List of walks in date order, with links
Date Walk Distance
21 August 2010 Portsea Island, along the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, then to Hayling Island, returning via the Solent Way 16.3 km (10.2 miles)
21 March 2010 Guildford to Weybridge, along the Wey Navigation 27.8 km (17.4 miles)
30 January 2010 Ford to Chichester, along the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal 19.5 km (12.2 miles)
09 January 2010 Ford to Amberley Station, along the Arun 14.5 km (9.1 miles)
Plan The plan for following the London to Portsmouth inland waterway -

The plan for following the London to Portsmouth inland waterway

During the Napoleonic wars, the construction of a secure inland canal route from the London to the headquarters of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth was proposed. It would allow craft to move between the two without having to venture into the English Channel and possibly encounter enemy ships. The eventual route was made up as follows:

It is not possible to follow the London to Portsmouth inland waterway exactly, as in some places the towpaths are no longer publicly accessible, but it is possible to walk the route using the following paths:

I have already walked much of the route: the Thames Path, the Wey-South Path, the New Lipchis Way (see log for 10 October 2009), the Sussex Border Path and the the Solent Way (see log for 25 July 2009) sections are complete. Therefore all that remains to be walked are:


09 January 2010: Ford to Amberley Station, along the Arun

14.5 km (9.1 miles)

Ford Church
Ford Church (closed because of the snow)

I hadn't settled on a new project, and the forecast was very cold with an east wind and snow showers to the east. I therefore decided on a low-level walk somewhere towards the western end of the region. Train seemed to be running without disruption down the Arun Valley, so it seemed as good a day as any to start on the project to complete a walk along the inland waterway route from London to Portsmouth, by walking from Ford to Amberley Station.

Arun at Ford
The Arun at Ford, looking north to railway bridge

The train to Ford was on time, and almost empty. The snow hadn't been cleared from Ford station platform, and not many people use the station, so I crunched my way through a couple of inches of fresh snow to the exit.

From the station I headed south, to pick up the footpath that passes Ford Church to reach the Arun at the point where the Hunston to Ford section of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal entered the Arun.

Swans in the snow, between Ford and Arundel

The church, St. Andrew-at-the-Ford, which is set back from the road in an isolated churchyard, had a notice on the gate saying 'Church closed - no service on Sunday evening', presumably because of the snow. The church is Saxon in origin, but has been altered over the years. It has a Dutch style porch from the seventeenth century.

Maison Dieu, Arundel
Maison Dieu, Arundel

The only remains of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal to be seen is the bottom quoin stone (in which the lock gate pivots) of the first lock from the tidal Arun - or so a notice placed by the Sussex Archaeological Society says. I couldn't actually see it under the snow.

The path runs on top of the embankment of the Arun, passing the Ship and Anchor pub, with its moorings, and under the railway bridge over the Arun.

The Arun
The Arun, north of Arundel, looking towards the Downs

The walk along the Arun into Arundel was bitterly cold, because of the wind chill. I stopped twice, to put on a hat (which I don't usually need) and then my waterproof trousers, just to reduce the chill from the wind.

Arundel Castle
Looking back to Arundel Castle

Once in Arundel I called into Peglers, a shop that advertises itself as 'expedition advisors and suppliers'. I had decided that if the really cold weather was to go on for a couple of weeks it would be worth investing in a pair of Icebreaker merino boxer shorts to go with my Icebreaker baselayer (which really does keep you warm without getting smelly- worth every penny). Unfortunately Peglers had sold out - though the rest of their stock looked excellent.

Black Rabbit
The Black Rabbit

A little further on I stopped at a cafe near to the old bridge over the Arun to warm up with a cup of tea and a toasted bacon and mushroom sandwich.

South Stoke Church
South Stoke Church

From Arundel I continued along the embankment to the Black Rabbit pub at Offham. There were good view back to Arundel Castle and forwards to the Downs. The Black Rabbit is a very large riverside pub, that must do good business in the summer, but which was very quite when I called in. I limited myself to half a pint of Pickled Partridge (Badger).

