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Newtown River

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Newton River is located off the south coast of England within the Western Solent and on the north-western shore of the Isle of Wight. It is an extensive nature reserve set into a river estuary that has an anchoring area and swinging moorings in its channels.

The small and well enclosed channels of the estuary provide complete protection. Access is straightforward but newcomers should enter in daylight and preferably on the lower half of the tide where the banks of the channels can be seen.
Please note

This is a small and very popular location that is likely to get overrun on summer weekends during the sailing in season.

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Keyfacts for Newtown River
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this location

Remote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Note: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: harbour fees may be charged

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 feet).

4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.

Last modified
August 24th 2018


A completely protected location with straightforward access.

Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this location

Remote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Note: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: harbour fees may be charged

Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 43.409' N, 001° 24.420' W

This is the anchoring area in the Clamerkin Lake within Fishhouse Point.

What is the initial fix?

The following Newtown River initial fix will set up a final approach:
50° 43.775' N, 001° 25.065' W
This is on the 10 metre contour and the 130°T alinement of the leading beacons. The front beacon is a post with a red/white banded 'Y' top mark; the rear a beacon with a white disk with red circle top mark.

What are the key points of the approach?

The entry and the run-up thorough The Solent and Southampton Water are covered in
The Solent and Isle of Wight Route location Coastal Overview.

  • Have sufficient rise to pass over the 1.4 metres chart datum sand bar situated outside the entrance.

  • Come in on the leading mark alignment, on 130°T, of the front wooden pile with a red/white banded ‘Y’ topmark and a rear red post carrying a white disc with a red circling edge topmark whilst passing the west cardinal to port.

  • Once the front ‘Y’ marker is within about 200 metres break off a little to starboard, and steer for the narrow entrance to the Newtown River that will be seen to be open between two shingle spits.

  • 200 metres within the entrance pass the two starboard buoys, on the west side of the channel, for the Newtown River or round hard to port around the isolated danger buoy and pass north of the starboard buoy of the ruined seawall for Clamerkin Lake.

  • Berthing options include anchoring in 2 metres or more in Clamerkin Lake and the white visitors moorings in Clamerkin Lake and Newtown River.

Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Newtown River for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Newtown River Entrance - 0.2 miles NW
  2. Thorness Bay - 1.3 miles NE
  3. Gull Island - 2.1 miles N
  4. Yarmouth - 2.3 miles WSW
  5. Gins Farm - 2.3 miles N
  6. Newport - 2.8 miles ESE
  7. Buckler's Hard - 2.9 miles N
  8. East Cowes Marina - 2.9 miles ENE
  9. Lymington - 3 miles WNW
  10. Folly Inn - 3 miles E
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Newtown River Entrance - 0.2 miles NW
  2. Thorness Bay - 1.3 miles NE
  3. Gull Island - 2.1 miles N
  4. Yarmouth - 2.3 miles WSW
  5. Gins Farm - 2.3 miles N
  6. Newport - 2.8 miles ESE
  7. Buckler's Hard - 2.9 miles N
  8. East Cowes Marina - 2.9 miles ENE
  9. Lymington - 3 miles WNW
  10. Folly Inn - 3 miles E
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Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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How to get in?

Newtown River, also referred to as Newtown Creek or Newtown Harbour, is a large natural inland harbour located on the Isle of Wight's northwestern coast. The estuary is centred on the site of a busy Medieval commercial port of Newtown that has long since gone back to nature. The villages of Newtown and Shalfleet lie close to its shore.

Newtown River consists of a number of estuaries of small rivers that has the form of several finger-like indentations in the coastline. These channels provide leisure craft with excellent shelter within an unspoilt natural harbour. The estuary is part of the Isle of Wight’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and is part of the Hamstead Heritage Coast.

Convergance Point The Solent and Isle of Wight Route location coastal description provides approach details.

Eastern Approach Vessels approaching from the east should keep outside the Salt Mead green starboard hand buoy Fl(3)G 10s. This buoy marks the drying Salt Mead ledge that extends 500 metres off shore and is inclined towards Cowes. The outer end of the ledge terminates about midway between the buoy and the shore and its foot is located where the Burnt Wood tree plantation comes down to the shore. It is only of concern for those coming inshore to make the best of an adverse tide. On closing on Newtown River stand well out from the shoreline and do not be tempted to cut in. Newtown Gravel Banks dry up to 500 metres from the shoreline here and is a shoal out to 650 metres. Keeping Yarmouth Pierhead situated 3 miles west southwest open of Hamstead Point, skirts the edge of the Newtown Gravel Banks, and the west cardinal marks its northwestern corner.

