Varied walk on the southern edge of the New Forest through parkland, woods, open heaths and pasture before a contrasting finish past coastal marshes.
Main Walk, to Lymington Town: 18 km† (11.2 miles). Four hours 10 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 10 hours.
Long Walk, with marshes loop: Up to 25¾ km† (16.0 miles). Six hours walking time.
† Add 1½ km (0.9 miles; 25 minutes) if returning from Lymington Pier station. See Walk Options below.
Explorer OL22 (or OL29). Brockenhurst, map reference SU301020, is in Hampshire, 15 km SW of Southampton.
3 out of 10 (4 for the Long Walk).
Although a good part of this walk is within the New Forest National Park, there are only occasional encounters with the remote heathland or dense woodland which you might expect. Some of the walk's first section is in fact through the landscaped parkland of a now-demolished country house, Brockenhurst Park, and it continues along pleasant broad tracks through Roydon Woods Nature Reserve. You finally encounter wide open heathland at Shirley Holms, with fine views across the gorse and heather.
The walk's middle section (after leaving the National Park) is less distinctive, going past farms and stables with occasional distant glimpses of the Isle of Wight. Eventually you come to the scattered hamlet of Lower Pennington and the suggested lunch pub.
Some of the fenced paths in this section are quite narrow and could become overgrown.
The final section to the attractive sailing resort of Lymington is quite different in character. You walk along raised embankments between mudflats and the coastal marshes of Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve, with magnificent views of the Isle of Wight across the Solent. The area is now a haven for wildlife but in the 18thC it was the site of the Lymington Saltworks, the country's leading supplier of sea salt. This profitable industry only ceased (in 1865) when salt could be obtained more cheaply from mines in Cheshire.
There are no opportunities for swimming in the sea but the route goes past Lymington's open-air Sea Water Baths; these are open daily in summer to 6pm; admission (2019) is £3. At the end of the walk a lucky few might be allowed to sip pink gins at one of the town's exclusive yacht clubs, but there are plenty of other places willing to serve hoi polloi before the longish journey home.
The coastal marshes are the most distinctive feature of this walk and directions have been provided for an additional loop around the entire Nature Reserve. The full version of this Long Walk goes all the way out to Keyhaven opposite Hurst Castle, but linking footpaths through the marshes between the outward and return legs allow for shorter variations.
If your curiosity has been piqued by the large obelisk poking out above the trees on the other side of the Lymington River you could extend the walk by 1½ km, passing the Walhampton Monument and returning from Lymington Pier instead of the Town station.
There are no specific options to shorten the Main Walk but you could use the map to find your way along roads from Pennington to Lymington. You could also make use of the regular bus services in the area (see below).
Brockenhurst has a half-hourly semi-fast service from London Waterloo (hourly on Sundays) taking about 1 hour 30 minutes, plus an hourly stopping service which is not usually worth considering.
Lymington is on a short branch off the main line at Brockenhurst, with stations in the town and across the river at the ferry terminal. The half-hourly service generally connects well with fast trains back to Waterloo, but the return journey is still at least 20 minutes longer. Buy a return to Lymington Pier (or Town; the fare is the same).
If you want to abandon the walk Bluestar 6 runs hourly (two-hourly on Sundays) along the A337 between Brockenhurst and Lymington; you could also use it to start the walk from Battramsley. In the second half of the walk morebus X2 (Mon–Sat) goes from Bournemouth to Lymington via Sway and Pennington.
Take the train nearest to 09:00 from Waterloo to Brockenhurst in order to get to the suggested lunch pub in time (see below).
This walk originally had the choice of an early lunch stop, but with the closure of the Hobler Inn in January 2020 the only conveniently-placed pub now comes after 13 km. The Chequers Inn (01590-673415) in Lower Pennington is a friendly place with (unsurprisingly) a strong nautical feel, serving food until 2.15pm on weekday lunchtimes, all day at weekends and Bank Holidays.
Earlier in the walk brief directions are given to two pubs off-route, but neither has been tried: the Wheel Inn (01590-718042) in Bowling Green (described as “the only community-run pub in the New Forest”) and The Musketeer (01590-381052) in Pennington.
