Monday August 10th 1999
Portsmouth – Hayling Island,
The weather today was hot, very hot. The forecast temperature was around 30° with bright sun all day. There was a breeze off the sea, which made the walk possible but the heat slowed us down. However, it did not stop us.
We arrived at Portsmouth Harbour Station at 11 a.m. From there we followed the water’s edge as closely as possible around the working docks, unfortunately mostly along busy roads and past a very busy tattoo parlour under the railway arches. What were they all queuing for exactly?
We crossed very carefully the entrance and exit openings to the terminal for the Isle of Wight Ferry to Cowes, which was busy with cars, lorries and coaches queuing for their space on deck. Just after the fish dock, we found a handy footpath running along the back of some smart new houses which overlook the inner harbour. In the harbour were many working boats, including the police, an inshore lifeboat and boats belonging to the harbour authority. Very much the working end of Portsmouth harbour. At the end of the path was a small gate which could be closed if a very high tide threatened, which suddenly made those new houses less appealing.
The path emerged onto a wide road and in front of us lay Henry VIII’s defensive towers and the sea. The road is the A3 and by looking to the right we could see the end; the point at which it reaches the sea after its long journey from London. We climbed up a long flight of steps onto the towers to a welcome, cooling breeze and stood for a few moments enjoying the view before setting off eastwards with the sea firmly on our right.
Bridges link the various towers, sea walls and defences so that it is possible to walk right along the seafront to Clarence Pier. Clarence Pier has amusements, candyfloss and silly hats, a roller coaster, crazy golf and Peter Pan’s playground. It is very hot, very busy and very noisy. It also has several good food outlets including a fruit stall and a snack bar that makes delicious filled rolls the size of tea plates. We bought one of these each; cheese and ham for me, tuna mayonnaise for Jen, and began to look for a shady place to sit down. We walked past the hovercraft landing and Victory’s anchor and almost but not quite past an ice cream kiosk. Temptation won out, but the ice cream had begun to melt even before we had finished paying for it!
Across the road the war memorial loomed so, with a quick apology to the men remembered there we sat in its shade and ate the rolls. Then we searched the names on the memorial for our family names before having a drink and moving on.
We passed the Sea Life Centre, Southsea Castle and the Pyramids Leisure Centre before stopping again at South Parade Pier. South Parade Pier has shops for flip-flops and postcards, chips and hats and, bizarrely, plants for the garden. Just past the pier is a park so we stopped for the loo and a rest in the shade of a tree. We debated giving up the walk because it was so hot but decided to press on.
We passed a boating lake and a model village and lots of people frying on the beach. Soon the beach became wider and the attractions ran out as Southsea changed to Eastney. There were no shops and the only available ice cream was from a van parked beside a shady shelter.
Finally we arrived at the end of Eastney promenade where we had hoped to find a path running alongside the beach to the Hayling Ferry. There was no sign of one so we were forced to follow the road inland before turning eastwards again and walking past houses and boatyards. The heat seemed even more intense along the narrow lane, which led past a caravan site and into the married quarters of Fort Cumberland. We passed a marina and eventually wound along a narrow strip of land towards the welcome sight of the ferry pier.
The ferry was across the water, so we sat in the shade of the lifeboat station for a few minutes until we saw it heading our way. Then we made the two-minute trip across to Hayling Island and the end of our walk for today. From there we caught a bus back to Havant and picked up the train home. Our first walk was complete. Many decisions needed to be made but we had enjoyed every minute in spite of the heat and the easiest decision was made on the way home. This walk would be the first of many and we would carry on as soon as we possibly could.
Running Total 8.3 miles