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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Walk 106 Hamble Le Rice to Southampton

 Walk  106  Hamble le Rice to Southampton (Hants)

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Bus 6 runs frequently between Southampton and Hamble Le Rice

Walk down the side of the River Hamble and past the large marina and then cross over to the oil terminals which are adjacent to Southampton Water.

Hamble Le Rice (until fairly recently known just as Hamble) was known for being an aircraft training centre during World War 2. It retains its links with aviation as many residents work at the Hamble Aerostructures Factory.

Look out for the large gun which points over Southampton Water near to the oil terminals. This is a similar anti-aircraft gun to that which used to protect the oil terminal during World War 2. If you are lucky enough to walk here at low tide you may see the remains of St Andrew’s Castle. This was built by Henry V111 in 1543 to defend against the French.

Soon after leaving Hamble is the Royal Victoria Park which extends up to the shoreline. These are the grounds of a former military hospital – the first purpose built one in the country. The construction was partly due to Queen Victoria’s horror at the conditions soldiers endured when injured in the Crimean War. The hospital was demolished in 1966 but the rather impressive green domed chapel remains. It can be visited as it is now a heritage centre.  The remains of a pier are nearby. This was built in 1865 and was originally 190 yards long. It was designed to receive hospital ships from all parts of the British Empire. After the hospital was opened in 1900 the pier was used by patients for fishing. It was demolished in 1955.

Walking northwards from here look out for the sculpted stone which was presented by people from the Basque area in Spain. It is a meeting stone once used by village people.

The walk continues northwards and passes by Netley Castle. This was originally a Tudor Blockhouse (a small detached fort) and was converted into a ‘show’ castle in Victorian times. The castle was a convalescent home for a long time but has now been converted into flats.

Continue the walk up to the Weston Shore, overlooked by some particularly unattractive blocks of flats. (Probably great views if you live in one). On the shore there are clear views to Southampton docks.

The walk into Woolston is along a road. This is an area I know well as my mother in law lived here for the last part of her life. She was a fierce opponent of The Itchen Bridge which is now a toll bridge into Southampton. I have to agree that, knowing the place before and after, it is a blot on the landscape. It was built in 1977 and replaced the floating bridge ferry (when I went it this had been converted into a restaurant). Woolston itself (as the name would suggest) was a wool trading port until about 1876 when ship building began. Vosper Thorneycroft had a large factory here that was closed in 2004.

Cross the Itchen Bridge into Southampton (walking is free). The help points along the bridge for those contemplating suicide seem to be depressingly necessary.

There is little of the coast that can be walked in Southampton. However, there are many historical points to look at around the old docks area. These include the 14th century town walls which were nearer to the coast than they are now. Through the Westgate archway of these walls marched the army of Henry V on its way to Agincourt in 1415.The pilgrim fathers embarked from the West Quay on the Mayflower in 1620.

Town Quay and West Quay are berths for cruise ships. There is also a ferry to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Alongside the quays is Mayflower Park, this area was a spa resort in Georgian times and there was a waterside promenade for people to exercise. Jane Austen and her family frequently walked this shore. Less idyllic is the silver dome on the opposite shore – this is a waste incinerator.

Two of the significant buildings on the West Quay are Harbour House, now a casino and the Royal Pier Pavilion, now a Chinese restaurant. A pier was opened here by Princess Victoria in 1833 and in 1906 the pavilion was introduced. Like many other piers, fire destroyed much of it in 1987 and 1992.

Look out for the Platform Tavern down a side street opposite the quay. It dates back to 1873 and is of interest as it was built against the town wall. The tide from the River Test used to come right up to the town walls. There is a section of the wall which has been recreated to show where the boats would have been moored against the walls.   The pub gets its name from a part of the quay called The Platform – it contained a gun battery that was used for ceremonial purposes. The Woolhouse, now the maritime museum, is worth a visit. It was erected in the 14th century to store wool before it was exported. During the Napoleonic Wars it housed French prisoners of war.

This is only a flavour of Southampton. There is much of historic and cultural interest to look at if you have the time.

Snaps show: The Woolhouse, Southampton; Itchen Bridge, Woolston; Tudor Market Hall, Southampton; The gun emplacement at Hamble.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Walk 105 Alverstoke to Bursledon (Hants)

 Walk  105  Alverstoke to Bursledon (Hants)

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 13 miles approx. or 20 km
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: mainly paths, some shingle and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Several buses from Alverstoke to surrounding areas – trains and buses from Bursledon

Start the walk in the Browndown area of Gosport, near Alverstoke. There is a permissive path mainly on shingle which runs alongside MOD land used for military training.  This finishes on arrival at Lee on Solent.

This small town got its name in the 19th century when there were serious attempts to develop it into a seaside resort. It had a pier built at this time but this was demolished in 1958. The town has long been associated with flying; seaplane trials started here in 1915. The Royal Navy base HMS Daedalus is here and the large red buildings back from the sea front provide accommodation for personnel working there. The actors Lawrence Olivier and Ralph Richardson trained as pilots here during World War 2. Look out for the hovercraft museum – large examples of these craft are clearly visible on the seafront.

After leaving Lee on Solent you arrive at Hill Head; its harbour was created by the movement of shingle. Prior to the 16th century this area was uninhabited and was sometimes referred to as Hell Head because of the dangerous waters.

A short distance from Hill Head is Titchfield Haven. This is a nature reserve nationally renowned as a winter refuge for ducks, wading birds and geese and a summer breeding area for the rare avocet.

