Emsworth and Environs: Into the Downs, Back Round the Town
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Once the suburbs of Emsworth are behind us and we're walking on this 120th lead of mine through the mixed woodland of Southleigh Forest on our way to the immaculate parkland of Stansted House, you'll begin to see how such a small area can hold such a big range of landscapes. And beautiful landscapes too, because we'll briefly enter the South Downs National Park and glimpse the verdant hills rolling away inland just before we veer round to head towards the coast. We'll follow the River Ems as it traces the transition from sheep to arable and open country to built-up area with the village of Westbourne in Sussex and the town of Emsworth in Hampshire being equally pretty and prosperous.
Stansted House: A remarkably remote and unspoilt setting considering the nearness of Portsmouth. Splendid grounds tended according to a sustainable management programme. The house itself is the third version, built in 1900 by Arthur Blomfield in an attractive neo-Wren style after the James Wyatt-version burned down in the late C19.
Westbourne: On the Hampshire/West Sussex border and with the air of a small town like Wickham in Hampshire rather than a village. This is no accident: it was a local centre with a market until the C18. Streets with an abundance of mellow, handsome houses radiate from the now quiet marketplace. St John the Baptist Church is big, all perpendicular gothic in style from the late C14. Tower is early Tudor. The avenue of yew trees up to the porch is very ancient.
Hermitage: In the parish of Southbourne, contiguous with Emsworth. Named after a hermit who maintained a bridge over the River Ems. Lumley Mill is early C19, a curious mishmash of columns, pediments and battlements adjacent a mill that made biscuits for Nelson's navy but burned down in the early C20. Pretty flint gothick villas nearby.
Emsworth: In the SE corner of Hampshire on the shore of Chichester Harbour. A famous maritime town with an abundance of attractive homes from elegant Georgian buildings to cosy fishermen's cottages. Once a medieval port for wine and other goods, it has one basin for boating and another for supplying Slipper Mill with water which fills at high tide and empties through a sluice at low tide.
The route (click the link to see it):
We've got a mile of walking through the suburbs of Emsworth (called New Brighton) before we get into the splendour of Southleigh Forest. Using the Sussex Border Path in a northeasterly direction we'll cross Emsworth Common Road and Woodberry Lane and enter the Stansted Estate at Stubbermere. We'll cross in front of the house at South Coppers Wood and turn southeast to use footpaths that cross Park Lane. Passing Sindle's Farm we'll almost reach Aldsworth before using Aldsworth Lane to reach the Commonside part of Westbourne. We'll then walk through Westbourne proper, heading south, before turning down Mill Lane by the church. Passing through Lumley and Hermitage we'll go around Slipper Pond, glimpse Chichester Harbour and walk through the town back to the station car park.
I love having dogs on my walks and this is a near-perfect summer walk for them: it'll be cooler in the evening and it's relatively short, plus there are designated 'doggy splash' points on the River Ems. There are some lanes to walk down and busy roads to cross but they can run free in the woodlands and arable fields. A dog off its lead must be obedient.
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- Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are extremely mild, or who lives or is in a support bubble with someone showing symptoms, is asked not to attend. This is in line with the government’s coronavirus advice.
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(Image credits: the first six pictures were taken by the walk leader and OutdoorLads can use them. Then his phone ran out of juice on the recce, so the rest of the pictures are by Jonathan Thacker, Nigel Freeman, Mike Faherty, Mike Faherty again and Mark Pilbeam. These non-original images are licensed for use under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0.)
What to bring
Walking shoes will be fine as the route isn't too hilly. Bring or wear a long-sleeved top in case the evening cools down considerably, and a waterproof jacket if rain is forecast. Shorts are fine as the paths aren't overgrown, but long trousers tucked into socks offer greater protection against ticks.
The sun will set at 20.13, but we should be back under streetlights in Emsworth by that point so a torch shouldn't be necessary. There will also be a full moon.
Food & drink
Please bring drinks and snacks, although we won't have much time to pause to eat them until the end. There are takeaways in Emsworth at the end of the walk.