Step-free walk/cycle path from Farnham to Portsmouth via East Hampshire / South Downs National Park
45 miles ( 73 km) with 1,600 ft (500 meters) of ascent in 5 stages
|Toughness||4 out of 10 - fairly gentle apart from stage 3, the "over the South Downs ridge" stage|
|Maps||OS Explorer Map 144 (a few km only), 145, OL33, OL3, OL8|
The Shipwright's Way is a new long-distance walk / cycle / step-free / wheelchair path. It links villages and towns in east Hampshire through some beautiful countryside, and traverses the South Downs National Park from north to south. It starts in ancient woodland at Alice Holt Forest near Farnham, and meanders down through East Hampshire, across the South Downs, and on to the sea. It crosses over a causeway to Hayling Island, and follows a disused railway path alongside Langstone harbour. After a short ferry crossing across the mouth of Langstone harbour, it passes the resort of Southsea to historic Portsmouth. Around 50 miles in all, and including 7 rail stations.
There are 2 existing SWC walks which follow similar routes - these are linked to below.
The route is open to walkers and cyclists and, where possible, horse-riders and people with disabilities.
Creating a 60 mile long accessible (i.e. step free) walking route, complete with accurate access information (e.g. path gradients) is an exceptional and unique achievement of which the project team should be justifiably very proud. Parents with pushchairs or young children, and walkers who have difficulty with styles, rough terrain or steep slopes (hills) can also do this walk. Cyclists should also appreciate what is mostly an off-road route.
A drawback of this is, that for able walkers, bridleways and quiet lanes (roads) are used as opposed to steeper or more direct footpaths. The route instructions have able walker "footpath" alternatives in some places.
The walk was designed in 11 sections of varying lengths, described in 11 PDF leaflets available from Hampshire Council's Shipwrights Way website.
Instead, we have split the walk in to 5 train-friendly stages of about 12 miles each.
The "section" information is included in the stage notes, as cyclists, horse riders, people with young children, and people with special needs should check the appropriate section's leaflet for up to date access information which is only summarised below.
Bentley Station to Liss Station
13.8 miles. These 2 stations are on different rail lines meeting at Woking/Guildford. From (say) London, buy a day return to Bentley, and on the way back, a single from Liphook to Guildford . Car driver will have to change trains at Woking to return to their car (hourly, about 60 - 90 mins)
This is a little long, so there is an option to finish in Liphook (see map, about 11 miles). Starting in Liphook will increase the next stage to about 11 miles. It also invloves a long on-road stetch through Borden village.
Bentley Station to Alice Holt Forest : 2 miles (Section 1)
This section of the path passes through the ancient Alice Holt Forest, thought to be named after a 10th Century Bishop of Winchester
The initial section of path (tarmac path between two hedges) is thought to be part of a Roman Road from Winchester to London; look back from the top of the hill for a lovely view over East Hampshire. The path then winds through mature woodland to the Alice Holt Forest Centre.
This section is open to walkers and cyclists; it provides a good route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles (please be aware that there is a steady climb from the station). The route is all on wide, well-surfaced tracks with no stiles; there are two 1.2m-wide gates at the level crossing. Leaving Bentley Station, the path is initially tarmac, climbing between hedges and trees; it then levels out and becomes gravel and occasionally natural surface until reaching Alice Holt Forest Centre.
Bentley Rail Station offers parking and loos (not disabled); parking is free for rail users at weekends and evenings. Alice Holt Forest Centre has pay and display parking, a café, and several child centred activities (not free).
Alice Holt Forest to Cradle Lane : 3 miles (Section 2)
The path winds through mature woodland on wide gravel tracks, with occasional views beyond; the last mile uses an ancient trackway and includes a river crossing with a ford and footbridge.
This section is open to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, and provides a good route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles. The route is all on wide, well-surfaced gravel tracks with no stiles or gates. The route is not hilly but is undulating. Be aware that you may occasionally see motorcycles on both Hardings Ride (the start of this section) and Cradle Lane (the end of this section).
Cradle Lane to Lindford : 2 miles (Section 3)
This section runs along a country lane before turning southwards on a path to gently descend and then climbs through woodland to a view point above Broxhead Common. The path crosses a field and finally the Common, a protected area of wood and heathland which is rich in wildlife.
This section is open to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, and provides a fair to good route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles. Dog walkers are asked to put their dogs on a lead over Broxhead Common between 1st March and 31st July, to protect rare ground-nesting birds. The first half-mile is along a lane (without pavements) and the remainder is on good, undulating sandy tracks; there are four bridlegates, which each open to around 5ft width. Take care at the sharp bend at the start of this section and along the lane; be aware that although it is a track you may occasionally see motorcycles on Cradle Lane.
