Sunday, 19 January 2020

Farlington Marshes to Emsworth (Solent Way 8)

Farlington Marshes

The final leg of the Solent Way! We set off from the car park at Farlington Marshes, following the sea wall on the right and the marshland on the left. The tide was out so all that was visible on the right was mud. The marshes form a nature reserve and were clearly a good site for birding. Reed Warblers seem to have been the main object of attention. There were also lots of Brent Geese and I have since discovered the extraordinary statistic that 20% of the world's population of Brent Greese over-winter in the Solent area. A small-scale murmuration of Starlings caught our attention as well.

We followed the track which leads around the harbour/reserve (depending on whether you look inland or out to sea) and reached a large lake with a series of stands which a sign told us had been installed for gulls to roost on.

The marshes ended pretty much where the path came close to the busy and noisy A27. We carried on, with the harbour floor now covered in reeds.

In lieu of anything much else to report in this area I include the Solent Way way-mark.

As we approached Langstone, the Langstone Bridge came into view. It connects Hayling Island to the mainland. I remember holidaying there as a child.

We paused at the excellent Royal Oak pub for a drink. It was so pleasant a day that most people seemed to be sitting outside. Resuming the walk we passed the one-time Langford Mill (tidal).

As the tide was still out - and would be until the evening - we decided to follow the lead of many others and walk along the back of the harbour rather than take the inland path.

After a couple of miles we reached Emsworth and followed the path around the delightful Emsworth Millpond. The water was so shallow and still that you could still see ice on the surface.

About two-thirds of the way round the light over the area outside the millpond was so lovely that I just had to take a picture.

We passed the one-time tidal mill, now the headquarters of a sailing club and headed into the town to regain the car and head home.

Conditions: a lovely sunny day.

Map: Explorer 120 Chichester, South Harting and Selsey

Distance: about 7.5 miles.

Rating: 4 stars.

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.