Day 20 26 May 2013 Southampton to Lymington

Today was a red-letter day – the first day out when I left my waterproof behind: and my faith was justified.  It has been a glorious early summer day.  I burnt my left arm yesterday so still had to wear long sleeves, but it was lovely not to cart the anorak around.

I had checked the ferry times, and since the first sailing on a Sunday is at 10am I had a leisurely walk down to the Town Quay, passing the interesting ruins of Holy Rood church – another victim of the wholesale bombing of the city in 1940-42 and now a memorial to all sailors.  There is also an interesting pair of plaques commemorating some 22 men and boys who perished attempting to extinguish a huge conflagration in the city in 1837.

The Hythe ferry (fare £4.50) takes some 12 minutes to cross Southampton Water – a tiny craft surrounded by the enormous cruise ships.  The Queen Elizabeth was in, looking like an oversized city block.   Yesterday, I saw the Queen Mary floating out on the evening tide.

The ferry had several interesting passengers I enjoyed chatting to.  We were on the Hotspur IV, built in Colchester and launched in 1946. IMG_3810 On the Hythe end, the ferry docks at the end of the pier – 700 yards long and the 7th longest in the UK.  A little pier train runs up and down, marvellous fun!IMG_3816

Hythe is more pleased with itself than is really warranted, so I walked through fairly briskly.  Because of the huge oil refinery at Fawley, the Solent Way goes inland at this point.  I could have walked along roads down to the sea but decided to follow the path and see a bit of the New Forest.  The way crosses Beaulieu Heath – a mixture of pines and gorse on fairly marshy ground with various cows and horses dawdling over it.  The path then runs into Beaulieu – beautifully kept, but everything clearly still owned by the Lords Montague.  All of the houses had the little coat of arms of three diamonds (I don’t know the heraldic term) on plaques by the front door.  No doubt the rent is paid by going up to the Big House on Lady Day and handing over the pennies whilst tugging your forelock or curtseying.IMG_3880

A very fine ice cream was had in The Chocolate Studio on the high street.

The path runs along the River Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard, through delightful woodland and managed grassland.  Bucklers Hard was full of families enjoying the day out.  More estate workers’ cottages, looking picturesque – one was turned into a tiny chapel in the 1850s and still holds Sunday services.  After Bucklers Hard, the way continues for several miles along the lanes – pretty enough, but hard on the feet.  The ruins of St Leonard’s Grange were a high point.  As the path approaches Lymington, the sea can be seen again, about a mile to the south, with the Isle of Wight looking close enough to touch.  The walk then crosses fields on the outskirts of the town.  Having had a run in with Bluebell, Daisy and Buttercup on the Coast-to-Coast walk a few years ago, I am rather more chary of cows than I used to be, so was not thrilled to see a warning against a bull. IMG_3903 Happily, I arrived unscathed in Lymington around 5.15 – a shorter day than yesterday at only just over 18 miles.  I had plenty of time for an excellent supper (see review) before taking the train back from Lymington Pier to Southampton – very handy.

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Day 19 25 May 2013 Portsmouth Harbour to Southampton

Today was my longest day to date – 22 miles (including about a half mile to get to the station.)  Fortunately, it was a superb day for walking, which was a surprise as, when I dropped my sister off yesterday, en route to Southampton, it was freezing and wet.  I got to my hotel at just about 9pm last night, on the north side of the city centre.  First impressions made me homesick for the classy Hotel Salubrious back in Cliftonville – there was a live banjo evening in full swing when I arrived and my room was right over the bar.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised – they made me supper, although it was 9.05pm, the room was clean and I even have fresh towels today.  The staff couldn’t be more helpful.

Because the place was a-jumpin’ and a-jivin’ until late, I didn’t get the early night I had planned so missed getting the 8.05 fast train back to Portsmouth, however the slow train was very pleasant, stopping at all sorts of interesting little stations, and got me to Portsmouth at about 10am.  I crossed to Gosport on the ferry which was super – an excellent view of the Victory and the Spinnaker. IMG_3649IMG_3642A quick breakfast (see review) then I was off around the edge of the marina, admiring the yachts.  The Solent Way quickly gets back to the sea front at Gilicker Point, another site of special conservation value along the coast.  I spotted white sea campion, lots of thrift, sea kale, and spiral dock.  Still not much good at birds, but today included a heron, a lesser-crested grebe, wagtails and a shoveler duck as well as the usual swans and oyster catchers.

Most of the day was walking on shingle, which is very hard work – I am so looking forward to the sandy beaches in the west!  There were lots of people about enjoying the sun and there were dozens of yachts, water boards, sail boards and those rather interesting things like surfboards, but with the person standing and paddling – I’d like to give that a try.

The Isle of Wight seemed very close, today, I could just about make out buildings.