I found the walk from here to Warsash rather chilly even on a summer’s day. On the other side of Southampton Water is the rather ugly view of the large oil refinery at Fawley.

After a few miles you arrive at Warsash with its distinctive clock-tower. The nearby Rising Sun is a particularly attractive pub and worth popping in for a drink. A plaque on the pub wall records the fact nearly 3000 hand picked and highly trained commandos embarked from the town on the day before D Day as a vanguard for the main assault. For those of us who remember it, the TV series Howard’s Way was partly filmed at Warsash.  A ferry departs from the harbour to Hamble Le Rice on the other side of the River Hamble – there is evidence of a ferry being here from the 1400s. The ‘hard’ where it lands is reputed to be very old. Look out for the Royal Thames Yacht Club (the oldest such club in the UK formed in 1775) who own an area here. In past centuries the town was important for ship building. The unusual name for the town is thought to come from the name of a seagrass meadow in the 1500s.

Continue the walk northwards along the River Hamble passing the marina near Bursledon. Near this point is the wreck of The Norseman, a wooden ship built in 1847; it was gutted by fire in World War 2 and beached on the mud. The Elephant Boatyard located in Old Bursledon was where Henry V111’s boats were built. The area including the Jolly Sailor pub was another location for filming of the TV series Howards Way.

Follow the A27 and bridge into Bursledon.
Snaps show: The Rising Sun at Warsash; the shingly beach from Alverstoke with MOD land in the background; hovercraft at Lee on Solent; Bursledon marina.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Walk 104 Portchester to Fareham then Hardway to Alverstoke (Hants)

 Walk  104  Portchester to Fareham then Hardway to Alverstoke (Hants)

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

This walk is split into two sections, the first could be done in the morning. I suggest a bus (or car ride) between Fareham and Hardway to avoid a rather boring road walk which is not on the coast. Completing the road walk from Fareham to Hardway will add roughly another 4 miles.   

Map: L/R 196
Distance: First half 4 miles or 7km approx. Second half 7 miles or 11km approx.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular train service to Portchester. First half of walk, buses run frequently from Fareham Bus Station to Hardway. Second half, several buses run from Alverstoke to Fareham.

Follow one of the minor roads off the A27 (or under the A27 south of Portchester Station). A path runs down the side of the coast opposite Horsea Island. Looking back from the path there is a good view of Portdown to the north of Portsmouth and Port Solent on the opposite bank.  After about three quarters of a mile you come to Portchester Castle.

This is an attractive ruin looked after by English Heritage. It has played an important role in the defence of the Solent for many years. It was originally built by the Romans in the 3rd century and is the only Roman stronghold in Northern Europe whose walls mainly stand to their full height. It became a Norman Castle in the 12th century and Henry V used it as a departure point for Agincourt in 1415; definitely worth a wander around the grounds. Look out for the gunpowder store which dates from about 1750 and was one of three built well away from the castle walls (for obvious reasons). The castle was regularly occupied by the military in the many wars of the 18th and 19th centuries when it was also used as a prison.

Follow the Kings Way from here and navigate on to the bus station at Fareham (if using public transport). The Kings Way or the Allan King Way is a 45 mile long distance path in Hampshire created by the Ramblers’ Association as a memorial to a former publicity officer.

Fareham is a market town which formerly used its clay soil for producing bricks, tiles and chimney pots.  Use the bus or car to Hardway as described above.

The coastal village of Hardway on the west of Portsmouth Harbour dates back to the Roman conquest. It was an area known for smuggling. The view now is mainly of ships and a small pier but for sometime in the past there was a local ‘hard’ where convicts were gathered for transportation. In 1770 the Royal Navy’s principal armament depot was situated nearby. This supplied arms from Nelson’s time to the Falklands War and was closed in 1989. The Explosion Museum situated on Priddy’s Hard tells the story of the arms depot. It is supposed to be one of the most haunted locations in the UK with many people reporting strange events thought to be associated with the several people who died whilst working in the depot or being deported from the ‘hard’.

Continue walking south. An impressive looking sea mine is situated near some beach huts. This is an example of a buoyant acoustic mine which is activated by the noise of approaching ships. It was used in World War 2 - the whole area played an important role in the war. Repairs and refuelling of navy ships took place and D Day embarkations were from near here in 1944.

Follow the path along the road past the marina, hospital and prison. The path then skirts a golf course before it reaches Gilkicker Point, the most southerly point of the area. On the left is Fort Gilkicker one of a series of twenty forts built in the 1860s under the instructions of Lord Palmerston (then prime minister) to encircle Portsmouth. They were supposed to counter a threat from Napoleon 111. None of them were used in serious combat and they became known as Palmerston’s Follies.

Continue the walk along Alverstoke seafront which looks out on to Stokes Bay. Fourteen Mulberry Harbours (floating piers) were built here in 1943 and 1944. In earlier times it was a vital part of the defence against the Spanish Armada.

At the end of the golf course navigate inland to Alverstoke. There were ambitious plans in the 19th century to develop an area called Angleseyville into an exciting holiday area. Look out for the Anglesey Arms Hotel which was the only part of this plan to be completed - an impressive building where Queen Victoria stayed on her way to the Isle of Wight. Buses leave from various points in Alverstoke.

Snaps show: Portchester Castle; a gunpowder store at Portchester Castle; Gosport Ferry; acoustic mine at Hardway.