May Newsletter

Welcome to our May newsletter, a little later than planned as we have all been so busy with Spring tasks and planning all the exciting projects we have coming up in the Summer. 

Site of the month - Castle Copse and Ed's first guided walk


This May our apprentice ranger Ed led his very first guided walk across one of the  sites - This is his report of the experience -  Good job well done Ed ! 

During this year’s Isle Of Wight Walking Festival, I was given the opportunity to take part & lead a guided walk which started from the entrance of Waitrose East Cowes, following a trail through St. James’ Church and leading to one of our most treasured sites, Castle Copse. When preparing my information, I had taken several trips to the East Cowes Heritage Centre to learn about the history & origins of East Cowes. The volunteer’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the local area is fantastic and I cannot thank them enough for helping me with my varied and difficult questions. I would highly recommend a visit there if you are in the area. 

The walk started on an overcast Friday morning in the square next to the Waitrose. I was delighted when 8 enthusiastic walkers had decided to give up their free time to join my walk through to Castle Copse. 

I began explaining about the history of the brick wall which lies across the back edge of the square. The wall belonged to Thomas Auldjo, a prominent and historical figure in East Cowes history. He rented many of the warehouses along the sea front and was responsible for customs and checking of the cargo of ships which were sailing from America to Europe. Interestingly he had Thomas Jefferson stay with him twice in East Cowes, who later became the 3rd President of America. The walk moved on through to St James’ Church which was designed & built in 1831 with the foundation stone being laid by a 12 year old Queen Victoria. The Church was designed by architect John Nash who is buried at the church. He was possibly the most famous architect of the 18th & 19th centuries, famous for designing Regents Park, Regents Street and Buckingham Palace. 

We were then able to move on to our woodland site Castle Copse, showing the site’s natural beauty and explaining management techniques we use in order to maintain and improve the landscape. The site was handed over to Gift to Nature in 2012, and the team has slowly worked to enhance and improve the site over the past 8 years. 

Following the winding woodland routes, I explained that we are regularly cutting grass and vegetation away from the furniture and paths in order to keep the growth of the site controlled & the paths widened to allow visitors to enjoy the site. There are areas of the site which have been cleared of bramble and nettles in order to allow light to shine through onto the woodland floor and allow species of wildflower & plants to flourish. Also there have been areas of bramble cleared and native species of tree / shrub have been planted, including hawthorn, hazel & Guelder rose. When the trees grow they will cast shade over the encroaching bramble and prevent the plants from taking over the site. The hazel will also provide a natural food source for a range of animals which inhabit the site. We have begun constructing dead hedge fencing throughout areas of the woodland in order to preserve badger sets which will present in the woodland and restrict visitor access. 

All of the visitors appeared to have enjoyed the walk and asked interesting and inquisitive questions and I would like to thank them all personally for joining me and making my first guided walk so enjoyable and giving generous donations to our charity. 




Ranger's Blog


Although the year seems to be rushing past us all too soon, we are able to enjoy the warmer weather & appearance of some of our favourite birds, insects & wildflowers as we gear up for what we hope is a glorious summer. 

As the Ranger team’s winter work has come to an end, we are in full flow of grass cutting as the grass around the majority of our sites have begun to grow thicker and faster each time we visit. Our strimmers & both mowers are in action most days and it will most likely stay like this until autumn. Although it is a priority for us to ensure that the grass and paths are mown & cut short regularly, there are a number of wildflowers which are still in bloom or are beginning to show signs of life. In this case we will avoid cutting all flowers / plants of interest if we are able to do so, as we wish to allow them to bloom and complete their natural cycle whilst also allowing everyone to enjoy them whilst they can. This is the reason why there may be a few random clumps of grass dotted around a few of our sites. 

The Merstone Station improvements are well underway and the site is looking fresher and better than ever. The fencing at the entrance has been cleaned & cleared of ivy and with fantastic work from Island Roads has been painted white, which has enhanced the entrance of the site massively. The construction of the new shelter has also been completed and is situated on the platform towards the picnic benches. The shelter has been designed in the style of how it would have originally looked when the station was fully functional, fitting in fantastically with original scenery. More site improvements are on the way so be sure to visit the site and check out all of the exciting improvements which will be carried out. 

One of the most notable visual elements of April has been the flowering of hawthorn trees. The common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), is a deciduous tree and is often found in hedgerows, woodlands and fields, and is most recognised this time of year due to vast covering of white and pink flowers which cover most of the trees foliage. As well as the eye catching colouring of the tree it can also be recognised for its pungent and rich smell which is designed to attract insects for pollination. It is one of the defining signs that spring is in full bloom. 

As always we want to thank everyone for you continued support and hope that you have enjoyed this month’s addition of our Ranger Blog. We hope that you will be getting out to our sites and informing us of all of the fantastic wildlife and sites you find.

Until next time 

Shop News  
Supporting Local

One of the most satisfying things for the Gift to Nature shop team is being able to promote other local causes and businesses at the same time as our own charity work. For example, we have teamed up with the horticulture students at the Isle of Wight College so they have the opportunity of some retail insights, and our customers get some lovingly grown unusual varieties of plants.
In the pursuit of looking after our bodies as well as the environment we stock the BaBee range of balms, lips balms and moisturisers, made from all natural ingredients. 
These collaborations help us to stock goods for the entire home – kitchen staples of jam, and honey, plus indulgent dips and dressings, plants for the outside beds or windowsill, plus ornaments and furniture for the house or garden.
We stock many local artisans work, from original cards to hand made face scrubbies, wax wraps food covers and hand carved wooden mushrooms  and small tables - all made here on the Island.

You can find our shop at 12 Holyrood Street Newport – just opposite Hursts.

we are always looking for volunteers to  join us in us in our lovely friendly shop so If you have a few hours to spare why not  pop in and have a chat 


Exciting News for Golden Hill Country Park 

Golden Hill Country Park is one of the largest sites that we care for and one of our biggest challenges as far as how best to enhance and bring together  its many  facets. - built in 1870 and known as one of Palmerston's Follies, the fort itself was segregated from the land many years ago and the park seemed to lose some of its heart and in 2018 we began to think about  how we could restore some of its character and encourage more people to engage with this beautiful location.
The team came up with an ambitious plan to reinvigorate the space and approached the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the project.
We have now received confirmation that our grant has been awarded and  we are delighted to have secured a significant pot of funding to be able to start the project. 
Work should commence this Autumn, so watch this space for regular updates on how we hope to transform the area with new interpretation boards about the heritage and wildlife, new set walks to encourage exploration, the reveal of some of the military structures and a brand new willow maze structure, created by Blythfield Willow and  inspired by the original fort, that will offer the opportunity for families to have lots of fun exploring the labyrinth of corridors and discover activities within.


Help us by taking a break !

Did you know you can help raise funds for Gift to Nature by having a holiday !
Yes its true - if you book your holiday or even ferry travel via the Easy Fundraising link we get a donation and you pay no extra.
Easy Fundraising never bombard you with details or share your information with anyone else. (I now this to be true as I have been using them for many years ) It's such an easy way to support us please do have a look at the scheme 
Use easyfundraising to shop with over 3,600 big name retailers including Amazon, Argos, John Lewis, ASOS, and – and when you shop, you’ll raise a free donation for us every time. It’s that easy!

Thank you 

More Gift to Nature news for you next month, so why not forward this one to a friend? New subscribers always make us happy!

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