As I passed Lee-on-Solent I came to a secluded part of the beach which was not exactly a naturist beach, as I understand that Naturists eschew all clothing, but it was not a normal beach either, as generally, people are clothed (to a greater or lesser degree) from the waist down.  These people were fully dressed from the waist up.  It was very – well, I was going to say disconcerting, but, I think discombobulating is a more apt description!.

I reached Warsash about 3.30pm and crossed to Hamble-le-Rice on the little ferry service – 10 minutes on a tiny pink craft for £1.50 – marvellous! IMG_3701 Hamble is rather full of itself – and despite being only 4pm on a sunny Bank Holiday Saturday most of the cafes and bars were no longer serving food, however I did eventually find an excellent spot for a late lunch.  (See review).  Leaving Hamble, I was back onto the shingle, marching on to the amazing ruins of Netley Priory.  A former Cistercian House, it was founded in the 1220s by a bishop of Winchester.  After the dissolution it became a manor house, owned by Sir William Paulet, a big noise from Henry VIII’s days to those of Elizabeth.  It was abandoned in the 18th Century but the ruins are very impressive. IMG_3731 I was getting rather tired now but still had 6 miles to go.  I crossed into Southampton over the Ichenor Bridge.  I assume Southampton suffered extensive bomb damage, as although there are fragments of the old town wall and one of the Bars, the majority of it is one of those hideous concrete 1960s cities – all dirty concrete and underpasses leading nowhere.  I crawled back into the hotel at around 8pm, and am writing this in the bar after an excellent supper and with a very good glass of red in hand.

Day 18 (Again!) 6 May 2013 Southbourne to Portsmouth Harbour

A glitch in my numbering system has been pointed out to me.  This is actually day 18!

In keeping with my decision that river estuaries are not part of the coast, I took a straight line north from the point where I turned inland yesterday, at West WIttering.  This took me to Southbourne, so I left the car there and began walking around 8.30am. The first little village was Prinsted, a picture post card place with thatched cottages and lots of beamed houses.  It is just to the north of Thorney Island.  In the morning light the calm waters of Chichester Harbour showed barely a ripple – it promised to be a glorious day.IMG_3582  I crossed Thorney Island and came into Emsworth, crossing the county boundary into my fourth county – Hampshire.  Emsworth is also a lovely town, with boatyards and little waterways emptying into the Harbour.IMG_3579  I walked along the sea front for quite a few miles – and then decided to have my first proper paddle (not counting the escapade on the Cuckmere!)IMG_3594 The water was chilly but very refreshing on hot feet.  Just by the Hayling Island crossing there is a little settlement with a nature reserve attracting a range of wild fowl.  My bird spotting is improving a bit, but is still not great.  Today, I saw black-headed gulls, coots, moorhens, dunlin (I think) and, very exciting – Little Egrets.  I also saw a family of swans in great distress, as two of the three cygnets had tumbled over the little weir on the millrace under the old water mill.  The parent birds were frantic as the chicks tried to clamber up, but it was far too difficult.  The other cygnet stayed glued to one of the adult’s side.  IMG_3603Apparently, someone had gone to fetch a net to rescue them.  I did not wait, but hopefully all ended well.  Passing Hayling Island (not en route as an island) I walked through Farlington Marshes – again a vast array of birds and wildlife.  I was interested to see a swan on her nest – never seen that before.  Quite a few butterflies as well – painted ladies and peacocks, as well as cabbage whites.

I stopped for lunch at a Harvester Pub – no further comment!- then continued down the east side of Portsea Island.  The sun was blazing and I was actually able to walk in shirt sleeves for the first time.   On the south side of Portsea is Eastney beach, along which I walked – still quite shingly but with enough sand to make it reasonable under foot.  When I got to Southea I was horrified to see that the fun fair was in town – there were literally thousands of people milling everywhere – quite a shock after the almost silent marshes.  Heading up round the west side, I admired Southsea Castle and the fabulous Spinnaker tower as well as the Victory. IMG_3633 I stopped for tea (see review) then caught the train back to Southbourne.  All in all, a really fabulous day.

Day 18 5 May 2013 Bognor Regis to Itchenor

I met a fellow traveller today on Wittering Sands!  John (known to his mates as John the Rambler) is also walking the whole coast – I felt a bit of a fraud as John is clearly more of a purist than me and is doing all of the islands as well, and all the inlets and creeks   Basically, I am just skimming…  It was a delight to meet someone to share war stories with, and we commiserated together over the horrors of the Isle of Grain and reminded each other of the delights of the Seven Sisters.IMG_3547