Northern Approach Those approaching from the north or middle of Western Solent will find the low lying entrance to Newtown River difficult to pick out. Good markers are the two conspicuous TV masts situated high up on the island about three miles south by southwest Newtown River. When the bearing to the masts is about 150° the river entrance is immediately to the south.

Western Approach Vessels approaching from the west should keep outside Hamstead Ledge Green con buoy FI(2)G.5s. It is possible to cut midway between the buoy and the shoreline as the Hamstead Ledge buoy marks a deep ledge of minimum depth 7.6 metres but do not close in on the shore as a steep-to ledge extends out 300 metres from the foot of Hamstead cliffs.

Initial fix location From the initial fix a west cardinal that marks the northwest edge of the Newtown Gravel Banks and Newtown River’s leading beacons, will be clearly seen.

The front leading mark is a wooden pile with a red/white banded ‘Y’ topmark. The rear of the marks, located on the eastern point of the river’s entrance Fishhouse Point, has a red post carrying a white disc with a red circling edge topmark. Brought into alignment on 130° T they lead past the cardinal to port and in over the sand bar outside the entrance. This has about 1.4 metres of water chart datum and the helmsman should be watchful of cross currents.

Once the front ‘Y’ marker comes within about 200 metres the helmsman should drift off the marks to starboard, allowing the beacons to open, to find the best water. Once abeam of the front ‘Y’ beacon the narrow entrance to the Newtown River will be seen to open between two shingle spits. Turn a little to starboard and steer directly for the middle of the spits.
Please note

A starboard hand beacon, opposite the front leading mark, and a port mark on the head of Fishhouse Point that may appear on older charts have been removed.

The entrance is very narrow, just about 60 metres wide, but the spits are very steep-to and it carries at least 2.4 metres of water. Expect a fair flow of water, in and out but especially on a Spring Ebb, in the entrance channel at mid-tide. Within the entrance the harbour speed limit is five knots.

200 metres within the entrance the river divides into two main channels. There are four key marks that need attention as they shape the course to the intended channel. Those arriving on a rising tide should quickly focus on these marks as they represent a turn point, and a vessel can be carried to them very quickly on the flood.

These are two starboard buoys on the west side of the channel and a corresponding isolated danger mark, black with two red bands with two black balls top mark, on the east side. The isolated danger buoy, marking a small shallow hump with 0.5 metres chart datum, has a further starboard buoy on its southern side. This bouy marks the ruins of an old seawall that is the southern boundary of Clamerkin Lake.

Those heading for the Newtown River, which continues south by southwest, should come between the two starboard marks and the opposite isolated danger mark, then turn about 40° to starboard to continue upriver. Do not be tempted to cut in to the west of the two starboard marks as they mark a dangerous gravel bank.

Those heading for Clamerkin Lake, which turns abruptly eastward, should again come between the two starboard marks and the opposite isolated danger. Then, when abreast of the isolated danger, start a turn through 90° hard to port, to round isolated danger mark’s southern side and pass between it and to the north of the starboard hand buoy.

Beyond this the channels are well marked by beacons, both lateral and cardinal along with red and green withies. Vessels should keep to the marks with a keen eye of the echo-sounder at all times. If you should go astray it is mostly very soft mud that causes little issue and it is easy to back off.

Haven location Clamerkin Lake, on the eastern side and bound to the south by the ruins of an old sea wall, has an anchoring area with at least two metres of water immediately within.

It has six moorings commencing at its northern end, with those that are situated around the north cardinal on the northern point of the ruined sea wall being the shallower where a draft of 1.7 metres can be expected.

No anchoring should take place beyond the two 'Anchorage Prohibited' notice boards where there are oyster beds. Anchoring is in clay and is usually exceptionally good when well dug in. Holding can be less certain late in the season when the bottom has been ploughed up and is loose.

Newtown River has a line of 20 marked visitors' moorings in its deeper waters. In all cases white buoys are visitors' moorings and the red buoys are local boat private moorings. Rafting on the visitor moorings is allowed for first occupants and the harbourmaster agrees. Use of unoccupied red buoys are at the harbourmaster’s discretion.

