Total Pageviews

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Walk 98 Isle of Wight - Fishbourne to Bembridge

 Walk  98  Isle of Wight- Fishbourne to Bembridge

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 11 miles or 18 km approx.
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: Mainly footpath and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: A little tricky, it involves getting a number 9 bus at Fishbourne and changing en route to a number 8 for Bembridge. Go to Traveline website for more details.

Public access to the coast between East Cowes and Fisbourne was not possible when I visited and no public paths are marked on the map. However, while in this area it is well worth visiting Osborne House designed by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was their second home and Queen Victoria died here. A good view of their private beach can be had from the house.

The walk starts on the coastal path near Fishbourne close to Wooton Creek. The ferries going into the port at Fishbourne can be seen from here. The path makes its way inland to Ryde with only brief glimpses of the sea (Ryde Roads). One distinctive landmark is Quarr Abbey. This was erected by French Benedictine monks between 1908 and 1914. It is built on the site of a medieval abbey dating back to 1132 and destroyed in 1536 at the time of the Dissolution.

The walk into Ryde passes a lake adjacent to the beach where some odd boats are made in the shape of very large swans! Ryde pier is half a mile long and is the fourth longest in the UK. A railways runs along the pier and there is an electric rail connection from the pier to nearby Shanklin. The trains are ex London Piccadilly underground trains. Ryde has been a point of strategic defence and was fortified by cannons against a possible invasion by France in Napoleonic times. The front is neat with a few attractive buildings. The beaches are sandy and very popular. On the way out of Ryde, and near to the beach, is Appleby Tower, a Victorian watchtower. You can go to the top of this on certain dates and you can also have your fortune told!

Continue round to Nettlestone Point where the beach is stony and there is a large wildlife park. The coastal path cuts inland soon after this and returns to the coast at St Helens.

St Helen’s Church, on the beach near St Helens, is a significant landmark. It was built about 1220 and ceased to be used in 1703 when it was bricked up. At this point it became a source for 'holy' stones which were taken by sailors to scrub down the decks of wooden ships. On the 14th September 1805 Lord Nelson boarded HMS Victory, which was anchored nearby, to sail to the Battle of Trafalgar.

Follow the path across Bembridge Harbour. I noted a very interesting guest house (4 star) formed from a houseboat and guarded by two statues of pirates! Bembridge village is inland up a hill. It is worth a visit if only to see the windmill – the only one surviving on the Isle of Wight. It was known to be in existence in 1740 but may well be older. Turner started a water colour of it in 1795 (not sure whether it was finished). There was at least one woman miller in the past. The mill was last used in 1913.

The beach at Bembridge is very picturesque although the infamous ‘Ledges’ lie off the beach and several ships have foundered on these. The Crab and Oyster pub is adjacent to the beach if you fancy a drink and/or a meal.

Snaps show: St Helen’s Church; Osborne House; Appleby Tower, Ryde; Bembridge Bay.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Walk 97 Hayling Island to Portsmouth

 Walk  97  Hayling Island to Portsmouth

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

Map: L/R 197 and 196
Distance: 13 miles or 22km
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Mainly footpath and pavement
Access: Parking near The Ship Inn, Langstone and in Portsmouth
Public transport: Rail to Havant and walk to Langstone Bridge. Main line rail at Portsmouth where there appear to be plenty of buses to various destinations.

Starting on the mainland side of Langstone Bridge follow the path westwards and along the roads (including the main road) until joining the Solent Way to Farlington Marshes. This is a wildlife trust where notices caution you to take care of the protected species. Dogs must remain on their leads. I came across at least 100 birdwatchers sporting expensive equipment walking excitedly down the path. The snippets of conversation suggested that something rare had been spotted. An information board helps to identify the birdlife and some of the 300 species of plant found here. It is particularly rich in grasses – one third of the British types are said to grow here.

Follow the road, then turn left onto the path that skirts the edge of Portsea Island. This is not a walk of great beauty. The path is a fairly rough one and there is a need to return to the road at times. Apart from a sad memorial to a young dancer and good views of Hayling Island there is little to be said about this part of the walk.

The next main feature is the Royal Marines Museum opposite Eastney seafront. The old barracks nearby have been turned into flats. The eastern part of the beach at Eastney is designated as a danger area presumably because of unexploded shells etc.

Continue the walk to Southsea. Some quite impressive seafront buildings sit alongside more modern constructions. The beach is mainly gravel with sand exposed at low tide. The promenade goes past the South Parade Pier. This has been closed recently due to health and safety concerns. It was dismantled during World War 2 as it was feared it could aid an invasion. The pier, which includes a ballroom and a bar, was featured in the film ‘Tommy’.

Parallel to the seafront is Southsea Common which boasts some impressive elm and palm trees. The town, which is really part of Portsmouth, was built up in the early 1800s initially to house skilled workers. It was heavily bombed in World War 2.

Southsea Castle built by Henry V111 is near to a lighthouse. It was from a spot near here that Henry saw his flagship The Mary Rose sink. This partly restored ship can be seen in Portsmouth dockyard.

