Wayfarer's Walk: Emsworth to Denmead
An invigorating start to the Wayfarer’s Walk as, with the tang of the sea to accompany you, the trail follows the edge of Langstone Harbour through the outskirts of Portsmouth to the peace and tranquility of the Forest of Bere
Few long-distance trails begin in such spectacular surroundings as the Wayfarer’s Walk. Overlooking the vast coastal expanses of Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour, the route eventually turns its back on the waterfront views and makes for the silent woodland of the Forest of Bere, a welcome relic of distant centuries. This 9-mile (14.5km) belt of heath and forest once stretched from Southampton to the Sussex border. William the Conqueror designated it a Royal Forest in the 11th century. In sharp contrast to the bustling streets and jumble of buildings in its initial stages, the trail offers a sense of quiet calm and solitude on this leafy inland stretch to Denmead.
The Wayfarer’s Walk begins by the Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club, housed in one of the town’s old tidal mills. Follow the trail out to the water, with Chichester Harbour to the left and the Mill Pond to the right. The trail continues by the front of some harbourside houses and along this stretch there are fine views over the mudflats and sandbanks of the harbour. Turning inland, it then passes through woodland before heading towards the tower of Warblington Castle, all that remains of a once-mighty 16th century building. The route crosses a stream, heading for St Thomas a Becket’s Church at Warblington. Stroll through the ancient graveyard, spotting an ancient yew and the grave-watcher’s flint huts in the corner. These date back over 200 years, to a time when students were willing to pay for corpses for medical research. Thieves were paid to do the work. From here cross the modern cemetery and rejoin the shores of Langstone Harbour, where the ominous black turret of the 18th-century mill built out over the water edges into view. Beyond it is the Royal Oak pub, a famous and much photographed landmark building on this stretch of the coast.
Cross the busy A3023 – the only road linking Hayling Island to the mainland – and turn right along the pavement. Shortly a shaded path runs off left by a telephone box. This is the route of the Wayfarer’s Walk. Follow it through a residential area and along a path to a grassy expanse overlooking Langstone Harbour. This is South Moor. At the path T-junction turn left and skirt the harbour edge, eventually heading inland to follow an inlet through an industrial area. Turn right at the road, then left at a roundabout into Brockhampton Road. Follow the road over the bridge spanning the A27 and turn left into Marples Way.
Swing left into Ridgway and look for the Wayfarer’s Walk on the right. Cross several paddocks, then keep ahead on an enclosed path, turning left along the edge of a railway line to a bridge. Now it is no more than a suburb of Portsmouth but in its day Bedhampton was a village in its own right. At Lower Mill, now the Old Mill Bed and Breakfast, the poet John Keats spent his last night in England, en route to Italy where he died of TB in 1821. From Bedhampton the route crosses the A3 (M) on the B2177 and continues west along the top of Portsdown Hill. After a lengthy but not unpleasant road section, the trail follows a footpath round the back of Fort Purbrook.
Past it the route keeps west beside the golf course, then turns north, following suburban gardens to a country road. Keep left, heading west for 0.5 miles (800m) or so, before turning north on to a track which leads into woodland on the corner where the road bends left. The trail emerges at the road by Sheepwash Farm, then crosses over to head for Denmead via paths and road. Make for the public car park at Kidmore Lane on the northern side of the commuter village.
Harbourside paths, pavements, field and woodland paths and tracks
Turns inland from urban fringes to remnants of the Forest of Bere
On a lead at start, in urban areas and the approach to Denmead
OS Explorer 119 Meon Valley; 120 Chichester
Pay and display short and long stay car park in South Street near the quayside at Emsworth. Alternatively, arrive by train at Emsworth station close to start
At car park in South Street, Emsworth and near the Ship Inn at Langstone Harbour
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.