This is the site of the former Merstone Station which was once incredibly busy (by Island standards!). Now the machines passing through have two wheels and are human powered, as the old railway line has been converted to a cycle track. The site is now a wildflower meadow, picnic area and orchard.
What to look and listen for …
The station platform is still in place, but has been colonised by wildlife! It is now managed as a wildflower meadow, full of colour in spring and summer, attracting lots of bees and butterflies.
In early spring look out for primroses, Slightly later you will find cowslips on the old platform. This was once a common plant in traditional hay meadows, but declined due to loss of habitat and spraying with herbicides. They were used to adorn May Day garlands and was also strewn on church paths for weddings. The name is said to derive from cow pat! The Pyramidal Orchid is a summer plant and is the Isle of Wight’s County Flower – chosen because it abounds in our chalk landscape. It needs a special fungus to be present to help it grow. There’s no doubt how it got its name, the pinky-purple flower spike is a pyramid shape.
At the North end of the site the track becomes wooded and you might manage to spot Red Squirrels if you take a walk or cycle this way.
Listen to the wind rushing through the tall conifers – they were planted to shield waiting passengers from the worst of the weather. You can hear lots of birds – robin, blue tit, sparrow, jay, dunnock, starling, wren, goldfinch, greenfinch and magpies are all commonly heard, You may hear birds like partridges on the surrounding farmland, and if you hear ducks, they are probably in the drainage ditch.
… and smell and touch
Smell the blossom on the fruit trees.
Touch the warm brickwork of the railway platform, we often find lizards basking on it. Our Community Orchard hosts a variety of fruits and if you are here at the right time, please feel free to eat them. There are picnic tables and a barbeque available next to the platform. Feel the engraved picnic benches, the messages on the cycle rack pillar and the platform sign.
Please look at Merstone Railway Heritage page to find out more about the site’s past.
Nature at home and activities on site
We have produced a super Colouring Sheet for you to download and complete at home. We have also produced an I Spy Sheet and Map for you to print at home, or download to your phone and take to the site. And become a Bug Bunch Ranger. All these activities and resources can be found here.
National Cycle Network route 23 is an excellent link to the site from Cowes, Newport and Sandown but it can be very busy. The site is at the heart of a fabulous network of bridleways and tracks and working with local artist and keen cyclist Alan Rowe we have put together a series of walking and cycling routes. Please look at Merstone Walking and Cycling page to find out more.
Managing the site
The site is in a Countryside Stewardship agreement and is managed for wildflowers, with rotational cutting and removal of arisings to ensure the flowers don’t get overrun by grasses and scrub. A range of fruit trees were planted a few years ago providing food for humans and animals alike. The blossom also provides a great source of early nectar.
In 2019 we were able to giver Merstone Station a marvellous makeover thanks to grant funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and Isle of Wight Council. This enabled us to improve the site and encourage more people to use the space, as well as understand its heritage. Big thanks go out to Pedal Aid who also kindly supported us with funds for this project.
How to get there
On foot and by bike – The Red Squirrel Trail (NCN 23) passes through the site and provides the main access points. There are lockable cycle racks.
By bus – Newlands Stop (Route 2) is right outside. (Bus Timetables)
By Car – There is a gravel car park on site, parking is free of charge. Approx site postcode for satnav PO30 3DQ
The site is level and has a well surfaced cycle track running through it. The platform can be accessed by a gentle grassy slope. Most of the site is suitable for mobility scooters and buggies however we only cut narrow paths within the community orchard to encourage wildlife.
The old platform has a shelter. There is also an Information Pillar at its east end. The site Information Pillar has a QR code that links to an audible description creating a mind’s eye view of the area to allow a visually impaired person to enter with confidence. The information pillar also has a QR code that links to a map and activities. There is also a site map on the Information Pillar.
There are onsite picnic tables. There are no toilets anywhere near this site. The nearest toilets are in the village of Arreton.
We have written an Access Statement for this site. This includes mobility and sensory issues and opportunities. We welcome feedback from users.
We have produced an audible description creating a mind’s eye view of the area to allow a visually impaired person to enter with confidence. It will describe the entrance, the size of the area, where to find further information or help and any major obstacles or features. Information has been produced by visually impaired people ensuring it is useful and accurate. Access the description by scanning the QR code to the left of this text on your phone or tablet, or by clicking here.
There are various ways you can help improve and maintain our sites. We rely on volunteers to help with many tasks on our sites and also need people who are happy to regular visit the site be our “eyes and ears”, this means we can respond much quicker to issues. Our shop raises money to support our work and needs a team of volunteers. Or maybe you would like to help us with events. Find out more here.
You can also help by becoming one of our regular supporters. Even giving a few pounds each month can make a real difference, with your donation being invested into site management and improvement work to benefit site visitors and look after our precious wildlife. Sign up here.