I didn't find the time or energy to finish writing up the final two stages of this project once I'd finished it, which was a shame, as the Semaphore Line proved to be an excellent long distance walk - the sort of walk that really deserves a guide book.

However, I've now (March 2012) added a few notes and photographs to cover the final two days of the walk. I can finally call this project complete!

If you decide to do this walk, and then want a interesting return walk to London, I suggest following the London to Portsmouth inland waterway, another product of the Napoleonic wars.

List of walks in section order, with links
Date Walk Distance
Plan The plan for walking the semaphore line -
19 March 2011 The Admiralty - Chelsea - Putney Heath 15.3 km (9.6 miles)
28 May 2011 Putney Heath - Coombe - Claygate 20.8 km (13.0 miles)
18 June 2011 Claygate - Chatley Heath - West Clandon 21.2 km (13.3 miles)
25 June 2011 West Clandon - Pewley Hill - Bannicle Hill - Witley Station 25.0 km (15.6 miles)
23 July 2011 Witley Station - Haste Hill - Kings Arms, Midhurst Road, Fernhurst 22.1 km (13.8 miles)
30 July 2011 Kings Arms, Midhurst Road, Fernhurst - Older Hill - Elsted 18.7 km (11.7 miles)
01 September 2011 Elsted - Beacon Hill - Compton Down - Rowlands Castle 18.4 km (11.5 miles)
17 September 2011 Rowlands Castle - Camp Down - Lumps Fort - Portsmouth Dockyard 26.7 km (16.7 miles)

The plan for walking the semaphore line

I was trying to follow the route of the first sections of the London Countryway (a future project) on the OS 1:25 000 map when I spotted a feature marked 'Chatley Semaphore Tower' near the junction of the A 23 and the M 25. A search of the net revealed that this was one of a series of semaphore towers built to link London to Portsmouth in the early nineteenth century. Wikipedia says:

Lord George Murray, stimulated by reports of the Chappe semaphore [in France], proposed a system of visual telegraphy to the British Admiralty. He employed large wooden boards on his towers with six large holes which could be closed by shutters. Starting in 1795, chains of shutter telegraph stations were built along [various] routes.

The shutter stations were temporary wooden huts, and at the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars they were no longer necessary. However the Admiralty decided to establish a permanent link to Portsmouth and built a chain of semaphore stations. These were operational from 1822 until 1847, when the railway and electric telegraph provided a better means of communication. The semaphore did not use the same locations as the shutter chain, but followed almost the same route with 15 stations -

Admiralty (London), Chelsea Royal Hospital, Putney Heath, Coombe Warren, Coopers Hill, Chatley Heath, Pewley Hill, Bannicle Hill, Haste Hill (Haslemere), Holder Hill (Midhurst), Beacon Hill, Compton Down, Camp Down, Lumps Fort (Southsea) and Portsmouth Dockyard. The semaphore tower at Chatley Heath, which replaced the Netley Heath station of the shutter telegraph, has been restored by Surrey County Council and is open to the public.

A semaphore-based successor for the London to Plymouth shutter telegraph chain, branching much closer to London, at Chatley Heath in Surrey, was started but abandoned before completion.

Many of the prominences on which the towers were built are known as 'Telegraph Hill' to this day. As in France the network required lavish amounts of money and manpower to operate and could only be justified as a defence need.

[Some sources suggest that the Duke of York's HQ, now home to the Saatchi Gallery, but once home to the Royal Military Asylum, was the location of the second semaphore station, and not the Royal Hospital.]

This naturally led to the idea of a walk following the semaphore line from London to Portsmouth, with a good number of hills along the way.

Researching the route, I found I wasn't the first to think of this walk. The Surrey Group of the Long Distance Walkers Association have walked it, following a route devised by Keith Chesterton. The Surrey Group's newsletters from Spring and Autumn 2009 record the walk, but without route details.

I think even if I had details of the Surrey Group's route, I'd still want to devise my own route.

