We start this circular walk from the quay at Langstone, a picturesque cluster of old cottages and inns beside the channel linking Langstone and Chichester Harbours. A path close to the northern shore of Chichester Harbour leads us to the end of the Solent Way at Emsworth, once famous for its oysters and tide mills now a busy yachting centre. Our return route offers a few surprises! These include a walk along a 'twitten' and a nostalgic look at the days of steam as we follow the track of the former 'Hayling Billy' line.
1. Leave the front of the Ship Inn on your left and follow the foreshore past a watchtower and a row of coastguards' cottages, reminders of Langstone's smuggling days. An old brig, the Griper, was moored permanently offshore with a coastguard aboard but no smuggler was ever caught! As you come to the foot of Langstone High Street you will see the raised route of the old Wadeway crossing the harbour to Hayling Island, marked by posts. Now cut by a disused canal, it was once the only footway to the island.
2. On the corner of the High Street we join the Solent Way. Continue along the shore past the 18th century Royal Oak pub. The path curves right between a former tide mill and the mill pond. A windmill stands close by, converted into a dwelling house by the artist Flora Twort. Pass the quay at the foot of Pook Lane and continue to cross a stile.
3. Bear half-left diagonally over the field ahead to enter Warblington churchyard. At the first crosspath turn left. Take the third path on the right to the north-east corner, leave through a gate, cross a lane and follow the footpath ahead running to the right of Warblington church. This charming 12th and 13th century church once stood in the centre of a village, deserted after the Black Death. The two brick and flint huts in the corners of the churchyard were built for gravewatchers. The enormous yew tree is 1,500 years old!
4. Follow the path over fields and through woods to Emsworth waterfront. The village is built between two natural inlets dammed to power tide mills. Pass the most westerly mill and cross a lane to follow a sign leading to the sea wall built in 1760 to contain the western mill pond. The path follows the wall for over 200 yards as it curves round to meet the Town Mill on the other side of the inlet. On the quay beside the mill we come to the end of the Solent Way.
5. You might like to explore Emsworth, before turning left to follow Bridgefoot Path beside the westerly inlet to the A259. Turn left and after about 50 yards turn left again down Warblington Road to return to the foreshore.
6. Bear right and retrace your steps to Warblington church.
7. Do not enter the new churchyard but turn right up the lane leaving the church on your right. The lane doglegs left then right. The ruins of Warblington Castle are over the field on your right. Only the tower forming part of the gatehouse and an adjoining archway remain of the 16th century house built by the Countess of Salisbury. Her opposition to Henry VIII's divorce led to her execution on Tower Hill.
8. Take the first turning on the left, Pook Lane, and when you come to a T-junction turn right to cross the bridge over the A27. At the other side turn immediately left down a narrow path with a 'no-cycling' sign. This is a twitten, one of several ancient rights-of-way which once crossed open countryside linking the Saxon settlements of Warblington, Langstone, Bedhampton and Havant. Cross a road, turn right for a few yards, then left to follow the next twitten to the track of the former branch line that ran from Havant to Hayling, the 'Hayling Billy' line.
9. Bear left along the track which tunnels under the A27. Shortly after, look carefully for a small bridge over a stream on your left. Cross the bridge and walk over the field ahead to a lane. Turn right down the lane past Wade Court to return to the foreshore. Bear right to retrace your steps to the Ship.
Langstone Quay and The Ship Inn
Langstone Quay was once busy with local barges unloading their cargoes, principally of Hampshire grain. Three mills were kept at full stretch supplying flour for the dockyard at Portsmouth, with demand increasing dramatically during the Napoleonic Wars. Overlooking the quay stands a vivid reminder of those times, the Ship Inn. During the 18th century the building was a wharfside warehouse handling grain and the original wheel hoist can still be seen in the roof of the Top Deck bar.
The trail starts at the Ship Inn. From the A27 Portsmouth-Chichester road turn south along the A3023, signed for Hayling Island. Continue for about 1/2 mile to the Ship on the left just before the bridge to Hayling Island. Parking is available on the quay, opposite the Ship.