The coastline of the New Forest National Park is often overlooked but holds many delights from salt marshes, mudflats and lagoons to the history of our seafaring nation.
The Solent Way is a 60-mile coast path, which starts in Milford-on-Sea and ends in Emsworth Harbour, and a large part of the route goes through the national park.
Solent Way long-distance coastal footpath, between Lymington and Keyhaven on the Hampshire coast ©Getty
All of the walk is level and is either on rights of way or quiet lanes. Note that after heavy rain the path next to the river can get muddy.
1. Over the Lymington
From Lymington cross the river on Bridge Road and head south. Turn left where the road becomes wider and continue up the path through the woods, passing a monument and taking a right at Monument Lane.
Follow the path along the edge of the golf course and on to Snooks Farm, where you are treated to striking views over to the Isle of Wight and the Solent (the thin stretch of sea between the mainland and the Isle of Wight). Head south on Shotts Lane and pick up the footpath east towards Pylewell Park. Continue through the park, past the grand house and the old mill.
Reds beside the Solent Way ©Getty
2. Woods and ponds
Continue on this easterly line through Sowley Woods and on to Sowley Pond, which played an important part in two large iron works in the 17th century. This is also where the monks from Beaulieu Abbey kept fish. Today the pond is protected as a Special Site of Scientific Interest and is a good spot for wildfowl, including the great crested grebe, which is known to nest here.
Continue along the land and take a right at the T-junction. After passing Bergerie Farm you walk on through the site of Needs Oar Point airfield, built in World War Two and home to more than 100 Hawker Typhoons, fighter-bombers that supported the Allies’ progression in Normandy.
Look out for ringed plover beside the path ©Getty
Follow the road round to the left past the old barn at St Leonard’s Farm and continue onwards along the wooded lane. Turn right at the crossroads and then take the next left up to Bucklers Hard. This picturesque 18th century village was once a hive of activity for shipbuilding and some of Nelson’s fleet that took part in the Battle of Trafalgar were launched here, including the 64-gun HMS Agamemnon. The ship saw action in three major battles. The village also saw preparation for war in 1944 as landing craft for the Normandy landings were constructed there.
Walk down towards the river and left round by the pier, where river cruises set out, and head northwesterly. This area is internationally recognised as a Special Area of Conservation and the whole Beaulieu River complex is important for many rare species as the salt marsh and mudflat habitat supplies rich feeding grounds. Look out for teal, ringed plover, tern, curlew, redshank and oystercatcher.
Beaulieu Pond in the New Forest National Park ©Getty
4. Beautiful Beailieu
The path now continues through attractive woodland, following the river and into beautiful Beaulieu, where buses can be caught for the return journey to Lymington.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.
How to get there:
• By car – Drive to Lymington on the A337, which is connected to the M27
• By public transport – Lymington Town station is the nearest station to the path, with trains from Brockenhurst connecting to the mainline. There are also frequent bus services to Lymington, run by the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company and then in the summer there is the New Forest open-top bus service, operated by Solent Blue Line.
Master Builders House Hotel
Bucklers Hard, Beaulieu, Hampshire SO42 7XB.