Thursday, 16 August 2012

Barton-on-Sea to Hurst Castle (Bournemouth Coast Path 4)

Coast beyond Barton-on-Sea

We decided to break our journey down to Poole in order to complete the Bournemouth Coast Path. (The guide book includes a further section, but it is really part of the Solent Way, so we thought we would save that for a future project.)

We picked up the route on the grassy cliffs at Barton-on-Sea and walked along above the bathing huts and the beach. The view above shows the next section of coast, with a golf course on the inland side.
A  little further on the waves pour in onto the shingle beach, with the eroding sandstone cliff behind.

The view back shows Hengistbury Head clearly on the horizon

A bit further on we crossed Becton Bunny.

We then walked along the clifftop to reach New Milton - to be honest, largely indistinguishable from Barton-on-Sea.

At the end of the promenade, a shingle spit (reinforced with - for some reason - Norwegian stone in 1996-7) leads past the Sturt Pond towards Hurst Castle. On the landward side, a narrow channel of water called Mount Lake leads through the salt marshes.

While  on the seaward side the Needles remain a striking sight at the tip of the Isle of Wight.

As the tip of the spit approached Hurst Castle became clearer, with the Hurst Lighthouse bright in a little burst of sunshine to the left.

The castle was founded by Henry VIII in 1544 as part of a chain of forts built to defend against the threat of a Spanish invasion. The original castle is the octagonal tower on the left. It is a very good place for a defence: the channel across to the Isle of Wight is only three-quarters of a mile. Charles I was imprisoned here in 1648 before being taken to London to his trial and execution.

In Victorian times massive and rather ugly wings were built either side of the original fort, which was itself hidden behind a curved battlement. Guns were mounted here during the second world war. All quite interesting, but what you see looks like some horrific prison. 

Finally, there is the lighthouse of 1867 right at the tip of the spit.

The building to the left is the Acetylene Room which provided power for the lighthouse until 1970. It is apparently the last remaining complete example in the country, but how it functioned is a mystery to me at least.

Map: Explorer OL22 (New Forest)

Conditions: mild and cloudy, lots of haze, light rain at the end

Distance: 8 miles, including the return trip along the spit

Rating: three stars. Some interesting aspects, but overall the least satisfying leg of the Bournemouth Coast Path.

Flower of the day

I haven't managed to identify this tiny low-growing pink flower seen in the grass on the cliff-top.

Butterfly of the day

This Speckled Wood posed obligingly.

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