Rosemary Fields is predominately a meadow habitat. They are part of the larger development area of Nicolson Road. As part of the development, the two fields are to be retained as public open space and will be transferred to Natural Enterprise for ongoing maintenance and enhancement. They were part of a larger farm complex (Preston Farm) but have not been formally managed for several years pending planning permission and construction works. In the meantime the larger field had been horse grazed and periodically cut to control ragwort, although the site has been largely untouched in the last few years.
I campaigned for many years for this site owned by IW Council be opened up for residents to be able to use, go for walks and enjoy the wonderful nature of the site. I carried on campaigning during Covid19 lockdowns and with the help of Natural Enterprise/Gift to Nature successfully persuaded IW Council to give the site over to Natural Enterprise and Ryde Town Council. Below is a photo in 2020 of me and the late Muddie the dog when it was officially named Rosemary fields and open to the public.
Until the summer of 2020 there was no official public access although the whole development area has been used informally by local walkers. In summer 2020 Natural Enterprise created a mown linking path between the fields and a circular route around one of them. This was linked to public footpath running through the site.
Now the site is open for all and worth a visit. I am so proud that my campaigning was successful and a big thank you to Gift of Nature/Natural Enterprise for maintaining the site for Ryde residents to enjoy.
What to look and listen for …
Since managing the site we have found corky fruited dropwort, knapweed, ribwort plantain, creeping buttercup, meadow buttercup, ragwort, hogweed, common spotted orchids and bramble. Bird’s-foot trefoil is known as ‘eggs and bacon’ and is great for caterpillars and bees, whilst fleabane is so-called for its apparent ability to ward off fleas, but in our meadows it does a good job of attracting insects, so it may not have been the most effective of repellents! Yarrow was used as a charm against bad luck and illness. Although it was also used to stop wounds from bleeding, it was believed to cause nosebleeds if put up the nose. Dingy skipper, marbled white, meadow brown and small skipper butterflies have all been seen here.
Birds previously recorded nesting include whitethroats nesting and buzzards. Magpies make a noisy chattering sound, whilst the wren, despite being such a small bird, has a very powerful song, it starts with a sequence of bright, clear tones, before a series of trilling verses. When two rival dunnock males come together they become animated with lots of wing-flicking and loud calling. The largest UK tit – the great tit – can be seen and heard, it is green and yellow with a striking glossy black head with white cheeks and a distinctive two-syllable song. You can also hear blue tits, jays, blackbirds, blackcaps, carrion crows, robins and jackdaws. Listen to the sounds of Ryde town and The Solent – the hovercraft, the train and the creaking of the gate on the railway-crossing.
… and smell and touch
Smell the sweet smell of blackberries, you are welcome to pick them. Find some ribwort plantain – it is the subject of a game that’s similar to conkers – pick the stems and knock the flower heads together, battle it out to see whose head drops off the stem first.
Nature at home and activities on site
We have produced a super Colouring Sheet for you to download and complete at home. We have also produced an I Spy Sheet and Map for you to print at home, or download to your phone and take to the site. And become a Bug Bunch Ranger. All these activities and resources can be found here.
Managing the site
The open grassland is currently being invaded by brambles and self-sown trees and shrubs. This is the natural process of succession and without intervention will proceed to mature woodland. In order to suspend this process, the site will need to be mown annually in the late summer/early autumn. Every year in the autumn approximately one third/one quarter of the open grass areas will be cut and this will be on a three/four-year rotation. In practice the areas to be cut are selected each year at the end of the growing season and those with the thickest growth are cut that year amounting to approximately a third of the available area. This regime would extend to the bramble patches and a decision would be made to either cut patches of bramble to base or simply cut around the perimeter to prevent further spread. This largely depends upon how vigorously the bramble is growing and spreading and the aim is to create a patchwork of grassland with mixed bramble and tree and shrub growth without allowing the dominance of any one element within the habitat. This also means that every year approximately two thirds\three quarters of the site is left undisturbed as sanctuary areas for wildlife
How to get there
On foot and by bike – The site can be accessed from Footpath R54 from Oakfield, from Footpath R55 from Elmfield, and Footpaths R52 and R52a from Rosemary Lane and Swanmore. The Nunwell Trail passes the site.
By bus – Ryde Fire Station stop (Route 2) then 360 metre walk via footpath R55. (Bus Timetables)
By car – There is no road access to this site. There is no parking at the site. The nearest on-road parking is Great Preston Road.