For Portsmouth - Ryde(foot passenger only) contact Wightlink, or call on 0871 376 4342
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Known as 'The Garden Isle', this jewel of England indeed resembles a diamond in shape - being some 23 miles west to east, from The Needles to Bembridge, and 13 miles north to south, from Cowes to St. Catherine's Point. This, the smallest, and perhaps the most geographically diverse, of England's counties covers just 147 square miles and is bounded by about 60 miles of coastline. Within this watery border of the Solent to the north and the English Channel to the south lies 'an England in miniature '.
The natural processes of deposition, folding and erosion during the last 120 million years have resulted in the rich variety of the Island's surface geology. The clay soils in the north and mainly sandy loams in the south are bisected by a chalk spine running west to east across the entire Island, and reaching 240 metres (787 feet) above sea level at its highest point on St. Boniface Down. The resulting and kaleidoscopic contrasts in the Island's scenery encompass open downland, beech woods, conifer forests, grazing land, wide sandy beaches, sheer chalk cliffs, rocky coves, creeks and estuaries.
The resident population of about 150,000 is concentrated in the main towns of the Island, all of which are coastal except for Newport - the county town at the literal centre of the Island. As a contrasting locality, the Island offers unrivalled opportunities for geographical study.
There are three rivers on the Island, all flowing from south to north. In the centre, and almost dividing the Island in two, the Medina rises at its source on St. Catherine's Down.
From here it flows north, to be joined by one of its tributaries, the Merstone stream at Blackwater, before continuing its lazy meandering until it reaches Newport Quay, where it becomes tidal.
As it continues on its journey northwards, both banks are lined with marine-related industries and businesses, both service and manufacturing, while the river itself is bustling with its water-borne traffic of working and pleasure craft.
The river reaches the Solent at its mouth where the twin towns of Cowes are sited. This estuary is about 17 kms from the source of the Medina.The Island's longest river, at 27 kms is the Eastern Yar, which also has its source on the southern chalk outcrop of St Catherine's Down. From here it flows north-east,
through the small town of Wroxall, before slicing through the Island's central chalk ridge at Brading, and then on to meet the Solent at Bembridge harbour - the mouth of the Eastern Yar estuary.
The third, and shortest river, at only 3 kms is the Western Yar which has its source in the salt marshes only a few hundred metres inland from Freshwater Bay - almost making the West Wight an island in its own right. From here it flows north to its mouth at the busy harbour town of Yarmouth. Like its sister river in the East Wight, the course and estuary of the Western Yar boasts reed beds, an abundance of wildlife, an old railway causeway, and outstanding scenery.