Home / Visit
The Wetland Walk guides you through a section of the River Yar and along a network of waterways which we have made more inviting to water voles and kingfishers. Gift to Nature has created a community orchard on the site which you are welcome to visit and scrump in the autumn – we have included Isle of Wight fruit varieties including the Alverstone Apple. There are picnic tables and benches where you can rest and enjoy the wildlife around you. Take a moment to visit the pond, restored in 2003 and now full of wildlife including the beautiful hairy dragonfly.
Conservation and Management
In 2003 we worked with Southern Water to restore a lost pond on the edge of the company’s extensive land at Sandown. This work was quickly followed by the creation of a community orchard where you can find the afore mentioned ‘Alverstone Apple’ “found nearby and propagated by Gift to Nature), picnic site and nature trail through wetland previously neglected and impassable. Gift to Nature at the same time assisted Southern Water in securing countryside stewardship agreements on all of its Sandown wetlands. Work has continued in partnership with the landowner and tenant farmer to create habitats for priority species such as kingfisher and water vole and to improve access and amenity for visitors. A trail guide was put together to cover all 30 ha of wetland and a route was created across the marshes to connect with existing public footpaths and with national cycleway 23 (”click here":http://gift.boxstuff.com/pages/help/51-maps-and-guides to purchase the map). The project has links with the adjacent Sandown and Shanklin golf club, the nearby Alverstone Mead local nature reserve managed by Wight Nature Fund and Sandown High School. The site is very well used and the orchard picnic site is particularly popular, especially when the fruit is ready!
Effectively managed wetlands can play a significant role in storing carbon in the soil, made from the carbon dioxide absorbed by the bog plants. Wetlands are naturally highly productive and can accumulate large below-ground stocks of organic carbon. We are managing the Sandown Wetlands to maximise the take-up of carbon while preventing the release of captured carbon which would happen if we allowed the area to degrade.
Where is the Sandown Wetland Walk?
Community Orchard PO36 9PR SZ588850
The Wetland Walk can be started at the Orchard next to Southern Water’s Supply Works.
To get there from Newport by car follow signs for Sandown and Lake until the traffic lights in Lake. Turn left and follow Lake road until it bends to the right. Turn left into the Fairway before you go under the railway bridge. Go past Sandown High School and Golf Club until you come into the Water Supply Works and park on the right.
From Sandown Station on foot, turn right out of the station and right again under the subway. Turn right along Perowne way and join the Wetland Walk where the Route 23 Cycle way meets Perowne Way.
By bus use the Stop at Perowne Way Shops and join the Wetland Walk where the Route 23 Cycle way meets Perowne Way.
What can you see?
The Wetland Walk takes you around the River Yar and a network of waterways which we have cleared and made more inviting to water voles. We also recreated a pond which is essential to the ecosystem, providing a home for hundreds of creatures that live in, on and around the pond such as kingfishers. We have enabled access to the site by installing boardwalks and bridges across the waterways. We have installed seating and art to make the area more interesting, along with information boards to tell you about the site.
The pond helps the local kingfisher population; as a fairly rare and easily disturbed bird the kingfisher is afforded the highest degree of legal protection – on the Island they are particularly scarce as stated in the IW Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). The kingfisher is small and plump with a very short tail, and has a long dagger-like bill. Its plumage is very bright, electric blue on the back and tail, greenish-blue on the crown and head. The cheeks and under parts are orangey-red, the throat and collar are white and the legs are red. They make a shrill ‘chee’ sound. Kingfishers hunt in shallow water, mostly catching fish and can manage fish up to 80mm long; they also occasionally take aquatic insects. The birds are vulnerable to polluted water, they accumulate chemicals consumed by fish from contaminated water. Industrial pollution and agricultural run-off can kill the fish which the birds rely on. Kingfishers make their nests in long tunnels near slow-flowing, clean water which is exactly what we have provided at the site.
The river banks have been constructed to encourage water voles. Their body is 12-20cm, and the tail adds a further 19-26cm making them the largest British vole; they weigh up to 300grams and can live for up to two years. Water voles eat grasses, sedges, rushes, and watercress in spring and summer, and roots, tree bark and fruit in autumn and winter. They like slow-flowing water and dig burrows in steep grassy banks which is why we reformed the river channel with ditches and scrapes to provide homes for the water voles. They are doing well here on the Island but almost extinct across large parts of the mainland due to the presence of American mink which have thankfully not made it to the Island but had a catastrophic effect on the water vole population throughout the rest of the UK. Water voles are regarded as of National Priority by the BAP.
Other animals you can spot here include herons, nesting swans, woodpeckers in the picnic area and bream, carp, eels, roach and rudd along with an amazing array of pond wildlife.
Between June and July the beautiful Marsh Orchid is in flower on the Wetland Walk; it grows up to 70cm and can hold up to 100 flowers on a single stem. Drainage has destroyed many colonies of this orchid, especially in South East England so conservation projects like this are essential to keep these specialist species.
Unusual geology of old river sand over deep peat means ponds in the area hold a wealth of dragonflies including the beautiful emperor dragonfly. The peat also preserves pollen records; bore holes have enabled us to track the vegetation of the wetlands back to the last ice age.
Local artist Paul Sivell carved a remarkable four metre long flurry of fishes and a striking arch way leading you into one of the ponds and the orchard. A giant carving of an apple and pear sits in the orchard with rustic benches artistically scorched with leaf designs. Throughout the walk other little pieces of art and poetry can be discovered.
Why is this important?
Wetlands are disappearing faster than rainforests and half the world’s wetlands have been lost over the last century. Wetlands are crucial to human well-being, they provide us with our water supply, food, fibre, water purification, climate and flood control, coastal protection and recreation. Many wetlands have been lost because they have been drained for building or agriculture, others have been damaged by pollution and now climate change is emerging as an enormous threat. It is essential that projects such as this which restore wetlands are supported and are repeated in order to conserve the species which rely on the delicate balance between water and land. Sandown Wetlands in particular contains kingfishers- an Amber List Species which means it is in an Unfavourable Conservation State, partly due to its declining brood sizes.
What is the management plan?
The pond and waterways need clearing occasionally. Some of the waterways have become infested with Himalayan Balsam which requires removal. The picnic area is mown to keep it easy to use.