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Landscape Walks: Yarmouth, Wellow & Bouldnor

9.0 mile trail near Yarmouth, United Kingdom
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 9 miles
Duration: Half day

Overview :  Landscape Walks: Yarmouth, Wellow & Bouldnor is about 9.0 miles long and located near Yarmouth, United Kingdom. The trail is... more »

Our walk starts in the harbour town of Yarmouth.  Thought to be the second smallest town in England Yarmouth gets its name not from the river Yar but from the old English earen muth  meaning the gravelly or muddy river-mouth or estuary.  The river name Yar is a back-formation. 

In 43AD the Roman Emperor Claudius conquered England and a legion led by Vespasion subdued the Island, known then as Vectis. It was invaded and settled by Jutes and Saxons under Cedric in 530AD and they remained in control until the Danish invasion in 787AD.

Thorley was the original western haven for ships, coming largely from the mainland, but as Thorley Creek gradually silted up a landing place nearer to the sea had to be found.  Yarmouth High Street today follows the line of the original track from the landing place to Thorley, then the main centre of population. 
The first record of a settlement here was in King Ethelred the Unready's record of the Danegeld tax of 991AD. Two Saxons named Aluric and Wislac were shown as living in Ermud.   

At the time of the Conquest Yarmouth was a small settlement but increasing in importance as Thorley Haven silted up and declined.  Eremud also features in the Doomsday Book.  The Normans planned Yarmouth on the grid system and it grew rapidly, being given its first Charter as a town in 1135. This Charter has been lost but its terms are known. Given to the town by Baldwin de Redvers, Lord of the Isle of Wight, it conferred on the inhabitants, their heirs and successors, all the liberties and customs belonging to free burgesses,-that is to say security of tenure and a release from the slavery of serfdom. As a result Yarmouth became the most important town and port on the Island.

The town suffered from invasion by French forces on a number of occasions during and was badly damaged in raids 1377 and 1544 the latter resulting in the building of Yarmouth Castle by Henry VIII which today is run by English Heritage.   
We pass the old Mill built next to the Western Yar and once home to the historian J.P.Taylor.   Continue along the Mill Causeway built in1664 and permanently sealing off Thorley Haven which had now become completely silted up.    The present building replaced in 1793 the earlier smaller mill.

At the end of the causeway path, pass through the kissing gate.  Did you notice the brass plaque on the gate?   This commemorates the achievement of the National Target for Public Rights of Way by the Isle of Wight Council in 1998.

You are now on the old Newport to Freshwater railway line.  This route was opened in 1888 and closed in 1953.  Today it is a popular walking, cycling and horse riding route connecting the towns of Yarmouth and Freshwater.  Turn right and after a short distance turn left through the old gate into the field and walk on to Mill Copse.  This woodland is managed by Wight Nature Fund and is an important wildlife site.  If you have time you might want to visit the hide by taking one of the paths on your right down to the bottom of the woods where it bounds the Barnsfield Stream and saltmarsh.  Here you can see many bird species (particularly during the winter) feeding on the saltmarsh and mudflats.

Rejoin the path and head out from the woodland to take the narrow path by the field which dog legs to continue between two mature hedgerows.

This path takes you to Wilmingham Lane.  Wilmingham means ‘the homestead or farm belonging to the followers of a man named Wighelm or Wilhelm’.  Cross over and continue on the footpath through the fields.  Notice how the field are changing.  Back close to the estuary they were largely used for grazing animals and small and irregular in shape, as we rise up from the lower ground the fields are becoming larger and are now cultivated for arable crops.  This becomes more obvious once we reach Broad Lane.

You are now on the Wellow and Thorley Plains.  This open high area has some of the largest fields on the Isle of Wight.  These areas are able to be cultivated because of the presence of limestone deposits in wetter clay soils.  This limestone helps to break up the clay and allows for better drainage.  The land here has been cultivated for centuries.  Charters and estate records for the manors of Wellow and Thorley record large areas of open-fields, this was land managed communally by local people growing food for the local community.  In a similar way there was common grazing land on the downs to the south where people could take their livestock.  All these areas were of course under the control of the lord of the manor.  
Turn right on Broad Lane and walk inland towards Tapnell.  

Take the next path left off of the lane and cross the field.  From here you get a 360 degree uninterrupted view of the landscape, (this area is particularly good for star gazing!).  Continue straight ahead with Hummet Copse in the middle distance on your left.  At the next junction of paths turn left onto the Hamstead Trail.  This promoted route runs from Brook in the south to Hamstead in the north, and at this point marks the eastern boundary of the historic open field system.  Pass by Hummet Copse and head into the small village of Wellow.  Laid out in a line beside the Thorley Brook, Wellow means ‘the place at the willow tree’ perhaps eluding the fact that the land becomes wetter here.  

Wellow Farm (opposite) is on the site of the former medieval Wellow Manor.  The land between Top Road and the main village street is more pastoral because of the wetter character of the soil.  Turn left then take the lane that runs between the buildings and the small bridge beside the ford through which the Thorley brook passes.  Cross over the main street and take the footpath the continuation of the Hamstead Trail.  Walk past part of the Wellow Vineyard.  Continue on the track and go straight ahead where it crosses over another hedged route which is another part of the old Newport to Freshwater railway which closed in 1953. 

At the woodland take the left fork and follow the path to the road.  Turn left and use the cinder path alongside the road.  When you reach the end of this path cross over and take the wide Cranmore Avenue.  

Cranmore is a small settlement stretching from the main road up towards the coast it's name means the marshy land frequented by cranes or herons.  There is a real mix of housing here with many different designs and some examples of the original simple wooden single storey houses built by people who had purchased small areas as part of a plot-land development from 1918 until planning controls were brought in after the second world war.  

Follow this straight road as it climbs up towards the north coastline and then turn off to the left on to the coastal path west heading west.  The path runs parallel to the coast on the cliffs above.  Look out for the stone boundary markers which show the extent of the War Department land at Bouldnor.  This whole as was an important strategic defence location during the World War II.  Today the area is more wooded than it would have been in the 1940s due to the creation of a conifer plantation.  This area is managed by the Forestry Commission.  Recently a large area of woodland close to Bouldnor Battery was cleared and is being restored to lowland coastal heathland.  This important habitat was severely depleated in the C20th by afforestation and intensive agriculture, it's thought that some 90% of the habitat on Isle of Wight was lost.  Conservation organisations are working to restore heathland and in this area the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, have been awarded Heritage Lottery funds from the West Wight Landscape Partnership to carry out restoration on a substantial sized area.  The Wildlife Trust has also set up a Forest School in the Bouldnor forest close to the old Battery site.  As you walk past this area look left and you can see the side of the Battery which has once again been exposed to views of the coast with the loss of the woodland.  This C20th building was constructed in 1938  for defence of the Solent.  Because of the Blue Slipper clay in the area two search lights that were installed close to the Battery started to slip into the sea and the Battery was abandoned in 1942.  In 1944 two large guns were installed and these remained there for the rest of the war.  The Battery was final abandoned in the mid 1950s, today it is a scheduled monument.

Continue on the coastal path and where it runs out take the inland route back to the main road.  Cross over and turn right walking along the verge to the Bouldnor Viewpoint car park.  take the path down the slope and turn left to follow the route on the sea wall towards Yarmouth. Almost at sea level this is a great place to look at the busy Solent water way which sees all sorts of sailing craft and shipping.

At the Common cross over the grass and turn right down the High Street with its well kept buildings and on to The Square where you will see the Town Hall.  Turn right into Bridge Street and at the end turn left and cross over the grassed area back to the car park.

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Tips:  Please follow the Countryside Code

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