Sandown Wetland & Community Orchard

This compact wetland site and orchard is a beautiful, tranquil spot but also a haven for wildlife. Gift to Nature has restored a community orchard on the site which you are welcome to visit and scrump in the autumn – we have included Isle of Wight fruit varieties including the Alverstone Apple. The orchard also provides a great nectar source for insects in the spring and food for other wildlife later in the year. The rest of the site is a mixture of wetland, woodland and a pond. There is a boardwalk across the wettest section of the site and a viewing/dipping platform by the pond.

How to get there

On foot/By bike – The site is right on The Red Squirrel Trail (NCN 23) at Longwood Lane. You can walk into the site from the cycle track (through the carved arch) or from Longwood Lane.

By train– Sandown Station + 15 min walk.

By Car – Informal parking is possible on teh verge opposite the site, please take car not to obstruct the road or any site entrances.

Access

In winter the wetland part of the site can become very wet and muddy, and at times is completely submerged. The orchard is on higher ground and can normally be accessed year-round. Paths through the site can be muddy, and there are steps on site.

What to look out for

The pond helps the local kingfisher population; as a fairly rare and easily disturbed bird the kingfisher is afforded the highest degree of legal protection – on the Island they are particularly scarce as stated in the IW Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). The kingfisher is small and plump with a very short tail, and has a long dagger-like bill. Its plumage is very bright, electric blue on the back and tail, greenish-blue on the crown and head. The cheeks and under parts are orangey-red, the throat and collar are white and the legs are red. They make a shrill ‘chee’ sound. Kingfishers hunt in shallow water, mostly catching fish and can manage fish up to 80mm long; they also occasionally take aquatic insects. The birds are vulnerable to polluted water, they accumulate chemicals consumed by fish from contaminated water. Industrial pollution and agricultural run-off can kill the fish which the birds rely on. Kingfishers make their nests in long tunnels near slow-flowing, clean water which is exactly what we have provided at the site.
The river banks have been constructed to encourage water voles. Their body is 12-20cm, and the tail adds a further 19-26cm making them the largest British vole; they weigh up to 300grams and can live for up to two years. Water voles eat grasses, sedges, rushes, and watercress in spring and summer, and roots, tree bark and fruit in autumn and winter. They like slow-flowing water and dig burrows in steep grassy banks which is why we reformed the river channel with ditches and scrapes to provide homes for the water voles. They are doing well here on the Island but almost extinct across large parts of the mainland due to the presence of American mink which have thankfully not made it to the Island but had a catastrophic effect on the water vole population throughout the rest of the UK. Water voles are regarded as of National Priority by the BAP.

Other animals you can spot here include herons, nesting swans, woodpeckers in the picnic area and bream, carp, eels, roach and rudd along with an amazing array of pond wildlife.
Between June and July the beautiful Marsh Orchid is in flower on the Wetland Walk; it grows up to 70cm and can hold up to 100 flowers on a single stem. Drainage has destroyed many colonies of this orchid, especially in South East England so conservation projects like this are essential to keep these specialist species.

Managing the site

The pond and waterways need clearing occasionally. Some of the waterways have become infested with Himalayan Balsam which requires removal. The picnic area is mown to keep it easy to use.

Get Involved

There are various ways you can help improve and maintain our sites. We rely on conservation volunteers to help with many tasks and also need people who are happy to regular visit the site be our “eyes and ears”, this means we can respond much quicker to issues. Find out more here.

You can also help by becoming one of our regular supporters. Even giving a few pounds each month can make a real difference, with your donation being invested into site management and improvement work to benefit site visitors and look after our precious wildlife. Sign up h