Walking/Exploring the West Wight
Yarmouth is an excellent base from which to explore the West Wight. From the Western Yar estuary a cycleway follows the route of the former railway line to Freshwater, a village which has the air of a town. It has a variety of shops, a sports centre with indoor swimming pool and an 18 hole golf course in a spectacular location on Afton Down, overlooking the sea.
The West Wight is renowned for its wonderful scenery, most of it is designated as an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". A coast road and coastal footpath give access to vast stretches of Heritage Coast, with cliffs of amazing diversity, fringed by beautiful sandy bays and rocky inlets. Discover the russet fossil-rich clay cliffs of the south west, rugged white chalk cliffs of Freshwater Bay, the landmark Needles rocks and the amazing multi-coloured sandstones of Alum Bay. Eastwards the shoreline changes, the descending cliffs embrace the popular family beaches of Totland Bay and Colwell Bay, then give way to the broad estuary of the Western Yar, the wooded shores of Bouldnor and the estuary of Newtown, a National Nature Reserve.
The Needles are the most westerly point of the Island's central chalk ridge, traversed by the Tennyson Trail. This spectacular walk with stunning views was much loved by the poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, who declared the exhilarating air to be "worth sixpence a pint!"
It was Tennyson who unwittingly put the West Wight on the Tourist Trail, when he purchased Farringford House at Freshwater. The tranquil countryside has changed little since Tennyson's day. Enticing country lanes and footpaths invite you to explore the peaceful forests, river valleys and magnificent downs. There are many picturesque villages whose historic pubs offer the traveller a wonderful excuse to relax with a glass of local ale and some appetising food.
Visitors to the West Wight can choose from a range of quality graded hotels, B&Bs, camp sites and a host of delightful self-catering cottages set in the most idyllic locations. www.islandbreaks.co.uk
Full details of opening hours and admission prices are available in the free Pocket Guides available at various locations islandwide. You can also request one by phoning 0800 085 6438.
The Western Yar Estuary is a great place for wildlife. Its tidal waters, saltmarsh and mudflats are home to a wide range of plants and animals that are specially adapted to living there.
This can be a challenging environment with changing conditions like the moving mud, salty water, fresh water, wind, waves and weather!
The most visible wildlife around the estuary is waterfowl and the wading birds. Regular visitors include redshank, little egrets and curlews, whose distinctive cry can be heard throughout the year. The estuary also attracts migrating birds that use the area to feed and rest after their long journeys. During the winter, visitors such as brent geese, wigeon, teal and terns can all be seen around the estuary.
Less easily spotted are the creatures that live within the mud and under the water – why not have a go on the tricky puzzle in the Harbour Office Reception and see what you can discover....
A stroll around the Western Yar is a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery; a copy of the Circular Walk leaflet will help you on your way. Pick one up at the Harbour Office or the bus stop booth.
Follow the footpath from the harbour, past the old mill to the cycleway. Turn right and continue alongside the tranquil waters of the estuary before crossing the causeway and walking up the road to the historic All Saints church. Turn right along the footpath beside the churchyard and follow the signs along public footpaths through the fields to Yarmouth. The walk takes approximately 2 hours.
Bouldnor Forest and Mill Copse are also ideal for a pleasant stroll through beautiful woodland. Please keep to the footpaths and, to protect the wildlife, please keep your dog under strict control.