Suspension footbridge
Suspension footbridge, approaching North Stoke

From the Black Rabbit I continued along the Arun (partly along a cut that takes out a meander) to South Stoke. At South Stoke I went to take a photo of the church, but as I've walked South Stoke to Amberley Station along the west bank of the Arun three or four times (and itís not especially interesting), I decided to cross the Arun on the new bridge and take the route through North Stoke. In North Stoke I diverted down the lane to look at the church, now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

View to Arundel Park
View back to Arundel Park from North Stoke

The church exterior is nothing much, but the interior is rather beautiful - very light, and very plain. It has an interesting set of three graduated sedilia (recessed seats for the Celebrant, Deacon and Subdeacon at high mass).

North Stoke Church
North Stoke Church interior, showing sedilia

From North Stoke I took the footpath north to reach the east bank of the Arun. It was then a short walk to Amberley Station, with time for a pint of Harveys in the Bridge Inn (one of my favourite walking pubs). And the train home was on time, despite the cold and snow.

Bridge Inn
Sign for the Bridge Inn



30 January 2010: Ford to Chichester, along the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal

19.5 km (12.2 miles)

Canal bridge
Canal bridge, Yapton

Viv had agreed to come walking with me, but I left the choice of route to the last minute, to see what the weather was going to do. On Friday the forecast for the following day was 'sunny intervals', so I suggested the walk along the old Portsmouth and Arun Canal. Perhaps not the most enticing prospect for a winter's day - a flat muddy walk following a canal with no water in it across the coastal plain of West Sussex - but Viv agreed to the suggestion. As it turned out, it was an ideal day for this walk, with warm-cold, cloudless weather.

Dry canal
Dry canal, west of Yapton

We took the train to Ford, and followed the road south. When I had walked between Ford and Amberley, I had noticed a short path from the bank of the Arun down to the Ship and Anchor pub, and so we turned up the access road to the pub to take this path. When we reached the pub we were met by a very nice lady (perhaps the pub's landlady) who told us very firmly that we were on private property and there was no right of way - as I must know, given I had a map with me. We apologised, and she kindly allowed us to use the path.

Stewart Swing Bridge
Stewart Swing Bridge, with the remains of Hollinsworth Swing Bridge

From the pub we walked along the Arun to look at the remains of the Portsmouth and Arun Canal lock that had been hidden by snow on my last visit, and then on to look at Ford church, now open again after the snow. It's a very old church, largely Saxon, though much altered.

View over the coastal plain towards St Rocheís Hill

From the church we were going to follow the canal path walk published by West Sussex County Council. The path takes the road westwards from the church as far as Wicks Farm, from where it follows footpaths across the fields into Yapton. The path leaves Yapton through a small new housing estate. The road through the estate runs along the old canal bed, and under a perfectly preserved canal bridge.

Polytunnel, approaching Colworth

From Yapton the path follows a well preserved, but dry, section of canal, grazed by sheep. At the site of Hollinsworth Swing Bridge (named after James Hollinsworth, the engineer) we diverted to look at Barnham church and have a cup of tea (Viv having brought a flask) and a muesli bar on a bench in the churchyard.

Just beyond Barnham is the site of Stewart Swing Bridge, one of seven along this stretch of canal. The abutments remain, and the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society has displayed the remains of Hollinsworth Swing Bridge here.

St Giles church
St Giles church, Merston

The path then crosses the branch line to Bognor Regis by a footpath level crossing, passes a sewerage treatment works, crosses the A29 and follows a very wet path to reach a stretch of the canal that skirts a large landfill site. This has been well landscaped along the canal, its boundaries marked by a series of short black pipes topped of with small valves (presumably to monitor methane). The path then crosses Aldingbourne Rife (a drainage channel).

Field near Hunston

The soil of the coastal plain is very rich, and intensively farmed. Beyond Aldingbourne Rife we passed large areas of polytunnels, reservoirs for irrigation water, and strawberry fields covered with black polythene. In some places the old canal has been filled in, and we had to cross several newly ploughed fields with very sticky mud.

