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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Walk 95 Southbourne - Thorney Island - Emsworth

Walk  95  Southbourne - Thorney Island - Emsworth (Hampshire)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 197
Distance: about 10 miles or 15 km.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Mainly footpaths, some pavements
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail link between Southbourne and Emsworth

Take one of the paths out of Southbourne which connects with the coastal path that passes along the northern edge of Thorney Channel. This area abounds with coastal defences. Continue westwards until Thornham Marina (near to the village of Prinsted). Form here there is access to Thorney Island.

The island is under military control and before starting your walk a secure gate has to be opened. Be prepared to give information over the intercom including your name, age, address, phone number, nationality and the reason you want to visit the island. If the military are satisfied they will open the gate but not before warning you to keep strictly to the path. Makes you wonder what is on there! Just in case you forget there is a notice telling you that trespassers will be prosecuted and that guard dogs are on patrol. A similar procedure is waiting for you when the walk is finished.

About a mile or so in is West Thorney – not that you can see much of it. For a while in the 1970s village was home to several hundred Vietnamese ‘boat people’ who were accepted into the country for settlement. Since that time the area has been in the control of the Royal Artillery. I understand that the 12th century St Nicholas’s Church, which can be seen from the path, is open to the public. The path to it did not look very inviting to me and, bearing in mind the dire warnings I had received, I decided to give it a miss.

On the southern most tip Pilsey Island can be seen; this is home to an RSPB nature reserve. Near here is Thorney Island Sailing Club and a model aeroplane club was also in action when I was walking. As the path continues northwards the runways of the old RAF aerodrome (built in 1938) are evident. Hayling Island can also be seen to the west.

I met nobody else on this walk but I did have an altercation with a lot of cows. These had been released by the farmer (deliberately??) to completely block the path and the ground either side of it. I was forced to walk through the obstinate creatures who made their displeasure clear by releasing considerable quantities of, let’s say, dung, at my feet.

The walk ends in Emsworth. To the east of the town is Skipper Mill Pond which was built in the 1780s; the mill was converted into homes after it ceased functioning in 1936. An attractive street leads to Emsworth Quay. There was once large oyster beds here but the business came to an unfortunate end following a banquet held by the Dean of Winchester in 1903. The dean and several of the guests died of typhoid as the oysters had been infected by sewage flowing into the harbour.  

Look out for the old tide mill on the sea front which is now the HQ of a sailing club. This dates back to 1760 and was once operated by steam power. This is an attractive spot.

Snaps show: parts of the path and coast on Thorney Island; St Nicholas Church, West Thorney; Thornham Marina.

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