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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.

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