The Western Yar was once a river with a well developed system of tributaries, but the erosion of the channel coast has destroyed its upper catchment. Protection works now prevent the sea flowing into the Western Yar at Freshwater Bay – the source of the river. The river must once have been one of the largest on the Island but is now no more than a brook with a disproportionately large estuary. A balanced landscape of fields, saltmarsh and woods all add to the attractiveness of the river.
Afton Marsh reed beds dominate the upper reach. Creation of the harbour and breakwater in 1843 at Yarmouth did much to change the shape of the lower reaches of the estuary, as did the building of a tidemill and sluice gates in 1793 across the Thorley Brook – the Western Yar’s main tributary. The bridge and harbour dominate the estuary mouth.
Colin Pope from the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeology Society has written a fascinating history and has kindly let us have a copy – Marshlands of Freshwater 2016 .
The technical bits
The Western Yar is currently classed as ‘Moderate’ quality within the Water Framework Directive. This means it is failing, and the aim is to improve. The objective set are ‘Moderate’ by 2021 and 2027. Improvement measures have a time-lag. Click for a fuller explanation.
In 2014 we mapped all the issues we were aware of with regards to the Western Yar. This map can be viewed here. Please let us know if you know of other issues.