List of semaphore stations
No. Semaphore station Grid reference
1 The Admiralty TQ 299 802
2 Chelsea TQ 280 782
3 Putney Heath TQ 233 736
4 Coombe Warren TQ 205 705
5 Coopers Hill (Telegraph Hill) TQ 157 647
6 Chatley Heath TQ 089 585
7 Pewley Hill TQ 002 491
8 Bannicle Hill SU 938 383
9 Haste Hill SU 908 320
10 Holder Hill (Older hill) SU 871 264
11 Beacon Hill SU 809 174
12 Compton Down SU 783 148
13 Camp Down SU 686 064
14 Lumps Fort SZ 657 983
15 Portsmouth Dockyard SU 628 003


19 March 2011: The Admiralty - Chelsea - Putney Heath

15.3 km (9.6 miles)

Old Admiralty building, Whitehall

I'd been planning to walk a section of the Vanguard Way, crossing the Ashdown Forest. However, there were no train services to either East Grinstead or Uckfield, so I decided to walk the first section of my project to follow the semaphore line from London to Portsmouth instead.

The decision was taken at rather short notice, so I hadn't time to plan a route in detail. I simply drew straight lines on the OS 1:25 000 map between the locations of the semaphore stations, and worked out a route as I went along, trying to keep roughly to the line, but looking for the most interesting option at the same time. This seemed to work rather well.

St James's Park
In St James's Park

I got the train to Victoria, and then took the No 24 bus to Whitehall to formally start the walk from in front of the Old Admiralty building, which I assume was the location of the first semaphore station.

From the Admiralty I walked towards Trafalgar Square, turned along the Mall under the Admiralty Arch and then down Horse Guards Road to reach Horse Guards Parade. Here I looked at the Admiralty building, admired the Turkish cannon, made in 1524, which was captured in Egypt in 1801 and watched the start of the ceremonial changing of the Queen's Life Guard.

Orange Square
Farmers market, Orange Square

From the Horse Guards Parade I walked through St James's Park, where a pair of pelicans seemed to be courting on the path, attracting a crowd of tourists. Towards the western end of the park, a man with a chainsaw was lopping a tree, balancing precariously on a branch.

From St James's Park I walked down Buckingham Palace Road, then into Victoria Square (with a stature of a young Queen Victoria), Beeston Place and so on into Ebury Street and the 'nicer' parts of London.

At the junction of Ebury Street and Pimlico Road (known locally as Orange or Mozart Square) there was an excellent farmers market in progress, and I stopped for a sausage in a roll (not a sausage roll) - free rage pork of course. The square contains a statue of Mozart as a boy, as he composed his first symphony at 180 Ebury Street, aged eight years.

Duke of York's HQ
Duke of York's HQ (Saatchi Gallery)

I then took a rather convoluted route through some side streets to reach the Duke of York's HQ - now home to the Saatchi Gallery, but once home to the Royal Military Asylum, a school for the children of soldiers' widows. Some sources suggest that this was the location of the second semaphore station, and not the Royal Hospital. I'd not time to look round the Saatchi Gallery, but I did get some more to eat in another market in Duke of York Square - some Brazilian speciality involving chopped chicken and potato.

Royal Hospital, Chelsea
Royal Hospital, Chelsea, from Ranelagh Gardens

From the Duke of York's HQ I walked to the Royal Hospital (occupied by Chelsea pensioners and the site of the annual Chelsea Flower Show). I walked into Ranelagh Gardens along East Road, first checking access was permitted with the guard on the gate. The grounds were open, but not the great hall or the chapel, which would open later in the day. Ranelagh Gardens are now part of the grounds of the Royal Hospital, but were the site of a famous pleasure garden in the 18th century.

Chelsea Embankment
Chelsea Embankment

From Ranelagh Gardens I walked along Chelsea Embankment. I didn't have time to visit Chelsea Physic Garden, and Albert Bridge was closed for repairs and shrouded in canvas and hoardings. However, I stopped at Cheyne Row to visit the house of Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer and Victorian sage. I doubt anybody reads him now. The house is smaller than I expected from pictures - a fairly basic terraced house. It's worth seeing though, as it's been preserved as a shrine to Carlyle and his wife Jane (now perhaps more written about than her husband).

Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle's house, Cheyne Row

After visiting the house, I looked for a pub for a quick pint. The nearest was the Cross Keys in Lawrence Street - more bar-restaurant than pub. The beer was OK, but not really the sort of place I like. I then continued along the Embankment as far as Lots Road - home of disused Lots Road power station that once supplied electricity to the London Underground. It's still an impressive building, though evidently due for redevelopment.

Greylag Goose
Greylag Goose

At the end of Lots Road I crossed Chelsea Creek and then followed the Thames Path through Chelsea Harbour (a development with a small marina, not a harbour) to regain the north bank of the Thames. It's now possible to follow the river bank almost to Wandsworth Bridge, passing some fairly awful large new riverside developments at Imperial Wharf - not somewhere I'd like to live. The Path doesn't quite extend to the bridge, and I had to cut across Sainsbury's car park to reach Townmead Road and then Wandsworth Bridge, where I decided to cross the Thames. On the south side of the bridge is a Hanson aggregates depot, served by barges. There was laden barge moored alongside when I passed, half sunk.

Montevetro development
Montevetro development and St Mary's church, Battersea

From the bridge I continued along the Thames Path, passing the Ship Inn. The Path turns inland to avoid a solid waste transfer station and to cross the mouth of the River Wandle. West of the Wandle there is a permissive path allowing a return to the river bank (only open in daylight). I followed the river as far as Wandsworth Park where I had to leave the Thames to reach Putney Heath.

After cutting across the park, I followed Putney Bridge Road eastwards and then, after passing underneath the railway, turned west again along Oakhill Road. Oakhill Road had one or two interesting houses - 23 and 25 Oakhill Road were built in the late 19th century in an Arts and Craft Style by the architect William Young.

Lots Road power station
Lots Road power station

From Oakhill Road I followed Keswick Road - Clock Place (crossing the surface LUL line by a footbridge) - Holmbush Road - Rusholme Road - Putney Heath Lane to reach Putney Heath. Putney Heath is fairly typical suburban open space. I crossed it using Wildcroft Road to reach the Telegraph pub. I was not sure of the exact location of the semaphore station (it could have been on the site of the covered reservoir next to the pub), so I used the pub as a stand-in.

House in Oakhill Road

The Telegraph advertises itself as a country pub in London - though it's a very large country pub, adapted to urban tastes. The pub was very full when I reached it, but friendly enough and the beer was fine. I had the house bitter - from memory, brewed by Weltons in Horsham.

The Telegraph
The Telegraph, pub sign

From the pub I walked to Tibbet's Corner, then up to the Green Man pub on the north side of the Heath where there is a small bus station. On the way I got diverted by a sign saying 'to the obelisk' - which lead to an obelisk with an inscription explaining 'The Right Hon. John Sawbridge, Esq., Lord Mayor of London, laid the foundation-stone of this pillar 110 years after the Fire of London, on the anniversary of that dreadful event, and in memory of an invention for securing buildings against fire'. There is an interesting account of the circumstances at British History Online.

From the bus station I took a bus that went to Clapham Junction. However, at Clapham I decided to stay on it to Victoria, just for the ride through an unfamiliar bit of London.

A good day's walk, in absolutely perfect, clear, cloudless weather, with far too many good things to see along the way.

Lion's head


28 May 2011: Putney Heath - Coombe - Claygate

20.8 km (13.0 miles)

Obelisk, Putney Heath

I was feeling under the weather, and the weather was overcast and threatening rain, so the prospect of a walk through the remoter suburbs of south-west London wasn't enticing. However, I dutifully set off to walk the next stage of the Semaphore Line. I took the Train to Clapham Junction, then the No 170 Bus to Tibbet's Corner, to pick up the Semaphore Line at Putney Heath, where I'd left it on 19 March.

Windmill, Wimbledon Common

I decided to start by backtracking to the obelisk on Putney Heath, erected 'in memory of an invention for securing buildings against fire', to get a better photograph of it. From the obelisk I walked down the shared pedestrian and cycle path under Tibbet's Corner roundabout, to emerge onto Wimbledon Common on Ladies Mile, a track leading to the famous windmill. However, on the way I diverted to see King's Mere, which was not especially notable.