View of Chichester Cathedral
View of Chichester Cathedral from Poyntz Bridge

At Merston the path passes the single remaining abutment of a canal bridge (topped by blue plastic to preserve it) and then turns north on an unmade lane to reach the hamlet. The path then follows a minor road into Runcton, passing St Giles church - closed, but looked interesting (Pevsner calls it 'a disarming building ... simple village effect').

From Runcton we chose what the leaflet describing the walk calls 'the more picturesque route through North Mundham' to reach Hunston, rather than following the route of the canal along the B2166. At Hunston admired the view of Chichester Cathedral from Poyntz Bridge, the scene of a picture by Turner (see New Lipchis Way, 10 October 2009). Turner must have conflated two views, one westwards along the canal to Birdham and one northwards towards Chichester, because his picture has the sun setting due north.

We then followed the Chichester Ship Canal into Chichester. In Chichester we had a cup of tea in the Buttery. We looked into the Cathedral, where an evensong service was being conducted, and then made our way back to the station for the train home.

A good walk on a fine day, and an excuse to walk an interesting part of Sussex that I don't think sees many walkers.

Chichester Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral from canal basin



21 March 2010: Guildford to Weybridge, along the Wey Navigation

27.8 km (17.4 miles)

Towpath through Guildford

I decided it was time I did another section of the London to Portsmouth project. The forecast for Saturday was for rain, so I decided to walk on Sunday instead. The forecast was accurate, and Sunday turned out to be a beautifully warm spring day (warm enough to regret putting on a base layer).

Woodbridge Meadows
Chainsaw sculpture, Woodbridge Meadows

I took the train to Guildford, changing at Redhill (the other option being to go via Clapham Junction). From Guildford I walked down to the navigation, and then walked a little way southwards to the bridge next to the White House pub, the point at which I finished following the navigation when I walked the Wey-South Path some time ago. I then turned back and set off the follow the navigation all the way to where it joins the Thames.

Stoke Lock
Stoke Lock

The buildings along the river through Guildford have been tidied up and converted to offices and flats. The river passes, on the opposite bank to the towpath, Dapdune Wharf, now the National Trust's visitor centre for the canal. The National Trust own and manage the Wey Navigation.

The river soon passes under a fine railway viaduct to reach the grandly named Woodbridge Meadows, a scrap of grassland housing a number of chainsaw sculptures, including one of a face cut into a living willow. These have been made from some of the trees removed as part of a plan to restore the meadow by planting traditional meadow flowers.

Guide roller
Guide roller, Broad Oak Bridge

The first lock north of Guildford is Stoke Lock, which an information board said was the first to be built on the Wey. From here onwards the Wey takes on a surprisingly rural character, though for two or three kilometres the A 3 runs parallel to the navigation, with the all the noise that a major road creates.

At Broad Oak Bridge the navigation makes a very sharp left-hand bend, away from the A 3. The bend is sharp enough to have needed vertical rollers to guide tow ropes. Further along the willows were in flower, a few of the catkins a vivid yellow.

Newark Priory
Ruins of Newark Priory

At Send, just beyond Worsfold Gates Lock, I stopped for a pint in the New Inn (Palmers Copper Ale), and drank it in the garden next to the towpath.

Just before reaching Newark Lock, the Wey passes the ruins of Newark Priory, established in the late 12th Century by Rauld de Calva and his wife Beatrice de Saudes for Augustian canons.

At Walsham Gates Lock the river goes over a weir, and when I crossed it, was flowing very strongly, to modestly spectacular effect. The lock itself is the last turf-sided lock on the Wey. Both gates were open, as it is only a flood-lock.

Summer house
Summer house, Pyrford Place

A little further on, on the opposite bank to the towpath, is a brick summer house with a 'plain tile ogee dome roof', and a blue plaque placed by Woking Borough Council stating 'John Donne Poet and Dean of St Pauls lived here 1600-1604'. Donne did live for a time at Pyrford Place, the house his friend Sir Francis Woolley, just after his marriage, but I doubt the accuracy of the information on the plaque. Coltsfoot was in flower along the banks.

At Pyrford Lock the Anchor pub looked too large, too crowded and too food and family orientated to tempt me.

