A big area of meadow and woodland on the southern edge of Ryde, adjoining the Monktonmead Brook. The meadows at Pig Leg Lane have sat within the Island’s agricultural landscape for over 4000 years and the archaeological evidence of its long history still survives today. This beautiful unspoilt area is one of the few areas in Ryde where we can enjoy the countryside as it might have looked in years gone by.
We’re working to improve Pig Leg Lane!
We love Pig Leg Lane but for a long time it has been in need of attention. With help from the community and some generous funders we are now able to start making this lovely site into a place that is easy for everyone to get to and enjoy. Thanks to funding from the People’s Postcode Trust, Ryde Town Council, Down To The Coast and Tesco Bags of Help we have a programme of improving paths and managing scrub. This summer we are installing a boardwalk alongside Monktonmead Brook and work with the Environment Agency and Isle of Wight Council to stop water cascading down Rosemary Lane and into the watercourse. Ryde Town Council have donated a couple of benches which we will be renovating and installing. We have had a huge amount of support from the Isle of Wight Green Gym who have done great work helping with the paths and the pond.
Arethusa Cottage is a private house on the edge of Pig Leg Lane. It is an unusual name for a house that commemorates a very celebrated occupant.
The Isolation Hospital
The Notification of Infectious Diseases Act was passed in 1889 and in 1893 the Isolation Hospital Act. Both hospitals and local authorities had for a long time recognised the need for wards or separate institutions for infectious diseases and these had been provided both at Newport Infirmary and Ryde Hospital and a separate nursing staff had been appointed for these wards.
Smallpox was a serious disease that used to kill many people. Because it was so infectious, patients were taken away to a special hospital for treatment. In Ryde, the Smallpox Hospital was in Weeks, but as the town grew, it was decided to build a hospital further away. In 1885 Ryde Borough Council purchased land for an Isolation Hospital, about one acre off Rosemary Lane and there the new hospital was set up on a brick foundation. An additional strip of land was leased in 1911. The hospital came to have two buildings, the wooden one with two four-bedded wards and later a brick building for an ambulance and for disinfection equipment.
Ryde Isolation Hospital dealt with cases of scarlet fever, measles, and typhus as well as smallpox. Patients from Cowes and Newport were treated here as well, after a serious smallpox outbreak in 1919. The hospital was closed in 1934 and demolished, but you can still see garden plants and trees in the area where it once stood.
How to get there
On foot/By bike – Quarry Lane provides the main access into the site from the north. To the south Rosemary Lane links the site to Ashey Road and via a pedestrian crossing across the railway to Oakfield.
By bus/train – St John’s Road Station (Train, Routes 2/3/8) then access the site along Quarry Road. (Bus Timetables)
By Car – On-street parking in Quarry Road, or the closest car park is at Ryde St John’s Station, postcode for satnav PO33 2BA. There is on site parking at the Rosemary Lane end of the site for about three cars, but its a bit of a bumpy road. Put PO33 2XA into your sat nav.
Paths through the site are mainly laid to grass. In wet weather parts of this site are muddy. However, we have recently had the site ‘road-tested’ by a kind lady in a mobility scooter and we are pleased to say it passed with flying colours!
So we can say that in the drier months the site is accessible for mobility scooters and buggies. Take them on there in winter at your peril!
What to look out for
This meadow is typical of many grassy areas that used to be common in the northern parts of the Isle of Wight, but which are now less easy to find. Look out for grassland and woodland animals and plants, birds such as woodpeckers, blue tits, jays and chaffinches are often to be seen and heard.
Keep an eye on the pond and the Monktonmead Brook to see some freshwater wildlife – frogs and newts are known to use the pond!
The Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society have surveyed the site for us this summer and produced this wonderful list.
What’s in a name?
Pig Leg Lane has had various names – most recently Swanmore Meadows. We found that local people were keen to let us know what they called it and we have had varying suggestions including ‘Rosemary Common’. There used to be pig sties nearby and ‘Piggy Lane’, ‘Pig Leg Lane’ and ‘Iggy Piggy Lane’ were all been suggested. In 2016 we set up an online survey, and the winning name was Pig Leg Lane – so that’s what the site is now called! We also discovered that the pedestrian railway crossing is called Pig Leg Crossing, which gives more support to this being an old local name for these lovely fields.
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 here.
A lot of work is needed to make Pig Leg Lane easy to use, and to keep it in good condition for wildlife.
A grant from Ryde Town Council in 2016 has enabled us to begin work to improve access to the site from Quarry Road.
Works at Pig Leg Lane in 2016 are supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, awarding funds from Postcode Local Trust.
We are also receiving funding from Down To The Coast Landscape Partnership to engage with local people.