London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Langstone to Portsmouth

8th July 2016

Langstone to Portsmouth – 19.76km (12.28 miles)

On the 20th March 2016 i started with my block of gold at the ‘Bank of England’ in the City of London on a journey to travel by foot and carry it to Portsmouth following the canals and channels known as ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’. Today is the last section of this walk reaching either the final port of call for the barges bringing the wages and arms to the navy at Portsmouth or the start of the Journey if heading to London. There has certainly been some adventures on the way.

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Starting at Langstone it was PK and Cookie walking with me today and the treks wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t some kind of dilemma and just as soon as we got out the car today’s crisis was soon to become apparent, i had remembered to pack some food and water for Cookie, i also remembered to bring Cookie but a critical thing i did forget was her lead. Some quick thinking and boy scout skills were to come into play as in my rucksack i had a spare pair of boot laces, which i knotted up and attached to her collar, i’m not too sure that Cookie, sporting her new look, was that impressed with this idea.

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Langstone is the last village before Hayling Island which was only accessible at low tide by a causeway, this became impassable in 1820 when a channel was dredged out between the mainland and the island so that the barges could pass through, this also meant that they then had to build a bridge across for access to the island, the original wooden bridge was replaced with a concrete one in the 1950’s as there was a weight limit on the original, apparently if a bus was full and wanted to cross the bridge then some of the passengers would have to get out and walk so as not to break the weight limit. Running alongside the modern concrete bridge you can see the remains of the swing bridge that carried the ‘Hayling Billy’ across the water, this was a steam railway that used to run between Havant and South Hayling taking holiday makers in the summer months to the beach and their accommodation. This unfortunately stopped in 1965 when the bridge was deemed unsafe and beyond economic repair. Apart from the struts of the bridge, the only other building that remains is the Old Station Masters cottage sited on the main road, looking in a bit of disrepair and needing some TLC. The cottage borders the route of the old railway that is now a cycle path all the way to South Hayling.

From Langstone we cut down Mill Lane to the harbour edge and from here you could see virtually the entire walk around the harbour and in the far distance the area where the canal cut in at Milton, it looked miles away, in fact it was miles away, we joked that if we had a boat we could have got across in no time time at all. Its been a week since we walked from Bosham to Langstone and on that leg the tide was low and coming in, however for this stage we would be watching the tide go out as it was high as it could possibly get lapping at the edge of the harbour wall. We set off around Bridge Lake on the raised harbour wall that was holding back the water from spilling into the cattle fields behind. After a couple of kilometres following the waters edge we then headed inland around a small inlet where the barges would have pulled up to pick up corn and meal from Brockhampton Mill, there are no remains of this mill apart from a small tranquil stream running over a weir and into the harbour. The rest of this area has been built up with many industrial units, including a gravel merchants that stands on the site where the barges would have moored, at least this part of the harbour is still in commercial use. The quick detour around this inlet soon saw us back on the harbour and heading west and not before long you could start to hear the drone of the motorway by which we will be passing quite close. As we got nearer, the noise of the Friday rush hour and tyres speeding across the tarmac got louder with commuters heading home from work or families going away for the weekend.

Thankfully it was only a short walk beside the motorway as it was incredibly noisy, we left the rushing traffic behind and headed out to go around the peninsula of Farlington Marshes which is a nature reserve with coastal grazing and lagoons attracting many species of wild fowl. Several signs were displayed saying that Cookie would need to remain on the lead as cattle roam freely on the marshes, we had so far got away with not having her on the lead too much, however, i don’t think she liked her makeshift lead as she kept stopping suddenly and just looking at me with a face that just said….”Really!!, do i have to wear this”. Anyhow i persevered with the stop/start routine even though i knew that if i let her off she wouldn’t go any further away than my ankle, she certainly wouldn’t cross a ditch, fence and bushes that were between us and the cows. It’s a good job though that i did keep her on the lead as we were then to pass two wardens walking around the marshes too, occasionally looking through their binoculars at whatever bird caught their eye.

