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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Walk 108 Lymington to Barton on Sea, Hants

 Walk  108 Lymington to Barton on Sea (Hants)

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

Map: L/R 196 and 195
Distance: 13 miles or 22km approx.
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail links with Lymington and New Milton (a mile or so inland from Barton on Sea). Plenty of bus links in both towns.

Walk south along the road to Lymington harbour and marina, both on the River Lymington. It is a busy town mainly due to the yachting centre, the proximity of the New Forest and the regular ferry to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. The town dates back to the 6th century when it got its name after the then marshy river. Since then the town has had a turbulent history including suffering destruction twice in 100 years at the hands of the French. Smuggling has been rife in the area. Before 1860 it was a major salt producer with much of the salt sold to the dockyards at Portsmouth to preserve meat. (Salt production died out when salt began to be mined in Cheshire).

On the walk from Lymington to Keyhaven there is clear evidence of past saltworks. Look out for the shallow pools which were constructed to allow the seawater to evaporate before being pumped into pans. The remaining brine was then boiled down to leave the salt. A series of narrow docks were constructed so coal could be brought in by ships and used in the boiling houses. When I walked along here work was going on to restore the salt marshes mainly to protect the specialist wildlife that thrives here.

The path continues to Keyhaven. If you fancy a drink, drop in to the Gun Inn. Part of the pub’s lounge was once known as the Chapel Bar because it was used as a temporary morgue for corpses recovered locally. Early in the twentieth century there were plans to dig a tunnel to the Isle of Wight and to convert the nearby marshlands into a dockyard.

Continue round to Hurst Beach and walk the shingly/pebbly part of The Solent Way to the end of the spit. Look out for the large rocks imported from Norway in the 1990s; these were put here to help protect the spit and the surrounding conservation area. The end of the spit is the English mainland that is closest to the Isle of Wight. Hurst Castle was built by Henry V111 and Charles 1st was temporarily imprisoned here in 1648 before his trial and execution. The castle was manned during the Napoleonic Wars and during World War 2. The building is open to the public and further information is available inside. The nearby impressive lighthouse replaces earlier lights and was built in 1867. It is still operational. There is a lighthouse exhibition in the castle for those wanting to know more.

Continue the walk along to Milford on Sea where the path overlooks the beach. Although the village goes back to the Domesday Book the lack of a rail link meant that it has never developed into a significant seaside resort. However, it is now a popular retirement area. Swimming can be especially dangerous when the sea is rough.

A little further along is Hordle Cliff. When I walked this section there was an interesting array of equipment on the cliff top. This belonged to a major study by scientists and engineers from Plymouth, Cambridge and Dundee universities. They were recording measurements on how the beach responded to waves, currents and water level changes. An acoustic wave and current profiler was deployed on the sea bed. I wonder if  restricted budgets have allowed this to carry on?

The path continues to Barton on Sea. The diminishing cliffs (erosion) are famous for fossils with specimens up to 45 million years old being found. On the road at Barton seafront is a memorial which commemorates the establishment of a convalescent home for Indian troops who fought in Europe during the Great War of 1914.
Snaps show: River Lymington; Keyhaven; rock defences on Hurst Spit; the cliff top, Milford on Sea.

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