The reserve is on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight and comprises areas of estuary and foreshore with extensive mudflats and saltmarsh, together with adjacent meadows and woodland.
County: Isle of Wight
Main habitats: Coastal, Wood Pasture
Area: 288 Ha
Site map: Nature on the Map.
Although most NNRs are managed by Natural England, 88 are wholly or partly managed by other bodies approved by Council, under Section 35 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Newtown Harbour NNR is owned and managed by the National Trust. The Trust also owns many of the buildings in Newtown village.
The estuary is probably the best example of an undisturbed natural harbour on the south coast.
In the 13th century Newtown was a flourishing free town and port, but the gradual silting up of the estuary led to its decline. Newtown is now a village, but the outline of the old town can be seen in wide grassy tracks and small hedged meadows on the site, these features following the pattern of former streets, gardens and strip fields.
The estuary supports a number of rare species and habitats, but its primary importance is as a wintering ground for wildfowl and waders, with important numbers of Brent goose, black-tailed godwit, wigeon and teal.
Old salt workings at Newtown Quay form an important saline lagoon. The rare lagoon sandshrimp and four other specialist lagoon species have been recorded here.
The natural transition from ancient woodland to saltmarsh found along the edge of the woods is nationally rare. The woods support populations of red squirrel and dormice and are also noted for their invertebrate communities. Rare invertebrates found at the site include the fringed horned mason bee and butterflies such the silver washed fritillary, white admiral and white-letter hairstreak.
Damp meadows surrounding the ancient village support plants typical of unimproved grassland such as corky-fruited water-dropwort, green-winged orchid and adder's-tongue fern. Some of these ancient meadows are adjacent to the saltmarsh and this natural transition is, like that of the woodland, nationally rare.
As well as its wildlife interest the reserve is also an important geological site. Sections of fossil rich foreshore are exposed here and fossil mammal remains are particularly abundant.
The best times to visit the site are between April and June, for butterflies and songbirds, and September and October, for wildfowl.
Newton Harbour is on the Isle of Wight, 8 km west of Newport and 7 km east of Yarmouth.
By road the site is accessed via minor roads from the A3054. There are car parks in Newtown village and the village of Shalfleet, 1.5 km to the south west.
Ferry services go to Fishbourne, Ryde, Cowes, East Cowes and Yarmouth, and bus services from these towns to Newtown are provided by Southern Vectis.
The nearest toilet and refreshment facilities are in local villages.
There is a visitor centre at the reserve with interpretation panels and exhibits.
The reserve has two hides and two nature trails (1.5 km and 2.5 km). There is disabled access to one of the hides, and the Town Quay and Town Copse also offer easy access.