Caesar's Camp
Footpath across Caesar's Camp

The windmill is a now museum, but it didn't open until 14:00, so I couldn't look round. It carries a plaque commemorating the writing of part of 'Scouting for Boys' by Robert Baden-Powell in the Mill House in 1908 (the windmill had once been converted into a house). However, I stopped for a cup of tea in the cafe - or rather, a bucket of tea, the cafe sharing the trend to supersizing.

Telegraph Cottage
Telegraph Cottage, Warren Road, Coombe

From the windmill I followed Windmill Road across the Common to reach Caesar's Camp, diverting along the way to look at something marked on the maps of the Common as 'The KRR Stone'. The stone (roughly the size of a trig point) commemorate men of the King's Royal Rifle Corps who passed through the Wimbledon Common transit camp during the First World War.

Red deer
Red deer, Richmond Park

Caesar's Camp, like most places named Caesar's Camp, is an Iron Age hill fort. It is now the site of the Royal Wimbledon Golf Club's course. A stone plaque (erected by the John Evelyn Society in 1968 and renovated by the golf club in 2004) at the start of the footpath across the camp says the fort dates from about 700 BC. The plaque also notes that the outline is difficult to follow.

The path across the course is pleasant, with glimpsed views to the south and west, even though it has been fenced to prevent you straying onto the course. Halfway along the path there is another plaque set into the ground (by the Ministry of Public Building and Works), saying 'This camp is protected as a monument of national importance under the Ancient Monuments Acts 1913 - 53'. The plaque itself must by now be counted an antiquity.

St Agatha's church
St Agatha's church, Kingston

The footpath across Caesar's Camp continues through Fishpond Wood and Beverly Meads Local Nature Reserve, where someone was making a hash of laying a hedge. It then skirts the ground of Colliers Wood United FC to reach the A 3 (part of the Kingston by-pass), which is crossed by a large steel footbridge, having both stairs and stepped ramps. On the other side of the by-pass I entered Coombe, a land of private roads, big houses, large gates and security cameras. As usual in such places, people were noticeable by their absence.

I followed Coombe Hill to Coombe Lane West, and then took Warren Road to find 'Telegraph Cottage', the site of the fourth semaphore station. This is now a big house with large gates, security cameras and a lodge for security guards, and clearly nothing remains of the old building.

Market House
The Market House, Kingston

A sign at the far end of Warren Road commemorates General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces Europe. It goes on to say 'General Eisenhower lived in Telegraph Cottage, Warren Road, from 1942 to 1944. This property formerly stood about 750 yards along Warren Road. This plaque was erected by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE Day and VJ Day 1995'.

From Warren Road I entered Richmond Park through Ladderstile Gate. Seeing a viewpoint marked on the map near Thatched House Lodge, I diverted to see it, passing close to a herd of browsing Red Deer does on the way. The view was extensive, but not spectacular.

Coronation Stone
The Coronation Stone, Kingston

From the viewpoint I turned south to exit the park at Kingston Gate. I then followed Kings Road, passing St Agatha's catholic church. The church's own website notes 'St Agatha's is an Italianate style church built in red brick with Portland stone mouldings and decorations. Its style is based upon the early Roman basilica ... The front elevation ... is loaded with Catholic symbolism. ... The Church was built in 1899 by Caroline Louisa Curry of Coombe Warren, in memory of Bertram Woodhouse Curry who died on 29th December 1896'. I thought it rather elegant - but it is very, very catholic.

Hogsmill River
Hogsmill River, Kingston

Once in Kingston town centre I spent some time wandering around seeing the sights. These included the large parish church (decayed, but active), the Coronation Stone (traditionally thought to have been used for the coronation of Saxon Kings in the tenth century), the Guildhall (fine 1930's architecture, though Pevsner describes it as having 'not a balanced or well composed front') and the Market House (Pevsner calls it 'a rather funny Italianate building of yellow Brick').

Filter beds
Filter beds along Portsmouth Road, Seething Wells

There was a collection of stalls selling various types of ethnic food in the Market Place. I had a German sausage and some wheat beer - not bad.

My general impression of Kingston was of an interesting town completely turned over to retail. The leaflet from the tourist information counter in Market House mentioned virtually nothing but shopping.

