My Wild Life: Pete Johnstone

Gig boat at Yarmouth Harbour © Pete Johnstone

Pete, one of our Marine Champions, shares how his personal Solent adventure has brought him closer to our seas.
Pete Johnstone © Jamie Johnstone

Pete Johnstone © Jamie Johnstone

When I first moved to the Isle of Wight some four years ago now, I was aware of a few places around the coast where you could go walking and for bird watching. Since we’ve been here my wife Fiona and I have explored many more locations, some of which are only accessible at low tide. However, what I didn’t have much knowledge of was the sea – the Solent in particular. This sounds a little odd as it is very obvious, but to me it was just a mass of water with very little to actually see.

My growing awareness of the sea has been gradual but of increasing intensity – going sailing on the Solent in an open deck Dabber heightens awareness of the state of the tide and weather conditions, and puts them into sharper focus. Beach walking around the coast has brought me into contact with sand dunes, rocky shores, eroding cliffs, muddy creeks and estuaries – all different and exciting in their own way.

On my walking trips I have become aware of the coast and sea in more detail. I still focus on the birds, but I now notice the fishing boats, ferries and cargo ships, and on a micro scale the different types of plastic to be found on shore. In Freshwater where we live we have a fantastic local fish shop called JB Fisheries, which sells fresh local fish when available. It has even held a demonstration evening on how to prepare and cook fish, and what wines go best with the different recipes! These demonstrations were great, as I believe many people have got out of the habit of cooking fish other than the usual cod and salmon.

Lapwing and little egret in the Western Yar estuary © Pete Johnstone

Lapwing and little egret in the Western Yar estuary © Pete Johnstone

When the Secrets of the Solent project came along, I jumped at the chance to take part as a Marine Champion and have been on some excellent sessions about what to see and look out for. I have learnt about seagrass, and now go out at low tide to find the seagrass habitats around Yarmouth.

My Solent adventure has made me much more aware of the Solent and what goes on both above the water and below it. I have learnt about the submerged prehistoric settlement of Bouldnor – apparently one of the most important finds in Europe. I have spoken to commercial fishermen and learnt about the dredging at Portsmouth and Southampton, and how the silt is damaging the fishery to the extent that some of the fishermen are giving up their business.

I have met a local woodcarver and been amazed to watch him carve an array of Solent wildlife onto a fallen tree on the beach. I have learnt about anti fouling of boats and have searched for the most sustainable way to do it. I have watched young people have fun canoeing up the River Yar and have listened to the angry bird watchers next to me grumble about recreation and bird disturbance. My Solent adventure has only just begun, and I know I have a lot more to learn!

Lobster pots at Yarmouth Harbour © Pete Johnstone

Lobster pots at Yarmouth Harbour © Pete Johnstone

Pete's pledges

Huge thanks to Pete for sharing his Solent adventure with us. You can see more of his brilliant Isle of Wight photography on his photo blog Outdoor Elements. As part of caring for our seas, Pete also took several Wilder Solent pledges:

  • Serve seafood at home/work
  • Tackle plastics at home/work
  • Pick up litter on the shore
  • Reduce disturbance on the shore
  • Watch for wildlife on the shore
  • Be a spotless sailor on the water

These pledges all involve small changes to your daily life that help support the marine environment. Why not learn about how to do the same?

Take a pledge for our seas

Become a Marine Champion