Emsworth 6 March 2024

  • Date: 6 March 2024
  • Walk Leaders: Sandy and Helen
  • Distance: 7.5 miles

Petersfield Ramblers enjoy a rare sunny, mud-free walk along the coast

After two months of wet, muddy, cancelled walks, we were looking forward to improved walking conditions in March. However previous checks for a potential Emsworth to Hayling Island coastal walk had not been encouraging: problems with tides, excessive gloopy mud and water torrents pouring off the sea walls did not bode well. Undeterred, the walk leaders rose at 06:30am on the first day of March to assess conditions. Such dedication! They were rewarded with stunning early morning light across the mud flats and – surprisingly – a ‘thumbs up’ for the walk two days later. 

So it was that 20 keen Ramblers set off from Emsworth recreation park, south through the delightful coastal village – resisting the temptations of the many charming cafes. Looking back as we circled the enclosed mill pond, the picturesque water-front scene – postcard pretty – was enhanced by a flock of swans enjoying food left by a kindly local.

As we passed the yacht club, reaching more open beach, we found ourselves in warming sunshine, under azure blue skies. It was simply amazing! Smiles broke out and jackets were discarded. There was even blossom on the hawthorn lining our path.

After a leisurely coffee break, basking on a grass bank, we continued around Conigar Point, past ‘seaweed bushes’ and railway sleeper remaining walls – each interesting in their own ways.

As Langstone approached, the unusual tidal mill (now a private residence) drew people’s attention; with its oldest parts dating from 1720, the black tarred outer skin makes the mill resilient to the full force of the coastal weather.

On past the white-washed Royal Oak pub, a house at the beach-end of Langstone High Street caught our attention, not just that its sandbags indicated the constant threat of high tides. The front-door water barricade and post box were colourfully painted with nautical scenes.

We ‘lost’ some walkers at the Ship Inn (there were tales of walking back!), before traversing Langstone Bridge to arrive on Hayling Island. Heading out west, we admired the nature reserve – once thriving oyster beds – before resuming the Billy Trail back to the NW corner of the island. Here everyone collapsed on the grassy sea-wall banks to consume lunch – and sunbathe!

After an extended, convivial break – vitamin D stores replenished! – we wended our way back across Langstone Bridge, having noted the ‘Danger’ signal for any ghost trains anticipating crossing the seriously depleted rail bridge!

Following along the extension of the Hayling Billy Coastal Path (ablaze with yellow celandines) to Havant we took a bus back to Emsworth – and our cars.

We all agreed that it was a most enjoyable walk, not least for the stunning sunshine after months of continual rain.

Historical note: Hayling Billy ran from 1867 to 1963. The line was closed because of the unaffordable cost of repairs to the bridge. Some of our walkers can remember travelling on the Hayling Billy when they were very young.

Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino

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