East Wight

Knighton Down

With its pristine chalk downlands, ancient woodlands and meandering rivers, the eastern side of the Isle of Wight offers beauty and diversity in equal proportions.

The Eastern Yar river dominates the lowland landscape as it meanders at the foot of the chalk downs. To the north, the rich ancient woodlands of the Briddlesford estate are surrounded by numerous small fields, heaths and copses which link to the coast and intertidal creeks, whereas the south is more open with arable farming predominating.

The eastern Isle of Wight shares the downland and woodland habitats found to the west of the Island but it also holds the major conurbations. The eastern Yar river dominates the lowland landscape as it meanders at the foot of the chalk downs.

Where is it?

Isle of Wight Living Landscape mapFrom Shide in the west to Culver Cliff in the east, the eastern Isle of Wight holds the island’s major conurbations, but shares the downland and woodland found to the west. Its coastline is much more heavily urbanised, which means greater pressures for development and recreation.

Nature Reserves

Arreton Down nature reserve Arreton Down - the largest area of unimproved chalk downland on the central chalk ridge of the Isle of Wight. Part of the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for the chalky grassland habitat. The steep south-facing slope contains an abundance of plants including bastard toadflax, which in turn support many butterflies like the adonis and chalkhill blues.

Eaglehead and Bloodstone Copses - one of the finest examples of chalk woodland on the Isle of Wight. In spring the woodland floor is carpeted in bluebells. The small area of unimproved chalk grassland adjacent to the woodland supports a variety of flowers and butterflies and is maintained by sheep grazing and scrub control. Cetti's Warbler by Sue WhiteThe site is a SSSI for its woodland and grassland. It is also part of the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Knighton Down - rising steeply above the most haunted part of the Isle of Wight this unimproved chalk grassland has remained undeveloped over the centuries. Too steep to plough, the site has remained a haven for wildlife while similar areas were destroyed after the Second World War. This reserve is part of the Isle of Wight AONB.

Sandown Meadows - a wetland site with grassland, ditches and pools that provide shelter and food for a thriving population of water voles as well as many different birds all year round. Kingfishers are regular visitors to the reserve and in the summer, Cetti's and reed warblers can be heard. At dusk barn owls have been known to hunt over the area.

Heath Spotted Orchid by Ken Dolbear

St Lawrence Field - the only arable nature reserve in the Wildlife Trust's estate, this reserve is home to field cow wheat, a rare arable weed which is only found in four UK sites. The rest of the site is an arable field that is sown to provide winter stubble for farmland birds such as yellowhammers, kestrels, partridges, ravens and peregrines.

St Lawrence Undercliff Woods - the cliff face has sparse woodland, intermingled with plants that can cope with the dry and exposed conditions. This site is in an area of rotational land slip (the largest in Europe). The bare South facing, Greensand cliffs collect heat and warm the woodland creating its own microclimate. The site can be overlooked from the cliff top coastal path, here peregrines and ravens can often be seen. Part of the site is an SSSI for its vegetated maritime cliffs.

Swanpond Copse - this is a small ancient woodland managed under a coppice regime. This has improved the quality and quantity of hazel nuts which in turn support a good population of red squirrels and dormice but also helps the flowering plants to flourish. Access is via a permissive route across our neighbours land.