Shorwell to Brighstone Landscape Walk

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Shorwell to Brighstone Landscape Walk is a 7.1 mile loop trail located near the city of Shorwell. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for walking.

7.1 miles 842 feet Loop

walking

The walk takes you past beautiful Manor houses and ancient farmsteads, over flower rich downland slopes grazed by cattle and sheep, through secretive woodlands, along quiet ancient lanes and into picturesque villages. The route heads past Wolverton Manor, Shorwell, a fine Jacobean Manor with its interesting outbuildings including a thatched barn and staddlestone granary. The name Woolverton means the estate or farmstead belonging to a man named Wulfweard and appears in the C11th Doomsday survey. The original house was sited on the land surrounded by a moat to the north of the Jacobean Manor. Stone from this was probably robbed to provide the distinctive entrance lobby to the present house. The house has an interesting history, it being never completed and is reputedly haunted. Combined with stone coping (edging to the roof), the distinctive stone tiles may suggest that the roof was originally thatched. Tiles provided an extra robust weatherproofing layer to throw the rainwater away from the walls. Island limestone does not split thinly enough to produce tiles, so these were probably imported from Purbeck in Dorset. This fine building is one of a number of grand houses in this rural village (Northcourt, West Court and Wolverton are all in the parish of Shorwell). This is because of the historic importance of this whole area for the rearing of sheep and the production of wool which was one of the most sought after of English products across the world. Walk past the front of the manor and when you reach the lane turn right and take the path through the farm buildings. Pass through the private garden keeping to the footpath and then, by using the boardwalks pass through 'Troopers' a wet woodland. Continue and emerge in pasture land close to West Court Manor an ancient farmstead still active today. Crossing over to Walkers Lane we take the Bridleway up to Ladylands, a pasture field with evidence in its undulating surface of former stone quarrying. The path then continues along the sandstone ridge of Fore Down which runs parallel to the dramatic chalk ridge to the north which forms the 'backbone' of the Isle of Wight. You can see former chalk quarries gouged out of the side of the chalk downs used to provide stone for building and to spread across the heavier clay lands closer to the coast. We continue up the slope to walk closer to the Chalk and look at the valley between the chalk and sandstone ridges. Dropping back down we pass by Coombe Farm which nestles deep in a secretive valley. The higher ground above this farm was the site of a medieval beacon called La Wyrde (form the old English wierde meaning a watch or look-out) and was one of a series of manned beacon sites across the Isle of Wight during the C11th and C12th centuries which acted as an early warning system should invaders be sighted. At the end of the lane we will turn left but it is worth taking a short detour by turning right to look at interesting boat carvings on the side of a chalk stone barn. The origins of these are uncertain but it is said that they may be associated with smuggling which was rife along this coastline or perhaps with French prisoners of war. We travel on towards the village of Brighstone. Being about half way the village has a number has shops, a pub, restaurant and toilets making it a good place to stop for a while and recharge ready for the return leg of the walk. We leave the village and pass by the 'Dragon Tree' and then the old mill pond of the former Brighstone Mill. We then follow quiet lanes past Waytescourt Farm and take the footpath across farmland towards Limerstone. This passes a number of water storage reservoirs which have been built to provide irrigation for the crops grown in this area over the summer months. As we travel eastwards the soils gradually become more fertile and the land use more arable with larger, flatter fields. This lower greensand area is Grade 2 in terms of agricultural classification and is part of a belt of land running from the Arreton Valley through to the Atherfield Plains. We pass by the Island Fish Farm and its fishing ponds to take a footpath to the hamlet of Yafford with a further old mill (Yafford Mill) close by. Then back onto quiet lanes zig zagging through farmland back to Wolverton Manor to retrace our earlier steps back to the car park. The rich history of this part of the Isle of Wight is a result of the way people and lived and worked the landforms and geology of the area leaving a story of this special place for us to enjoy today.

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