• James Kenning

A Solent Treasure - Newtown Creek

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

Newtown Creek; an Isle of Wight gem offering shelter, peace, wildlife, and a sense of isolation within a National Trust reserve – but time your visit carefully to avoid the masses. Read further for a snapshot of a mid-week summer visit to this oft-admired Solent spot…

Newtown Creek is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the Solent crown; its protection from the elements, stunning views and abundance of wildlife typify what many would consider to be ‘the perfect anchorage’. However, Newtown is something of a victim of its own success in the high season with scrambles for the few visitor moorings, and a notoriety for ‘anchor antics’ within the limited confines of the Clammerkin Lake. For these reasons, Newtown Creek is best visited when far from the madding crowds (mid-week or in the shoulders of the south coast sailing season) if the tranquillity of this wonderful place is to be best appreciated.

The entrance to the estuary is narrow but if you follow closely the advice in the pilot guides, making best use of the well-placed leading marks, there is deep water midway between the spits that guard the anchorage – though with a deep keel, good tidal calculations (using Yarmouth tables) are essential. Be prepared for a tide that can run hard and fast through the narrows and, once inside, ensure you continue to observe the almanacs as the potential to run aground is high! As much of the anchorage dries, the best time to enter (especially for virgin visitors) is generally considered to be HW-4 on the flood; this enables the prudent mariner to orientate oneself to the mud flats before they disappear under a thin veil of water and the rather un-concerting false impression of a large expanse of anchoring opportunity across the drying lake – be warned and use a detailed chart wisely!

On this visit, as with all our previous stops here, we chose to pick up one of the vacant National Trust-owned visitor moorings laid within the branch of the Newtown River that leads south to Shalfleet Quay. Without any significant local knowledge of the shallows of the Clammerkin Lake, we feel more comfortable lying to a buoy here than risking a grounding through swinging on a chain (though the holding is supposed to be very good in mud). That said, the river channel is narrow and there is only limited space to manoeuvre a 46’ yacht amongst the other boats on the trots.

On this occasion a stiff F4-5 from the east forced an approach onto the buoy from behind the boats lying close to the western bank; I lost more than a few heartbeats as the depth sounder alarmed close to zero and a plume of dirty brown silt kicked up behind Arkyla’s turning stern.

It was not long before a National Trust dory came alongside to collect their £20 fee for a night’s stay. The pair of harbour-masters behave more as old friends than dues collectors. Aside from giving us a very ‘warm and fuzzy’ that our 1.8m of draught is good for all states of any tide up to the fourth mooring buoy and providing the most vital information on how best to get to the pub, they were welcoming, engaging and keen to hear all about our cruising story so far for that day. Remarking upon Arkyla’s light-blue RAFSA ensign snapping with gusto at the stern, a good twenty minutes then went by mulling over life in, and connections to, the most junior of the UK military services (the one with bad habits rather than traditions); eventually they headed off to accost another yacht that had dropped its’ hook in the lake whilst we’d been chatting. Technically anchoring is free here, however you will be asked to make a small voluntary donation to the National Trust for laying within their confines. The National Trust does great work in maintaining this wonderful spot so please don’t be be-grudging as the contributions go directly toward helping to preserve this very special place for both the yachts that visit and the wildlife that make the reserve their home!

Arkyla safely secured to her National Trust mooring.

Once firmly secured to either river bed or mooring, Newtown Creek is a wonderful place to sit back and relax, observe the birds and (if lucky) seals through the binoculars, or break out the tender to go for an explore. The whole area is a nature reserve and you should abide by the various restrictions on landing to preserve those areas set aside only for the local wildlife; that said, there is plenty of space open for landing and the western spit is popular for trips ashore and impromptu BBQs when the weather suits.

There are no services in Newtown; if your cupboards are bare then the only option to feed is to dinghy ashore and make for the New Inn which is a half-mile stride or so from the Shalfleet landing. What a treat lies in wait for you at the pub; we were heartened by the warmth of the welcome, impressed by the range of ales and gins, and almost incapacitated by salivation with the quality of the food most definitely matching the promise of the menu. We really can’t recommend this place highly enough – a real hidden treasure of the Isle of Wight!

By the time it came to wobble out of the pub and head back to the boat, the winds had dropped considerably and there was a serene calm within the anchorage as we slowly motored back to the yacht for a final gin and tonic in the cockpit. The anchorage fell fully silent as the last of the sun dipped below the horizon and we settled below for the night.

I awoke early in the morning and crept on deck with the camera to try and capture the surreal stillness to the Clammerkin Lake as the sun rose and painted the landscape in a glorious gold. This was, however, the calm before the storm; a severe gale was forecast to barrel into the south coast during the following 24 hours and the decision had already been made to make the short hop back to Lymington to put the boat to bed ahead of the bad weather. The wife joined me on deck for breakfast and, as we chilled waiting for the tide to turn westwards, the world slowly also began to rouse around us. A small French yacht took line honours for first to depart Newtown and, as she slowly coasted past our stern, the ripples from the gentle wake distorted her own reflection and lightly slapped our hull. We followed not long afterwards; we motored out through the narrows, turned to port and set only the genoa to pull us home to Lymington on the building easterly.

A French cruising boat is first to break the morning still waters.

Tags: Newtown Creek, the Solent, Solent cruising, Isle of Wight, south coast sailing, UK yachting, anchorages, National Trust, Shalfleet Quay, New Inn, cruising journals, Regina 43, Regina yachts, Arkyla, sailingarkyla, best UK anchorages, cruising life, sailing life, Clammerkin Lake.

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