend a rewarding weekend walking the whole trail and getting to know the Island. Or you could walk one of the four shorter sections each themed on a different stage of the river. From a spring in Niton you will see the river grow from the smallest trickle and gather itself through a host of tributaries before spreading across its wide floodplain and joining the sea at Bembridge. Along the way the river will guide you through rolling landscapes, past ancient manors and into busy cosy pubs.

Explore the Yar River trail - Isle of Wight

The Eastern Yar is the Island’s longest river draining over a fifth of the land surface. The Eastern Yar Trail was established in 2002 and has recently had a revamp. There are 20 milestones carved in a variety of shapes from Portland stone that mark distances along the trail. There are also a series of spherical stone forms hidden in the landscape.

From times even before the Romans, the river has played an important part of the life of the East Wight, acting as an artery for grain and wool to be ferried up its waters to the old port of Brading, now two miles inland, its marshes only reclaimed from the sea in the late 1800s. The river was also a spiritual focus for pilgrims - the water from the springs along its course were regarded as holy and a cure for all manner of ailments. More darkly there are tales of strangers and sacrifices in its marshes.

Explore the Yar River trail - Isle of Wight

Along the trail you can see the remains of some of yesterday’s uses: a sheep wash in Whitwell, withy beds planted for basketry along the river and a ruined mill at Bridgecourt. People have always enjoyed messing about on the water. From Victorian times to the 1950s Alverstone was popular with weekend picnickers and the Yar was then wide enough for boating. In 1900 the winters were cold enough for the whole of the river’s floodplain to freeze over much to the delight of local skaters.

The river with its harbour, its many tributaries, pools and marshes supports a tremendous variety of wildlife along its length. Look for dazzling dragonflies, listen for the ‘plop’ of water voles diving in the water and explore the RSPB’s wonderful reserve at Brading Marshes. A full guide to the trail including maps can be downloaded here.

To celebrate the relaunch of the Yar River Trail, the Isle of Wight Ramblers will be leading four circular walks as part of the 2020 Isle of Wight Walking Festival. On consecutive days these will take in the whole of the trail, as well as surrounding meadows. A limited-edition t-shirt will be awarded to hardy walkers who complete the whole journey. Booking is essential.

Thank you to islandrivers.org.uk for this inspirational blog.

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