The M 25 makes a skew crossing of the Wey Navigation just beyond its junction with the Basingstoke Canal, with the usual graffiti. Some boats appeared to have permanent moorings under the north end of the motorway viaduct.

M 25 crossing
M 25 crossing Wey Navigation

At Coxes Lock there is a fine complex of old mills, now inevitably converted and made tidy. A little further on the navigation makes a sharp left turn at Weybridge Town Lock, to pass a number of large houses with gardens running down to the navigation.

The Wey Navigation ends at Thames Lock. A short channel then leads to the Thames proper. There are a confusing number of channels and islands around here. I followed the footpaths and alleys shown on the OS map to reach the banks of the Thames at Shepperton Ferry (a foot ferry), to join the Thames Path (which I have walked as far as Windsor). This completes my London to Portsmouth Walk, bar the last few miles through Portsmouth itself.

Coxes Lock
Coxes Lock and Mill

From the ferry I walked through Weybridge to get to Weybridge station, about three kilometres to the south. Weybridge is not particularly distinguished, but on Monument Green is the York Column, erected in 1822 in memory of a Duchess of York. Its interest is that the column is the original from Seven Dials, minus the 'dial stone' itself (the current column in London is a recent replica). The dial stone, which had six facets each with a sundial, can apparently be found near Weybridge Library, though I didn't stop to find it.

Trains from Weybridge were only going as far as Surbiton, where there was a rail replacement bus service, fast to Clapham Junction. A good day's walk, in great weather, through surprisingly pleasant countryside.

Shepperton Ferry
Shepperton Ferry (foot ferry)



21 August 2010: Portsea Island, along the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, then to Hayling Island, returning via the Solent Way

16.3 km (10.2 miles)

Durham Street
Durham Street, looking towards Portsmouth and Southsea Station along route of canal

The last remaining section of my walk to follow the London to Portsmouth inland waterway was the Portsea section of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal from Milton (where there was access to the canal from Langstone Harbour) to a basin at Halfway Houses, Portsmouth.

As the forecast was for a dull drizzly day, I thought Iíd walk this section (but in reverse), and combine it with walking a short section of the Solent Way, filling in between where Iíd left it on 25 July 2009 at South Parade Pier in Southsea, and the Portsmouth Harbour ferry terminal. I was also curious to see Fort Cumberland and wanted to try the ferry across Langstone Harbour to Hayling Island.

Goldsmith Avenue
Shed manufacturer, Goldsmith Avenue

I took the train to Portsmouth and Southsea Station. It was raining heavily when I arrived, so I stopped in the buffet for a cup of tea, waiting for it to ease off. As it was, I set off in a steady drizzle, but being an urban walk I used an umbrella rather than putting on waterproofs.

My research into the route of the canal suggested that the site of the canal basin was very near to the station Ė either directly under it, or perhaps in the Matalan car park behind the station. There seems to be absolutely nothing to be seen of the basin today.

The Shepherds Crook
The Shepherds Crook

I then traced the route of the old canal, following first Station Road and then Durham Street. Durham Street is a dead end for cars, but pedestrians can cut through to Canal Walk, which runs alongside the railway. At the end of Durham Street there is a footbridge over the railway which can be used to get a general view of the route of the canal, now occupied by the railway.

Canal Walk leads into Sydenham Terrace (now a cycleway) which leads onto Fratton Road, the A 2047. Across Fratton Road the route continues along the approach road to Fratton Station. At this point the railway curves northwards, but the canal continued eastwards, alongside Goldsmith Avenue (reached by crossing the footbridge over the station).

Alleyway from Milton Road to Longshore Way, on old canal towpath

Goldsmith Avenue eventually meets Milton Road, having passed Milton Park, passing a couple of interesting looking pubs, including the Shepherds Crook, which has a wonderful ceramic pub sign (a crook, hop vines, barley sheaves, a sickle and a pot of ale).