It was a longer walk out to the head of the peninsula than it was back to the motorway and at points the sea water was splashing over the harbour wall. Back at the motorway was a couple of car parks, this built PK’s hopes up of an ice cream, but unfortunately only cars were parked up there. The way into Portsmouth was down the busy Eastern Road with lots of people travelling out the city and queueing up as they approached the roundabout, how glad was i that i was not in that queue.

A lot of sea defence work is being carried out along this edge which meant that we had to walk further along the road than we wanted too. However we stopped off at the Great Salterns pub for a lime and soda over and sat on the balcony overlooking the Langstone harbour contemplating the distance that we had already travelled today. We decided not to eat here but to carry on, and further defence works meant that we had to cut through Milton Common rather than walk around the harbour, however we did find a cut through by the edge of the fence which albeit a little overgrown would lead us back to the harbour edge and near to the Milton Locks.

The tide had gone out considerably now which meant that we could walk into the old lock at Milton, there were no gates on it but remains of the old posts that held them can be seen coming out of the silt. It was a little squishy underfoot but great to get down and amongst this lock and see the enormity of the wall thickness. Today the lock and inlet here only goes in about 100 metres and is used to launch boats into the harbour. The canal would have gone much further than this into the city centre and was fed by the sea water at high tide, however this part of the canal was only operational for three years as the local residents complained that the water leaking from the canal was contaminating the wells used for drinking water and subsequently was shut down and rerouted around the north of Portsea Island to the docks. The pub was right on the edge of Lock Lake another inlet from the harbour and a steak pie soon recharged the batteries again.

The last few kilometres of the trek was now going to be through the built up suburbs of Portsmouth and ultimately into the city centre, quite different to the fields and harbours that we had been previously walking around. From here there is not much evidence of the canal apart from the road names and that the route of the canal which is now a footpath can clearly be seen at the backs of the houses in Locksway Avenue, this led us into Goldsmith Ave and along to Fratton.

At Fratton the canal route was now where the railway runs and when the canal was drained the railway used the beds as it’s route into the city. On approaching the city centre there were street names such as Canal View and Arundel Street which is the last road that led us to where the basin once was.

 

My preconceptions of the end was just a shopping precinct with ‘Debenhams’ the department store just standing on where the basin once was, however to my delight and i was so pleased to see that this area had had some regeneration with plagues giving information about the basin along with boulders scattered on the walkways that were taken from the docks and canal, a perfect photo opportunity with my (fake) block of gold that i have carried all the way in my rucksack. I was so impressed that this area had been revived, as this canal was a big part of history for the south coast and visitors to Portsmouth can see this while going about their shopping.

The route from London to the Sea may be lost but it certainly has not been forgotten; with many volunteers forming restoration societies along the way, giving up their time to bring these waterways back to life whereby enabling visitors to enjoy the canal both on and off the water.

Since the 20th March 2016 it has taken 13 days (62 hrs) to walk 228 km (142 miles) from the Bank of England in the City of London to Portsmouth burning a mere 17,226 calories which on many occasion were replaced by a pie of some sort. This whole journey has been so varied from city centres to remote woods, from navigable canals to ruins of locks but nonetheless a fantastic walk that i would recommend to anyone to do, even though i never got to see a kingfisher. Well that’s my D of E Platinum Challenge complete, what will be next?

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London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Bosham to Langstone

1st July 2016

Bosham to Langstone – 17.74Km (11.02 miles)

It was just PK and me walking today, i left cookie at home because of anticipated pebbles and long grass, both of which she would hate and both of which we encountered so leaving her behind was a kind option. The trek today is going to be all coastal, following the route that the barges would have taken through Chichester Harbour. The 1st half of the day’s walk was all the way around Chidham and Cobnor point, a peninsula of land that you can only walk around at low tide as the path at Cobnor Point on the southernmost tip floods at high tide and is totally impassable, that is so annoying if you are caught out and what happened to Susan and i when we did the Pier to Pier trek last year.

The day started off a little overcast however the wind was pretty relentless and with such a force that just kept blowing, because of this the clouds dispersed quite quickly leaving a lovely clear sky for the afternoon albeit that the wind was with us all day, usually it’s me with that problem, so i didn’t take the blame for once………lol.

