Hurst Castle, Take 1 & Mini Urban Hike

1st January 2014

It was not my intention to blog so sporadically this year, but I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail for the last few of months working hard, hiking occasionally, and blogging rarely.  We have got a few cheeky hikes in, but I’ve simply not found to the time to sit down and blog about them.  In fact I still haven’t caught up with the lovely days out we had in the New Forest back in January, so I’m trying my hardest, on a rare quiet weekend, to rectify that.

We were meant to be camping on New Years Eve, with my mother’s local VW club, but due to the bad weather forecast, the organisers cancelled the event a few days beforehand.  The campsite would have been near Keyhaven, and I had always planned to walk off any hangover with a stroll along the spit to visit Hurst Castle on New Years Day.

Hurst Castle Spit, Hampshire

Hurst Castle Spit, Hampshire (Photo credit: Niquinho)

The weather at Mum’s didn’t seem too bad that morning, so we decided to take a drive out to Keyhaven and stick to our original plan of visiting Hurst Castle and walking the spit.  However, the closer we got, the worse the weather became.  Driving on flooded roads as we drove through Brockenhurst should have given us a clue, but we kept going regardless.

Upon arriving at the car park in Keyhaven I struggled to get my driver’s door open, and my campervan was rocking in the wind.  As we discussed what we were going to do next a parking warden drove in, but I think he was too surprised to see us out in that filthy weather to bother checking to see if we had paid & displayed (we hadn’t, but we definitely weren’t staying for long!).  A most remarkable home-build campervan drove in, sporting German number plates, and we were fascinated to see that it was essentially a shed strapped onto the back of a large crewcab pickup.  Quite ingenious really.  If it had been better weather I would have definitely plucked up the courage to ask for a look inside, but the family, huddled in their crewcab, didn’t look like they wanted to get out and enjoy the bracing weather anymore than we did!

We decided to take a short spin up to Milford-on-Sea, I’m not sure why we thought it might be better up there – it wasn’t, it was worse!  I think we hoped to be able to see the spit and assess the walking conditions; but there was no spit, just a huge wall of furious sea spray and flying foam, heavy rain and very strong winds.  It would have been complete madness to try to walk along the spit in that weather, and as none of us are quite ready to gain our Darwin Awards just yet, instead we retired to a forest pub on the way home for some grub and a re-think.

(that’s not my hand shaking – it’s the wind shaking the campervan!)

Obviously any walking near the coast was going to be unpleasant at best, and dangerous at worst in these conditions, so the decision was made to go on a mini urban hike, and explore some of historic Romsey.  Whilst the rain fell persistently through out our exploration, the wind was significantly calmer.

We enjoyed a soggy stroll around Romsey’s War Memorial Park.  The grass areas were very flooded, and once I’d stepped into a puddle almost up to my knees I gave up completely on trying to step over the wet areas in a vain attempt to keep my legs and socks dry, and just got on with wading through the flooded areas.  I was fascinated to see the Japanese Field Gun, presented to the townspeople of Romsey by Lord Mountbatten in 1946.  The last time I wandered around this park I really must have had my eyes closed!  The River Test was very high, and it must have been a very stressful time for those living so close to the banks.

Exiting the park at the far side, away from the town we crossed the bridge by Sadler’s Mill, a 16th Century water-mill.  A public footpath goes right around the mill, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the flooded Test would have been a help or a hindrance in the days when it was a working water-mill?

We continued along the track towards the main road, noting with sadness some evidence of flood damage to a couple of fine old houses. Finally we wound our way back through the town, towards our start point, looking forward to fluffy towels, dry clothes and hot drinks.

Well I did say it was a ‘mini’ hike! 🙂


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