See a red squirrel at Borthwood Copse walk
Borthwood Copse, Alverstone Road, Winford, Isle of Wight. PO36 0LDRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
This short atmospheric walk in a secluded part of the Island takes you through woods that are home to an Isle of Wight speciality: the red squirrel. It is a particularly beautiful place to be when the trees take on their autumn colours in October and early November.
- Bus stop
Start: Parish Council car park, off Alverstone Rd on Winford to Alverstone road, grid ref: SZ566843
Enter the wood and start to descend. The path soon reaches a cathedral-like clearing with fallen logs offering good places to sit.
Our walk takes you through beautiful ancient oak woodland which is traditionally managed with hazel coppice and particularly colourful in October and early November. Some of the oaks are several hundred years old. Enjoy the stands of russet coloured beech in the glade in the middle of the wood and the golden leaves of the birch. Look out for the areas of planted sweet chestnut in their autumn hues.We use some of the oak and chestnut wood to make wooden hurdles, gateposts, and fence materials, like our fence at Bembridge Windmill.
Bear left immediately on entering the clearing and take a rising path, the left-most of two paths leaving the clearing at the same point. Pass through a holly thicket on the way to the top where it begins to open out near the edge of the wood. Turn right to descend again just before some house gardens. Bear left at a junction, following the line of the boundary of the gardens and soon the path broadens out in a clearing by an oak tree. Follow this track onwards and downwards till it meets an even wider crossing track, shortly after passing Borthwood Jumps on the right.
Interesting flowers include wood anemone, common cow wheat, wood sorrel, primroses and foxgloves. In spring the woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells. Look out for woodland butterflies along rides and glades. These include brimstone, speckled wood and white admiral. Flowers and insects both benefit from the extra sunlight that is let in when trees are felled and coppiced. Various woodland birds can be seen such as great spotted woodpeckers, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, blue tits and great tits. Both the larger trees with rot holes and the younger growth from areas of coppice provide suitable nesting sites (direction 2).
Turn right and follow this track almost to the edge of the wood, ignoring all side paths. Over its length, the path rises gently through a gully, then falls, and rises again.
This is a good site for red squirrels, especially following leaf fall, as they live in the tree tops and build their nests, known as dreys, high up in the branches. They dont hibernate but bury tree seeds, from pine, larch and spruce, as a winter food source. Their diet also includes nuts, such as hazel, sweet chestnut and beech, and shoots, leaves, fungi and insects. Unlike the larger grey squirrels (of which there are none on the Island), red squirrels cannot digest tannins in acorns. One of their main predators is the buzzard. Dormice are also common here in Borthwood, although rarely seen (direction 3).
Eventually a field is seen through the trees to the left. Just before a right bend which leads to a stile and out of the wood, turn right along a westerly path which follows the line of the edge of the wood. It rises gently, emerging shortly after another holly thicket close to a fence into a field on the left. Turn right here and follow the path downwards, past a fallen oak and yet more holly, to a crossing path.
Borthwood used to be part of a much larger area of medieval hunting forest and would have looked more like part of the New Forest with more scattered trees and heathland. Queen Isabella de Fortibus, the medieval Queen of the Isle of Wight, is said to have watched the deer hunt from a vantage point called Queens Bower, at the north-west corner of Borthwood.
End: Parish Council car park off Alverstone Rd, grid ref: SZ566843
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 1.25 miles (2km). Total ascent is 100ft (30m)
- Time: 40 minutes approximately
- OS Map: Landranger 196; Explorer OL29
There are no gates or stiles but the paths are uneven and can be muddy. Some of the undergrowth is fairly thick but the paths are well used. There are no signposts so it is easy to miss a path; however the wood is only 60 acres (24ha) in size so it is hard to get lost. Dogs are very welcome here, but please keep your dog on a lead around wildlife and take any mess home with you. There is a dog bin in the car park.
- How to get here:
By foot: The way-marked Yar River Trail and Nunwell Trail pass within a mile of Borthwood Copse at Alverstone (follow the road north-east from route step 3)
By bike: 'Round the Island' Sustrans Regional route 67 passes the car park and National Cycle Route 23 (Reading to Sandown) passes Alverstone, 1 mile (1.6km) north east of step 3 (Blackwater)
By bus: Southern Vectis (tel: 01983 827000) service 8 from Newport to Ryde via Sandown, hourly: alight at 'Winford Hairpin Bend'
By car: Take Alverstone Road from Apse Heath mini-roundabout on A3056 Newport/Sandown road. The Parish Council car park is just after Forest Rd, before a 'Queen’s Bower' sign
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