St Christopher
St Christopher's Church, Hinchley Wood

From Kingston I'd not really planned a route, but noting on the A to Z there was a promenade along the Thames as far as Raven's Ait (an ait is an island in the Thames) I decided to follow it. It turned out to be a good choice, both in itself and because it led me to the great filter beds along Portsmouth Road and the former water treatment works at Seething Wells. Part of the Seething Wells site is now used as halls of residence by Kingston University. I won't describe the site - you can read about it on Wikipedia if you are interested in industrial archaeology.

Hinchley Wood
Claygate Lane and Avondale Avenue, Hinchley Wood

From Seething Wells I cut south along Windmill Lane into Long Ditton (suburban semis) and then west along North Sugden Road to Hinchley Wood, where I turned south again along Claygate Lane. At the corner of Claygate Lane is St Christopher's Church, built in the 1950's - though I've not been able to find any details. It's plain, solidly built of brick, with a fine statue of St Christopher on the outside.

Footpath approaching Telegraph Lane

Claygate Lane is clearly an old country lane. It crosses the A 309 (another bit of the Kingston by-pass) to enter a small, idyllic 1930's estate of large, solid, detached houses. At the other end of the estate Claygate Lane becomes an ancient hollow way. I followed the footpath that now runs parallel to the hollow way. This was my first sight of something looking like real countryside on this walk, and it gave me my first glimpse of Semaphore House, the fifth station.

Semaphore House
Semaphore House, Telegraph Hill

The footpath diverges from Claygate Lane to meet Telegraph Lane, which then climbs Telegraph Hill to reach Semaphore House. The top of the hill is now some sort of open public space, beautify maintained with a couple of benches from which to take in the view.

Semaphore House can be seen without trespassing through a small gate in a hedge separating it from the open space. It looks relatively unscathed, and still has its tower - though without the semaphore signal.

Telegraph Hill is a delightful spot, and I lingered for some time before taking the footpath northwest to return to suburbia on Manor Road South. Hinchley Wood Station was nearer, but I decided it would give me a better start for the next stage if I walked on to Claygate Station. At Claygate I had just under 30 minutes to wait for the train, so I strolled along the Parade to look at the shops. The presence of butchers advertising game, and the dearth of charity shops, suggested a wealthy community.

A surprisingly interesting and diverse walk, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite my initial misgivings.

Heath Bedstraw


18 June 2011: Claygate - Chatley Heath - West Clandon

21.2 km (13.3 miles)

Countryside just outside Claygate

I took the train to Claygate to walk the next section of the Semaphore Line. I'd planned this section of the route a little more carefully than the previous sections, as I was now beyond the limits of London (or at least, the London A-Z) and route options were fewer.

Pylons, Esher Common

In Claygate, I walked down the Parade, and along Albany Crescent and Gordon Road to cross the railway and reach the footpath leading to Arbrook Common (the eastern extension of Esher Common). Once over the railway bridge I was suddenly in real countryside, without the usual scruffy transition zone.

Coal tax post
Coal tax post, Arbrook Common

As is usual, once on the common the OS map was of dubious help, as it is criss-crossed with paths and rides that are not shown on the map. The main navigational feature is the row of large pylons crossing the common, and the strip cleared of trees provided for them.

On Arbrook Common, shortly after coming across the first pylon, I was forced to turn north for a short way, which brought me to a coal tax post (at TQ 142 628). One day I must think about a walk that follows their line. This post is No 108 on Martin Nail's list (see his 'City Posts' website). It was cast in 1864, and carries the inscription 'ACT / 24 & 25 VICT / CAP 42'.

Cobham Mill
Cobham Mill

I followed a route which kept roughly to the centre of the common, passing at a shallow diagonal under the line of pylons to a point called Five Ways on the maps of the common displayed a various points (including Five Ways itself). In the woods along the way I found a fine specimen of a Broad-leaved Helleborine, together with a number of scruffy specimens that had obviously suffered from growing on the edge of the path. It always surprises me how people don't seem to see plants like this - though perhaps I should be grateful, as otherwise someone would be tempted to pick the flowers or dig it up.

Mausoleum to Harvey Combe and family, Cobham

From Five Ways I diverted north-east to walk round Black Pond. The inevitable information board says '300 years ago, this area was a valley mire; a large swamp criss-crossed with a series of streams and ditches. During the 18th Century a dam was built ... and Black Pond was created ... as a water supply to the old Claremont Estate'.