The best places for a picnic are the heathland at Shirley Holms (after 5½ km) or Pennington Common (after 9½ km).
If you have an early lunch stop the Chequers Inn (see above) would make a convenient mid-afternoon stop, as would the Gun Inn (01590-642391) in Keyhaven if you do the full version of the Long Walk.
At the end of the walk there are plenty of refreshment places in Lymington, with cafés and kiosks selling hot drinks and ice cream as you enter the town. The Ship Inn (01590-676903) has a prominent location on Town Quay and the Kings Head (01590-672709) is a little way back from the river, in Quay Hill. You won't have any difficulty sniffing out the local chippie if you want a traditional seaside meal before the journey home.
If you have to wait for a train the nearest pub to the Town station is the Bosun's Chair (01590-675140) in Station Street. There is a Costa coffee shop (01590-647639) at the ferry terminal near the Pier station.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
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- Main Walk, to Lymington Town (18 km)
Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.
- Leave the station and turn right onto the A337, then fork left onto Church Lane. 200m after passing St Nicholas church turn left onto a bridleway and follow this through Brockenhurst Park and Roydon Woods. After passing Roydon Manor fork right onto a bridleway to Sandy Down. Keep ahead on a footpath crossing several minor roads to come to the A337 near Battramsley.
- From the platform go up steps to the overhead bridge and turn right to leave the station through the car park on its south side, coming to the A337 with Mill Lane opposite. Turn right onto the main road, heading S (away from the town) and crossing over carefully at some point.
- In 50m fork left onto Church Lane, signposted to St Nicholas Parish Church and soon climbing gently. In 200m you pass the New Zealand Cemetery? on the left, with an information panel “Brockenhurst – A First World War Hospital Village”.
- After a further 150m you come to St Nicholas? church, and the suggested route is to go through its churchyard. On the way out through its main gate you pass another information panel, “New Zealand in the UK during Word War Ⅰ”.
- Continue along the lane for another 200m, round some right-hand bends, then turn left onto a signposted bridleway. Follow this broad path between hedges with the parkland of Brockenhurst Park? on both sides.
- In 200m go through a gate into Roydon Woods Nature Reserve? and continue along the main path, initially still with the parkland on your left and later veering into the wood, crossing a few streams along the way.
In 1 km you pass a patch of parkland on your left, then the path joins another bridleway coming in from the right. After passing an isolated cottage ignore the driveway to Roydon Manor? on the left. In 200m another bridleway branches off to the left.
- A 200m detour down this bridleway would give you a nice view of Roydon Manor and the Lymington River.
- Stay on the main bridleway for a further 200m, round a bend to the right. As the path curves back to the left turn right onto a signposted bridleway, heading SW and soon climbing gently.
- At the top of the slope follow the main path past a conifer plantation and out through a wooden side gate. Keep ahead across a patch of grassland to come out onto a lane, leaving the nature reserve.
- Cross over and take the footpath opposite, between high garden hedges and then down through a wood to another lane. Again take the footpath opposite, gently downhill through trees. At the bottom cross a stream on a wooden footbridge and continue up the left-hand side of two fields.
- In the top corner go over a stile onto an enclosed path along the edge of a wood and follow this for 300m (veering left along the way to avoid a private garden ahead). At the end turn left onto the A337 to go past the (closed) Hobler Inn.
- Take the footpath opposite the closed pub which leads to a corner of heathland. Keep ahead to cross over the branch line and make a long curve round to the left to Shirley Holms. Head for a footpath in the south-east corner of this piece of heathland and follow this past Mount Pleasant Farm. Cross Mount Pleasant Lane and continue on a footpath past Setters Farm to Sway Road.
- To continue the walk cross the A337 carefully and take the footpath opposite the pub's car park, going over a stile to the right of a house. The path goes between hedges for 350m, then another stile takes you onto the corner of open heathland.
- Continue in the same direction alongside a hedge. At the end pass to the right of a house and then keep left at a triangle of tracks. You pass another large house “The Hob” on your right, then fork right down a gravel track which takes you across a bridge over the Lymington branch line?.