Today was a great day altogether.  I managed to set out at 8am – I wish I could always begin that early but most B & Bs won’t serve breakfast early enough.  The sun was shining already and I was feeling very sprightly as I hit the seashore.  I walked along the prom from Bognor – the tide was high so I didn’t go down onto the beach, having suffered enough from walking on the shingle yesterday.  Eventually, I came to the end of the prom and had to weave in and out of the rather plush housing estates to the West of Bognor, before emerging back onto the beach – I had to do a little trespassing through a private estate, but I couldn’t face going back to the main road.  By now, the tide had receded sufficiently for me to walk on the finer shingle at the water’s edge for several miles until I turned inland to manoeuvre my way round Pagham Harbour.  The further shore was so near across a channel of some 100 yards, and yet so far with the waves churning too wildly to even contemplate wading across.  Nevertheless, the route around Pagham is very interesting, skirting the mud-flats which are an important bird sanctuary: there were plenty of specimens around – although I could only recognize the swans and the mallards.  I reached the little village of Sidlesham Quay around 10.45 and had a coffee in the very attractive Crab & Lobster Hotel.  The waitress, after one horrified glance at the trouser legs that had just navigated the mud-flats, served me an excellent cappuccino.  I then broke out across country, heading south-west rather than directly south back to the beach.  The lanes were full of bluebells and woodruff, and even the odd cowslip.  Regrettably, the farmers of Earnley are no better at keeping the public footpaths clear than those of Littlehampton, and on one occasion I had to struggle across a heavily ploughed field.IMG_3557

I reached East Wittering at around quarter past one, where I met the aforementioned John (who, spotting a fellow walker, asked me the name of the village we were passing, he having come all the way along the beach). IMG_3564 IMG_3562 We walked along to West Witterinig, admiring the fabulously sunny afternoon, with the water sparkling in the sun and fleets of yachts bobbing up and down.  In the distance, the Isle of Wight is now visible.  At West Wittering, John and I parted ways and I carried on, unfortunately taking a very long diversion out to a sandy spit of land in Chichester Harbour, rather than finding the path (the New Lipchis Way) immediately.  I reached Itchenor around 4.30, with the intention of crossing on the ferry to Bosham (apparently pronounced Bozzam), but I suddenly was overcome with tiredness (having covered 20 miles with my diversion), so fell into the pub.  I then decided that I would sample the delights of Chichester (according to the taxi driver it is pronounced Chidester).  It is certainly a very attractive town, and I will make a plan to come back when I have time to look around.IMG_3567

Day 17 4 May 2013 Shoreham-by-Sea to Bognor Regis

I drove down yesterday – it took a ludicrous four hours, owing to problems on the M25.  My  Sat Nav directed me through Staines and Kingston to avoid it – it would probably have been quicker to sit in the queue.  My B & B is pleasant – clean with a friendly landlady, very glamorously dressed in a maxi dress yesterday and a leopard skin print today.  Think south-east Bet Lynch, but a bit more classy!

I was beguiled by yesterday’s weather into thinking that today might be a beautiful walking day.  Unfortunately, the elements were not in my favour.   The wind blew relentlessly into IMG_3515my face all day – it did not let up for 5 minutes together, and at times was so strong I had trouble walking in a straight line.  My face is now on fire with windburn, despite having factor 25 on.  It rained a fair bit too: nevertheless, I made excellent progress.  I took the train back up from Bognor to Shoreham and began walking at 9.30.  It was very straightforward all of the way – along the promenade with occasional sorties onto the shingle (very tough walking) or into little parks or nature “greenswards” as the Council interpretation boards call them.  In one of these seafront parks there is a National Lottery funded set of fitness machines and I had fun for 5 minutes playing on equipment it would cost me a fortune to use in the gym.  I was chatting to a fellow user – Vinnie, an Irishman from Tipperary, living in Lancing for 25 years.  He kindly took my photo to prove I can lift my own body weight.  Vinnie looks after people’s IT, so if you have any problems check him out on http://www.vinnie-the-computer-man.co.uk/

I reached Littlehampton at around 2pm for lunch – see review.  The young lady serving told me that West Beach where I was headed was a nudist beach, but, given the insane wind, I didn’t think it likely that I would see anything of interest.  I left Littlehampton, crossing the bascule bridge and followed the road for about half a mile, before breaking off onto a public footpath, or rather, what should have been a public footpath.  The field has been laid to oil seed rape with no path left across it.  By the time I emerged on the other side from the chin high crop, I was head to foot with yellow powder and sneezing my head off.

The path continued along the edge of the beach, then, for the very first time since I began, I came to a sandy beach.  Without Chris to lead me astray, I decided that it was too cold to take my boots off but it was lovely walking on the pale grey sanIMG_3531d.  Back up to the shingle as the tide came in fast, then another long trudge along the tarmac prom into Bognor, with the amazing pavilions of the holiday camp showing the way.

Apparently, Bognor gained its “Regis” because King George V liked to visit, however his last recorded words were, it seems, “Bugger Bognor!”  I can’t say I disagree with him!  The west enIMG_3536d of it is shabby and rather grim and there are some very tasty characters about in the evening, I noticed, as I scuttled back to my B & B, after an indifferent (but friendly) meal in a bar/pizzeria/chippie combo.