Path, outside Cobham, near the River Mole

I left Esther Common by crossing West Bridge over the (very noisy) A 3 to reach Fairmile Common. Again, the map was of little use and I navigated across the common by keeping the sun over my left shoulder. To my surprise, I arrived exactly where I wanted to be, at the start of Green Lane (in Fairmile), a private road with the status of a bridleway. This led to Fairmile Lane, which I crossed to reach Hogshill Lane. Hogshill Lane is a bridleway that sometimes follows wide suburban estate roads, and is sometimes reduced to a pathway, eventually reaching Cobham.

The M 25
Fun on the M 25

Just before reaching Cobham village centre, I zigzagged south along a series of suburban footpaths, attracted by a National Trust symbol on the map, pointing to Mill Road. Curiously, there appears to be no National Trust property there, but the diversion allowed me to have a look at Cobham Mill, a restored 19th Century watermill.

From the mill I followed more suburban footpaths (of which Cobham has a large number) to the High Street. Cobham is evidently wealthy, with small expensive dress shops and a facial spa. I carried on along Church Street to look at the Church.

Semaphore Tower
Chatley Heath Semaphore Tower

To my surprise the church was open. A series of volunteers keep watch over it, and when I visited a very nice lady was in attendance, who pointed out the main features. The church is prosperous and well cared for, but Pevsner is rather scathing about it. After noting a few medieval survivals he says 'All the rest a farrago of restoration and enlargement ... Stained glass ... violent colours and Pre-Raphaelite drawing'. I can't disagree, but a comfortable church nonetheless.

Ockham VOR beacon
Ockham VOR beacon

The churchyard contains a fine Greek revival mausoleum to Harvey Combe and family, dated 1818. Pevsner describes it as 'Soane's funerary style done with a bit more ostentation'.

From the church I followed the road to cross the River Mole at Downside Bridge (built to replace an 18th Century bridge destroyed by a flood in 1968). A little further on I turned west along a pleasant footpath to Pointers Lane. The path touched the banks of the Mole at one point, where there were trailing streams of Water Crowfoot.

Pointers Lane brought me to a bridleway that crossed the M 25 (the traffic going clockwise reduced to a crawl) and so onto Chatley Heath. Just beyond the M 25 the bridleway passes close to Chatley Heath Semaphore Tower, the sixth along the line.

View south, from above Ockham

The tower has been restored, complete with semaphore arms, but is only open occasionally. It seems to be run by Surrey Wildlife Trust, as part of their Wisley Common, Ockham & Chatley Heath reserve.

Having looked at the tower, I decided to stop and eat my sandwiches at one of the nearby picnic tables. There had been a few brief flurries of rain earlier, but just as I started eating a really heavy shower set in. I went to shelter under one of the nearby chestnut trees, and decided that it looked as if the rain could last, so I put on my waterproofs. By the time I'd finished my lunch (the chestnuts providing effective shelter) the worst of the rain had passed.

The Hautboy Hotel
The Hautboy Hotel (closed)

There is something of a view westwards from the tower, over a cleared part of the heath, but without climbing the tower it was impossible to spot the next station along the line, just outside Guildford.

I continued on the bridleway across the heath, emerging onto Old Lane, to pick up a footpath across Wisley Airfield. The airfield is now disused, but the runway remains, the surrounding ground planted with barley. It was built towards the end of World War II as a test flight airfield for Vickers. It was used for the development of military aircraft such as the Vickers Valiant during the Cold War, finally closing in 1972. There is an interesting account of the battle to restore the rights of way over the airfield on the Wisley Airfield Action Group's web site (the group was formed to protect the airfield from development 'which is inappropriate to the Greenbelt').

The Ockham VOR beacon is still on the site (VOR is short for VHF omnidirectional radio range, a type of radio navigation system for aircraft).

Ockham church
Ockham church

Once across the runway, I turned westwards along the footpath that skirts the edge of the old airfield, around Bridge End Farm. This is clearly not often used, and I was glad I still had my waterproof trousers on, as the vegetation was knee high and still very wet.