This section starts near Headley Park Hotel. It finishes on the outskirts of Bordon, which has a full range of facilities
Lindford to Liphook Station : Approx 7.5 miles (Section 4)
Once clear of the built-up area, the path winds through trees along the edge of the military training area (which) also provides a valuable wildlife refuge, being home to all twelve native amphibians and reptiles. The quiet village of Greatham leads on to another bridleway, initially a causeway through wet woodland and then on higher ground. A short section of road finally leads onto the disused military railway, now a substantial path with bespoke oak bridges and two sculptures, winding through mature trees alongside the River Rother and emerging right in the centre of Liss.
The above route inlcudes a new step free path created through the training area. A much shorter route (4 miles) is shown on the map for walkers.
Liss Station to Petersfield Station
4 miles. Liphook, Liss and Petersfield Stations are on the same line. Direct train between them are hourly, and take 5 to 10 mins
Liphook Station to Liss Station : 7 miles (Section 5)
This is an optional start from Liphook Station for walkers who shortened the previous stage
This section soon leaves the road (at the Links Tavern) to travel along the edge of Liphook golf course and through the Foley Estate, past the equestrian statue of Lord Strathnairn and beautiful lakes with swans and water lilies. This leads to a woodland track, emerging briefly at the Deers Hut Public House at Griggs Green before turning southwards along another track, gently rising to a high point with views ranging from the Surrey Hills to the north and South Downs to the south. The sandy track continues downhill along the edge of some beautiful heathland managed by the MOD and then through pines, crossing the line of the ChichesterSilchester Roman Road to reach some small country lanes at a bridge over the rail line. These lanes lead through to the top of a disused military railway, now a substantial path with bespoke oak bridges, winding through mature trees alongside the River Rother and emerging right in the centre of Liss.
This section is open to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, and provides a fair to good route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles.
Most of this section is off-road, on undulating tracks which are variously sandy, earthen, stone or tarmacced; the sections just before and after Weavers Down may be muddy after prolonged rain There are three bridlegates, which each open to around 5ft width. The section starts briefly on roads with pavements and is later on rural lane (without pavements) for a further 2 miles.
This section starts at Liphook (cafes/pubs, loos, shops and parking). Around two miles from Liphook is the Deers Hut pub. The end point for this section is the village of Liss (cafes/pubs, shops and car parking).
Liss Station to Petersfield Station : 5 miles (Section 6)
This section runs along quiet country lanes, across the rail line and then briefly on a tarmac walk/cycle path in the verge of the A3 dual carriageway before returning to quiet lanes and a beautiful path above an old bull droveway which then crosses a stream. After passing the Harrow Inn, the route uses a bridge over the A3 which links two quiet lanes and then descends gently into Petersfield; pause to see lovely views across the town with the ridge of the South Downs beyond—the next section of route passes over this to the left of the A3! As well as cafes and shops Petersfield offers much to see, including the Flora Twort Gallery (textiles and art) and the Petersfield Museum (social history).
This section is open to walkers and cyclists; as it is mainly on tarmac it provides a good route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles. Horseriders - see Shipwrights Way leaflet. Apart from 300 metres of well-surfaced path at Steep Marsh, this section is all on tarmac; there are no steep climbs or descents. Once away from the centres of Liss and Petersfield there are no pavements but most of the lanes are quiet (several being no through roads for vehicles).
Around three miles from Liss is the Harrow Inn (has its own cook-book!). Petersfield marks the end of this section (loos, pubs/cafes, shops, museums).
Petersfield Station to Rowlands Castle Station
11 miles. Petersfield and Rowland Castle are on the same rail line. Trains between them are hourly.
A version of this walk for the able walker. It follows roughly the same route, but uses more/steeper/rougher paths
Petersfield to Queen Elizabeth Country Park : 5 miles (Section 7)
This section is 5 miles long. If you were to do the next two sections as well, to Rowlands Castle (around 11 miles in all), you can also return by train.
Petersfield is a lively market town with much to see and do, including the Flora Twort Gallery (textiles and art) and the Petersfield Museum (social history). Leaving behind the higgledypiggledy terraced cottages of Sheep Street, the route uses a path and then joins the ‘Causeway’ (road). You soon turn off onto a quiet lane to the picturesque village of Buriton. From Buriton pond, the lane turns into a path which climbs through mature woodland standing on an old chalk pit. Emerging briefly on a lane, you join the South Downs Way, a gravel track which climbs into the Park, with good views back over Petersfield followed by a gentle descent through a wooded valley into the centre of Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
This section is open to walkers and cyclists and, other than the steepness of the path behind Buriton pond, this section provides a good route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles. Horseriders : see leaflet. The route is on roads and well-surfaced gravel tracks with no stiles or gates. Take care on the roads and on the last (tarmac) section which has occasional vehicles; the route is flat to Buriton, then climbs steeply for about 300m on a gravel track through the old chalk pit (you are climbing onto the South Downs, so this is the steepest part of the Shipwrights Way). Cyclists may prefer to use the tarmaced road but take care as this can be busy. After the car park at the top of the quarry the route ascends steeply for a further 150m before it levels out and climbs and descends more gently.
