With its designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the re-introduction of rare creatures such as white-tailed sea eagles, the Island’s wildlife and environments are enjoying national recognition. Now Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has stepped things up, with Jamie Marsh, the Trust’s Reserves Manager on the Island, leading the charge
Tell us about your work within the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
My official title is Reserves Manager for the Trust, which basically means that I oversee the 11 nature reserves here, totalling 185 hectares. We are in a great position on the Isle of Wight as we have a rural landscape with large, connected areas of land in conservation management. Despite this, our wildlife is still declining. The Trust’s aim is to build on our existing work and expand further through our Wilder strategy — our 10-year mission is to create a much wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight by restoring broken ecosystems and returning missing wildlife. To this end, we intend to double the Trust’s estate to create a more connected environment, with corridors for wildlife to move and spread through.
How is the Trust going about this?
We’ve purchased two parcels of land in Newchurch that adjoin our Martin’s Wood Nature Reserve, adding 110 acres to our estate. Together, these sites create our biggest reserve on the Island and we have bold plans to enhance the land for wildlife. We have also been improving habitats and making it easier to experience nature elsewhere on the Island — we recently finished works on Morton Marsh at our Sandown Meadows Nature Reserve, where we have carried out wetland restoration, constructed a nesting site for sand martins and installed a viewing platform for visitors. This is an exciting time for the Isle of Wight, with the environment high on the local agenda. Now is the time for driving nature’s recovery and taking the Isle of Wight’s community and visitors on this journey.
As a local, what are your highlights on the Isle of Wight?
I have a few: sunrise and sunset on Culver Down; beach walks in the bay from Sandown to Redcliff; wandering the Western Yar and Brading marshes; the walk from Mottistone to Tennyson Down along the chalk ridge with its incredible views and abundant wildlife; the stunning views across the Solent to the New Forest from Bouldnor Forest; a cuppa in my campervan in the winter watching the waves crash along the coast at Yaverland and Compton; a pint at the Spyglass Inn in Ventnor, and a meal at The Blacksmith’s Arms, near Newport.
Where are your top places to spot wildlife on the Island?
Arreton Down from late July for Chalkhill Blue butterflies — there are thousands of them, a real spectacle. Brading Marshes in the spring to hear bitterns booming. Ryde Sands at low tide in the winter for Brent geese feeding and sanderlings running in and out of the surf. Newtown National Nature Reserve for its migrating birds — ospreys fishing during spring and autumn is a must-see. And, of course, the red squirrels at Borthwood, Eaglehead and Bloodstone Copse Nature Reserves.