July  Newsletter

Summer is truly with us, the swifts are making the most of the clear skies and the insects are buzzing busily all around. This is truly the month of the butterflies with Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns, Small Tortoiseshells and Chalkhill Blues all to be spotted locally.

At this time of year our rangers are flat out just tryng to keep on top of the lush growth, mowing grass  and keeping pathways clear for us all to enjoy the sites.

The great outdoors is of course the best place to be in the summer and the Gift to Nature team have come up with some tips for enjoying the countryside safely. See below for our Countryside Code game, 'Steps and Adders' and how to get your copy to play on those rainy days ( if we ever get any !)

We had a great time at the County Show this year. It was a beautiful day with nearly 10,000 people in attendance. We didnt get to talk to them all but we certainly were kept busy chatting about our work and selling lots of lovely garden items from the shop. Already looking forward  to next year !


Site of the month  -  Nansen Hill 

Nansen Hill is at the eastern end of the Ventnor Downs, between Bonchurch and Luccombe. It has a very steep grassy slope with spectacular views out over the English Channel and Sandown Bay. It is nationally protected for the great populations of chalk grassland flowers and insects that are found there, especially orchids and butterflies, so now is an ideal time to visit.

Characteristic plants occurring throughout include yellow-wort, glaucous sedge, dwarf thistle, eyebright, hoary plantain, and salad burnet. On the terracettes on the north-facing slope at the top, there is a population of common spotted orchids easily recognised by its leaves, which are green with many purple, oval spots. The flower spike ranges from white and pale pink, through to purple, but have distinctive darker pink spots and stripes on their three-lobed lips. The flowers are densely packed in short, cone-shaped clusters.

In 2018 thanks to the funds from the Heritage Lottery from Down to the Coast, we made some long-awaited improvements to Nansen Hill that not only made it safer and easier to get onto the site, but also helped cattle to graze it. Over the years the hill had started to get covered with bushes, and the flowers were not getting enough light.  The best way to sort this is through grazing and we now welcome the cattle from the adjacent National Trust land onto the site.


Ranger's Blog



It’s normally very busy at Gift To Nature but it gets even busier as the date of the County Show approaches, this year on Sunday 30th June. This combined with some decent rain earlier in the month kick starting vegetation growth means a hectic period. The feedback from the County Show this year is it was a great success. The weather was excellent and the Household Cavalry put on quite a show. Great chance to meet the public for us.

This month we have started some practical improvements and work at Golden Hill Country Park as part of our project being supported by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant. This project will include surveying and recording military and natural history on the site, new signage, sculpture, enhanced habitat management, path upgrades and the creation of a community orchard. In early July we had assistance from a nine strong group of employees from the Sainsbury’s store in Newport. This enthusiastic group was led very competently by Edward, our apprentice ranger and undertook path cutting and surfacing for all-weather access. Sainsbury’s are supporting us over five days in total between now and the end of October as part of their 150 year anniversary and we look forward to working with the team over the next few months. 

If you are visiting Golden Hill Country Park you might see some small metal sheets in long grass areas. These are part of a reptile survey we are currently undertaking with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Amphibian and Reptile Group and results will feed into the lottery project. Please do not disturb the sheets as there might be reptiles sheltering beneath. 

At the end of June we completed our improvement project at Merstone Station with the assistance of an Awards for All grant from the National Lottery. On the 21st June a new bespoke BBQ and cycle rack were delivered to the site and Edward and Nick got busy digging holes and fixing. The cycle rack uses an upright railway sleeper with metal art work attached created by pupils from Arreton St George’s CE School under guidance from Elizabeth Hodgson artist. 

If you were walking through Afton Marsh on Thursday 20th June you might have seen Nick taking to the water in a surf kayak to attempt some bridge maintenance with the help of Tom our regular Yarmouth volunteer. I quickly realised I may not be quite as agile as I once was and also realised my wife’s kayak is supposed to have bungs to stop the water rising through drain holes. Needless to say it was not one of my finer moments but I was happy not to get a full on dunking in the name of countryside access. We will return with the bungs and wetsuit to complete the job.