- Go past a row of cottages on your left, on the grass to the right of the track if you prefer. Where the track turns left by the last cottage, keep ahead across the grass to join a broad track climbing up through the heath. Follow this round a gentle left-hand curve to reach a lane by a Forestry Commission sign for Shirley Holms?.
- Cross the lane and keep ahead on the heath to the right of the car park entrance. Continue on a grassy track alongside the wood on your left for 600m, gradually curving round to the left and with views across a valley on the right.
- You eventually come to a cluster of houses at a corner of the heath where you turn right onto a gravel driveway heading S. In 150m the drive swings right in front of some more houses, but you bear left to find a stile in the corner, to the left of a thatched house “Widden”.
- Follow the footpath between fences, over a stream on a wooden footbridge and along the side of a field. In the far corner go over a stile and turn half-right as indicated to go up a wide strip of grass, alongside a fence on your left.
- Ignore a track off to the left and go up to the top to find a stile in the fence, which takes you past a garden and its house to a lane. Follow the path past a row of cottages to reach Mount Pleasant Lane.
- Turn left briefly onto the lane. In 25m turn right onto a signposted footpath, along a driveway. At the end keep left to continue through a belt of trees. Follow this slightly awkward footpath for 250m past some new houses, ignoring another footpath off to the right along the way.
- The path then turns left and you will be heading in this direction for 600m, initially on a fenced gravel track between paddocks. Where the track turns left after 200m, keep ahead through a small wicket gate to continue on a grassy track.
- As you approach another new house the path goes up a small bank and continues through a belt of trees. For the last part of this stretch keep left (where a gap on the right leads into a private garden) to go along a driveway to Sway Road. Unless you want to detour to the pub in Bowling Green, cross the road carefully to continue on the footpath opposite.
Detour to the Wheel Inn (+1¼ km)
- Turn right and go along Sway Road for 600m. The pub is on the far side of the crossroads with Ramley Road. Return the same way.
- Cross Sway Road and take the footpath towards Yaldhurst Copse. After passing the wood fork right onto a footpath which leads onto Yaldhurst Lane. At the end of this lane bear right and cross over Ramley Road onto Pennington Common.
Take the signposted footpath off Sway Road, heading S. You will be following a narrow (and potentially overgrown) fenced path for the next 900m: after a few turns to get around gardens it emerges into more open countryside, initially between hedges and then with a long belt of trees (Yaldhurst Copse) on the right.
There are views ahead of the Isle of Wight, 8 km away.
- After the end of the trees continue for a further 100m, then go over a stile by a three-way footpath signpost and turn right. Go down to a wooden footbridge across a stream and continue up the left-hand edge of a large field. Turn right and left at the next two corners to stay on the field edge.
- In the next corner go through a metal kissing gate and keep ahead along the edge of some grassland, ignoring a footpath off to the right. Just before the next corner go through another kissing gate on the left to continue on the tarmac lane you have been walking alongside, away from the entrance to Waldhurst Farm House.
- You now simply follow this lane for 400m. There are fields and later a recreation ground behind trees on your left, and houses on the right. At the end you come to a small green and bear right to reach Ramley Road. Unless you want to detour to the pub in Pennington, cross over carefully and take a sandy path opposite leading onto Pennington Common.
Detour to The Musketeer (+1 km)
- Turn left and go along Ramley Road (or the edge of the common) to the far end. Go past St Mark's church and The Square and fork left into North Street (where the main road continues as South Street) to reach the pub. You can return along the left edge of the common to rejoin the main route.
- Head south-west across the common and take a footpath through Widbury's Copse alongside a housing estate to the A337.
- Take any of the grassy paths across the common, aiming for the right-hand end of the row of houses on the far side. On the far side cross a lane and take the driveway to the right of the houses, signposted as a footpath.
- Follow the path as it curves round to the right, then makes a sharp turn to the left. 200m further on, veer left in front of the gate for Furzey House onto a woodland path. Continue near the left-hand edge of this belt of trees for 200m, ignoring exits into the housing estate on your left.
