Saturday, 18 January 2020

Portsmouth to Farlington Marshes (Solent Way 7)

HMS Warrior

We started this latest leg of the Solent Way near to the arrival point of the Gosport Ferry. The first main sight was HMS Warrior which was launched in 1860 and was Britain's first iron-hulled, armoured warship.

We diverted slightly from the official route to pass under the railway and reach the Outlet Centre on the other side. This seemed to be swarming with shoppers in search of a bargain and has presumably been a very good innovation. Our real goal of course was to get a close up view of the dramatic 170m high Spinnaker, opened in 2005.

We looped round to go through the Landport Gate ...

... and follow the outside wall of the dockyard. We turned into Broad St and were delighted with this arch, with its painted capitals and precise location recorded in the arch.

Walking along Broad Street we were struck by this modern building over on the right. It seems to have been designed to resemble a ship. It is a very reasonable idea for a city like Portsmouth, but we thought it was rather clumsily executed.

At the end an excellent view point towards Gosport. Fort Blockhouse was directly opposite and Fort Gilkicker, which we passed on the previous leg, can be made out on the extreme left.

We headed through the Round and Square Towers and headed along a splendid walkway with a glimpse of the Cathedral off to the left.

This was the view back. We were surprised to discover that amidst all these defences there was also a beach.

At the end there was a fine view, with the ruined Royal Garrison church (destroyed by a wartime bomb) on the right and a statue of Nelson on the left. The building in the centre looked worth a look too.

We now walked along beside another part of the city's defenses, the Long Curtain, a defensive rampart with a moat outside it. At the end the projecting part is the Spur Redoubt which was built in about 1680.

We continued along the Millenium Path towards Southsea passing the Clarence Pier with typical seaside amusements and fast food. Shortly after this we saw a hovercraft crossing from the Isle of Wight. We thought the hovercraft was a defunct form of transport - and we were almost right, this is apparently the last one operating in the world.

Soon it zipped across the Solent at an impressive speed. Long may it continue!

A little further on was the art deco War Memorial which we admired on our one earlier walk around Portsmouth in 2012.

We approached Southsea Castle, which was a bit of a surprise. It turned out not to be very grand, but it was one of the chain of castles built by Henry VIII in the 1540s to defend against the threat from Spain. Other examples can be found at Brownsea Island and the Isle of Portland,

Just past the castle there was a fine view of Southsea's South Parade Pier. It was opened in 1879 and fully restored in 2017. When we reached the pier we felt we just had to have an ice cream.

We followed the path along the back of the beach, which became gradually more covered with vegetation, until we reached Eastney. Here we cut inland through Milton to re-emerge on the east side of Portsea Island. We followed the path along the west side of the shallow Langstone Harbour. I just had to take a photo of this lone boat, wonderfully named El barco (The boat, of course).

Just before the path comes close to the busy dual carriageway (i.e. very noisy) A2030 we found the intriguing people's war memorial. You can find out more about it here.

The final section up to the car park at the corner of Farlington Marshes was not too thrilling. In truth, Langstone Harbour is shallow, muddy and pretty featureless.

Conditions: a lovely sunny day, but eventually quite cool

Map: Explorer 119 Meon Valley, Portsmouth, Gosport & Fareham.

Distance: about 7.5 miles.

Rating: 4 stars. Lots of interest in Portsmouth, but less rewarding after Southsea Pier, i.e. the great majority of the walk.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Lee-on-the-Solent to Gosport (Solent Way 6)


After something of a gap we rejoined the Solent Way at Lee-on-the-Solent. We continued along the shoreline path for a short way before going through a gate into Browndown, an Army Firing Range. Just like at Lulworth a sign explain that you could only enter the range if the red flag was not flying. Happily it was not!

There was a choice between walking along the shingle beach or taking an inland path. We chose the latter as being easier to walk on, although doubtless a bit longer. We wandered along a grassy path with patches of shingle and then, realising we were getting further away from the coast, headed towards the sea. This brought us past this strange structure ...

... which turned out to be a firing range, presumably for smaller weapons.

As we reached the back of the shingle beach we passed this mysterious structure, rather reminiscent of a mushroom. There seemed to be no way into it and the top seemed to lack any obvious vent (I thought it might be some sort of ventilator for unfathomable underground activity). It remains a mystery.

Shortly after this we reached the exit gate and were hugely amused to discover that the firing range had been closed since .... 1977!