If the anchorage is overwhelmed, it may be possible to make use of the soft mud in the margins of the deep water channels. The mud is soft enough for a fin keel to sink in and deep enough to allow a vessel to sit up upright. It's important to choose the tidal cycle and location carefully and the harbourmaster is best placed to advise on this. Berthing like this will normally prohibit tender access or exit during the lower tide cycles.

There is a fee for anchoring to help the National Trust maintain the nature reserve. It is waived for National Trust members. Fees for mooring buoys are always applicable.

Land by tender up the Newtown River that leads up and opens into four branches, Western Haven, Corf Lake, Causeway Lake and the river itself which continues through to Shalfleet Lake to Shalfleet. Hamstead Quay is accessible at all states of the tide except at low water Springs. Shalfleet Quay dries beyond its head 1.5 hours either side of LW springs. Newtown Quay is only accessible three hours either side of high water. Hamstead Duver, on the western side of the entrance, is accessible at all times.
Please note

A 'duver' pronounced 'dover' is an Isle of Wight dialect term for an area of sand dunes. Fishhouse Point is a bird sanctuary upon which no landing is permitted.

Why visit here?
Newtown River, sometimes also referred to as Newtown Creek, got its name from a medieval settlement of Newtown that once existed here. Originally called Francheville, meaning Free-town, it was later renamed Newtown to inspire a hoped-for resurrection of its fortunes after being sacked by the French in 1377.

Human inhabitation of this beautiful estuary goes back to prehistoric man. Numerous flint finds have been made on the lands bordering the estuary and likewise evidence of Roman activity. It has been said that it once hosted a Saxon town that was destroyed by a Danish raid in 1001. The allocation of this attack to Newtown has largely been discredited but it is not disputed that a small settlement existed here during these times. Almost all evidence of earlier settlements were unfortunately wiped away by construction of the medieval town and harbour of Francheville.

Francheville was founded by Bishop-elect of Winchester, Aymer de Valence who gave the town its charter in 1256. At the time the site of Newtown lay within the manor of Swainston that was known as Calbourne after the village near the source of one of the branches of the Newtown River. This manor covered 13 square miles and contained a large part of the north shores of the Isle of Wight. The tract of land had been granted to the bishop of Winchester, starting the long connection between Winchester and the manor, by King Egbert of Wessex in a charter of 826. Francheville’s first known mention was in a court roll for the bishop's manor, for the year 1254-55, where it notes the work at a house 'in the new borough of Francheville'. The Bishop of Winchester had high hopes for his town naming his streets Gold Street and Silver Street. He granted the burgesses the same liberties that were enjoyed by the bishop's towns of Taunton, Witney, Alresford and Fareham. The town was to be an early medieval success but not for the clergy. In 1284 Edward I forced the bishop to hand over his lands on the island and despite the Bishop paying a fine of £2,000 to get them back, the king retained Francheville as a royal borough.

Francheville was one of three planned 12th century boroughs with the towns of Newport and Yarmouth being established by members of the ruling de Redvers family. The position of all these towns centred on their proximity to navigable estuaries and their sheltered harbours. Their capabilities as trading centres were far more important than having access to good quality agricultural land. At the start of the 14th century Francheville was thriving and the only one of these towns to achieve early successful urban status. By then it is believed to have been home to 60 families. It had the twin advantages of being centrally placed and its harbour, reputed to be the safest on the island, could take vessels of up to 500 tons. Within the harbour was an abundant supply of oysters and there was a prosperous salt-works. By the middle of the 14th century, it was slowly starting to mature into a thriving commercial centre. By 1344 the town was assessed to be the most important port on the island and worth twice the value of Newport which would ultimately become the island’s capital. But then disaster struck.

In 1349 the Black Death came to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight with coastal areas taking the brunt of the suffering. Losses of over 50% of coastal populations were experienced in a number of cases. Although it is not certain how Francheville fared its situation on the coast made it particularly vulnerable and it can be expected that it suffered severely. The Black Death was not the only devastating blow, as the plague recurred throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. When the town was already on its knees the French raid of 1377 was the coup de grâce.

