Monday, 23 March 2009

Solent Way Day 7 Hilsea - Emsworth

Hayling Billy Track
I just couldn’t bring myself to walk the stretch from Hilsea across the Farlington Marshes to Langstone. The roar of the traffic was too much for me and despite the attractions of the nature reserve I decided to skip this part on account of having little time. I did walk the short stretch immediately to the west of Langstone, but being midwinter it wasn’t particularly pleasant and so I did not even bother getting the camera out.

Langstone Mill
The section that I did walk from Langstone to Emsworth was very pleasant however, and rather a different character to anything that had gone before. Langstone is a small village to the south of Havant and is the only bridging point to Hayling Island. At the north side of the bridge is a useful but very popular car park, which acted as my trailhead. Unusually as the distance was so short (only about 3 miles) I walked this as an ‘out and back’ route rather than the normal public transport option to get back to the start.

Shoreline Walk
After taking a look at the now redundant Hayling Billy railway line that once offered a rail alternative to the island I headed east through the lovely village of Langstone. I couldn’t help but think it felt a little out of place among the generally unlovely towns nearby. In particular I admired the mill outside Langstone, which seemed to be half watermill and half windmill.

Warblington Castle
From the mill the path continued along a very picturesque piece of coastline past a large mill pond and along a very narrow sea wall. This was quite entertaining to try and negotiate as the path was extremely narrow and the tide was in, so I couldn’t take the beach alternative.

Warblington Church
Eventually I came upon Warblington Church and Castle. Not much of the latter was left so I disregarded what was there, focusing my interest instead on the church, which was full of people milling about on this fine September afternoon. Sadly the graveyard had a high number of children’s graves, perhaps explaining the visitor numbers.

I pushed on to Emsworth, which was a short distance across a couple of fields and past some woodland that was obviously used for outdoor activities given the number of different items littering the woodland floor. Just beyond this was I hit the houses and for a brief moment enjoyed the views that these residents get every day of the year. Emsworth had one final surprise for me when I came across a large mill pond, no longer in use but impressive nonetheless. I rounded this to reach the town and found that a food festival was in full swing. I wished that I hadn’t parked in Langstone as the thought of carrying all those goodies back was too much for me to think about!

Emsworth Tidal Pond
So ended the Solent Way. A slightly unsatisfying walk compared with many others that I have completed, but I think that was more down to the time constraints I was under rather than the route itself. There are some hugely enjoyable sections and the path is undoubtedly full of interest. However, there are sections which are a bit uninviting due to the amount of road walking required, or because of surrounding industry. However, as a 4-5 day walk these sections could be skipped or just put up with as necessary mileage.

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