Havant to Southsea Portsmouth
After the mile walk to Langstone Bridge we soon arrive at the Ship Inn carpark for the start of todays walking adventure. Having visited Langstone Harbour now on four seperate occasions it's an area I am looking forward to revisiting again. Some places you just gravitate toward and this area of Hampshire is one such place for me.
Having already written about the Langstone Bridge and Hayling Billy Line which crossed here in my sections "Emsworth to Hayling" and "Haying Bay to Havant", which are an interesting read, I will just give you one small further fact. The new modern concrete road bridge built in 2014, which is not that thrilling, replaced an earlier wooden bridge which had a weight-limit. After WW2 only single-decker buses were allowed across and if they were carrying too many passengers some had to get out and walk, so some change was needed.
On the North foreshore footpath close to Langstone is the Lavant stream which rises from springs out of the Downs further north near Waterlooville and runs down through Havant. This small stream is historically known for its flooding and over many years the local people have coined the phrase "The Lavant Phenomenon" meaning 'flash flooding'. Locally to my home in Kent is one such stream, the Nailbourne, that suffers from this same Lavant phenomenon. Normally the Nailbourne is dry or just a small trickle, however sometimes it floods or bursts its banks due to excess water from the hills around my home. Today there is a runoff on the Lavant diverting some of this excess water into the Hermitage stream easing this flood water. At this location used to be a mill now long gone, which was situated where the wooden fence is, with the weir to the right. Although gone, it is now called West Mill, but over time the mill is believed to have had several names.
Langstone Harbour, sandwiched between Hayling Island to the South and East, Portsea Island to the South and West and Langstone to the North, provides a tranquil and beautiful place in the heart of this urban area. This site is protected by the highest level of national and international wildlife designations due to the mudflats, which are rich in food. These mudflats attract over 50 species of fish, marine wildlife, internationally important collections of wading birds, wildfowl and seabirds. Annually 20% of all the world's Brent Geese population over-winter in the Solent area.
After walking around South Moor we soon arrive at the Storehouse inlet where the Hermitage and Brockhampton streams meet. Walking up the smaller Brockhampton stream it's hard to believe today that once stood the largest mill in the area, Brockhampton mill. The first mill here was mentioned in the Doomsday book in 800AD and the last was demolished by 1900.
Amazingly Barges used to navigate this small tidal inlet to be loaded with grain or to bring mill stones to the mill. It was said to have produced some of the best flour, popular with past generations.
It's bricksided tidal basin was restored back to its former glory in 1984.
These large cover stones forming the path, cover part of the mill stream and the iron rings would aid lifting if access was needed.
Further along the foreshore the larger Hermitage stream flows into Langstone Harbour. This stream runs for several miles inland and takes its name from a 15th century Hermitage Chapel which once stood near Bedford railway Level crossing.
Just past Bedhampton Wharf at Bedhampton Coastal Park Slipway, we meet a gentleman from Godalming getting ready to release his Racing Pigeons. After a brief chat he explained that he was exercising and training the birds to fly from Langstone back to their loft in Godalming. It was great to see and still amazes me that they find their way. Two theories suggest that they either rely on their sense of smell or that they follow the earth's magnetic field lines. So today these birds will cover 40 miles on their flight back home. It was great to see them loop around a couple of times to get their bearings and then off they went.
In this picture two blown safe's point to a convenient dumping ground for the criminal fraternity.
The Harbour contains a number of small islands; Baker Island, North Binness Island and Long Island. In 2003 a 1,500 year old Saxon longboat was found buried in the mudflats which is now on display at Portsmouth City Museum.
For a few minutes the Solent Way footpath butts right up against the busy A27 before it leads us away from the noise onto the peaceful sea defences around Farlington Marshes.
As soon as we start walking along the sea defences at Farlington we are swamped by huge clouds of flying ants. When ant colonies are ready to expand it's the flying ants that take centre stage. Mature males and females fly out of the colony with one purpose in mind, to mate. The swarming helps keep predators away and despite our best efforts we are covered in them.
Teasel plants beside the sea defences, they look like large Thistles when in bloom, but they are in fact not related.
Every now and then we spot something that's a bit odd, like this wasp attacking a bee. It didn't look like a parasitic wasp which is known for attacking bees and dismembering them to take back to their nest for their young to eat. So if anyone does know or has an idea, please let me know. Thank you.
What a modern world we live in, when at the entrance to Farlington Nature Reserve there's a sign that asks people not to fly drones. Who would have thought that would ever have been an issue just 15 years ago.
Ironically the Portsmouth area is one of the most densely populated areas in the UK credited with having 5,141 people per square kilometre, however saying that it doesn't feel like it. Unlike other places it has managed to hold onto much of its old world friendly charm and the only indicator of it's large population is trying to find a parking place when visiting around Southsea high street over the weekends.
The people of Portsmouth are a proud bunch, especially of their Maritime history. Being from Gillingham, a town closely associated with Chatham Dockyard, I for one salute the Pompeyains for it. Without them and the other maritime towns and cities this country would not have been as strong as it is today. Officially Portsmouth is a unique Island City and one of only two in Europe, the other being Venice.
