Welcome to Yarmouth Harbour’s Estuary Explorers Project…
Discover more about the harbour and the Western Yar estuary with our exciting new Estuary Explorer’s Project. The project aims to help everyone discover a bit more about this lovely area. It includes creative learning activities, guided walks and talks, the sensory trail and opportunities to see the estuary and harbour from a different perspective. We are still developing our project so please keep visiting to check out the latest information and web based guides.
Yarmouth Harbour Sensory Trail
A wander around the Green will help you discover some of the special features of the estuary and have a closer look with the magnifying posts. The wonderful trail features were created by Eccleston George and highlight different aspects of the harbour and estuary.
Pick up a Sensory Trail Map from the Harbour office or download one below. Guided interactive walks can be arranged for community groups and schools.
What will you discover?....
Saltmarsh is an important and beautiful feature of the Western Yar estuary. It is made up of different plants that can survive in the constantly changing conditions. These amazing plants can cope with saltwater and freshwater, with pounding from wind and waves, shifting mud and with changes in weather from heavy rain to hot sunshine. The saltmarsh provides a place for the estuary’s birds to feed, nest and rest when the tide is in and can help us too by providing a buffer from coastal flooding and erosion. The saltmarsh and the wildlife of the estuary are very important and are protected under national and international law. The more we understand about the estuary the more we can look after it and make sure its wildlife is there for everyone in the future.
Estuary mud is full of life and supports the entire ecosystem. It is packed full of tiny creatures such as marine worms, tiny snails (hydrobia) and shellfish. This is not very easy to see though as lots of the creatures emerge when the mud is covered with water. Some graze the surface and others live within it, catching morsels of food on their feathery gills and hiding deep in the mud when disturbed. They help to keep the estuary healthy and are food themselves for the larger creatures, fish and birds that live here or visit. The Western Yar is one of a network of estuaries across the south coast that provide an important resting and feeding area for migrating birds that travel huge distances across the world.
The first breakwater was built in 1847 and created a sheltered harbour which helps to protect the estuary and parts of the town from coastal flooding and erosion. The current breakwater is made from old railway line and sleepers which need to be replaced every few years. In the future the breakwater will need to be improved or replaced to cope with increased storminess and higher sea level. Yarmouth Pier and the groynes along the coast also help to break up the waves from the Solent.
Coastal defence needs long term planning because it can be very expensive and time consuming to develop. Building large structures can have an impact further along the coast, causing problems elsewhere. This together with options for alternative ways of adapting to coastal change must be considered. Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners are thinking about the future now so that they are ready to protect the harbour and town in the future.
Sea level is gradually rising in this area and the change is predicted to increase in the future, perhaps as much as a metre in 100 years. This might not seem like much but it could make a big difference our activities at the coast as well as to roads, services and settlements. Because the change is so small each year and is not always a constant change it is sometimes difficult to measure. Scientists around the world are monitoring change in the oceans and climate. Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners consider sea level rise and the impact on coastal flooding to be the main challenge for the harbour in the future.
The Western Yar estuary is an important part of the Isle of Wight’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The landscape has been shaped by people and their activities over hundreds of years and continues to be used and valued by all who visit.
The development of the harbour and changes to the estuary are connected. As Yarmouth Mill and the breakwater were built and the harbour developed it caused changes around the mouth of estuary that caused the water flow to slow down and the mud to build up. This provided a place for the saltmarsh plants to grow and the beautiful landscape we see today developed.
The estuary is a very dynamic ecosystem and the more we understand it the better we can manage our activities to make sure they are sustainable in the face of natural changes such as climate changes and sea level rise.
Yarmouth is an ancient harbour that has changed a lot over the years. Yarmouth has been a settlement since 991 and the harbour was once important for the export of grain, livestock and coloured sand from Alum Bay and the import of coal for the local gasworks. Yarmouth Harbour now supports a variety of commercial, fishing and leisure craft and is a gateway to the Isle of Wight being the only ferry port in the West Wight. Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners manage the harbour and its jurisdiction extends over the Western Yar estuary and out into the Solent. It also looks after the area around the Green and Norton Spit. The harbour is accessible at all states of the tide and attracts over 100,000 visitors a year.
Our boulder bench was set up so that you can sit together and enjoy your surroundings. It is a great place to stop and listen to the different activities around you. Each of the ‘boulders’ represents a different feature of the sensory trail and the planks of seating are made of Kebony, a soft wood treated with a by-product from the sugar industry. Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners are trialling Kebony as an alternative to the tropical hard wood normally needed for pontoons.
Also look out for the willow boat seat and the commemorative Queen’s Diamond Jubilee feature.
The Sensory Trail is part of the Estuary Explorer project set up by Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners, supported through the West Wight Landscape Partnership by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project encourages everyone to discover more about the Western Yar estuary, Yarmouth Harbour and the landscape of the West Wight.
But most of all....
Explore, Discover and Have Fun!