Prinsted Sussex To Emsworth Hampshire
It’s the morning of Saturday the 7th April 18 and after a lovely breakfast at the Jingles Hotel Emsworth, myself and Dave Beech slowly haul ourselves along the busy B2148 Horndean Road back into Emsworth town centre. From there we will have to walk back to Prinsted for the start of today’s walk around Thorney Island. Thorney Island is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel called the Great Deep, on the east side of the island you have Thorney Channel and to the west, Emsworth Channel. The walk follows the Sussex Border Path around Thorney Military Airfield, it will take us to Longmere Point and along part of the sandbank to Pilsey Island RSPB Nature Reserve. Public access to the south of the island is limited to the footpath and the church of St Nicholas at West Thorney. Due to security, walkers using the footpath may be asked by the intercom to provide their contact details (name, address and mobile phone number) at the security gates positioned at each end of the Great Deep to access the southern part of the island. Walkers must keep to the footpath marked with the yellow posts.
Since the reclamation of the tidal mudflats in 1870 Thorney Island, so named because of its profusion of hawthorn bushes, has effectively become a peninsula that juts out into Chichester Harbour. As you start this section of the walk you will see some old wooden piles and what looks like another causeway. However these are the remains of a much more ambitious scheme to build a huge embankment from the bottom of Thorney Island across to Chidham. The current Thorney channel would have been drained and converted to arable land, and a substantial arm of the harbour would have been lost. Precisely when this happened is unknown but the sturdy wooden stakes straddling the mudbanks, seen today at low tide, formed the basis of the embankment. During the construction a gale and high seas carried away the bank and the plan was aborted.
It’s another good day for walking, unsurprisingly with such a large amount of shoreline Thorney Island is a valued nature reserve.
What this circular brick feature was used for near RAF Thorney right next to the Sussex Border path, is unknown. It may have had a tower or an aerial inside or, used as a viewing point. It does not look like a pill box or gun emplacement being roughly 3ft deep. If anyone does know please let me know. Thank you.
Nearing West Thorney the path passes under this over hanging tree which has formed a tree arch and from one side looks like a seashell as featured on my posts cover photograph.
The fate of Thorney Island was determined by a chance event on 25th September 1933. A Hawker Fury biplane crashed on Thorney Island on that day, sadly killing the pilot. When officials from the Air Ministry decided to check the scene of the accident they realised that Thorney Island would make a top class site for an airbase. So after hundreds of years of history the small village of West Thorney came to an abrupt, if not a permanent, standstill. Currently used by the Royal Artillery only the church of St Nicholas (the patron saint of sailors) and the footpath are open to the public. The Norman church has a section dedicated to servicemen who died both during and since WW2. It is a lovely peaceful spot overlooking the Thorney Channel.
Within Chichester harbour there are a few of these footpath signs seemingly pointing seaward out onto the mud, however they are just letting you know that these footpaths are down on the beach or saltings and following the foreshore.
One of the many overgrown signs alerting the public to Thorney’s military use.
Pilsey Island is a small island, just off the southeastern tip of Thorney Island. In recent years it has become joined to Thorney by accumulating sand. Now an RSPB nature reserve and a designated local nature reserve. Having walked the sand spit onto the island this sign stops us in our tracks and even though ahead we can see a few people walking the Pilsey sand, we decide that nesting birds should be left in peace and retreat back to the Sussex border path.
Pilsey Island also made headline news in 1956 when the body of Lionel Crabb, who had been employed by MI6, was found nearby, leading to an international incident. It makes for interesting reading.
hese posts at Pilsey Sands are what remains of the landing lights approaching former RAF Thorney Island.
Further on between Marker Point and Wickor Point the footpath takes a turn for the worse and becomes muddy with one particular section being completely submerged by over a foot of muddy water. Here, with Hawthorn bushes either side of the path, there is no way around, so we decide to retrace our steps and walk via the small beach and saltings around this awful prickly section. Whilst retracing our steps we meet a couple that we had passed earlier in the day and warn them of the obstacle ahead and explain what we had decided to do, but not to be deterred they explain they will have a look and assess the situation. So once past this section and after a quick stop at some benches back on the path the same couple appear carrying their boots and socks having decided to “Bear Grylls” it through the water and I have to say I salute them for it. Many times I have had to do this and actually it’s quite fun, not that some in my Wrong Roaders walking club would think so :), so well done them!
Now having mentioned RAF Thorney Islands security gates here’s a picture of them at the Great Deep. Simply press the intercom and explain you wish to use the path and they may ask for your name, address and mobile number. It’s quite quick and straightforward, however I have to admit we failed to do this when entering the site, passing through at the same time as the couple in the previous shot. We did not realise the routine, so please be aware.
Here at Wickor Point the raised footpath cuts across the Great Deep one of three points that cross onto the island. Two footpaths and one road.
Ahead is the lovely, delightful and dynamic town of Emsworth which means we are back at the start of today’s journey. Arriving at Emsworth’s river Ems means I have now walked the entire coastline of Sussex and the coastline of Hampshire lies ahead. Emsworth’s name came from the Anglo-Saxon name Æmeles worþ = “a man called Æmele’s enclosure”. The River Ems, which is named after the town (not, as often believed, the town being named after the river), flows into the Slipper millpond. In the 19th century Emsworth had as many as 30 pubs and beer houses; today, only nine remain. It was once famous for its oyster industry, but that went into decline in the early years of the 20th century. Emsworth Cricket Club, was founded in 1811, but Cricket in Emsworth has been played at the same ground, Cold Harbour Lawn, since 1761.
Like Bosham, Emsworth butts right up to the Emsworth Channel, with its narrow streets, Georgian houses and walled gardens, it’s a picturesque fishing village popular with sailors, artists, naturalists and walkers. Emsworth is an amazing foodie destination, with traditional shops, cafes, pubs, interesting restaurants and a monthly market, plus the annual “Emsworth British Food Fortnight.”. On that theme we finished our walk having a nice cream tea at the Flinstones Tea Room right on the harbourside.