Buriton has two good pubs. There is a little parking on road and next to the pond. At Queen Elizabeth Country Park there is pay and display parking, a café, information centre, shop and loos (including disabled). See www.hants.gov.uk/countryside/qecp
Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Finchdean : 5.5 miles (Section 8)
This section starts at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, on gravel tracks through the woodland. You will pass a clearing where a Roman Villa once stood before a short but steep descent onto the lane. This lane was once a main road from Portsmouth to Petersfield, busy with stagecoaches; its now a quiet lane which drops slowly downhill and along the valley to Finchdean. A short diversion just north of Finchdean will take you to a beautiful little church in the fields dedicated to the patron saint of hunters, St Hubert, with its murals dating back to c1330. Walkers may wish to use the Staunton Way instead (see map), which is off-road and runs along the top of the ridge, offering some fantastic views.
This section is open to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and provides a fair route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles, although all users will need to be aware of the traffic on the lanes which form the majority of this section. Walkers may wish to use the off-road Staunton Way instead. The route is briefly on gravel tracks and then on quiet lanes with no pavement and limited verge; running slightly downhill. It is recommended that walkers use the Staunton Way as depicted overleaf, which climbs onto the ridge on unsurfaced paths and is about half a mile shorter than the on-road route.
The George Inn at Finchdean offers refreshments including meals; walkers on the Staunton Way will also pass the Red Lion at Chalton.
Finchdean to Rowlands Castle Station : 3.5 miles (Section 9 - first part)
Rowlands Castle Station is in the middle of this "section", so this section split between 2 day walk stages. Staunton Park is after the station, in Stage 4
This section starts at Finchdean, which has a small green on which the village animal pound/jail and later blacksmiths stood; the plaques here give a fascinating insight. You continue down the lane into Rowlands Castle; in times past this picturesque village was reputed to have been overrun with highwaymen, smugglers, poachers and thieves and there were regular horse and cattle fairs on the village green.
This section is open to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and provides a fair route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles, although all users will need to be aware of the traffic on the lanes which form the majority of this section. The route is initially on lanes with no pavement and limited verge, then on a track followed by lane once more and finally on pavement and off-road cycleway.It is recommended that walkers use the Staunton Way for part of this section as depicted overleaf, which is mainly off-road.
Rowlands Castle has several pubs, shops and a rail station. Staunton Country Park offers several options for refreshments, loos, a shop and parking; it also has circular walking and cycling trails. It is the parkland, complete with lake and follies, of a former estate.
Rowlands Castle Station to Havant Station
4 miles. There are direct trains between these 2 stations
Rowlands Castle Station is in the middle of the previous "section", so its split between 2 stages. The
This very short stage is mostly urban. You could visit Staunton Park, or continue to Hayling Causeway to make a short 7 mile winter walk, and catch the bus back to Havant Station
Rowlands Castle Station to Staunton Country Park (Section 9 : second part)
The route uses a bridleway (once a drove road) and then a short section of lane which was Roman road. This section finishes at Sir George Staunton Country Park & Gardens, well worth a visit with its ornamental farm, Victorian glasshouse and extensive parkland with follies and a fishing lake.
It is recommended that walkers use the Staunton Way for part of this section which is mainly off-road.
Staunton Country Park to Havant Station to Hayling Causeway : 3 miles (Section 10)
Havant Station is in the middle of this "section", so its split between 2 stages. The Hayling Billy path is in the next stage.
This section starts at Sir George Staunton Country Park and Gardens, well worth a visit with its ornamental farm, Victorian glasshouse and extensive parkland with follies and a fishing lake. Leaving the Country Park, the first mile of this section is next to (but not on) the road, using a tarmac walk/cycle route; there is then a short section on fairly quiet roads (with pavements), leading to a rail crossing on the edge of the town centre. Should you wish to spend an hour or two in the town centre, you will find some fine Georgian buildings, a shopping mall, regular markets, an arts centre and a museum. Returning to the rail crossing, you join the Hayling Billy, a disused railway which is now a well-used gravel track and feels surprisingly removed from the busy town; you remain off-road for the rest of this section and indeed most of the following section (Hayling Island). This section finishes at Langstone (at the start of the Hayling Island causeway), a picturesque waterfront community with an old mill—the remains of the rail bridge can be seen to the west of today’s road bridge and there is a historic causeway (the ‘wadeway’) to the east of the bridge, now deep underwater due to the canal being cut through in the 1820s.