Merstone Station new cycle rack
Sainsbury's staff volunteers taking a well earned break
Mobile bridge maintenance - Afton Marsh

Shop News  
Supporting Local

Have you heard of BeeBombs yet? Hand made in Dorset, Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, fine, sifted soil and locally sourced clay. The seeds are native species and designated by the Royal Horticultural Society as "Perfect for Pollinators". Why is this important? It is because 97% of natural bee and butterfly habitat has been lost in the UK since WW2. 97%. It's frightening and critical given the necessity of pollination to fertilise crops and for plants to produce seeds and reproduce. 

By scattering Beebombs, we can help restore the lost wildflower habitat and make an important contribution to the biodiversity of Great Britain. That’s all you need to do – by scattering them onto cleared ground you will create a wildflower meadow that will #bringthebeesback. It is that easy - Beebombs need no gardening skill and can be scattered straight onto open ground (preferably cleared ground / soil if possible) at any time of the year (although the optimum timing is Spring and Autumn). The soil will help your Beebombs germinate and the clay will protect them as they dissipate. You don't need to water or tend your Beebombs either! Lots of sun and rain is of course important, as is time. It may take a year or two before you see the full benefit, but that is the nature of wildflowers. 

Of course Beebombs use only sustainable packaging too. No 'one use plastics' used here at all. So they are an all round feel good product - good for the planet, and beautiful for your garden, and available from our shop!

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 


Volunteers needed for Golden Hill project

The Golden Hill country park project begins in earnest this summer and in phase one we need to establish the archaeological heritage of the site  

Dr Ruth Waller, a former Isle of Wight County Archaeologist and independent heritage consultant will lead a community heritage project that will teach volunteers how to do the archaeological research, recording, mapping and interpretation of military structures and the historic landscape which surround Golden Hill Fort 

Golden Hill Fort was built as a “Palmerston” defence and the landscape around it still contains the remains of buildings used when thousands of soldiers were demobbed after WW1, during WW2 and afterwards. Between July 2019 and June 2020, Ruth and the volunteer team are going to record, map and interpret the military structures and research the lives of people associated with the Fort over the last 150 years. 

We hope to: 

1)Identify where the military structures are within the Country Park, accurately map them and produce a detailed photographic or drawn record of them 

2) Carry out documentary research into the people associated with the Fort over the last 150 years 

3) Record the memories of people associated with the fort 

4) Carry out historical research into the historic landscape around the fort 

5) Provide heritage information to inform the wider HLF funded project 


Ruth will arrange a meeting in the West Wight at the end of July 2019 at which details of the volunteer work will be given. 

No experience necessary and full training given. For more information and to register your interest to volunteer email: 


Or call Gift to Nature at the Shide Meadows Centre on 01983 296244

Meet us in the Garden

Quick reminder that we will be at this wonderful garden on Sunday 14th July.
If you are coming along, a quick update on parking from the owner.

The Isle of Wight Community Club has kindly offered their car park to accommodate visitors on open day.

It is a 1 - 2 minutes walk from the garden.

Park Road is very busy and I’d like to offer parking outside the house to less mobile/disabled visitors.

If you’ve bought plants, we’ll be happy to hold them so you can temporarily park and load outside the house.

Many thanks for your understanding

That Garden in Cowes is an exotic oasis with some really unusual plants and a totally Mediterranean vibe. All plant sales will go to supporting Gift to Nature and the owner Andrea, grows on some of her special specimens so really worth the trip to get something different.
Join us on Sunday 14th July at 324 Cowes Rd 

Our Countryside Code Game

The Gift to Nature team work hard to ensure all our sites are looking their best and are wonderful places to visit. We thought it would be useful to put together a helpful guide as to some of the ways you can enjoy the countryside and also have minimal impact on the natural environment, so we have created this fun family game to highlight some good countryside practice.
Steps and Adders is available free, by emailing us at with your postal address. You can also pop into our shop at 12 Holyrood Street, Newport and pick one up, as well as browse our lovely shop. 


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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Gift to Nature · Shide Meadows Centre · Shide Road · NEWPORT, Isle Of Wight PO30 1HR · United Kingdom

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