A splendid stroll through freshwater and salt marshlands along the coast south west of Lymington. The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an important area for bird conservation.
Leave Keyhaven to the North East following the tarmac road across Keyhaven Marshes. This is a haven for bird spotting around the numerous ponds.
1. Continue past the footpath on your right that leads across to the coast. The road turns left, take the path on the right hand side. Join the road beside a couple of cottages, this leads to the Chequers Pub should a short diversion for refreshments be required.
2. Take the path off the road that leads up a house drive. Follow the path past the Warden's cottage until you reach the pond.
3. Turn right alongside the side of the pond with Oxey Marsh ahead of you. Follow the sea wall taking a 90 degree turn to your right. Continue until you reach the sluice gate.
4. If the gate is closed cross over the gate bridge otherwise a short diversion is required; continue up the estuary and then back down the other side. Follow the path along the shoreline and then the seawall. This will lead you back to Keyhaven.
Salt was first produced in Keyhaven in the 12th century. It is now a peaceful haven for yachting, fishing, walking and birdwatching. Enjoy the coastal views across to Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight. The small village is surrounded by marshland towards the coast, while the Keyhaven River provides sheltered mooring for boats. It is protected by a large shingle spur upon which is built Hurst Castle.
Hurst Castle is situated at the seaward end of the shingle spit that extends 1.5 miles from Milford-On-Sea. The end of the spit, only three-quarters of a mile from the Isle of Wight, and the views from the top of the centre keep are spectacular. Hurst Castle was the perfect location to defend the western approach to the Solent. The castle was built by Henry VIII as one of a chain of coastal fortresses and was completed in 1544. Charles I was imprisoned here in 1648 before being taken to London to his trial and execution.
The castle was modernised during the Napoleonic wars and again in the 1870s when the enormous armoured wings were constructed. Two of the huge 38-ton guns installed in the 1870s can be viewed in their casemates. During World War II, Hurst was manned with coastal gun batteries and searchlights. Since the castle has been opened to the public many more exhibits and exhibitions have been installed. There is a small cafe in the castle grounds for refreshments.
Keyhaven is reached via Milford on Sea, take the A337 from Lymington. Park in the Keyhaven Car Park. The nearest train station is in Lymington.