On leaving Browndown we passed a busy car park with some mysterious metallic structures at the back. Another information board, hopefully up to date, told us that this was part of a diving museum

We had had enough of shingle so we followed the edge of Stokes Bay along a nice solid path at the back of the shingle. On the landward side there was a car park, a fish restaurant, a lifeboat station and a vast grassy area. There were also these brutalist beach huts - we are becoming connoisseurs of beach huts.

The end of this stretch was marked by a golf course to the left and a fort which you have to skirt on the landward side. There is a large mound but not much else to see at first. As you skirt the the unusually named Fort Gilkicker you reach the entrance, which looks pretty derelict. A sign suggests there is a plan to convert it to housing, but there is nothing to suggest anything is happening.

We walked away from the fort with a golf course on both sides to reach Fort Road where we turned right towards the centre of Gosport. Reaching Haslar Road we walked along the side of the huge Fort Haslar on the left ...

... and passed the former Naval Hospital on the right. It too is being converted into apartments, seemingly with more success. The entrance tower was rather splendid. We thought we might fancy an apartment on the upper floor.

At the end of Haslar Road there is the Submarine Mueum on the right and a little further on you come to the Haslar Bridge ...

... with the Haslar Marina on the right.

We followed a harbourside walkway to return to the car park where we had left the car. Across the harbour there was a fine view of the 170m high Spinaker Tower which opened in 2005.

A bit further along to the left on the Portsmouth I was astonished to see two giant aircraft carriers moored side by side. They are HMS Queen Elizabeth (right) and its identical sister ship HMS Prince of Wales and apparently this is the first time they have been moored in this way.  This information is courtesy of BBC News, which also pointed out that the carriers cost £3.1bn each

Conditions: a lovely sunny day.

Map: Explorer 119 Meon Valley, Portsmouth, Gosport & Fareham.

Distance: about 5 miles.

Rating: 3 and a half stars. A strange, but unexpectedly interesting, walk which was unique in places.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Sandbanks & Branksome Chine

We like to do a walk along the beach around New Year and this year, for a change from walking along Studland Bay, we decided to walk from Sandbanks to Branksome Chine and back. We did a linear walk from Sandbanks to Bournemouth Pier as part of the Bournemouth Coast Path back in 2012, but that involved walking the chines behind the beach. Today we are going to stick to the beach.

There are a series of rocky groynes projecting out from the beach, hence this picture which appears at first to have been taken from out to sea. The line of buildings at the back of the beach is striking.

After a careful scrutiny, we decided that this little group was the most interesting and attractive, with the one on the right being the overall winner. 

We passed the Sandbanks Hotel and were struck by these double-decker beach huts. A little bit unusual.

We continued along the shoreline to reach Branksome Chine. The path up the chine has been invaded on both sides by beach huts scattered with gay abandon. The original coastline can be seen to the right.

After a short while the beach became much less developed - and much more inviting.

This of course ended as we reached Branksome Chine, where beach huts extended in both directions from the Chine. This was the view along the beach towards Bournemouth and beyond. A good few wind surfers were out and on the horizon on the right it was possible to make out Hengistbury Head.

We had a pleasant drink in the cafe there before turning round to head back to Sandbanks in the increasingly heavy drizzle.

Conditions: cool, drizzly.

Map: Explorer OL15 (Purbeck and South Dorset).

Distance: about 4 miles.

Rating: 3 stars. An enjoyable stroll. It was interesting to see the chines from the beach.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

King Down & Ackling Dyke

The beech avenue near to Kingston Lacy

We always like to go for a walk on New Year's day and this time we set off from Blandford Lodge, next to Kingston Lacy house. We crossed the road and, not for the first time, admired the avenue of beech trees laid out in 1835 by William Bankes.

The Bankes family had Corfe Castle as its family seat until the Civil War and built Kingston Lacey shortly afterwards, between 1663 and 1665. When Ralph Bankes died in 1981, he left the 16,000 acre estate to the National Trust - it was the largest single gift that it had received.

We followed a path around the side of a house and headed north west by a field-edge path towards  Badbury Rings. It was sadly rather grey and damp. When we reached the Rings however we were pleased to find a new viewpoint which highlighted the concentric circles of earthworks.

We headed northwards along a straight track passing King Down Farm. To the left was an area of woodland imaginatively called The Oaks. It is unusual in that the old oaks are left to die naturally rather than being cut down. This seemed rather an attractive idea.