The East side of the peninsula started off by going through farmers fields, passing through Chidham and then around the shoreline to Cobnor Activity Centre. The tide was at it’s lowest now and the harbour was mainly mud, silt and weed with a channel down the middle where boats can pass up and down. From the activity centre was a purpose made accessible path to Cobnor point, from this part of the path you have great views up the Chichester Channel where the barges would have come down and around Cobnor Point. At the end of this path were some steps that led you down to the pebbly beach and the part that can only be passed at low tide. This part of the walk was on pebbles in front of a high grassy covered bank with oak trees stretching out over the shore, or are they reaching back with their roots so that they don’t drink too much salty water, nonetheless they were pretty amazing that they have adapted themselves to such a harsh environment with the salty water and air along with the exposure to the wind and sun. There was quite a bit of erosion on the bank and a new path further inland had been created for a safer route, but as it was low tide we could follow the shore round safely and keep to the route of the barges. The bank has had attempted repairs on it using concrete but the forces of nature have taken it’s toll and had broken a lot of the concrete up.

Walking up the western edge of the peninsula was exceptionally windy as the prevailing south west wind would just not let up making it hard work to walk against. The western edge would be following the Thorney Channel which the barges would have taken and across the water and mud you could just make out the inlet called the ‘Great Deep’ (sounds like a monster should live there) where the barges would have crossed Thorney Island. At the top of the channel we started to head west as we had completed the peninsula and we were both hoping that an ice cream van would be parked up at Prinstead, selling lovely creamy 99’s with a plain chocolate flake, but unfortunately no such luck and at this point PK wished he had stocked up on chocolate earlier. We left the harbours and crossed Thorney Island at the top end as this was the nearest point to the ‘Great Deep’ and this path passed through fields and by a water treatment plant, we seemed to have passed a few of these and this one did not smell as bad as the others as they seemed to be spraying a scented mist into the air, however just as we approached the plant we were totally swamped by midges, i had never known so many and you felt like you couldn’t breath as you walked through the clouds of the horrible critters, i was frantically waving the map around thinking it would help clear a way through, eukk!

On the other side of Thorney Island was Emsworth Marina which again had some lovely boats moored in and many out of the water being renovated, here there were futuristic type houses on stilts, probably holiday homes. As we exited the marina we walked by Slipper Mill which would have been a port of call for some of the barges taking goods to London and then past slipper pond into Emsworth. At this point we were now getting hungry so we thought about stopping here for food, pie was on our minds again. But this was not an easy task as the 1st pub we passed was closed, the 2nd wasn’t serving food in the evening and the 3rd didn’t start taking orders until 6:30pm which was an hour away (and they had steak pie on the menu). We had to accept that food was not happening in Emsworth, so we decided to have a beer along with some nuts and crisps in the Bluebird before carrying on.

From here it wasn’t far to Langstone Harbour, so we headed out of Emsworth on the causeway around Mill Pond and then along the shoreline, looking back you could make out where the canal route would have come off of Thorney Island and back into the harbour channels. We again headed inland a short way through fields and passed Warblington church, cemetery  and castle before heading back to the shore, the tide was still a long way out and we could pass along the coast here easily as this also was a tidal section. On arriving at Langstone we passed the mill that used to refine corn and has been standing there since 1730. Behind the mill is a small pond with ducks, coots, moorhens and loads of white egrets nestled in the trees. We decided to eat at the Ship Inn which overlooked the harbour, but all the window seats were reserved so couldn’t look out. We were in the pub for about an hour enjoying our pint of San Miguel along with a Smoked Mackerel and Potato & Caper salad and  PK’s burger and chips, yum!

When we went into the pub the tide was still a long way out and it was absolutely incredible that on leaving the pub the tide was all of a sudden high, it had come in so quickly and covered the mud, we worked out that it would have risen by 500mm in 15 minutes and at that speed it could so easily catch you out at Cobnor if your timings were not right. From here we were to leave our trail for the short walk to the station following the Shipwright way.