Wednesday 16th April 2003
Langstone Bridge- Nutbourne
At last we are walking again. Last summer was a non-walking summer because of various changes in our lives. Jen finished university and began work and we all moved house twice. Now we are living in Surrey and it is quite difficult to reach Dorset to carry on our walk to Poole and beyond. So we decided to pick up the walk in Hampshire and continue in an easterly direction. We now have to coincide Jen’s days off and my school holidays, which may make opportunities more difficult, but today we managed it. So we headed for Langstone, reached 2½ years ago, to continue.
We caught an early train from Ash to Havant and called in at the shopping centre in Havant for money and new guidebooks before caching a bus to Langstone Bridge, the only road crossing into Hayling Island.
Here we picked up the last couple of miles of the Solent Way. The walk took us along the sea front out of Langstone past a tide mill and some beautiful coastguard cottages. The tide mill here at Langstone is one of many dotted around the harbours of the south coast which were powered by the outflow of water penned up in the pond as the tide rose and released after the tide had fallen outside the gates. The mill here was built in the 18th century as a grain mill but was also a notorious smuggling centre. It now houses Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club. Slipper is an Old English word meaning mud and is also the origin of the slip used by potters and the word is incorporated into the name of the club to mark the fact that the original building was surrounded by the stuff.
After a couple of miles following the harbour’s edge, the path turned inland across a field full of children playing and into the grounds of St Thomas A Becket’s Church in Warblington. Warblington has a fascinating history. It was a substantial settlement in Roman times and there has been a church in continuous use here since about 959 AD. The current church building has Roman stones in the walls and a Saxon tower. In the churchyard are several watch huts, built in the early 1800s to guard parishioners from exhumation and sale by unscrupulous body-snatchers. Until the mid-1300s, Warblington was a large settlement but the population was decimated by an outbreak of the plague and the village never recovered as people settled in Emsworth instead. Today, the church is a peaceful centre of a small and beautiful seaside village.
The guidebook was very precise about which pathways to take through the churchyard but we lingered reading the names on gravestones and admiring the many flower arrangements and information boards. From the churchyard, a wide track bordered by a fenced-off path headed onwards. Predictably, we took the wide track and should have been on the narrow path because round the corner, the track stopped at a gate. However, we managed to squeeze under the fence and back on onto the path again. Soon we entered a patch of woodland, and an easy path which brought us out onto the beginning of the seafront at Emsworth itself. We had planned to stop in Emsworth for lunch but it was only 11.15 and far too early.
So we decided to have a look at the village, find the end of the Solent Way and take some photos, then buy some food and walk on. We enjoyed the route along a quiet lane with beautiful houses overlooking the sea and soon encountered a man walking his dogs, one of whom had a bandaged bottom! We just had to find out why so stopped for a chat. He said the poor old girl, (his words), had a weeping sore so he had covered it while they were out for a walk so she didn’t get anything in it. It may have just been her age or it may have been the bandage but she had a lovely bum wiggle! The man said that he had done a lot of coastal walking too but in the West Country.
We continued into Emsworth where there is a causeway across the harbour. In theory the other end of the causeway is the end of The Solent Way but we could find no sign or indication at all. We took a couple of photos of the harbour anyway but it was a bit disappointing, our only consolation being that we had walked it all and we knew it!
From the harbour, we found our way into the town centre, bought a postcard in a bookshop that, at another time, we would have thoroughly explored, and went into a coffee shop for tea and a bun. The coffee shop also sold sandwiches so we bought some, along with fruit from an old fashioned greengrocer down the road before heading out of Emsworth once again. On the outskirts of town we crossed from Hampshire into Sussex at the bridge over the River Em. We happily ticked off our first completed county.
The path into Sussex was very evidently marked down a road alongside the river and through a boatyard. It felt very strange walking through the working boatyard but the path was clear enough and we duly came out the other side. Next, we had to walk inland for a while to cross the top of Thorney Island.
We had debated long and hard about whether Thorney was an offshore island. We finally decided that it has a channel separating it from the mainland, so we bypassed it as part of our custom of not walking offshore islands. Our route picked up the West Sussex Border path for a while, which meant it was well signed and easy to find. Where the path left the road, it was very narrow and already quite difficult to negotiate because of stinging nettles. I am sure a few weeks further into the summer it would become impassable. A stile which must have been constructed by a man, as most are, I find, marked the end of the path! I climbed up then couldn’t hoist my leg over – it was too high! I had to do some extremely uncomfortable contortions to get across. After that, the path opened out onto fields and was fine, and we were intrigued to see a wind sock flying next to one of the fields. Presumably it was used as a private airstrip. At the end of the field we were faced with a locked gate beside a very large house. Luckily it was climbable over and we did just that before walking down the house driveway and out onto the road.
Very soon we hit the sea again and came upon a beautiful cove at Prinstead. There were some benches here along with more large houses, a small car park and a sea scout hut. We sat and enjoyed our lunch with the view. The houses behind the beach were protected with huge boulders some of which had beautiful layers of rocks and quartz crystals glittering in the sunlight.
After lunch, the path led immediately behind the sea line around the top of the harbour on towards Nutbourne with views out to sea of many small craft enjoying the sunshine.
We were nearing the end of the walk now and sat again for a few minutes before leaving the sea and heading inland beside a field of yellow oil seed rape to a lane into the village of Nutbourne. Across the main road was the station and a train drew in as we arrived to take us back to Havant and home.
The most remarkable thing about today was the weather. Although it was only mid-April, it was well into the 20s and we were very glad of the breeze off the sea. Walking inland was quite uncomfortable and the air-conditioned train very welcome as it took us northwards towards home.
Running Total 71.6 miles