With the Isle of Wight in the front line of the wars with France the town was subject to a raid and was burnt down, and there was extensive killing. The blow to the population can be seen in its tax receipts of 57 burgesses in 1255, 66 in 1298-99, 196 ‘taxpayers’ in 1377 and then 31 taxpayers in 1379 two years after the attack. These figures suggest that the raid may have reduced the population by as much as three-quarters. Despite the renaming of the town to ‘Newtown’ there was little recovery after this.

It is entirely possible that Newtown had a declining community even before this, with the Black Death and competition from Yarmouth and Newport all taking their toll. The town lingered on in its derelict 1377 state for nearly 200 years. In a 1559 survey it was noted that Newtown no longer had a market and it did not have a single good house still standing. The harbour slowly became clogged with silt prohibiting access to larger vessels. It finally sank to its post-medieval condition of semi-desertion and was declared a 'rotten borough' until the Reform Act of 1832. The town church was in ruins by the 18th century, and was replaced by another building dedicated to the Holy Ghost in 1835. The town hall was restored in 1813, and again in the 1930s. The Newtown Arms Inn was closed in 1916 and the two large salt-pans ceased salt production in the 1930s.

Newtown Harbour was saved in the 1960s from the threat of a nuclear power station being built near the harbour entrance. Most of the estuary of the Newtown River, covering a land area of approximately 88 hectares, is now a nature reserve owned by the National Trust. The eastern shore of Newtown estuary (Clamerkin Lake) is a firing range operated by South East Reserves Forces and Cadet Association (SERFCA) consisting of 810 acres.

This National Trust area amounts to 14 miles in all its branches, with four miles of foreshore on the Solent, as well as Newtown and Shalfleet Quays and many farms. Under their stewardship they have retained the estuary as a natural place keeping it in its timeless and unchanged state, just as it has been for centuries. With its varied habitats ranging from woodland, ancient meadows, mudflats and marshland it supports 95 different species of wildlife some very rare, but its primary importance is as a wintering ground for seabirds. The River is part of the Isle of Wight’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and is part of the Hamstead Heritage Coast. The area is also part of a 619.3 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

From a sailing perspective the Newtown estuary is a peaceful natural haven for sailors just as it is for its wildlife. It represents not only an excellent berth but one of the best examples in southeast England of a natural estuary. It is loved for its unspoilt beauty and tranquillity. Today it is difficult to imagine this peaceful natural landscape was a thriving Middle Ages’ commercial harbour, the history is palpable. The earthworks remain around the harbour and the medieval town with its streets and houses can be visited on foot. It is still possible to trace the outline of the old town within the mainly pasture fields that make up the site today. The 18th-century brick and stone building Old Town Hall survives from the ancient borough and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Another survivor is the 17th-century unusually shaped stone and tile building, locally referred to as Noah's Ark, that was formerly The Francheville Arms inn. The two square ponds by the boathouse are the salterns.

What facilities are available?
There are no real facilities in this nature reserve. Water can be had at the end of the footbridge at Newtown Quay. The quay is accessible three hours either side of High Water after which it dries. From the quay it is possible to walk south down Shalfleet Quay Lane that joins Mill Lane and which leads to Shalfleet.

Arriving at the New Inn pub, at the head of the lane, turn east on the A3054 to walk to the garage located about five minutes' up the road with a deli nearby. The garage has gas, fuel plus some basic food provisions. Turn west from the New Inn on the A3054 to walk to Warlands Lane, at the next crossroad nearby take the south leg to Shalfleet post office and shop that opens 0900/1300 Mon/Sat. Yarmouth or Cowes provide better provisioning options.

Buses from Shalfleet on average every 2 hours.

Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel visiting Newtown River. When busy be prepared for unprofessional anchoring and protective sparing that can be irritating.

With thanks to:
Davie Flannagan, Newtown River Harbour Master. Photography Rodney Harris, Mark Pepall, Philip Halling, Daniel Hall and Michael Harpur.

The following videos may be useful to help first time visitors familiarise themselves with Newtown River area.

The first four minutes of this very early season video provides an overview of the estuary.

A photograph is worth a thousand words. We are always looking for bright sunny photographs that show this haven and its identifiable features at its best. If you have some images that we could use please upload them here. All we need to know is how you would like to be credited for your work and a brief description of the image if it is not readily apparent. If you would like us to add a hyperlink from the image that goes back to your site please include the desired link and we will be delighted to that for you.

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