by Katie Isham.
Restrictions are lifting, travel is allowed and so the time has come. We’re visiting the Solent shoreline.
A trip to the beach is not just about the destination: it’s about the feeling of space you get by the sea. It’s that feeling you get nowhere else, and after another long lockdown, we all need it. I sure as shingle needed to breathe in big gulps of sea air and to stare absentmindedly at the waves.
Hill Head is a short drive through Titchfield from the M27. Park along the seafront as soon as you emerge from the winding Meon Road and you’re on the beach. A perfect pebbly beach running along the Solent. Look to your right, up Southampton Water to see Fawley. Ahead you can gaze over to the Isle of Wight. A glance east will point out the neighbouring sights of Portsmouth. The views here are panoramic on all sides and the skies are just as busy with cloud formations providing a playground for the many aircraft pootling about from the nearby airport.
If the tide is out, walking on the spit is a must. Wander out into the Solent and watch the dogs playing in the shallows. A bonus of a visit here is the number of dogs you meet; the highlights on this trip were a camouflaged cockapoo against the stones and a grumpy old terrier who steadfastly refused to join his owners on the beach – he was more than happy on the promenade.
Which is where we now venture. Strolling south-east, once the beach reaches the railings, climb the steps and continue along the pathway. On a blustery day with a churning sea, it’s like running a foamy gauntlet, but on a calm spring morning, meditation can be achieved in staring down at the clear waters lapping the slope.
At the end of the path, divert around the harbour, but don’t forget to monitor the marshes of Titchfield Haven across the road. Who knows what feathered friends you’ll see? I spotted the usual swans, ducks and a few curlews wading amongst the beached hulls. The harbour walls are gesturing hands, pointing the boats seaward for a whole world of adventure.
My adventure continued not out to sea but along the coast. Loiter as you pass the sailing club to appreciate the nautical chimes on the breeze. Another bend to the left and you’re greeted by the curve of colourful beach huts. Walk on the beach or the prom, or along the top road for a gull’s eye view of the location.
Before long the path ends and you have no choice but to tackle the shingle if you’re to remain a stone’s skim from the sea. Things get interesting here as you pass the pub marquee and then the ends of gardens. Watch out for the ancient boats, concrete shelters and a rather strange pirate lurking in the bushes.
Clamber over the groynes as far as you like but don’t forget time and tide wait for no man. After a hearty walk, I’m a great advocate of a good old sit down. Anywhere on the beach will give you a welcome seat but Hill Head is a haven for benches. Choose your favourite perspective to take in your surroundings. Stop for a while; listen to the waves; watch the skies; nod to those who pass on their own journeys; feel the wind; breathe.
A walk by the sea will always be good for the soul, but a walk by the sea right now, after so long away is vital. A different perspective can put things into an altogether different kind of perspective. There’s a bench waiting for you to find your own moment of quiet contemplation.
Cost: Free for the walk and to breathe the sea air. Free parking along the seafront.
Accessibility: The walk along the front is flat and accessible except for the short section up some steps, but an alternate route is available alongside the parking. Get there via a short drive from Titchfield off the A27.
Facilities: Toilets open and a refreshment van at the far end by Meon Shore. Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve (and more excitingly, the café) will be opening from Monday 12th April if all goes to plan. Walking along the shore will also take you past The Osborne View garden for more outdoor refreshment opportunities.