Starting Point: Outside Gosport Leisure Centre – Distance: 6.5km Approx time taken: 90-120 minutes
Take a walk around Fort Brockhurst and through Monks Walk to The Hardway to discover more about the importance of the town’s defence. Along the way you’ll see some wonderful sights, find out about some ghostly goings on, visit some natural gems and have the opportunity to spot some wildlife.
Begin at the Leisure Centre.Take the footpath between the hotel and PH to Fareham Road. Cross over at the crossing and walk along the path towards Brockhurst Gate Retail Park. Pause at the interpretation boards.
Continue along the path. Just before you get to the car park, turn right and head towards the woods, where you will see a path. This leads down to a circular path which goes around the moat of Fort Brockhurst. Head towards the fort and when you reach the moat, turn left. Follow the path around the moat until you reach Wingate Road. Bear right and then turn left through The Range car park and out the other side. Turn left onto Gunners Way.
Just after you pass Wingate Road on the left, cross over to the other side of Gunners Way and walk through the cut-through to Hamlet Way. Turn left keeping the houses on your right and at the end of this block turn right into an alley. Walk down the steps to Blackthorn Drive. Cross diagonally over and between the houses you will see an opening to a wooded area. Follow the path round to the right and then bear left. Exit on to Frater Lane and then turn left along the path which comes out at Heritage Way.
Cross Heritage Way, keeping the roundabout on your right, then continue around the roundabout to Monks Walk.Continue along Monks Walk until you see the gymnasium building on your left.
Just after the gym bear right and continue along the path heading towards the water. Then turn right and walk through Monks Wood keeping the water on your left.
As you reach the shoreline, and ramp area you will have views over the Harbour to Portsmouth.
Keeping the water on your left, take the narrow path up alongside the fence to the Industrial Estate. You will emerge into the estate at the end of Quay Lane. Walk along Quay Lane until you reach the Marina and cafe on your left. If the tide is out you can turn in here, and then bear right walking along the path until you reach the shore to walk along. Alternatively, if the tide is in then continue along Quay Lane, turn left onto Priory Road, and walk some distance until you see an alley on the left with shops.
Rejoin the path just before Hardway Sailing Club and walk around the outside keeping the water on your left. Walk over the chocolate block ramps.Continue to the Canadian Memorial in the grassy area, just past the small car park.
Walk around the memorial and then cross Priory Road to walk along Green Lane.
Turn right into St Thomas’ Road. At the end turn right on to Heritage Way and continue until you walk past the last houses on your left, and the industrial estate on your right.
Look for the opening on your left, walk through here and continue along the path until you reach Ham Lane, then turn left along it.
At the end of Ham Lane turn right on to Elson Road. Walk past the church and pause to admire its style.
Turn right along School Road and then left onto Gunners Way. Continue along here until you reach Fort Brockhurst again. Continue in the same direction keeping the fort on your right and walk past the car park.
Turn right keeping to the grassy section (but with Fareham Road to your left). Here you will see a pill box camouflaged on most sides with greenery.
Continue past and join the path going around the Fort, turn left at the next path junction and exit into Brockhurst Gate Retail Park. Retrace your steps back over to the Leisure Centre.
This route is unsuitable for pushchairs and wheelchair users and caution must be taken by all as there are many uneven surfaces, ramps, steps and unsurfaced paths.
Nearest Train (or tube) Station(s):
Points of Interest …
1) In the early years of WW2 a defensive Anti Tank ‘Stop Line’ was constructed around the northern side of Gosport. The wet land around the River Alver was deemed boggy enough to be an obstacle to tanks, but an anti-tank ditch was dug from St Mary’s Church in Rowner to Portsmouth Harbour. Although moved for the development of the retail park, the boulders here show part of this defence. Please take some time to read more on the interpretation boards.
2) Fort Brockhurst: Due to an invasion scare in the late 1850’s, fortifications were built in response to a report by the Royal Commision in the Defence of the United Kingdom.These fortifications represented the largest maritime defence in England. Eventually there were 70 forts and batteries built. They were known colloquially as Palmerston’s follies, due to the Prime Minister at the time.
The Brockhurst fort is an example of the period with its polygonal form, which was an innovation in fortification design. It is one of five forts which made up the Gosport Advanced Line. It carried 19 heavy guns in the casements which was supported with eight guns in the shorter ramparts and a further 9 guns in the casements below, due to it being a circular keep this was armed with 20 light weapons. Both keep and main fort are surrounded by a wet moat.
