Weekend Walk: Thorney Island (8.5 miles)

This is the ideal walk for those who love sea views. Doing the walk clockwise from Emsworth gets the inland sections over at the beginning. Once onto the shoreline, the route is very easy to follow so you can concentrate on enjoying the route rather than reading instructions. A visit to the church is also a must as is looking out for many of the birds that thrive in this tranquil area. I appreciate that this walk is not exactly on the doorstep but it is a very fine one and well worth the trip. From time to time we will feature walks that are further afield when we feel they warrant it. I did this on a crisp sunny day in January and it was beautiful. It is a long walk but you do not have to do the full circuit if you want to take the children or the dog but please note that you must stick to the perimeter footpath. SR

1. Take the footpath alongside the Lord Raglan pub and through Chequers Quay. Go under the arch and through a gate onto the path alongside Slipper Mill Pond. At the end of the pond, go through the gate and then turn right in front of the converted mill building.

2. Continue ahead through the boatyard. Watch out for moving machinery. After the first few ‘stilt’ houses, turn left and then right at the next footpath sign along Osprey Quay.

3. Look out for the footpath on the left across a field. There are usually horses in this field. At the road, turn right and then shortly left into Thornham Lane. (The small and free parking area here is an alternative starting point.) Just past Thornham Marina there are some large rocks across the road.

4. Immediately past the rocks take the footpath to the left. At the shoreline turn right shortly crossing a wooden bridge. Keep going on the shoreline path until you come to the large security gates. Just before the gate, drop down the bank on the right to see Thorney Deeps. This was once part of the Chichester Ship Canal.

5. At the gates press the buzzer. You will be asked your name, address, contact telephone number and purpose of visit. Do not be put off, this is a formality as the land past the gate is owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Once on Thorney Island do not stray off the clearly marked path. Call the Guard Post on 01243 388269 or the Guard Room on 01243 388275 if you get into difficulty.

6. After about a mile you will pass a dinghy park. Just beyond, the path climbs up the bank towards the 13th century church of St Nicholas.

This 13th century church was described by AA Evans in the Chichester Diocesan Gazette as the ‘loneliest, remotest, last seen, least known and altogether utmost church in Sussex’. This description still rings true today. The pretty church is still used by local parishioners but is inaccessible to the general public other than via the footpath or by yachtsmen landing at the nearby jetty. Despite its age there are a number of modern touches including an engraved window and a slate pulpit. In the well kept churchyard, RAF graves lie alongside the graves of Germans who lost their lives here during WWII. There are also a number of graves from recent conflicts.It certainly is a very restful place.

If the tide is low continue along the beach in front of the Thorney Island Sailing Club (TISC). If the path is flooded here, you can turn right before the club building, then left into the car park, keeping to the left and onto the path at the other end of the club. The path turns left and then returns to the shoreline.

At the tip of the island you will see the sandy beach and dunes of Pilsey Island. This area is leased by the RSPB and is important for nesting and roosting birds. There is no public access from the footpath. After a while you will come to a bird hide which is a good spot for a break on a windy or wet day. As you walk up the west side of the island, look out for seals on the mudflats if the tide is low.

At the security gates you will be asked your name and then let through. Here you can either continue along the shoreline path or drop down the bank on the right to walk alongside the Deeps. Either way the paths rejoin.

7. Take the path in front of the ‘stilt’ houses and then turn right at the marina. If you have parked at the road junction keep going to Thorney Road and then turn right. Otherwise turn left at the next set of houses. Retrace your steps back through the marina and around the Slipper Mill Pond to return to the start point.

DISTANCE: 8.5 miles from Emsworth start point
OS MAPS: OS Explorer 120
START GRID REFERENCE: SU 752 057
STARTING POINT: The Lord Raglan pub, Queen Street, Emsworth. There are a number of pay and display car parks in Emsworth. Allow at least five hours for the walk. Alternatively, there is a small parking area on the corner of Thorney Road and Thornham Lane. If parking here follow the directions from the third paragraph.
REFRESHMENTS: Numerous restaurants, pubs and cafes at Emsworth, Boaters Café at Thornham Marina (when open!). There are no refreshments on Thorney Island so do carry drinks and snacks.
TIDES: The path floods between points 1 and 2 and near the church at point 6 when the tide is 5m or higher.

This walk used by kind permission of Chichester Harbour Conservancy. For more information, please visit their website at conservancy.co.uk.

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