Shide Chalk Pit
Tranquil Shide Chalk Pit is a former industrial site which is now a haven for wildlife on the edge of the Isle for Wight’s county town. The site was quarried for chalk during the first half of 20th Century and the prominent west-facing slope is a major landmark on Newport’s skyline. Since quarrying stopped, vegetation has been colonising the floor and sides of the pit. As a result, habitats vary from bare rock to emergent woodland, and all stages in between.
How to get there
On foot/By bike – The entrance is down a flight of steps off Burnt House Lane. The Red Squirrel Trail (NCN 23) passes close to the site – leave the trail at Shide Road. Bikes can be attached to the railings at the site entrance or taken on site. There are no cycle racks at present.
By bus – Barley Mow Stop (Routes 2/3) + 5 min walk. (Bus Timetables)
By car – There a small amount of roadside parking near the site, we would recommend arriving by bus, bike or on foot.
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The site is accessed by a relatively steep flight of stairs leading to a large grassy area inside the quarry. The site is definitely not accessible for anyone in a wheelchair or mobility scooter. Once in the site, it is free of gates and styles. The surface is grass, which is boggy in areas, particularly in wet periods. Old industrial remains such as rails can create trip hazards. There is no seating within the site.
The nearest toilets are under 0.4 mile, and are in store so check opening times – ASDA (what3words ///prune.traded.wizards) . Out of shop hours there are toilets in South Street, Newport (what3words ///ethic.fired.imprinted) . These are slightly further away.
We will be updating our Site Access Statements during 2022. Please watch this space.
What to look out for
Shide Chalk Pit is a Site of Special Scientific Interest as it has a chalk grassland flora and a shaded stream, which has a good variety of mosses and liverworts growing by it.
Abandoned chalk pits are often good sites for orchids and Shide is no exception, with populations of bee orrchid, pyramidal orchid and southern marsh orchid. In places, the lichen Cladonia rangiformis has become abundant giving a greyish, crisp character to the turf. Rabbits are a major influence in keeping the turf short and adders and common lizards are known to occur.
There is a good variety of butterflies in the area including brimstone, orange tip, holly blue, dingy skipper, green hairstreak, wall brown, green-veined white, speckled wood, comma, small tortoiseshell, common blue, marbled white and chalk hill blue. Nests of the yellow meadow ant are noticeable throughout the site.
The woodland is dominated by sycamore and ash, with hawthorn. Ivy covers much of the woodland floor. The northern slope, nearest to human habitation, includes exotic shrubs like holm oak and sweet bay whilst the south-west corner contains more native woodland species like wild cherry, field maple and spindle.
Scattered scrub areas around the pit slopes are dominated by privet with butterfly bush and cotoneaster. Sallow grows around the spring and along the main stream the ground flora includes glaucous sedge, hard rush, coltsfoot and a good population of southern marsh orchid. This area has a moist, shady environment, which is ideal for mosses and liverworts.
Many common birds nest within the site including great tit and wood pigeon within the wooded areas, blue tit and chaffinch in the scrub, and jackdaw in holes within the steep eastern cliff face. Other birds which have been seen include little owl, green woodpecker, chiffchaff and blackcap; goldcrest and long-tailed tit feed here during the winter.
Managing the site
We manage Shide Chalk Pit for its rich natural habitat – the succession of bare chalk through to a chalk grassland plant community and tall scrub and trees. However, this habitat requires maintenance to prevent the growth of invasive shrubs and trees. Cotoneaster is of particular concern. We therefore carry out winter work to remove excessive growth.
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.