But this post is a first for me. It’s the first time I’ve reviewed a walk, or perhaps I should say “road tested” it! (Even when I reviewed a walk in Salisbury, it was more of a review of the book it appeared in, Station Walks, given I wanted to see just how accurate and helpful the directions and description of things to spot on the walk were!).
This post will cover the In the King’s Footsteps: On the Great Ship Trail, the newly launched walk down to the River Hamble where the wreckage of Henry V’s ship, The Grace Dieu, can be seen. All pictures in this post were taken by me though I recommend following the link to the Road to Agincourt site as there are some wonderful galleries on there, including one specifically for the Weekend.
Future posts will give details of what else was happening at the Medieval Weekend. There was plenty to see and even more to learn! My family and I learned a great deal, including something about the origin of some old English surnames, such as Fletcher, and, of even greater interest to me at least, was the history of the role of the scribe. More of this in another post though.
The ironic thing was I was meant to join my cousins at the world renowned historical re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury earlier in the month, which they’ve been inviting me to go along to for years. Given circumstances yet again couldn’t allow that, I was pleased to invite them to Hampshire’s commemoration of the Battle of Agincourt instead and we all had a wonderful time.
The Medieval Weekend was at Manor Farm and Country Park, near Bursledon, which is somewhere I’ve driven past countless times but had not visited before. From what I saw of the park, this is an oversight I’m glad to have corrected. The park is a lovely place and the newly launched On the Great Ship Trail provides some of the finest views of Hampshire I’ve come across.
I was glad to see the King’s Great Ship Trail walkway is suitable for all ages and capabilities, having one obvious path for all to use. This is clearly signposted and once you’re on at the beginning of the walk it is a question of just keep going.There are plenty of markers along the route so I would say it was pretty much impossible to get lost (though I hope someone now doesn’t prove me wrong there!).
There are tracks off the main path with steps etc which mean you can get down to the shores of the River Hamble in different places. If you follow the main path, you reach the pontoon and avoid the mudflats of the Hamble. I had my breath taken away by the wonderful view at the pontoon. Given the motorway is in sight (the bridge is anyway), it is hard to imagine a greater contrast between beautiful nature and frankly ugly motorway traffic.
The walk is easy to follow. There are benches at different spots along the way and plenty of shade in amongst the trees as you meander to the Hamble. You also have tantalising views of the river as you walk. What was nice was the walk back up again had a gentle incline and should not prove problematic. It is not a long walk (I would say it took me about 15/20 minutes and I was not rushing!) but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Confession time: I did not use the interactive Zapper app that was available on this walkway to discover more about the history etc while following the trail. I wanted to focus on and “test” the walk itself as well as having a good look at the shipwreck. I should add the walk would be excellent for dog walkers too (and there were many happy pooches enjoying the trail too and they’re not at all worried about interactive gadgets unless it is ball or stick shaped!).
I was pleased to see the path is lovely and wide too. This makes a huge difference to who can use the path. The surface appears to be a concrete/gravel mix but I can’t see it giving anyone using wheels any problems.
There were guided walks available on the trail at different times over the Weekend. My family and I were too busy enjoying medieval entertainment to be able to tie in with that. (I’ll write more on this in the next post, the Melford Hys Companie were simply brilliant and those who were showing what life was like as a herbalist, a carpenter and so on were also excellent and gave a wealth of information. Nor were they fazed by questions put to them and unless they were clairvoyant, they couldn’t have anticipated all they might be asked! Some of the questions posed by the public were obvious but others were not and the discussions were fascinating).
There isn’t much of The Grace Dieu left but when you consider the age of it and the fact it was set on fire thanks to a lightning strike, it is remarkable there is anything to see at all!
In the park itself are wooden reconstructions of what the front of the ship would have looked like. If you follow the natural outline as shown in the pictures here, you can get a good idea of how big the vessel must have been.
The ship was the subject of mutiny and was struck by lightning, as well as having been gradually eroded away over time, so has had not the happiest of histories. It also was only put to sea once. Hmm… white elephants are nothing new then. The main difference being back in Henry V’s time, it was literally his ship and therefore his money. These days, the taxpayer coughs up.
Am I glad I went to the Weekend? Yes. Did I like the new Trail? Yes. I was so pleased to see how accessible it is, it literally widens how many can use it and it is something all members of the family, including the four-legged variety (!), can enjoy.
But above all I’m pleased to have discovered a part of Hampshire that had been hidden to me and I hope very much to visit Manor Farm and Country Park again before too long.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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