Posted by: natsevs | January 3, 2011

Bosham to South Parade Pier: THE END

In the morning I sorted my bag out then headed downstairs to have some breakfast. Jess was leaving for work at 8.30am so I set off at the same time but took an immediate detour to the shop before starting properly. Once stocked up for the day I got onto the road once again before going out onto the path on the waters edge. The coast took me down to Chidham and around the peninsular there to start coming inwards again. As I got up towards the head of the bay there started to be a few people milling around, either fishing or dog walking as it wasn’t too bad a day weather-wise. I was on the familiar ground of levees along here to Southbourne where there were loads of old people sitting on benches having their sandwiches and chatting away. My path became the Sussex border path here and took me down towards Thorney Island. The path was still a good one until ‘The Great Deep’ where I was met by a heavy duty military fence and locked gate. Having lived not very far away from there for 23 years I was surprised I didn’t know it was a military zone. I stood there for a little while before I saw the sign beside the gate saying to press the buzzer and talk to them to get in, it also informed me I would be watched by CCTV the whole way round. I pressed the buzzer and told the guy I would like to walk the footpath then had to say my name 4 times before he heard it properly and buzzed me in.

I have no idea what all the security was about because it didn’t look like there was anything significant there and the cameras must have been very high tech because I couldn’t even see them. The path carried on as before, along the front, with the airfield to my right to start with and then the sailing club and a church. I started needing to relieve my bladder but was worried about the whole ‘we are watching you’ thing and wasn’t sure if it is an offence to wee on military ground. I hung on and continued to the end where there was more countryside and a bird hide for looking out on the marshes. A little further on from there I stopped to have my pasta pot lunch then got to the gate on the other side. At the gate I buzzed and asked to be let back out again. Now out of the military area I carried on up to the marina at Emsworth where a path going straight on took me to a drop into the sea so it turned around and went in through the boatyard. To get past all the water I had to come right in to the main road then tried to get back out to the shore along little roads following cycle path signs. By following these I got out to the Mill Pond then round the front to join the familiar path along the beaches to Langstone and the Royal Oak pub. I used to work at the Royal Oak a few years ago and have walked dogs along their many times. I stopped at the Oak and wrote a blog as I had a drink and caught up with a few people I knew who were still working there. I was due to stay with Andy Moon who had come to walk with me back in Stranraer and he arrived just after 5. We had a pint there then 2 of my other mates, Gav and Gareth rang to say they would head over too so it turned into a few drinks in the pub before Moon drove me back to his house on Hayling Island.

 

I woke up quite early and ate all of my harvest bars as I packed my bag away before jumping in the shower. The Moon’s were up when I got out so I had my breakfast before I was dropped back off at the Oak to continue onwards. The plan was to just walk around Hayling Island in a day then the following day I would walk from the bridge to the finish line at South Parade Pier. This meant these last few days were fairly short ones. I’d stopped the afternoon before at 3.30 and getting round Hayling would be around 18miles. I had been slowing down for about a week already, not because I didn’t want to finish but because I had named Friday 5th November as my finish date and people like my uncle and brother had taken the time off work to come and see me at the end. The temptation was definitely there to walk the usual distances and sneak in a day or 2 early to avoid a scene but I resisted mainly because 300days is a nice round number. Despite the fact that I was staying at Andy’s again, I wore my full pack for the days walk because it was the penultimate opportunity to do so. I had left the tent though.

I walked the front to the bridge and over onto Hayling following the road immediately left to Langstone Hotel and round towards Northney. Shortly I came to a car park with a footpath going out of it towards the shore so I got onto that and took it along for a while before hitting the dead end of a heavily barbed wired fence. I attempted to get over it but quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to without at least halving the possibility of having kids. There were worn footpaths going off in several directions and all led to more dead ends so I ended up wasting a lot of time. The most annoying thing was that the housing estate to my right had a couple of gates leading into it but all were padlocked shut. In the end I had to go right back to the car park and stick to the road from there on. I kept to the roads nearest the coast until I came to a point where a new footpath went right along the edge and this one was actually marked on the map so I had hope. It took me along to and through a caravan site then round Verner Common to a yacht building yard where I had to rejoin the road. There was soon another footpath though which went along the golf course from Tournebury to Mengham and another road. This one took me out to the sailing club there where I joined another footpath that stuck to the coast all the way to Eastoke and the creek there. I rounded the creek on a road which gradually became less well maintained and the houses turned to caravans. I went along somebody’s driveway to get across to the next road but then was blocked off again with no option of a swift trespass to get past the obstruction.

