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Things to see and do at Borthwood Copse

Red squirrel sitting on a tree branch on Brownsea Island, Dorset
A rare red squirrel | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Wander amongst the ancient oak and beech trees, and into the sunny glades of coppiced hazel and sweet chestnut, which are perfect for picnicking. There’s plenty of wildlife to see and hear, including birds and butterflies – but look out in particular for the rare native red squirrel. With their striking colouring and tufted ears, red squirrels are easy to recognise, yet they’re an endangered species and sightings are increasingly rare in Britain, especially in the south of England. This makes the isolated but thriving population of 3,500 red squirrels on the Isle of Wight very important.

Discover the woodland wildlife at Borthwood Copse

Borthwood Copse was once part of a much larger medieval hunting forest of oak, hazel and beech. Over the centuries, other species, such as Scots pine and sweet chestnut, have been planted.

Oak trees support a vast array of life, but here they are particularly important for deadwood wildlife such as rare beetles, hoverflies and fungi. Birds and bats also make their homes in holes created by the decaying wood.

Look out for red squirrels

Arguably the rarest and most striking of all the wildlife to be found here is the red squirrel, now gone from most of southern England. The Isle of Wight is special because it has no grey squirrels, and Borthwood Copse is one of the best places to see red squirrels on the island, although they're shy and easily disturbed by noise. They can also be seen in the woodland around Newtown, across the Mottistone Estate and in the Forestry Commission’s Parkhurst Forest. Red squirrels are most active and visible in autumn but can be seen here all year round.

It's an offence to introduce grey squirrels to the Isle of Wight, and there are tales of the ferry being turned back to repatriate a grey stowaway to the mainland.

Go birdwatching on Borthwood Copse

The ancient trees of Borthwood Copse are home to a number of woodland bird species. Listen out for the high-pitched calls of goldcrests and the drumming of woodpeckers, then see if you can follow the sounds to their source.

Spot butterflies

Our woodland management creates a variety of habitats that benefit butterflies. Look out for gliding species like the white admiral – named for the prominent white bars along the black upper-sides of their wings – as they search for nectar in the sunny clearings we’ve made. Harder to spot are purple hairstreaks, dancing around in the upper reaches of the oak trees. 

Enjoy the wildflowers

Before the leaves of the trees shut out the light, Borthwood Copse comes alive with flowers. Visit in late April and May and you’ll find a carpet of wood anemones and bluebells beneath the ancient oaks.

Beech grove in autumn at Borthwood Copse, Isle of Wight
Beech grove in autumn at Borthwood Copse | © National Trust Images/Rebecca Bevan

Bring your dog to Borthwood Copse

Borthwood Copse isn't very large, but it has a maze of paths and plenty of interesting places for your dog to investigate so no walk need ever be the same.

Please pick up your dog’s waste. There is a dog bin at the entrance to the woods by the Parish Council car park.

Cycling in the woods

A small section of the woods is used for mountain biking and BMX jumps. While we normally encourage people to get active in National Trust countryside places, Borthwood Copse is an Ancient Woodland with historic features, home to a variety of wildlife and plants, and is enjoyed by many people, so we ask that you stick to the one bridleway shown on the map, push your bike to the start of the jumps if you are using them and don't cycle through the woods on any of the other footpaths, except in the area that already has jumps.

The National Trust and Isle of Wight Mountain Bike Centre are working together to decide the future of the bike jumps here at Borthwood. We would like to establish a much safer and better skills course in the same place, which respects other people's enjoyment of these woods. Until we know whether this is possible, please help us by: doing no more digging, taking litter home, respecting other visitors, not riding or jumping across the bridleway.

Beech grove in autumn at Borthwood Copse, Isle of Wight


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