The phrase 'by sea and forest enchanted', sometimes used to describe the historic port of Lymington, could not be more appropriate. For centuries the town has been associated with the sea and shipping and north of the town lies the medieval landscape of the New Forest. From Lymington we cross Pylewell Park Estate the leave the Solent Way to take a beautiful path through Sowley Brooms, an ancient oak wood. Quiet lanes lead us back to Lymington.
1. From the car park return to St. Thomas Street. Turn right to pass the church on your left and walk down the High Street, a delightful mix of elegant Georgian houses, bow-fronted cottages and little courts and alleyways. Cross the road at the foot of the High Street and continue down cobbled Quay Hill which bears right to the quay and the Ship Inn.
2. Retrace your steps for a few yards to the foot of Quay Hill and follow the Solent Way signs along the lane. Turn left to follow Mill Lane and Waterloo Road past the station. Turn right over the level crossing and cross the Toll Bridge Dam.
3. Turn right and follow the waterside. The metal rails on your right cease and, opposite, two gravel tracks lead left from the road. Turn left, take the right-hand track and turn almost immediately left into the wood following the footpath sign. Walk uphill to the monument raised in memory of Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale who retained his crew's loyalty during the Nore mutiny.
4. Turn right down the lane beyond the monument, then take the first gravel track on your left past Halyards. Go through a gate and follow the path beside fields and through woods to a lane. Turn left for a few yards then turn right past Snooks Farm to a lane.
5. Bear right and cross straight over a minor road. Walk down the lane ahead, Shotts Lane, for about 1/4 mile, then turn left along a wide track with fields on the right. Cross a track, keep ahead for a few yards then turn right to continue with a fence on your right. Over a stile the path leads beneath fine chestnut trees and pines before curving left still with the fence on your right.
The mansion beyond the fence is Pylewell House. In 1875 the Pylewell Estate passed to William Ingham Whitaker. His grandson of the same name died a bachelor in 1988 and was succeeded by his nephew, the twentieth Baron Teynham.
Cross a stile and keep ahead through a small iron gate to go over a track. Go through an identical gate to follow a narrow path with a fence on the right. Keep to this narrow path to the left of a broader track along an avenue of pollarded limes past Dod's Pond. This was once the centre of South Baddesley village, destroyed in 1818 to create parkland. Follow the path ahead through a gate and across a stream. Continue beside a meadow and over a wooden footbridge to cross another field and stile to a track leading to a minor road.
6. Keep ahead along the road. Cross a cattle grid to the right of a grassy triangle and follow the footpath sign over a stile into a field. A lovely path leads beside fields then through the trees of Sowley Brooms.
7. When you come to a crosstrack the circular walk leaves the Solent Way and turns left. When the path curves right, cross the stile ahead and bear a little left to cross another stile. Walk over a field and go through a gate to a lane.
8. Bear right, follow the lane up to a road junction and turn left for Norleywood village. Continue for about 3/4 mile keeping straight on past a single track road on the right and shortly after another joining track on the right. When the lane begins to swing right turn left over a footbridge and follow a lane towards South Baddesley. You pass the little Victorian Church of St Mary the Virgin, well worth a visit. Note the enormous pine tree in the grounds!
9. Take the first lane on the right which winds through oak woods and meadows for about 3/4 mile to a lane on the left opposite a brick-walled drive entrance. Turn sharp left along the lane and after about 200 yards you will see a plague on the right in front of a metal barn. This is close to one of the blister hangers of the wartime airfield constructed in this area in 1943 and commemorates the part played by American Thunderbolts during the D-Day landings. A little further down the lane you meet the track on the right which we followed outbound at point 5.
10. Turn right to retrace your steps along the Solent Way past the monument to Lymington Quay. Walk up the High Street to your car.
Until the end of the 18th century Lymington flourished as a port noted for its foreign trade, its salterns and the proceeds of what Daniel Defoe termed 'rogueing and smuggling'. Ships of up to 500 tons could berth by the town's cobbled quayside. These prosperous days came to a sudden end when in 1731 a Merchant Navy captain, William Cross, built his Toll Bridge Dam across the river. But today Lymington once again bustles with life. A commercial fishing fleet operates out of the quay, two large marinas and river moorings attract yachts from around the world and a regular ferry service runs to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
Lymington can be reached by road via the A337 from Lyndhurst to the north or Christchurch to the West. Approaching from the north or west follow the signs for the town centre and the High Street. Drive down St. Thomas' Street for about 50 yards then turn right for the car park down an entry just past Waitrose. Approaching from the east drive up the High Street, pass the church on your right and turn left following the car park sign. Avoid the crowds on Saturday, market day.
There is a train station in the centre of town and a second on the pier, which connects with the Ferry service to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. There are bus services to Lyndhurst, Christchurch via New Milton, Beaulieu and Ringwood.