Fort Victoria Country Park
The Diverse woodlands, cliffs and foreshore at Fort Victoria Country park are home to many species of plants and animals.
Follow the trail to find out about the woodland wildlife or, if the tide is out head for the shore to explore the rockpools.
The Isle of Wight is formed from many layers of sedimentary rock later folded by global plate movements.
About 70 million years ago the North Atlantic began to widen. The earths crust each side of the new ocean began to jostle into new positions forcing Africa northwards into Europe. The pressure caused substantial buckling of the Earths crust - forming Alps and folding the Island to form the south downs and central downs. The youngest rocks on the Island were deposited in a shallow basin on its northern half - the oldest rocks remained to the south.
The cliffs at Fort Victoria are from the boundary of the Oligocene and Eocene around 34 to 32 million years ago.
At that time the northern coast was covered by a large shallow lagoon that stretched north into the New Forest and westwards towards Poole. The southern half of the Island consisted of low hills. The warm climate was home to reptiles, birds, mammals and many insects. Along the beach at Fort Victoria you can still find fossilised turtle shell, alligator armour and teeth, and thousands of broken white shells. Today these animals live in warmer lands much further to the south.
Situated a short distance from Yarmouth, overlooking the Solent, Fort Victoria has had a long and interesting history.
It was built for military use to defend the Solent from French Invasion, and the remains of the Victorian fort are now classed as a Grade 2 Listed building. From the fort - particularly from the roof are spectacular views of the Solent, across to Hurst Castle and the New Forest National Park.
Victorian Fort completed in 1855
used by military from 1855 to 1962
On the shore
The beach at Fort Victoria is a fascinating place, with sandy stretches and rocky pools as well as ever-changing views of the busy Solent.
On the beach there is much to look out for. There are around 700 different seaweeds in British waters; they are grouped by colour - either red, brown or green. Along the strand line, where the high tide comes up to, you might find the remains of marine creatures. The beach is a great place to find fossils; as the coastline erodes fossils are revealed. you could find fossilised mollusc shells or even fragments of alligator armour and turtle shell.
Many types of sea bird can be spotted on the coast. You might see a cormorant drying its wings on the rocks, terns diving for fish, oystercatchers probing in the sand, and several types of seagull.
At Low tide look out for limpets and sea anemones on the rocks.
In the rock pools you might find shore crabs, small fish and shrimps.
Along the strand line you could find sea shells, crab shells and cuttlefish bones. You may also find a mermaid's purse - the egg cases of dogfish and rays, plus many different shells.
On the slopes
There are many wildflowers in the woodland glades and on the slopes. you may also find harts tongue fern and horsetails; these are ancient plants which have changed little since the days of the dinosaurs. Several types of orchid including spotted, southern marsh and occasionally bee orchids grow here. They are beautiful plants; please leave them for others to enjoy.
The trees on the slopes become bent and stunted by their exposed position; many have fallen or slipped because of the erosion. The landslip area is an ideal habitat for adders, which like to bask in a sunny spot.
The woodland at Fort Victoria is recently established, having grown up since the Second World War. Before then the coast was kept clear so that the military could keep an eye on the channel. There are still signs of old fortifications in the woodland, including a pit which was the entrance to underground engine rooms.
The woodland is mixed; with oak, ash, holm oak and hazel. There are also plenty of pine trees; lying around at the base of the pines you will probably find pinecones that have been chewed by red squirrels in order to get the edible seeds out.
There is a great variety of wildflowers on the slopes which are a magnet for butterflies. Look out for tortoise shell, peacock, red admiral, common blue, meadow brown, speckled woodland and the black and white marbled white.
Rangers use felled wood to create habitat piles. These wood piles are home to Invertebrates, including spiders , ants, woodlice, bees, wasps, moths and butterflies and other fascinating minibeasts.
Dormice are only found in the southern counties of England, including the Isle of Wight. Dormice are nocturnal and have large eyes and a good sense of smell to find food and avoid predators. They eat flowers, fruit and nuts , and can double in weight before hibernating at the start of the winter. They are very agile and climb in bushes and trees, rarely going on the ground.
You're likely to see common birds such as robins, pigeons, blue tits, blackbirds and green woodpeckers in the wood and its clearings. Soaring above the wood you might spot a raptor, maybe a buzzard or a kestrel - or possibly even a peregrine falcon, one of the country park's regular visiting migratory birds.
The parks plants and trees provide habitat and food for insects and other small animals, which in turn are food for the bats. The Isle of Wight is home to fourteen of Britain's seventeen bat species. Around the world the word for bat is often associated with mouse, describing them as flying mice. The Island word for a bat is "Rattle mouse".
If you are lucky you may see a red squirrel. A squirrels big bushy tail helps it to balance when climbing and moving in trees. Squirrels live in a nest ball known as a drey. Females can have two litters a year with three or four kittens in each litter. Red squirrels are not particularly fussy eaters, their diet includes nuts, seeds, berries, tree bark, fungus and birds eggs.
At this clearing in the woods there are bird and bat boxes in the trees, and bats can be seen flying around at dusk. You may find a chewed fir cone in the glade; nibbled by red squirrels to get to the seeds.