Changing tides and fortunes can be explored on this breezy walk along Chichester Harbour's foreshore between Emsworth and Langstone.
Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Field edge path, gravel or metalled shoreline paths, and short stretch along pebble foreshore
Landscape Foreshore and marshy coastline
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 120 Chichester
Start/finish SU 749056
Dog friendliness Keep under control at all times
Parking Pay-and-display car park in South Street, Emsworth
Public toilets Emsworth
1 Turn right out of the car park and walk down South Street to the Quay. Note the high tide times outside the Chichester Harbour Conservancy building as it may affect your passage along the shore between Warblington and Langstone. At the Quay, keep ahead to join the tarmac path that follows the causeway round the Mill Pond, adjacent to the main harbour.
2 Pass beside Emsworth Sailing Club to join a concrete path above the shoreline. The path becomes gravelled as you near a copse and grassy area. Ignore the foreshore path here (impassable at high tides) and keep ahead through the edge of the copse to a gate. Beyond a further gate, keep to the field edge towards the ruined tower of Warblington Castle. Pass through a gate and shortly bear right into Warblington churchyard.
3 Turn left on exiting the main gate and turn right into the cemetery. Follow the metalled path round to the left and soon bear right to a gate into pasture. Bear diagonally left to a stile on the harbour shore. Your path soon drops down on to the foreshore (access may be difficult at exceptionally high tides). In 200yds (183m) join a metalled path leading past Langstone's mills to reach the Royal Oak.
4 Relax with a good pint on one of the benches on the sea front and absorb the splendid view across the harbour to Hayling Island before retracing your steps back to Emsworth.
Situated at the head of one of the tidal creeks of Chichester Harbour, delightful Emsworth, with its attractive jumble of streets, lanes and alleys and yacht-filled harbour, is essentially a seafaring town. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was a principal port along this stretch of coast and became very prosperous through corn milling, boat building, fishing and a flourishing oyster industry. The village still boasts traditional shipwrights and chandleries, and fishing boats still work out of the harbour, but today it is more important as a yachting centre. If you stroll through the streets and along the harbour you can see the old tide mills that used to mill the grain from local farms, and see the large houses built by wealthy merchants.
The views across the harbour are best at low tide, especially during the winter months when the mudflats are a haven to thousands of waders and wildfowl, including curlew, redshank, dunlin, shelduck and mallard. Take your binoculars with you on this walk, as birdlife abounds along its length. In winter, at high tide, you may see diving ducks like goldeneye and red-breasted merganser in the harbour, while in the fields you are likely to spot Brent geese feeding.
All that remains of Warblington Castle (private), an imposing fortified manor house built by the Countess of Salisbury between 1513 and 1526, is a tall brick turret visible through the trees. She was executed at the Tower of London in 1541 under the orders of Henry VIII due to her disapproval of his marriage to her friend Catherine of Aragon. The isolated church dates from the 13th-century, a time when Warblington was the mother parish for Emsworth, and is well worth closer inspection. The churchyard is full of interesting gravestones, several with fine carvings reflecting tragedies at sea.
From its position at an important crossing point to Hayling Island and the availability of fresh water from the Lymbourne stream, Langstone grew into a thriving harbour village. You arrive at its seaward end, a delightful spot favoured by artists, complete with a pub, an old tide mill, windmill, and the broad expanse of Langstone Harbour with its tidal creeks, salt-marsh islands and mudflats. Much of this fragile landscape is now protected by a nature reserve.
Look for the blue plaque on a house in Record Road. The author of the Jeeves and Wooster novels, PG Wodehouse, lived here between 1904 and 1913 and based many of his locations and characters on local places and people. Note the flint grave-watchers' huts in Warblington churchyard, built over 200 years ago, at a time when bodies were scarce for medical students to learn on.
Stroll through the narrow streets, lined with specialist shops, then walk along the busy harbourside and around the two tidal mill ponds to capture the history and charm of this picturesque village. Emsworth Museum in North Street should not be missed as it traces the history of the village in more detail.
There's a good choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms in Emsworth, notably the Greenhouse Café in the Square for home-made lunches and teas, Flintstones Tea Room on the Quay, and the Bluebell and Coal Exchange pubs in South Street. The Royal Oak at Langstone is open all day and enjoys great harbour views.