3) Gosport once had a thriving railway network, with a station at Fort Brockhurst. When goods trains to & from Gosport were axed in 1969, the line was completely closed, with the exception of the Holbrook to Fareham section, which was retained for one reason, and one reason only: the Royal Navy Armaments Depots (RNAD) at Bedenham and Frater. These were joined by an extensive internal railway system which extended to Priddys Hard RNAD, the line to which passed through the public domain in Elson.
4) Built as a military isolation hospital for the sick in 1898 and extended in 1918 the building along Monks Walk was used during WW2 as a mortuary. Used today as physical activity training centre, the building still has many reports of paranormal activity!
Some have heard voices, others the sound of children laughing and running, and full bodied apparitions of soldiers and shadow figures are still witnessed to this day.
5) Consisting of two parts, Monks Wood is mainly unimproved grassland with increasing succession into oak woodland. It has great views out across Portsmouth Harbour. In winter it is an excellent place for waders. The back is made up of an old orchard with pear and apple trees which still bear fruit. The south side, across the road, has a lot of bramble scrub, fantastic for blackberry picking.
6) At the waters edge there are great views across to Portsmouth. Here you can also try to spot the shipwrecked hulks in the water. For centuries Forton Creek effectively isolated Hardway from Gosport Town Centre making it an ideal landing stage for smuggling contraband goods. Old maps indicate “hards” from which goods and passengers were loaded and unloaded. Goliath’s, Lower and Convicts Hard were busy places in the 18th century. The latter two have been replaced with piers, but unfortunate convicts bound for transportation ships in the harbour would have been all too familiar with Convicts Hard.
7) In the two world wars the waters and foreshore of Hardway were heavily utilised for refueling and repairs to naval ships. Moby House, formerly the Old White Heather Public House, became Gosport’s Air Sea rescue base in 1942. In the autumn of 1943 work began on the beach hardening process in preparation for the D-Day embarkations. Moby house was used in 1944 as the control station for all D-Day activities in the area. It is known that between June and November 1944 there were at least 750 embarkations of landing ships, tanks, and British and Canadian service personnel, together with 750,000 tons of materials as part of Operation Overlord.
8) The Hardway ramp, which can still be seen via the ‘chocolate blocks’ served to embark British and Canadian regiments. At a ceremony held close to the ramp on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the Canadian High Commissioner donated a plaque expressing appreciation for the kindness of Hardway residents to the embarking Canadian troops. Take a minute to read the interpretation board here to find out more about this period and the ties built between Hardway and Canada..
9) Hardway is an ancient village with its origins dating back to the Roman conquest. Historical evidence points to a connection with Portchester Castle and trade between the villagers and occupying Romans. The village, originally known as WIDHAY, grew around St Swithin’s Priory Manor farm.
In the early 1770s, a Powder Magazine was built at Priddy’s Hard on land leased from Jane Priddy, due to residents of Old Portsmouth petitioning King George III, requesting the removal of the Powder Magazine in Square Tower to a less densely populated area. It grew in size and importance over the next 150 years and became one of the country’s main armament supply depots. As Priddy’s Hard developed, so did Hardway village. The thriving community included some fine Georgian and Victorian houses in Priory Road with its distinctive row of poplar trees. Chapel Street and Bucklers Road still retain the essence of the old fishing village, and although considerable development has taken place since WW2, a sense of the past still exists.
10) In 1912 a railway system at Bedenham & Frater was constructed to the line at Holbrook. Two years later an extension to Priddy’s Hard was built which went through Elson and Hardway. The section between the end of Ham Lane and Quay Lane (Priddy’s Hard level crossing gates) is now occupied by Heritage Way.
11) Ham Lane recreation ground was once the site of an Isolation Hospital and later Blakes Maternity Hospital. It then became accommodation for young, homeless people but was knocked down in the 1990s to make way for housing.
12) St Thomas’ Church was built circa 1845. A simple aisle-less rectangle of 5 bays in an Early Gothic style. The steep tile roof was built with a western bell turret.
13) Fort Brockhurst today…The fort is currently closed until further notice but is usually open 11am to 3pm on the second Saturday of the month from May until September. If you are able to visit when it reopens then you will find it remains largely unaltered with the parade ground, gun ramps, moated keep, washrooms and armoury all able to be viewed.
As you walk around the moat, you will see plenty of places for fishing, and you might even spot the resident swan, ducks, heron and coots. Some have also spotted Kingfishers and terrapins sunbathing.
14) In the early part of the WW2 the defense stop line was constructed from Portsmouth Harbour to St Marys Church in Rowner. Fort Brockhurst Pill Boxes gave support and fire at key points. Constructed in concrete, this remaining pill box is 3 feet square and 2 foot 6 inches above ground. It didn’t take long after construction to realise the pill boxes were considered poor defence against tanks. This is one that survives to this day.