Which routes in Hampshire no longer exist
2:59 pm February 11, 2022
15:06 February 11, 2022
Have you ever felt something was missing when walking or cycling in Hampshire? You may be right – this county is dotted with dozens of old paths, roads, canals, railroads and even airstrips, all removed or rebuilt, but how many have you discovered yet, asks Faith Eckersall
Lost way under the sea
Before they built Hayling Island’s original wooden toll bridge in 1824, you could only get there safely by boat. Unless you were willing to risk the Wadeway – a three quarter mile submerged road between Langstone and Hayling. The route was investigated by the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society in 2014, which concluded that it dated back to medieval times and was mentioned on a 1759 map as a ‘route’ of horses at low tide ”. Parts of it are still visible today if you look closely at the lowest tide between Northney Shore and the Royal Oak at Langstone. It is possible to see the wooden stumps that marked its path but the road has been impassable since it was cut in two by the construction of the Portsmouth and Chichester Canal in the 1820s.
The “Boldrewood Tunnel”
Deep beneath the University of Southampton is the Boldrewood Tunnel, a pedestrian route built – allegedly – between the Students’ Union and the Boldrewood campus. Legend has it that the university closed it in 2004 for “security concerns”. And the legend is all it is. It may have gained an internet presence and even had its own company, but the only debate to be had is whether it’s a student prank or an enduring urban myth – because there’s no has no reliable record of the tunnel being built, closed or used by anyone.
On the other hand, a tunnel that seems mythological but actually exists is that of Chesil Street in Winchester. Located in what is now the former Chesil Street car park, it was built for the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway and when it opened in 1885 had 15 employees. Despite its use as a troop station as D-Day approached, the railway line fell into disuse and sadly closed. The tunnel, however, still exists and is now secured and used as a store by the city council.
If you looked at the Hampshire rail map in the 1950s it would look very different to what you see today, with lines and stations sprouting up everywhere. Then came Dr. Richard Beeching, whose notorious report recommended closing hundreds of miles of rail lines and stations to save money. The Beeching Axe, as it was called, ended the line between Bishop’s Waltham and Botley and the Meon Valley line, which became a footpath. Other lost Hampshire rail routes include the Bordon branch line, the old Salisbury Railway and Dorset Junction which had stations at Breamore in the New Forest as well as Fordingbridge, the Lee-on Railway -the-Solent and the Fawley line. This sad demise, however, left the county with a number of unusual places, such as the Droxford siding where Winston Churchill stayed in a horse-drawn carriage before heading to Southwick for D-Day (you can still visit the siding siding as part of the Meon Valley Trail) and the curious Durley Halt. Opened in 1909, the railway from Bishop’s Waltham to Botley was lightly used from the start and Durley Halt was its only official stop. The track is now a footpath at the end of Bishop’s Waltham, but the abandoned remains of Durley Halt, closer to the village of Curdridge, are still visible. Despite its insignificance, Durley Halt has a claim to fame: it was once referred to as the station or British train stop where people were least likely to get off!
The Portsmouth and Arundel Canal
As far as lost roads go, this is one of the most extraordinary in Hampshire. It all started quite grandly, with an Act of Parliament passed in 1817 and work began on the exciting new waterway which would eventually link Portsmouth to London via an inland waterway, helping to steer precious cargo away from coastal raids by the French. .
The route was supposed to be able to carry ships, barges and craft to Arundel and beyond, but disaster struck early on when a leak appeared causing water to contaminate local drinking water Irritated bargees noted that the proposed route only had all 52 locks, tolls were becoming an issue and ships were also dependent on the tides which affected the water artery. Although it was used to transport nothing less than gold bullion for the Bank of England, no one stepped in to fund repairs to the canal and the Portsea section was abandoned in 1830.
However, the canal has many ghostly remains if you know where to look; in the naming of Portsmouth’s Arundel Street (after the construction of a basin), Locksway Road, the Grade II listed Milton Lock and Basin and the Milton Locks Nature Reserve, managed by Hampshire and the ‘IOW Wildlife Trust.
The road turned into a meadow
It’s hard to believe, when you look at it, that the peaceful meadows of Hockley, just south of Winchester, were once a furious jumble of cars, trucks and other assorted vehicles, usually sitting nose to tail in what seemed be an endless traffic jam. It was this jam and the desire to improve the inadequate road built in the 1930s that led to the extension of the M3 motorway to create the Winchester Bypass. Which might not have caused so much exasperation in itself, had he walked through Twyford Down in a tunnel as most people wanted – rather than through it via a giant, ugly slice cut into historical and scientifically important chalk. The protest – which began in 1992 – lasted three years, attracting international interest and support for the protesters, who endured harsh conditions. The protesters lost that fight, but their efforts resulted in greater attention to subsequent road projects. And now all that’s left of the hated, antiquated road is seven acres of grassland.
Perhaps it can be seen as a monument to peace that so many of the wartime airfields that have been scattered all over Hampshire are simply no longer needed. There are too many to list here, but thanks to FONFA – the charity Friends of the New Forest Airfields – there is now a museum and heritage center dedicated to the memory of these 12 in the west of the county. Based at the western end of the Heatherstone Grange estate near Derritt Lane between Sopley and Bransgore, the FONFA center is open on certain days (check their website fonfasite.wordpress.com) and displays the history of the airfields and the people who robbed them . Away from the centre, the New Forest airfields memorial at Holmsley South is worth a visit and the air services are further commemorated by memorials at Calshot and Hamble, recalling the airfields which were once based there.