Across Milton Road the first real traces of the canalís existence start. There is a long straight alleyway that runs from Milton Road to Longshore Way. There are streets of terraced houses perpendicular to this alley, but only one that properly crosses it Ė Ironbridge Lane. There is a distinct hump in Ironbridge Lane, with a summit just to the south of the alley. This is the site of a bridge across the canal, and the alley follows the old tow path. The bed of the canal itself is now covered by recent in-fill housing developments.

Old pumping station
Old pumping station, Waterlock Gardens

The canal seems then to have run parallel to Longshore Way, but just a little to the south of it. Just off a short side road called Waterlock Gardens it is possible to glimpse the remains of an old pumping station, now a private house. This pumped water from the sea into the canal.

Just beyond the Old Oyster House pub on Longshore Way, a short footpath leads to the remains of Milton Sea Lock. A small basin remains behind the lock, and the lock chamber itself is intact, though without its gates. The remains of Ďan original lock gate quoin postí lies on the south side of the new footbridge over the lock entrance.

Milton Sea Lock
Milton Sea Lock

Having had a look round the lock, and deciding it was too early for a pint in the Old Oyster House, I retraced my steps along Longshore Way, and then followed the route of the Solent Way. This goes down Ironbridge Lane (giving a better impression of the site of the old canal bridge) and then into Bransbury Park and along Henderson Road, passing the old Eastney sewage pumping station we had visited when I walked this section on 25 July 2009. Today the pumping station was closed.

Hayling Island ferry
Hayling Island ferry

Rather than continue with the Solent Way, I decided to divert along Fort Cumberland Road and Ferry Road, firstly to see Fort Cumberland and then to take the ferry to Hayling Island. Disappointingly, I could see nothing much of the fort. English Heritageís website says Perhaps England's most impressive piece of 18th century defensive architecture, Fort Cumberland was reconstructed in pentagonal form by the Duke of Richmond between 1785 and 1810, and designed to protect Langstone Harbour. Access is by pre-booked guided tour only.

Southsea Castle
Southsea Castle and lighthouse

The ferry to Haying Island was more successful, as one was just about to depart and I didnít have to wait. Itís a short trip, but worthwhile. There is a broken-backed Mulberry caisson in the harbour.

Once on the island, I decided to try a pint in the Ferryboat Inn, just up from where the ferry draws up. Itís a very large pub, and was largely empty when I arrived. I had a reasonable pint (Ringwood, from memory) but a very mediocre steak sandwich (though given the menu was pre-printed by the pubís catering suppliers and emphasised cheapness, this wasnít a surprise).

Spitsand Fort
Spitsand Fort (or Spitbank Fort)

Having eaten and drunk, I returned to the ferry and crossed back to Portsea Island. I retraced my steps back to Henderson Road, stopping to poke round the scrap of semi-derelict heathland alongside Fort Cumberland Road. A signboard alongside a bus stop promised various natural wonders, including autumn ladies tresses and stonechats. It actually turned out to be quite a rich area, and I did see (and hear) a stonechat.

From Henderson Road I resumed the Solent Way, following it along the esplanade, making occasional detours onto the shingle to look for plants. At South Parade Pier I decided to take a walk along the pier. Itís very run down and rather depressing.

Royal Naval War Memorial
Royal Naval War Memorial (with dinosaur behind)

I then continued along the sea front, following the Solent Way past Southsea Castle (built in 1544 by Henry VIII), which incorporates a lighthouse, and the impressive Royal Naval War Memorial. In the park next to the memorial there was a life-size fibreglass dinosaur.

Beyond the war memorial the Solent Way passes the Isle of Wight hovercraft terminal and Clarence Pier Amusement Park. Clarence Pier is not a pier in any conventional sense (it runs parallel to the shoreline, not perpendicular to it), but it had a vitality completely absent from South Parade Pier.

Clarence Pier
Clarence Pier

Rather than continue directly along the Solent Way, I extended my walk by making a circuit of the Point, before rejoining the Solent Way to reach Portsmouth Harbour Station for the train home. There are a lot of good things to be seen in Old Portsmouth - too many to describe here.

An interesting urban walk, with much to see and do. The weather slowly improved, the rain stopping at lunchtime.

Gosport Ferry
Portsmouth Harbour with Gosport Ferry