Discover Dunsbury trail
Take a breezy and invigorating farmland and downs walk with us over the Dunsbury Estate on the Isle of Wight, purchased through the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign. Admire the magnificent views, and appreciate why we bought this land in response to increasing coastal erosion on this island coast.
Brook Chine car park, grid ref: SZ385836
From the car park, take the path into the field just to the left of the track which leads down to the beach. Take the left-hand fork, following the line of the hedge and the road. Leave the field by the cattle grid and carefully cross the busy Military Road. Go along Brook Village Road and after 220yds (200m) turn left into Coastguard Lane. Follow the track past some houses then the terrace of coastguard cottages.
In the early 1800s coastguards were stationed here mainly to combat smugglers, but over time their role changed to protection of those at sea. Land was purchased in 1861 to build a two-man permanent watch coastguard station, and by 1900 there were between five and six coastguards living in these cottages. Although busy during the war, by 1960, only two coastguards were left. The station closed in 1971 as radar cover meant that fewer manned stations were needed.
When the tarmac ends, continue straight ahead on the track signposted 'BS87 Shippards Chine’. Go through a field gate and past a pond on your left, then through another field gate. Turn right opposite the entrance to Compton Grange along the path signposted ‘BS48 Dunsbury Farm and the Downs' and head up the field to a crossing track about 110yds (100m) before the fence line.
Adapting to a changing coast
This is a coastline which is constantly changing as the sea erodes the soft cliffs. Our purchase of Dunsbury will enable us to look after more of the beautiful landscape, provide coastal access and preserve wildlife. The pond marks the course of a stream valley that was a tributary to the Yar, but it has been shortened by coastal retreat. It would have originally formed a chine as the water poured over the cliff.
Turn left along the track. When you reach Dunsbury Grange farmhouse on your left, turn right through a gate and head steeply up a field keeping the fence close to your right.
The chalk downland in this part of the Island is home to an amazing 33 species of butterfly. These include the rare Glanville fritillary, first discovered in England in the 17th century by Lady Eleanor Glanville. This striking orange chequered butterfly specialises in breeding on the crumbling clay cliffs where its caterpillars feed on ribwort plantain and then retreat into their protective webs. Working with Butterfly Conservation, we hope to create the right conditions to preserve this special habitat.
Cross a stile on the ridge and turn right. Go onwards through a field gate and keep just to the left of the ridge top. Pass through another field gate and follow the grassy path between fences. Turn right immediately after a gate alongside a field gate, following the direction of the sign for 'BS86 Dunsbury’. However keep to the right of the track and take the higher level grassy path when the main track bears left and descends. Head downhill to Dunsbury Farm, with hedges on both sides.
At Dunsbury we are planning to create the right farmland habitat for wildlife to flourish. Dunsbury links the land we already own at Compton and Mottistone, providing us with a large swathe of mixed farmland, woodland and downs. The Neptune Coastal Campaign, which has been running for 50 years, has helped us make this significant purchase – the largest coastal acquisition by the National Trust for 20 years, and a very special place.
Go through two field gates and turn right onto the tarmac farm track, then quickly left after just 40yds (40m) between the buildings, signposted ‘BS102 Hamstead Trail’. The tarmac track bends left then right, heading gently downhill with buildings on both sides. Turn left at a junction of paths signposted ‘BS52’ and go between hedges to a T-junction with a seat.
Our plan is to introduce the sort of sustainable farming that will be both productive and good for wildlife. Our tenant farmers at neighbouring Compton will work the land alongside theirs. We’ll introduce light grazing by cattle and sheep, and grow cereals such as wheat, leaving wide field margins. After harvest the stubbles will be left to give winter food to birds such as the linnet, starlings, grey partridge, meadow pipit and yellow hammer. This will provide the diversity that our wildlife needs to flourish.
Turn right here along BS107 to follow the bridleway down a sunken lane, eventually reaching Badger Lane. Bear right and follow the lane into Brook Village. Turn left to visit the village, or continue with the trail by turning right along the road and go past Coastguard Lane back to the Military Road.
Brook is a tranquil and picturesque village. Charles Seely, a coal field owner and MP for Lincoln, bought the Brook estate in the 1850s and since then the Seely family have been very influential in this area. Seely Hall was opened in 1893 to offer villagers a reading room, provided with daily and weekly newspapers and a small library, also a recreation room for billiards and other games for visitors’ use.
Take care crossing this fast and busy main road to the track opposite, but unlike our outward path, head straight ahead along the track which services the houses on Brookgreen. From here you can see the old lifeboat station near the cliff edge at Brook Chine. Just before a little bridge, follow a coast path marker post on the right through a field and head back to the car park.
Brook Chine Lifeboat
This is one of the most treacherous parts of the Isle of Wight coastline, especially in south-westerly storms. There have been many wrecks. Brook lifeboat station was operated by the RNLI from 1860 and 1937 (it is now covered by Yarmouth and Bembridge) and the lifeboat crew here have saved over 380 lives. Six heavy horses and up to 30 volunteers were needed to launch the boat and its 13-man crew, and 10 horses (including local hero Warrior) were needed to drag the heavy boat back out of the water.
Brook Chine car park, grid ref: SZ385836
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