The large naval memorial listing those lost in shipwrecks stands prominently to the right of the promenade. Looking seawards this is a good spot to watch the various crafty coming in and out of Portsmouth harbour. Look out for the Nelson statue and the anchor from his flagship HMS Victory.

Further along is Clarence Pier built in 1861. This area features amusement arcades and fast food outlets. The pier was the location of Mind the Baby Mr Bean on TV! Looking out so sea a few concrete constructions can be seen. These are sometimes known as Palmerston’s (the Victorian prime minister) folly. He ordered them to be built as a defence against France when an invasion seemed likely. During World War 2 they came back into use when used as anti aircraft bases.

As you progress into Portsmouth there are several waterside forts to be seen - most were begun in the 1400s. Look out for Sally Ports which are openings in the fortifications enabling people to look out on to the harbour or estuary.

Walk along to Old Portsmouth where there is a part called Spice Island. Spices from the Caribbean once landed here and sailors frequented the many pubs which were open 24 hours a day. Press gangs roamed the streets on the lookout for unsuspecting drunks to put on ships as forced labour. A ferry runs from near here to Gosport on the other side of the estuary; Portsmouth Harbour Station serves this ferry.

Not be missed is the Spinnaker Tower. It is worth the money to go up the tower and experience a panoramic view of the whole area. The tower is 170 metres high and was opened in 2005. It takes its design from the main sail of an ocean going yacht. From here can be seen the waterside which consists of apartments and shops at Gunwharf Quay. The naval dockyard can also be seen and is well worth a visit if you have plenty of time. HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and The Mary Rose are among the attractions.
Snaps show: Spice Island, Portsmouth; Clarence Pier, Southsea; view to the dockyard from Spinnaker Tower; Gosport Ferry, Porstmouth. 

Monday, 3 June 2013

Walk 96 Hayling Island

 Walk  96  Hayling Island (Hampshire)

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

Map: L/R 197
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: Mainly footpath and pavement
Access: Parking near The Ship Inn, Langstone
Public transport: Rail to Havant and walk to Langstone Bridge. Return journey from Eastoke area of Hayling Island on 30 or 31 bus back to Havant – runs every half and hour or so Mon-Sat.

Start on the Havant side of Hayling Island. Walk past the Ship Inn before crossing Langstone Bridge. This pub, which was originally a mill, is worth making a note of especially if you like real ale and/or seafood. As you begin to cross the bridge look back to the east and an old windmill (a well known local landmark) can be spotted. The original bridge was timber built and replaced the Wadeway in 1824. This foot crossing, used for 3000 years, is still visible at low tide. The current bridge was built in 1956 to replace the fragile timber original. Before this date bus passengers had to get off on the mainland and continue their journey on the other side.  

To the west of the island is Northey with its marina and nature reserve to the south of Northey Manor. However, the eastern coastal part of the island is mostly inaccessible so the walk concentrates on the western and southern sides.

On the other side of Langstone Bridge find the start of the Hayling Billy Coastal Path which follows the route of the old rail line along the west coast of the island. The line started at Havant and was opened in 1867. It was closed in 1963 as part of the cuts imposed by Dr Beeching. Special lightweight engines were used so that the old Langstone Bridge could be safely crossed. The Hayley Billy Terrier Tank Engines now form part of the Isle of Wight steam railway. The path gives some good but not continuous views of the coast. Portsea Island can be clearly seen to the west.

At the end of the old railway line some careful navigation along the roads will lead you to an area called The Kench. This is an inlet where failed attempts were made to construct a marina. During the 1950s several surplus military boats were purchased and converted into house boats. I spotted a few still in use as living accommodation.

Continue walking to the western point of the island and the Ferry Boat Inn. The pub was originally called The Norfolk Lodge as the Duke of Norfolk owned much of the land in South Hayling. The timbers used to build it were from HMS Impregnable (clearly not!) which sunk here in 1798. It changed its name in the 1950s to capitalise on a popular song at the time “Down at the Ferry Boat Inn”.   A passenger ferry runs from here to Portsea although a local told me it remains under threat of closure as it is subsidised by the local authority.    

Follow the path on to the southern coast of the island and past Sinah Common with its golf course. Hayling Golf Club was founded in 1883 by Colonel Sanderson who was a famous producer of sherry and port.  This area is of special scientific interest and the rare Dartford Warbler has been sighted here.

Continue the walk along the sea front past The Inn on the Beach and then to various flats and buildings overlooking the large grass frontages and dunes. Norfolk Crescent and the impressive white building – The Royal - were part of a failed attempt in the early nineteenth century to create a grandiose development to attract wealthy visitors.

The beach is mainly of pebbles although I thought it once had grey sand when I visited here as a child in the 1950s/60s. A local suggested that the beach had been manually filled with gravel and pebbles to prevent erosion. A fun fair and a 2 foot gauge railway operate along the front in the season.

The path continues towards Eastoke Point. A number of bungalows are close to the beach – some with interesting gardens made of beach debris. From this point there are good views back to Chichester Harbour.  
Snaps show: The Ferry Boat Inn; The Kench; The Royal and Norfolk Crescent; one of the interesting beach gardens.