- Shortly before one of these exits, with only a narrow path continuing ahead through the trees, turn right onto a path with some low wooden supports on its right-hand side. On the other side of the copse follow the path round to the left, with a fence on your right.
- In 200m the right of way is to keep right and go over a stile onto an enclosed path past some allotments, although as an alternative there is a broad strip of grass between the allotments and the footpath with an exit at the far end. Either way, continue on the fenced path for a further 250m to come out onto the A337 (Milford Road).
- Turn right briefly onto the A337, then take the footpath on the left which zig-zags south and eastwards. Cross a lane and continue eastwards, joining Lower Pennington Lane at Sadlers Farm. Head south along the lane through the hamlet, then take the footpath on the left along field edges to the Chequers Inn on Ridgeway Lane.
- Turn right and go alongside the busy main road for 60m, crossing over carefully as soon as you can (there is a grass verge on both sides). Turn left into the driveway to “Eden”, signposted as a footpath, and follow it past a pond and round to the left. Go past high wooden gates on the left and cross a stile onto a fenced path through a meadow.
- At the end of the meadow go over another stile, turn right and go around two edges of a field to the opposite corner, where you come out onto a lane. The walk continues along the farm drive just off to the right; if the fieldgate across it is locked you can go straight ahead on a narrow path and immediately turn right to join the driveway behind the gate.
- After going along the drive for 200m fork left onto a green lane (almost straight ahead), soon passing a vehicle barrier. In a further 200m bear right as indicated onto a broad strip of grass alongside a long tarmac drive. At the end turn right onto Lower Pennington Lane, passing Sadlers Farm.
- The turning off this lane is easy to miss. In 225m (and 50m after a slight left turn) turn left through a narrow gap in the hedge (by a telegraph pole) onto a signposted footpath.
- Go along the right-hand edge of two fields for 250m, then follow the path as it zig-zags right and left to continue on the other side of a hedge. At the end go over a stile and keep left on Chequers Green to come to the Chequers Inn on Ridgeway Lane.
- Head south along Ridgeway Lane and Lower Woodside for 250m, then turn left into the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve. Turn right in front of Moses Dock onto the Solent Way and follow it alongside the inlet to a sluice gate.
- Turn right out of the pub to head S on Ridgeway Lane (which becomes Lower Woodside). In 250m turn left onto a signposted footpath between a garden hedge and a belt of trees.
- At the end of the trees turn right through a narrow gap with footpath waymarkers, joining the Solent Way? (SW) and entering the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve?. The path goes alongside Moses Dock?, with two derelict salt boiling houses? on the far side.
- Where the inlet turns sharply left go through a wooden gate and turn left to stay alongside it, with Oxey Marsh beyond the ditch on your right. Follow the path up to a large sluice gate across the inlet.
Continue to follow the Solent Way along the embankment, going round to the right to head south-west towards Keyhaven Harbour. If you do not want to do the full extension you can return through Oxey Marsh by taking the first footpath on the right, or through Pennington Marshes by turning right at the jetty. On the full extension you can cross Avon Water into Keyhaven for refreshments at the Gun Inn. The route back is inland along a byway and Lower Pennington Lane, then a linking footpath to Lower Woodside. Re-enter the Nature Reserve and go straight ahead past the end of Moses Dock and the old salt houses.
- Carry on along the embankment path for 600m, initially heading NE with the inlet on your left and then making several right turns around Oxey Marsh. After it has been heading SW for a short distance there are steps off the embankment at a left-hand bend, the turning point for the first variation.
…returning via Oxey Marsh (1¾ km)
There are three variations for the Long Walk. The longest follows the Solent Way for 4½ km along the sea wall to Keyhaven before heading back on inland tracks and lanes, but there are a couple of linking paths across the marshes which you can take to make a shorter loop. There are good opportunities for bird-watching and magnificent views of the Isle of Wight across the Solent; on a clear day you can see the Needles at its western tip.