The track became progressively narrower and more muddy but eventually we reached a lane where we turned right. We followed the lane uphill, passing the rather attractive Bradford House, before turning sharp right to begin the return leg.

This was the best part of the walk, with lovely views over the rolling hills. Unfortunately it was by now even more overcast and damp, so the vista could be neither be properly appreciated nor photographed. We headed uphill, passing two barrows, and continued along a track that led back to the busy main road.

Distance: 5.25 miles.

Map: Explorer 118 (Shaftesbury and Cranbourne Chase).

From: Dorset magazine, October 2013.
Conditions: cold, wet. It was good to get out though.

Rating: three and a half stars.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Hamstead Park

Hamstead Park

After a lot of recent rain we decided we just had to get out for a walk. Hamstead Park offered the possibility of a pleasant stroll in the winter sunshine mainly on gravel paths. We parked at Enborne church and crossed the road to enter the park. The path initially goes on the level through classic country house parkland with scattered large trees.

At the end of this section there is a little group of houses pretty much in the centre of the park and and the route diverts around it across grass and then down and up hill to rejoin the gravel road on the other side. We got suitably wet.

The route now descends towards the lake (see above) which is surrounded by a greater density of trees. It is very picturesque.

As you get closer you can see that the lake is in two sections and has somewhat overflowed its normal boundaries.

As we reached the end of the lake we saw that it flows into a stream which is crossed by a bright and jolly little bridge.

The path takes you round to the left with the lake now on your left and a small river (the Kennet) on the right. The Kennet and Avon Canal lies beyond it.

Climbing now you pass the totally overgrown remains of what was once a Norman Motte and Bailey castle. It is no longer really obvious. We did this walk in March 2010 and looking back it is staggering how clear the motte was at that point.

Just beyond it is the church of St Mary, dating mainly from 1612.

After the church there is a wide grassy area with some fine gate posts standing in splendid isolation.  But what of the two sets of gate posts? In fact, as you look around, no less than six sets can be identified. These two (which date from 1663) ...

... and six more further away (four can be found in this photo).

They are, it turns out, the remnants of a mansion built for the first Earl of Craven. Most date from the building of Hamstead Marshall house between 1663 and 1697, though some may be later. The walls and gardens which they gave entry to have long since disappeared since the house burnt down in 1718.

After this we simply retraced our steps.

Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury and Hungerford).

Conditions: bright and cheering.

Rating: four stars
. Always interesting.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Hill

The Redesdale Market Hall

Another town-and-country walk with my friend Merv starting from the Caotwold town of Moreton-in-Marsh (note: not the Marsh). The town is essentially linear and we parked near the station and walked south along the wide high street to reach the Redesdale Market Hall, the town's main landmark. This charming building was designed by Sir Ernest George in 1887. I learn from Pevsner that the ground floor originally had an open arcade.

London Road, opposite, has the Mann Institute (1891) with a quotation from Ruskin inscribed over the door: "Every noble life leaves the fibre of it interwoven forever in the Work of the World".

We headed south passing the Manor House Hotel of 1658 and this interesting structure opposite Bourton Road.

I liked this 17th century lintel over another golden stone doorway.

We turned right passing the fire station and the town's new hospital. The building was rather spoilt by the blank square structure projecting from the back.

Soon we had left the town and were heading across very wet and muddy fields. There was at least a nice bit of residual autumn colour to brighten our way.

We squelched our way eastwards to eventually swing north and wander along a drive to reach the A44 and climb the hill to Bourton-on-the-Hill. On the left was the imposing Bourton House, rebuilt in the 18th century.

Just beyond it was The Retreat, almshouses of 1831.

Beyond that was the church of St Lawrence, Norman, but with 12th, 14th and later alterations.

After a dismal lunch in the Horse and Groom Inn we retraced our steps down the hill and turned right at the church to head south across fields towards Sezincote House. There was a lovely wide open view.

The house was closed of course, but the path passed sufficiently close to get a good view. The house was remodeled in an Indian style from about 1805 by Sir Charles Cockerell who had made his fortune working for the East India Company. The interior is apparently classical rather than Indian.

After being driven off the track into a field by flooding we turned left and headed back towards Moreton along a nice firm path. As we got closer we were delighted, Merv especially, to notice these field strips, evidence of medieval farming.

Conditions: a lovely day, but wet underfoot.

Map: OL45 (The Cotswolds).

Distance: about 5 miles.

Rating: four stars. Interesting and varied.