Start: Bentley Railway Station Grid Ref: SU 79218 43085
Finish: Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Grid Ref: SU 62957 00350
Distance: 50 miles (80.5Km)
The Shipwrights Way is a 50-mile-long distance route which links villages and towns in east Hampshire. The name reflects the use of oak grown at Alice Holt Forest for Tudor shipbuilding and follows the imaginary route taken to transport the oak timbers to the historic dockyard in Portsmouth.
Starting from Alice Holt Forest, the route passes through Bordon, Liss, Petersfield, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Staunton Country Park, Havant, Hayling Island. It continues to Portsmouth via the ferry, finishing at the Historic Dockyard. There is also an additional spur between Liphook and Liss and whilst not part of the main trail, makes for a very interesting detour.
As much as possible, the route is off-road, using rights of way and permissive paths. Whilst the majority is through open countryside, there are some sections that pass through large towns.
I completed the Shipwright’s Way in a series of 8 walks covering 71 miles. Several of the sections start and finish with a railway station, so the opportunity was there to do several linear walks. This was true for the following sections:
- Liphook to Liss
- Liss to Petersfield
- Petersfield to Rowlands Castle
- Rowlands Castle to Havant
- Havant to Portsmouth Harbour
However, the leg from Alice Holt Forest to Liss was done in three sections covering 29 miles rather than a single linear walk of 14 miles! The reason for this was to get to the start point would have entailed a 2.5-hour train journey via London! Add to this the fact I walk solo and had no way of getting dropped off at the start point.
So, the first 3 sections were conducted as three circular walks back to my car. The advantage of this is that it allowed me to explore parts of the countryside adjacent to the main footpath. By the way, I live in Liss, just 200m from the railway station!
Whilst the majority of the route is across country there is a high proportion of the route in the urban environment. The worse section is a short length between Liss and Petersfield, where the route runs alongside the A3 dual carriageway with its associated noise and atmospheric pollution.
There are a couple of major though town sections such as when the route goes through the middle of Bordon, Petersfield and Havant. Whilst the Petersfield section is not too bad, the sections through Bordon & Havant were the least pleasant 6 miles of the entire ‘Way’. At least, when passing through Hayling and Portsmouth, the route follows the coastal path so, at least, you have the sea to look at!
There is, of course, one advantage of the Shipwright’s Way passing through towns and villages. If you choose to do the whole walk on one go over a series of days, you can travel light and stay in B&B’s, Inns or hotels enroute. There are also plenty of refreshment stops and shops along the ‘Way’.
The route was created through a partnership between East Hampshire District Council, Hampshire County Council, the Forestry Commission and the South Downs National Park Authority. As a result, Hampshire County Council have created an excellent website dedicated to the walk. This can be accessed at The Shipwrights Way
The trail has been divided into 12 sections and a pdf has been produced on each providing a map, route details, points of interest and other background information. The links to these I have reproduced here as pdf’s.
- Bentley Rail Station to Alice Holt Forest
- Alice Holt Forest to Cradle Lane
- Cradle lane to Lindford/Bordon
- Bordon to Liss
- Liphook to Liss
- Liss to Petersfield
- Petersfield to Queen Elizabeth Country Park
- Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Finchdean
- Finchdene to Staunton Country Park
- Staunton Country Park to Havant
- Havant to Hayling Island
- Hayling Island to Portsmouth
Along the length of the trail are nineteen sculptures, which tell the story of the area. There is a soldier’s rucksack and helmet on the historic military railway at Liss, a sheep at Queen Elizabeth Country Park and books representing the area’s literary heritage.
There are twenty plinths, but a sculpture of a Nightjar had to be removed after repeated vandalism! Be warned, the Oyster scuplture is not on the actual ShipWrights Way but on the path that goes along the edge of the oyster beds.
Not all of the scupltures are marked on the current set of route pdf’s but if you stick to the published route, and keep your eyes open, you will find them all. The only ones to be wary of are the Oyster (already mentioned) and the Tool bag at trail end, where you will need to enter the Historic Dockyard during opening times only (Free of charge).
Whether you choose to do the whole walk in one go over a series of days, complete it over a few weekends, or just select the odd section to do. There is a great walk waiting for you. As I have already said, some sections are dissappointing, but overall it is an excellant long distance footpath and well worth the effort even if for nothing more than the sculptures.
If you need more information on accessibility or other factors relating to this trail, please feel free to contact me. I am always more than happy to talk about any of the routes I do or the equipment I use.