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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. 

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