In IdeasWalks

Did you know that Isle of Wight was awarded biosphere status in 2019? The Island is officially a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and that makes it only the seventh UK destination to be awarded this very special award. And why did we get it? Read on…

The Isle of Wight is now known as one of the best areas in the world for managed landscapes where human impact doesn’t detract from the natural beauty or the wildlife. As soon as the ferry leaves to cross the Solent you are in the Reserve and on your way to celebrate the wealth of locally produced food and the huge range of activities that await including water sports, cycling and walking.  So where are the natural and iconic beauty spots on the Island?

The Needles at Alum Bay are surely the Isle of Wight’s most photographed view and are a row of three distinctive chalk stacks rising out of the choppy waters. There were originally four stacks with the fourth, now missing stack being needle shaped and named Lot’s Wife after the pillars of salt bible story and collapsed in 1764. The lighthouse which is at the base of the furthest rock began functioning in 1859 and was automated in 1994. Walk from Freshwater up Tennyson Down through grassland home to skylarks and small blue butterflies in summer, past the Tennyson monument and on to Alum Bay.

Compton Bay is home to dinosaur fossils and surfers and has won the Marine Conservation Award. Hugely popular year- round for kitesurfing, surfing and paddle boarding for the brave, this West Wight beach is  also home to the Glanville Fritillary and Adonis Blue butterfly which thrive on the chalk down land. The beach is also part of the Jurassic coast and so if you look carefully, you may just bag yourself a fossil or two.

If birdwatching and ancient woodland are more your thing then head to Newtown Creek, the Island’s only National Nature Reserve where amongst the peace and quiet you’ll find year- round birdwatching with both summer and winter bird visitors, waders and wildfowl. There is also a hay meadow which is filled with summer orchids and wildflowers, and red squirrels which make the most of the woodlands.

Experience the Isle of Wight’s microclimate at Ventnor Botanic Garden. At the base of the Undercliff, this unique garden with its hundreds of species of plants, trees and flowers is protected from northerly cold winds by chalk downs whilst holding the warmth from its southerly aspect. There are succulents, sun loving herbs and plants representing global geographical regions which thrive in the Garden’s microclimate. You can walk from here on to picturesque Steephill Cove.

For some seriously ancient history, visit St Catherine’s Oratory. Take the footpath 8 and then 7 to the point marked ‘tower’ on the ordnance survey map from Chale and reward yourself with stunning views across the sea. The only surviving medieval lighthouse in England, St Catherine’s Oratory stands on one of the highest parts of the Island. The 11 metre tall stone tower is all that remains of the original building, and was built by Walter de Godeton, Lord of Chale, as penance for stealing wine from a shipwreck in Chale Bay in 1313.

As part of its ‘Drive Less, See More’ campaign let us direct you to our Slow Travel Guide which encourages residents and visitors alike to take the train or bus to see the Island or to get on your bike. You could also pull those walking boots on and get out and walk some of the many miles of trails that criss cross the Island. However you decide to do it, get out and enjoy the Isle of Wight biosphere.

When you’re out and about on the Island, remember to tag us in your images, videos and stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and we’ll reshare our favourites.

Getting Here

Whatever you decide to do and however you’re travelling, it couldn’t be easier to get to the Isle of Wight via Lymington, Southampton, Southsea or Portsmouth. There are regular rail connections to the south coast via SWR.

Travelling as a foot passenger is simple due to our excellent transport links with trains, buses, foot passenger ferries and our hovercraft service.

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