Brading Down is one of the Island’s most popular sites for recreation, picnicking and wildlife watching, offering stunning panoramic views, a wealth of habitats to explore and opportunities for everyone to enjoy the countryside. It lies at the eastern end of the Island’s iconic central chalk ridge and is within the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Brading Down Local Nature Reserve extends both sides of the main road, and the views are equally stunning. Visit the down land on this reserve for chalkland flowers, butterflies and birds of prey.
Bulleys Quarry is a peaceful retreat to have a barbeque away from the main crowds.
How to get there
On foot/By bike – The site can be accessed from various points along Brading Down Road and Lower Adgestone Road. A designated “quiet lanes” area links the site to The Red Squirrel Trail (NCN 23) at Longwood Lane. There are currently no cycle racks, but there are ample places to lock a bike.
By bus – Brading Bull Ring Stop (Routes 2/3) + 15 min walk uphill. (Bus Timetables)
By car – There is a large chalk and grass car park alongside Brading Down Road. Parking is free.
The Down can be accessed from the extensive car parking on top. Be care crossing the road to access the north down. Site access is on open down land with mainly unmade paths. The down land adjacent to the car park has a very gentle slope and is assessible to most people, however it is accessed by a gate. The woodland paths are steep, narrow and can be slippery. The southern down land is occasionally grazed by cattle. The nearest public toilets are in the town of Brading, where there are also refreshment opportunities.
What to look out for
The thin chalk soils to the east of the site support a typical downland plant community with pyramidal orchids being a particular feature in the summer. In recent years a programme of scrub clearance has been undertaken. The area is good for butterflies including common blue, chalkhill blue, small, large and dingy skippers, marbled white, gatekeeper, and meadow brown. Those lovely people at the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeology Society did a bug survey for us and you can see what they found here. In addition to the wildlife interest of chalk downland, the ancient field system on Brading Down is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The finest surviving ancient field system on the Island is to be found on the down. This is likely to be of late Iron Age or Roman date and highlights the last time the fields were ploughed. The views over Brading Roman Villa and Sandown Levels reinforce the historical significance of the area.
In 2018 we secured a £20,000 grant from Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The project enabled us to repair the car park, put in super new interpretation, a picnic area and a community stage and barbecue in Bulley’s Pit.
Managing the site
The rangers keep paths clear throughout the season. Some parts of the Down are tractor cut, however we are also helped by grazing cattle in the Autumn which keeps scrub in check. Ragwort is controlled by grazing and hand-pulling by our volunteers, however we do not remove it all because of its value to other wildlife.
There are various ways you can help improve and maintain our sites. We rely on volunteers to help with many tasks on our sites 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. Our shop raises money to support our work and needs a team of volunteers. Or maybe you would like to help us with events. 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 here.