The Solent way is a 60 mile trail in Hampshire which begins in Milford on Sea and ends in Emsworth. What follows is an account of the first 8 miles of the trail beginning in Milford on Sea (where the Bournemouth Coastal Path finishes) and ending in Lymington. We consider this section to be the most stunning. There are fabulous coastal views over to the Isle of Wight and rich wildlife to be found in the marshes, ponds, and lagoons . The nature reserve from Keyhaven to Lymington includes 500 acres of coastal habitat and falls within the New Forest National Park. It is not surprising that this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
You can begin the trail at the Needles Eye café on the seafront at Milford on Sea where there is also a pay and display car park. From here set off towards Hurst Castle. On the way you can visit a bird hide which can be found just behind the Mariner café. Why not stop at the hide to admire the view and abundance of wildlife across Sturt Pond?
Head along Hurst Spit, a shingle beach with tremendous views towards the Isle of Wight on one side and Keyhaven marshes on the other.
It is about one and a half miles to the castle which is worth a visit and is managed by English Heritage. Click HERE to find out more
After visiting the castle you can either walk back along the Spit or catch a ferry (seasonal) to the quiet yachting harbour and marshes at Keyhaven. If you are lucky you may even spot a grey seal on the boat ride!
At Keyhaven you can join the sea wall and follow it all the way to Lymington.
At high tide you feel you are on top of the sea as waves break against the weathered concrete of the wall.
Low tide offers a completely different experience, mud flats emerge and the tide draws away the water, allowing oystercatchers, curlews,redshanks and other wading birds to roam free.
Whatever the tide the wall experience offers amazing views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. As the wall bends and twists you are constantly offered things to look at.
The marshland, saltings and lagoons were created by the production of salt which was made here until the 19th century.
It is hard to imagine this landscape as an industrial one! You can find out more about the history by following this LINK.
There are several small strips of sand on this walk but the beach pictured below is best for a picnic stop or a dip at high tide. This is situated between Pennington and Oxey lagoons.
After a short rest stop at the beach we head off again with glorious views in all directions.
To your left there’s the wildlife sanctuary. Rare species such as Foxtail Stonewort, Lagoon Shrimp and Starlet Sea anemone share their habitat with the more familiar swans, egrits, ducks, and geese.
To your right you are constantly accompanied by the sea and great skies… You look out on the water and up to the horizon. There are big skies and expansive views. Somehow your eyes do not seem equipped to take everything in. You wish your eyesight was equipped with a wide angle lens so that you could absorb all the beauty that’s on offer, all at once.
The wall is a special place, yet it is not a typical nature reserve, where human activity is hushed and silenced. All life is present on the wall. Dog walkers, joggers, bikers, push chair pushers, artists as well as twitchers and nature lovers. It offers something for everyone. Solace to those who choose to be alone, celebration for others who walk joyously in a group.
The path ends at the car park for the large marina called The Yacht Haven. Here, you could treat yourself to a stop at the Haven café (very good hot chocolate if you are walking in winter). Continue behind the café along the path past the magnificent Lymington salt water baths (open may – sept) ice cream and other refreshments are available at the kiosk. From here it is a short meander to the quay and pretty Georgian town of Lymington with plenty of cafes and shops to browse.
This walk is guaranteed to lift your spirits and nourish your soul.
For further information about this area there is facebook page … https://www.facebook.com/LymingtonKeyhaven
For further information about walking the solent way see HERE.