A Walk on the Wetland Side!

31 July 2017
Claire Hector

Fantastic news!

The not-for-profit public space transformer, The Common Space, will be expanding its work to reveal and revitalize a corner of Sandown Bay, thanks to an East Wight Landscape grant for £5000 from Down to the Coast.

The Willow Walk, alongside Dinosaur Isle and Brown’s Golf Course in Sandown, has been taking shape all year, a new path carved through forgotten woodland, drawing people past the Pavilion and to the Lost Duver wildspace beyond.  The work is being carried out with the help of the local Community Payback team and funded by local environmental consultancy and Bay Coastal Community team, Arc Consulting.

Ian Boyd, founder of The Common Space and director at Arc and Artecology explains, ‘Consultations held by The Bay Coastal Community Team throughout 2015/16 showed a great appetite and enthusiasm in the local and visiting community, for greater access to public spaces especially those near to the beach and offering ‘wildlife encounter’.  The results of this feedback led us to form The Common Space, to help revitalize, explore and celebrate community places and spaces, and to develop the Discovery Bay campaign to reveal the inspiration available to all through the Bay’s natural world.  The Willow Walk and Lost Duver are part of this programme.  The public response to the creation of the Willow Walk so far has been marvellous.  It’s become a much-used resource for people and for wildlife and now, with the help of Down to the Coast, we can extend our work, creating a large ride through densely overgrown wetland, opening more space for nature. We will also make a series of small pools alongside the new route, to add visitor interest and to build understanding of visiting and resident wildlife.  By the end of 2017, there will be a complete path, a new 1km circular trail around the Browns site, linking together 2 forgotten public woodlands and a reedbed and wetland experience!’

Ian explains why this approach is important, ‘The conservation value of this project is in the positive management work it delivers to this overlooked wetland SINC.  It’s a mix of wet grassland, reed swamp, tall fen and willow and alder which presents tremendous opportunities for restoration for priority species and habitats, opening it up for the first time and so helping us plan its most effective management.  Along with our Lost Duver planting, it’s becoming a living Field Studies Guide.  Public events such as Discovery Bay, Beach Bugs and Bones, Hullaballoo and Bioblitz bring a wide range of people to explore here and promote genuine ‘citizen science’ too, helping us to monitor changes as the conservation management takes effect.’

Sandown Bay resident, Amy Lake is one of many people making the most of this new natural resource, ‘I first visited to show my daughter the wildflowers on National Meadows Day after hearing about it on Facebook. It’s beautiful!  We’ve been several times now and have even seen some wildlife!  I’m glad there’s more funding to extend the project, it’s such a lovely little escape and I am so glad it’s on my door step! Well done to everyone who is helping to transform the area.’

Peter Fellows, Down to the Coast Scheme Manager, explains, ‘The Willow Walk project contributes to the conservation and celebration of East Wight’s unique habitat and species, revitalizing pubic assets and bringing them back into use for the benefit of people and the environment.  The positioning of this project, at the heart of East Wight and one of the key regeneration areas identified in The Bay Area, is also potentially very important as a demonstration of the ‘One Estate’ approach being developed by IW Council.’

Additional benefits from the walk will be cultural and historic interpretation regarding Pluto and the Browns site, both initiatives being developed with the help of Down to the Coast.  Lost Duver wildflower planting here and around the Bay is thanks to support from Tesco’s Bags of Help Scheme.

You can follow The Common Space’s progress on Facebook @TheBayTCS

For further information on how to apply for East Wight Landscape Partnership Grants, please visit www.downtothecoast.co.uk.