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The beautiful Solent Way in Spring

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.

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View of The Needles from Hurst Spit

 It is about one and a half miles to the castle  which  is worth a visit and is managed by  English Heritage. Follow this link to find out more…

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hurst-castle/

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!

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Photo taken from boat from Hurst castle to Keyhaven

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.

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Turnstone at low tide

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. For more information on salt making in this area see http://www.lymington.org/history/thesaltindustry.html

It is hard to imagine this landscape as an industrial one!

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.

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Looking back towards The Needles and Pennington marsh from our picnic beach.

After a short  rest stop at the beach we head off again with glorious views in all directions.

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Oxey Lagoon to the left and the Solent on the right

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.

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Little Egret

 

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Eight acre pond with Lymington Yacht Haven in the distance

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.

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Normandy Lagoon, near Lymington Yacht haven

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 http://www.lymingtonseawaterbaths.org.uk/      (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  including  a  facebook page follow these links …

http://www.hants.gov.uk/rh/lym/leaflet.pdf

http://www.lymington.org/naturereserve2.html

https://www.facebook.com/LymingtonKeyhaven

The first section of the Solent Way – Milford on Sea to Lymington
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