A woodland walk at Wootton Bridge

A history trail through wildlife-rich ancient woodlands on the Isle of Wight.

NEAREST LOCATION

Wootton Bridge

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

3.3 miles (5.3kms)

ASCENT
334ft (105m)
TIME
1hr 20min
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
SZ544919

About the walk

Dividing Wootton Creek from the placid waters of the old Mill Pond, Wootton Bridge is a charming spot. Your route leads quickly away from the bustling main street, passing through farmland and quiet woodlands that are numbered among England’s finest wildlife sites.

You’ll pass through Hurst Copse soon after leaving the village. Parts of the copse have been planted since the area was mapped in 1793, but the remainder of these ancient woods is probably more than 400 years old and could even date from the end of the last Ice Age. Ash and English oak flourish on the rich soils running down to the Mill Pond and give shade to the lower growing hazel and field maple coppice. The woods, which also support red squirrels, dormice and eight species of bats, are protected under both UK and European wildlife laws.

A railway worth preserving

As you leave the woods behind, you may hear the sound of a steam whistle heralding your first crossing of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Originally opened in 1875 as the Ryde and Newport Railway, there were intermediate stations serving the local communities at Wootton and Havenstreet, while the relatively isolated station at Whippingham served Queen Victoria’s country house at Osborne. The equally grand but even more remote station at Ashey was probably built as a sweetener for Sir Henry Oglander of Nunwell House, who objected to the railway cutting through his pheasant shoot. A short branch line from Ashey also connected with the local chalk quarry until its closure in 1907, after which trains were left on the branch to serve as a grandstand for the adjacent racecourse.

Following nationalisation in 1948 the little railway was closed in 1966. But the old railway wasn’t finished yet. Several locomotives and carriages were preserved and in 1971 the Isle of Wight Steam Railway reopened the section between Wootton and Havenstreet. Twenty years later, the heritage line was extended to Smallbrook Junction and the railway is busier than ever.

Walk directions

Leave the car park and turn right into Brannon Way, then go right down the hill as far as the old Mill Pond. Turn right along public bridleway N1, fork right after 100yds (91m) and then left onto a gravel track at Fernhill Park Woodland Burial Grounds. Go through the gate, follow the track past Hurst Copse and the old ice house on the right, and then go past Briddlesford Parkland, continuing straight ahead.

Walk through the shallow valley and climb to the railway level crossing. Keep ahead on N1 for 175yds (160m) through a gate, then bear right past the entrance to Woodhouse Farm and continue for a few more paces, until the track bends left.

Turn right through a kissing gate onto public footpath N2. Bear left beside the hedge, through a kissing gate, and follow the tree-shaded path to a stile. Keep ahead across the open field, heading towards a house, then go over the stile and bear slightly left across the next field. Keep ahead after a kissing gate, walking parallel with the hedge on your left to reach bridleway N3 at a final kissing gate.

Turn right onto public footpath N3, pass Little Mousehill Farm Cottage and follow the bridleway left at Shiloh. After 100yds (91m) turn right on a public bridleway heading to Woodford Cottage, then zig-zag right and left around the cream-washed cottage onto an attractive hedged path. Drop gently downhill, shaded by oak trees, to reach the railway.

Go over the level crossing and turn left at the entrance to Packsfield Farmhouse onto an enclosed path, parallel with the driveway. Ignore all turnings and keep ahead as the path widens into an unmade residential lane to reach a T-junction.

Turn right then right again into Fernhill. Keep ahead into Fernside Way, then fork right onto cycle route 22 when the road bears left. Follow the well-surfaced cycle track to the turning area and wooden sculpture at Fernhill Park Woodland Burial Grounds and keep ahead down the drive. Bear left at the gate and walk back to the A3054 opposite The Sloop Inn. Now turn left and retrace your steps to the car park.

Additional information

Mostly gravel and surfaced tracks with a short cross-field section, 2 stiles

Rolling wooded farmland

Lead required across the fields between Woodhouse and Little Mousehill farms

OS Explorer OL29 Isle of Wight

Pay-and-display car park in Brannon Way

Next to the car park

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WALKING IN SAFETY

Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

Find out more

About the area

Discover Isle of Wight

There’s a timeless quality to the Isle of Wight. For many it embodies the spirit and atmosphere of English seaside holidays. Small and intimate – at just 23 miles by 13 miles – it’s a great place to get away from it all. And with its mild climate, long hours of sunshine and colourful architecture, it has something of a continental flavour.

Explore the island’s varied coastline at any time of the year using the well-established Coast Path. Even in the depths of winter, the weather conditions are often favourable for walking. The island has more than 500 miles of public rights of way in all. There are numerous other things to do too. You could plan a week’s itinerary and not set foot on the beach. The island’s history is fascinating and it was long considered as a convenient stepping stone for the French in their plan to invade the UK mainland. Various fortifications – including Fort Victoria, Carisbrooke Castle and Yarmouth Castle – reflect its key strategic role in the defence of our coastline.

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