The whole section is open to walkers and cyclists and provides a good flat, year-round route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles. The Hayling Billy is also open to horse-riders. The route is flat, on tarmac and well-surfaced gravel tracks with no stiles or gates.
Havant has all the facilities you would expect of a town, including shops, museums, loos and a rail station. There are public loos and two good pubs on the waterfront at Langstone - The Ship (on the causeway) and The Royal Oak (100m east, past the Ship, along the harbour side path)
Havant Station to Portsmouth Station
12 miles. There are regular direct trains between Portsmouth and Southsea Station, and Havant Station
Havant Station is in the middle of previous "section", so its split between 2 stages. The start of the off-road Havant to Hayling Island Causeway path is described above
This is an almost identical walk in reverse. The only difference being, it keeps the seafront promenade in Portsmouth and Southsea (i.e. the sea side of the common, rather than the land side). There is also an option to walk along the (wheelchair friendly) Hayling Island seafront
Hayling Causeway to Hayling Ferry : 5.5 miles (Section 11)
Note the GPS route on the map uses the walkers route - check the leaflet for the step-free route
This section starts at the Hayling Island Causeway (Langstone). After crossing the bridge, continue along the Hayling Billy, a disused rail line which now offers a wide, well-surfaced track with beautiful views across Langstone harbour and information boards describing the fascinating railway history and the wildlife. This is an internationally important site for its wildfowl and wading birds—look out for Black-tailed Godwits and large flocks of Brent Geese in winter and Oystercatchers on the Victorian oyster beds at the northern end of the island; oysters have been fished here since at least Roman times. The hedgerows are also managed for wildlife, and butterflies abound in summer. On leaving the Billy, the last 1½ miles is on or next to the road, passing some colourful houseboats before arriving at the ferry to Portsmouth; look out for the WWII Mulberry Harbour sitting in the water north of the jetty, built on Hayling to assist the D-day landings.
This section is open to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and provides a good flat, year-round route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles.The route is flat, mostly on a well-surfaced gravel track with no stiles or gates, then briefly on road with pavement and finally a quiet road (Ferry Road) with pavement or verge in part. To avoid this last road, walkers can choose instead to walk across the heath and along the shingle beach, as marked on the map.
West Town has shops and loos (on the northern side of the playing fields) and at the ferry are more public loos and the Ferry Boat Inn (on the beach), which also serves food.
Hayling Ferry to Portsmouth : 5 miles (Section 12)
This section starts at the ferry from Hayling Island (use www.haylingferry.co.uk or call 07702 928154 for ferry running times). You will pass several boatyards coming into Eastney and then join the seafront, with views across to the Isle of Wight and everything from yachts and cruise ships to naval vessels in between. You can clearly see the Spinnaker Tower, very near your destination, from here. Along the seafront are many interesting places to visit including the impressive building of the Royal Marines Museum, the sea-fed canoe lake and model village and at the southernmost tip of Portsmouth island, Henry VIII’s Southsea Castle together with the D-Day Museum and the Blue Reef Aquarium. At this point, you turn slightly inland across the beautifully maintained parkland of Southsea Common using a path known as the ‘Ladies Mile’, reminiscent of promenading in Victorian times and still lined with elm trees. Coming into Old Portsmouth you pass the cathedral with its beautiful stained glass windows; its well worth spending some time wandering around this area, perhaps following the walking route marked with chain-links set into the pavement. You then enter Gunwharf Quays, with an amazing variety of shops, plenty of places to eat and the Spinnaker Tower with its far-reaching views. Finally you reach the end point of Shipwrights Way, the magnificent Historic Dockyard, home of the Mary Rose and HMS Victory
This section is open to walkers and cyclists; it provides a good flat, year-round route for pushchairs and mobility vehicles. The route is flat, on tarmac or paved surfaces with no stiles/gates or steps. Walkers are off road for the whole route and cyclists benefit from a series of mostly off-road cycle lanes and paths, but with some on-road cycling. Along the seafront, walkers should use the prom and cyclists the two-way cycle lane (which is segregated from the road). You then use a path to cross Southsea Common and a series of small roads with pavements and some cycle lanes through to Gunwharf Quays.
Apart from at the start of this section, there are plenty of facilities along the route including public loos, pubs/cafes, shops and rail stations. Parking is available throughout.
|Attribution||The logo, and much of the section description text came from Hampshire Council's Shipwright's Way website, and is used with permission|
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