The detour was a trip right in then out again to join the sea front path around Sandy Beach. Once around the corner the wind hit and made life very difficult and knackering all along the south side of the island. It was a pain for me and I even hid behind a beach hut to have lunch but it meant the sea was full of kite surfers making the most of it. Some of them were getting insanely high with their jumps although when I was walking along the fence of the golf course further on there were a few on the beach and one guy lost hold of his kite which then flew up the beach. He chased after it until it hit the fence, was pinned there for a second then flipped over and onto the course where it landed. The guy went back to collect his stuff then started off round to the golf course to because none of the golfers made any move to help, they just kept on playing around it. Walking along at that end I got my first view of South Parade Pier since leaving it 299 days before. At the end of the golf course and the south side of the island I came round the corner to the ferry. Once there I was back to roads again briefly past some pretty big houses before getting onto the Billy Trail all the way up the west side of the island. The trees either side sheltered me slightly from the wind finally. Back up the top there are a load of pools that it looks like you used to be able to walk around but that definitely wasn’t the case any longer. The path took me back to the main road and the bridge back to the mainland. I stopped at the Ship Inn this time and got a drink whilst I waited to be picked up, coming out at 5.15 because it was a bit noisy I was due to have a radio interview in 5 minutes. Thanks to the wind it wasn’t much quieter outside but Moon turned up and we headed back to the house. Radio Solent rang whilst we were in the car but the place we stopped at is apparently the mobile black spot of Hayling so it was a short and painful interview.

 

I had a decent sleep but there was no rush to get up and going because I had worked out there was only about 13 miles to do and I had settled for 4.30pm as a finish time. Andy’s dad had made porridge for breakfast so I tucked into that then got ready nice and slowly. This is the day I had been dreading. I knew I would miss the adventure of the walk but was ready for a relax, the thing I was dreading was walking in to a crowd of people. To give you an idea of how uncomfortable I am with these situations; I quit beavers when I was little because I had been given beaver of the week the week before and was petrified of having the others look at me when I walked in. So petrified that I hung on to a lamp post as my mum pulled at my feet to try and make me go. Moon was walking with me and turned out to be welcome company to keep my mind off the impending.

We were dropped off at the Ship and set off along the cycle path over the road which took us to the Langstone harbour path going right along the shoreline on little sea defences. I had never known there was a footpath there and my very old map didn’t show it so it was a pleasant surprise to find myself on it. We went along there until we hit a creek with a tarmac plant sticking out into it. The big crane-like machine there looked like it was close to collapse but thankfully we wouldn’t be getting very close to it. We had to come in and round to the road where we crossed part of the creek on a bridge before dropping down below it onto another shoreline path. This path led to Farlington marshes, took us round them and onwards towards Portsmouth. The path before the bridge was blocked off but we rounded the fence because there was no obvious reason as to why and we didn’t fancy some motorway-side walking. We got along fine and reached the roundabout and bridge to Eastern Road. There was only road walking for a brief period before we found another path we weren’t aware of that stretched right along the front past the outdoor centre and other places.

My Uncle Paul and Sue had rung to say they were parked near the Harvester so when we got there we stopped for a hot chocolate and a bit of time wasting as despite the late start we were still on track to finish quite early. I didn’t enjoy the talk of the finish and things weren’t improved when my older sister rang to say she was making a banner with my nieces to wave at the finish on mum’s orders. I didn’t hide my thoughts on this and afterwards got onto my brother to make sure things were as low key as possible. A little further down we stopped for lunch at a picnic table in the miserable misty rain. Another chunk of time wasted we continued down to Fort Cumberland and walked right up to the ferry point despite having to then turn around and walk back on exactly the same road until we were able to take a left out to the esplanade at Eastney. There were 1 or 2 kite surfers there but nothing compared to the previous day. It was no time until the pier came into view and wee were still too early so turned in at the pitch and putt to find a pub. We stopped at the Eastney Tavern and had a pint each. At 4.15pm we went back to the esplanade then stopped a little way from the pier to wait for another radio Solent interview in a slightly sheltered spot. When we walked on, an old primary school teacher of mine drove up and stopped to say well done after hearing the radio interview. Then a bit further down Moon left for me to finish alone and soon the wall of people was visible. It was more a small group than a crowd but spread out they looked terrifying.

 When I was near enough for them to cheer I wanted would have loved to have turned and run. It wasn’t the people I knew that worried me, if it had just been them it would have been fine but we were in a public place and I’m generally quite good at falling into the background. Now though strangers were looking at me wondering who the hell I was. So I walked in and finished and everyone stood off me expecting a speech, my dad said he’d do one which I told him he would not but thankfully it was short, then Jon, my brother rescued me and it was ok from there because I could just talk to people. After a bit we all headed back to Eastney Tavern and had some celebratory drinks before I headed home to have a curry, make use of my own bed and look forward to a lie-in followed by doing absolutely nothing. After 300 days and around 6500 miles i was done. For now.

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Responses

  1. A great and heroic story, nice one!

  2. Well done! The memories will life with you forever. It is a truly great achievement.

  3. Well done. Enjoyed the “journey” with you. When is the book coming out?

  4. Just brilliant! been following you (and catching up) since we met you in Craig Bothy, Torridon. It seems a long time ago, and more for you I imagine.
    By now I hope you’ve had a haicut and shave!


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