- For this short variation go down the steps onto a broad grassy path. In 450m this merges with a gravel track which you follow for 350m to a fieldgate. Go through a side gate and out past Oxey Barn to a lane (Lower Woodside). Turn right and continue the directions at [?].
…returning via Pennington Marsh (3¾ km)
- For this variation turn right onto a gravel track heading NW, directly away from the jetty. In 250m it splits into two adjacent paths, with the higher (left-hand) path having better views. Shortly after they rejoin go through a side gate into a small parking area at the end of a lane. Bear right onto the lane and continue the directions at [?].
…returning via Keyhaven Marsh (7¾ km)
- To complete this variation go back along the lane past the footpath from your outward route. In 200m you go past a fieldgate to re-enter the Nature Reserve, now on a broad gravel track. Ignore a footpath branching off to the left after 100m and stay on the public byway for a further 1¼ km. At the end keep ahead through a small parking area, where the Pennington Marsh route joins from the right.
- From the salt houses follow the Solent Way to Eight Acre Pond, then turn right to go to its southern corner.
- From the sluice gate cross the inlet, turn right and follow the path round to the southern corner of Eight Acre Pond.
From the Salt Houses
- Follow the tree-lined path for 350m, eventually passing “The Salterns” on the left. Continue briefly along its driveway to come to a corner of Eight Acre Pond. Turn right onto a path going alongside this large pond to come to an information panel for the Nature Reserve at its southern corner, where you turn left.
From the Sluice Gate
- Go across the sluice gate to the north-western side of the dock, where there is an information panel about the historic “Saltworkings of Lymington”. Turn right onto the embankment path, with Salterns Marsh on the left. After the path turns left you come to an information panel for the Nature Reserve at a corner of Eight Acre Pond, where you turn right.
- Alternatively you could stay on the SW as it goes around three sides of this final marshy area (an extra 400m).
- Head north alongside the river, then veer left onto Bath Road to get past Berthon Lymington Marina. Where this road turns left towards the town centre, keep ahead on Quay Road. There are refreshment places on Town Quay or a little further ahead in Quay Hill and the High Street. To complete the walk take a short walkway past Trafalgar Place and turn left onto Mill Lane leading to the Town station.
For an optional extension continue along the road, cross the Town Bridge and return along the other side of the river. Take a footpath up a small hill to the Walhampton Monument and go down Monument Lane to the Pier station.
Make your way along the riverfront, passing an ornate cast iron column? in front of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club on your right. At the midpoint of the recreation ground on your left, take the path going diagonally across it to the far corner and out onto Bath Road.
It is tempting to continue along the riverfront but another large marina would eventually force you away from it.
- Go along Bath Road for 400m, passing the entrance to Berthon Lymington Marina. Where this road turns sharply left keep ahead on Quay Road to reach the Town Quay. There are several refreshment places here, the most prominent being the Ship Inn on the far side of the quay.
Go past the end of the quay onto a short pedestrianised street of tourist shops.
- For more pubs and the town's chippie, follow the street up to the left into Quay Hill and the High Street.
- To complete the walk turn off the pedestrianised street at the corner into a walkway towards a modern development (Trafalgar Place). Follow the path round to the right and turn left onto Mill Lane. The Town station is up ahead on the right, 150m away.
Extension to Lymington Pier Station (+1½ km)
- Instead of turning right to the Town station, continue straight on (now on Waterloo Road). At the end turn right onto the B3054 (rejoining the SW). Go over the level crossing and across the long bridge over the Lymington River. On the far side turn right into Undershore Road, which curves round to the right with views of the town across the river.
- In 300m two minor roads branch off to the left. Bear left briefly into the second of these roads, then in 25m turn left through a gap in the fence onto a signposted footpath. After climbing for 200m the path comes to the Walhampton Monument? in a small clearing.
To complete the walk turn right onto Monument Lane and follow this narrow lane down to the bottom of the hill (leaving the SW halfway along). Cross Undershore Road and go through the car park for the Ferry Terminal. Beyond the terminal building (which has a Costa coffee shop) turn sharp right onto the station platform.
The following optional extension takes you past the Walhampton Monument to Lymington's other station.
» Last updated: October 30, 2020