Isle of Wight Downs IPA

Location: Above Freshwater Bay, to the west of Freshwater, at the far west of the Isle of Wight.

Grid Reference: SZ 326 853

Isle of Wight Downs IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of lichen on dry calcareous (chalk) grasslands
  • The species richness of vascular plants on rock cliffs, ledges and shores
  • Tennyson Down is part of the chalk ridge that forms the backbone of the Isle of Wight. Extending 3 miles to the west, where it ends at the Needles, to the east the hill descends gently down to Freshwater Bay where the sea has cut through the ridge. To the south are Highdown Cliffs, a near vertical chalk cliff drop of over 100 metres to the sea below. The top of the Down is fairly flat and is well-known for its chalk heathland, where chalk plants coexist with acid-loving species such as heather.

    These downlands represent one of the best examples of chalk grassland in the south of England under maritime influence. The most exposed chalk cliff tops support important assemblages of nationally rare lichens, including Fulgensia fulgens. As well as calcareous grassland species such as common restharrow, wild carrot, carline thistle and lesser hawkbit.

    The instability and maritime influence has altered the chalk grassland vegetation to include maritime species such as yellow horned-poppy, rock samphire, wild cabbage, and buck’s-horn plantain. Nine species of orchid may be found here including the pyramidal orchid, county flower of the Isle of Wight, and populations of such rare plants as the early gentian and tufted centaury.