The rare but delightful Red Squirrel can be found in this wood.
Common Dog-Violet was the foodplant of the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, But now its Extinct here now its just the foodplant of the Silver-Washed Fritillary
Great-Spotted Woodpecker can be found in the tall Pine forest areas of the wood
Primroses are quite common on the woodland floor where there are gaps in the canopy, it was once the foodplant of the Duke of Burgundy Fritillary here.
Roe Deer can be found in the woodland and along the field margins of the woodland, especially early in the morning.
Honeysuckle the foodplant of the White Admiral butterfly
White Admiral's are quite common in the woodland where their foodplant grows in profusion.. Here a male is feeding on Bramble blossom
Bluebells starting to bud in a canopy gap in the woodland
Parkhurst Forest – Red Squirrel Hide
The Island is famous for its red squirrels and has one of the best and the last English populations of this shy woodland animal. Parkhurst Forest near Newport is one of the best places to search for them and you might be lucky enough to see some from the magnificent log cabin hide which we built with the help of the Forestry
Commission. The hide is specially designed with a high roof to allow you to look up into the treetops to watch for a display of nimble squirrels.
How to get there
On foot/By bike – Cycling is permitted on the gravel tracks throughout the forest, so you can cycle right to the entrance to the hide area. There is a suggested route from The Red Squirrel Trail (NCN 23) via Stag Lane, and a free map available to download here. On foot you can access the hide via the forest tracks from any entrance to the forest.
By bus – Forest Corner Stop (Route 7) + 15 min walk through the forest. (Bus Timetables)
By Car – There is a large gravel car park accessed from Forest Road. Parking is currently free. The hide is a 15 minute walk away. Postcode for the car park entrance for satnav PO30 5LZ
At Parkhurst Forest you used to be able to see the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterfly which was regarded as important on the national scale by the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). This butterfly was scarce locally and its population was declining in the 1990's. The caterpillar and butterfly feeds on violets, which need area of coppiced woodland to survive. The best chance to see this pretty butterfly was between late April and early June in forest clearings, it died out through lack of coppicing and maintaining forest clearings. White admiral butterflies can be found in Parkhurst. They have been identified as a medium priority species by the Regional Action Plan. White Admirals are a striking butterfly with a white band on black. They eat honeysuckle and are best seen near brambles in sunny glades or the cleared paths (forest rides).
These rides and clear fell areas in Parkhurst are important because the long grass habitats are great for small mammals and their predators such as the long-eared owl. You can also see sparrow hawks and buzzards. The ponds in the centre of the forest are home to great crested newts, Britain’s largest newt which can live up to 27 years. Great crested newts are dark in colour and eat insects, both in the water and on land.
The red squirrel is Britain’s only native squirrel. The Island’s population has been able to thrive due to the absence of grey squirrels. Grey squirrels were introduced to Britain around the end of the eighteenth century. It is uncertain why this was done but likely that the Victorians had little understanding of the damage this would cause. Red squirrels have also suffered due to the loss of their habitats; they are able to live in a wide range of forest types but they prefer conifer because they can forage more efficiently. Red squirrels are 35 to 40cm from nose to tail, weighing only 350g. Their colouring is hugely variable, ranging from bright ginger, red through to dark brown and they can even be tinged with grey. In the winter they are particularly noticeable with their big ear tufts. Squirrel nests, called dreys, can be spotted in tree forks or hollows and are constructed from twigs and lined with moss and hair.
Managing the site
The Red Squirrel Viewing Hide was built in 2001 by Gift to Nature and opened by David Bellamy, it resembles a log cabin and is built mostly from oak and douglas fir harvested from the forest. You will also see various sculptures around the hide created by local artists. In 2015 we refurbished the hide, installing new interpretation materials, magnifying posts to inspect your forest-finds and some huge leaf seats which you can relax in and gaze up into the forest canopy.
The Pearl-Bordered Fritillary disappeared from Parkhurst Forest in 2012 despite efforts to save it. Coppicing areas to encourage Dog-Violet growth, was one part, but why it disappeared isn't really known. No other sites close by would have reinforced its presence here so it naturally died out. There may be another re-introduction of this splendid species into the wood and other woods close by.
Parkhurst Forest consists of both ancient woodland and heathland., it is a haven for wildlife with many species of bird such as garden warbler, nightjar, woodcock, green and great spotted woodpecker and long-eared owl.