Made really good time today, and exceeded my plan for the weekend. Woke early after a very poor night’s sleep again. The hotel is by traffic lights on a busy secondary road, so all of the lorries heading for the port stop outside and the noise of them starting up is constant. I drove to Brockenhurst and left the car there, taking the train back down to Lymington where I had an indifferent breakfast in one of those places where the customers are clearly there just to clutter the place up – signs saying don’t do this and don’t do that everywhere.
Started walking around 8.50 and was almost immediately back on the coast. The walk broke down into three parts. The first was the easy, flat walk from Lymington to Kesthaven, first through the marina then over the raised sea walls which surround the old salt works. Apparently, up until the 1850s, salt was a major production of the area. The sea water was trapped by sluices, then allowed to evaporate partially before the brine was pumped up and then dried out further. The railways brought cheap rock salt from Cheshire and negated the need for sea salt. The area is now a conservation and wild life reserve. I did very well with recognising new birds and spotted a shelduck and a white throat as well as the oyster-catchers coots, gulls and egrets I have previously seen. I also saw marsh marigolds in the wild for the first time.
I raced along and arrived in Kesthaven before 11am, then another half hour down to the spit leading out to Hurst Castle. The Needles off the Isle of Wight were clearly visible.
The second part of the walk was along the shingle from Milford on Sea (the end of the Solent Way) to the ferry at Mudebank. The shingle is very hard going, lots of undulations and it sinks underfoot. The cliffs have now turned a beautiful golden colour, and I was surprised, assuming this is sandstone, that the beach is still all stone. After Milford the shore was pretty quiet – at one point I was faced with either climbing over a rock fall or walking round through very choppy waters. I sat and contemplated it for a while, hoping that the tide would reveal more room to walk round, but after about 10 minutes it didn’t seem to be receding at all (although I knew from the tide tables that it should have begun to go out.) A walker from the opposite direction said the stone fall was fine, but, in the end, I tucked my map and camera in my rucksack, took off my boots and waded through. It was not especially cold, but quite rough and painful underfoot. I came out wet well above my knees, but the sun was shining and I soon dried out. The seclusion of the beach was obviously welcome to another few Naturists, the real thing this time, clad only in shoes – you’d be mad to walk on the shingle without. I hope they had plenty of sun tan lotion on – the sun was fierce!
Up over another rock pile – easier this time, onto a populated beach below Christchurch. I marched along briskly, heading for the ferry at Mudeford across the The Run – the entrance to Christchurch Harbour. Just down by the ferry port there were literally dozens of people with their picnic chairs on the tarmac – don’t ask me why they didn’t walk a 100 yards to the beach! There were lots of people crabbing and an interesting pile of lobster pots.
A ferry was arriving just as I did, and it cost me the princely sum of £1.30 to cross to Hengistbury Head and the delights, for the first time of a sandy beach! I took my boots off and danced along! In this third section of the day the sandy beach reaches around to the location of the Iron Age fort that was, according to the signs, the most important port in pre-Roman Britain. Eventually, I reached Bournemouth and took the steep staircase up to the town, to catch the train back to Brockenhurst.
An excellent weekend – 60 miles with glorious weather.