Langstone harbour looking back north past the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre. A not-for-profit charitable programme which helps disadvantaged children / schools to increase participation and improve lives through sailing.
Now, after a refreshing drink, we rejoined the foreshore near the Broom Channel and to our surprise and after about only 50ft, we immediately meet a policeman standing on the seawall. He stopped us dead in our tracks, informing us that this section of the foreshore was closed. This was due to the discovery of a hand grenade down on the foreshore, which had been leftover from the war. Funny for us at the time was him pointing to his police hat marking the spot down on the stone. So after a small discussion, a few jokes and a tiny walk around that section, we continued on our way.
The people's monument started to be built by Willie Goldfinch in 2009 and features on my title image. Whilst out running and listening to the news on his pocket radio, he was saddened to hear about another two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Willie, who had become increasingly frustrated at the lack of compassion at the reporting of these deaths, was suddenly compelled to act. In his own words, "he felt a combination of anger, British passion and pride, along with an awareness of the fact that our British Christian beliefs, our culture and our democratic way of life in recent years, have been under attack unlike at any other time in our history". At that very spot where he had stopped, saddened, he started to build a memorial to those who had died defending British values. His words strike a cord with me "No other country on earth is more compassionately civilised than the United Kingdom. And whether we are British by birthright or have chosen to adopt Britain as our homeland, we all have a moral obligation to be ever mindful of the fact that we inherited the freedoms that come with being British from thousands of years of history, and from human sacrifice on battlefields around the world". It's a lovely place with a beautiful garden built by Willie, just for sitting looking out over Langstone harbour in the sun, reflecting on those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. There is more to his story and I feel quite emotional and proud just reading Willie's blog, so please take the time to visit the memorial or visit his page for a read. Well done Willie.
Interestingly we pass these old railings featuring the Portsmouth and Portsmouth City Council crest. The Portsmouth Coat of Arms, consists of an eight pointed star (known as an eight rayed star, or estoile) above a crescent moon. The Star and Crescent symbol has been used by the City of Portsmouth as it's coat of arms since at least the seventeenth century and probably much longer.
Milton Lock, this is the entrance of the abandoned Portsmouth and Arundel Canal which began operations in 1822. Little now remains of the old lock gates, wooden as they were.
At Eastney saltings the skeletal remains of several boats can clearly be seen, if only they could tell their story. Many people were displaced due to the heavy bombing of Portsmouth by the Luftwaffe during World War two and some of the boats in Eastney were used as makeshift houseboats.
After a pretty boring walk through a housing estate and down Shipwrights Way we find ourselves at the shingle Eastney Spit.
Here there is a good limited ferry service across to Hayling Island and several yacht clubs.
Eventually finding our way back to the beach by following a man in a small pair of briefs and a towel, Dave mentions to me, wouldn't it be funny if we ended up on a nudist beach. Well low and behold he was right! and he could not have been more right. This area of Eastney beach is said to be Britain's biggest unofficial nudist beach, however this is being challenged by those from the Naturist community. I didn't know where to put my eyes and Dave had to lead me by the hand with my eye's closed through a maze of beach towels back to the safety of conformity. :)
At Eastney was the Royal Marines Museum, now closed, it is being moved inside the Old Portsmouth Naval Dockyard as part of a £14 million revamp of the galleries of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The Museum will re-materialise as a much more modern, interactive experience in 2020 and by moving the Royal Marines story on to the same site as the National Museum of the RN, Mary Rose, and Victory, bosses reckon visitor numbers could increase twentyfold and it will also allow them to display up to 30 per cent more objects and artefacts than the existing location. I for one think it a great idea. The Yomper Falklands memorial statue seen here is now subject to some debate. It is planned for it to be moved to the dockyard too, but others want it moved to Plymouth, the spiritual home of the Royal Marines. It was unveiled by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on July 8, 1992 and features Corporal Peter Robinson photographed by Peter Holdgate who's photograph in 1982 in the Falklands inspired the statues design.
The history of Southsea pier has been eventful, like many UK piers. Construction started in 1878 and was officially opened on 26 July 1879. The pier's pavilion was destroyed by fire on 19 July 1904. The pier was then sold to the Portsmouth corporation for £10,782. The pier officially reopened 12 August 1908. In 1914 in an attempt to improve the financial prospects of Seaview Chain Pier the Seaview steam packet company was formed and began running a service between Seaview Chain Pier and South Parade Pier. The service came to a halt in September 1914 and was formally prevented from further running by the Admiralty in 1915. It was partly dismantled during the Second World War in an attempt to hinder any invasion and it has also caught fire several times, most famously in 1974 during shooting of the film 'Tommy'. In the 1980s the pier's Gaiety and Albert ballrooms were used several times a week for discos organised by the Portsmouth Polytechnic students. The Pier was sold to three businessmen in 2010, who pledged to restore it to its former glory. The iconic pier is now owned by Frederick Nash, director of Hampshire property firm Matchams South Coast, and partners Tony Marshall, a London lawyer, and Cambridgeshire stud farm proprietor David Moore.
Southsea pier signals the end of today's walk and what a lovely spot it is. Before we head off to find our B&B, there is some time to just sit, have a well earned pint, rest our feet and watch the sunset over the Isle of Wight and the Solent forts. 13.58 miles.