Memorial stone
Memorial stone, Ockham church

Shortly before the path met Hyde Lane (a track) I turned south, crossing the lane, to reach Ockham. This is a spread out village. There was a pub marked on the map, but it was long since closed. The pub, the Hautboy Hotel, is a remarkable Victorian polychrome brick building, built in 1864 for the Earl of Lovelace, who owned Ockham. I walked up the road, to Church End, where I diverted up the long driveway to Ockham Park House and the church. The church looked interesting, but was locked. The east window has seven lancets.

Cornflowers and ox-eye daisies
Cornflowers and ox-eye daisies, Ryde Farm

Returning to Church End, I walked down Guileshill Lane, then turned left down Ripley Lane a short way to pick up a bridleway (actually a track) that lead to Brambleride Copse and August Hill. The bridleway passes Ryde Farm, where someone has planted an orchard with a dense mixture of cornflowers and ox-eye daisies, to beautiful effect.

There is a trig point on August Hill (58 m), but it was hidden in the woods and I wasn't sure how accessible it would be, so I didn't go looking for it.

The Onslow Arms
The Onslow Arms

At August Hill I turned west, passing Holride Farm (the buildings looking rather decayed) to reach Tithebarns Lane. I spotted a Fox Way waymark here, and I was to find several of them along the rest of my route (the Fox Way is a 39-mile circular walk around Guildford). At Tithebarns Farm I took the footpath going due south to West Clandon, reaching it on Lime Grove, a private road with the status of a footpath. Crossing the A 247, I took a footpath loop to avoid walking some of the A 247, reaching the road just short of Clandon Station.

As there was a pub marked on the map a little further down the road, I walked on to reach the Onslow Arms, very much a gastro pub for the Gin and Jag set. In my walking gear I definitely did not fit in, but I stopped for a very good pint and a half of Shere Drop, from the Surrey Hills Brewery.

I was half-tempted to go on to Guildford, but decided to walk back to Clandon station for the train home.

A good, interesting walk, with better weather than I could have hoped for, having listened to the forecast.

Fox Way waymark

Broad-leaved Helleborine Climbing Corydalis Common Spotted Orchid


25 June 2011: West Clandon - Pewley Hill - Bannicle Hill - Witley Station

25.0 km (15.6 miles)

Clandon Park
Clandon Park

I took the train to Clandon Station to pick up my walk along the Semaphore Line. I'd planned a route as far as Guildford. From there I intended to follow the Wey-South Path and the towpath of the Godalming Navigation into Godalming. From then on I'd decide my route as I went.

The A 247 isn't an attractive road, so I planned to turn off it just beyond the Onslow Arms, onto a lane leading to Clandon Park.

Merrow Downs
Merrow Downs, occupied by Guildford Golf Course

The lane began by passing through an arch under a house. There were no signs indicating it was a private road, and it didn't look like a private road. However, I'd got half way along it when a Range Rover (or vehicle of that sort) came up and stopped. The driver, a very charming lady, asked if she could help me. I said thank you, but no, I didn't think she could. She then explained that the lane was a private road; they had been troubled by burglaries; and they would be fitting electric gates in the near future. I apologised for inadvertently trespassing, and said I was aiming for the footpath that went past Clandon Park. Deciding I didn't look like a burglar, I was allowed to go on my way.

View from Pewley Down

It would be a shame if this lane is closed off - it's much pleasanter than the A 247 and it has good views. I've sure the public have been using it for years.

Clandon Park was given to the National Trust by the Onslow family in 1956. It was built about 1730 for the 2nd Lord Onslow by Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni. Pevsner describes it as having '... an interior of copybook Palladian symmetry and elegance clothed with four oddly gauche, oddly dissimilar, and oddly un-Palladian brick elevations'. The wider parkland is still in the hands of the Onslow family.

Semaphore station
Semaphore station on Pewley Hill

The footpath passes Clandon Park at a little distance from the house, and I could see what Pevsner meant about the exterior. A little further on the path passes a small circular Ionic temple (Pevsner: 'W. & H. W. Inwood, 1838, unexpectedly late and chaste') and then over a bridge across the end of a lake.

Guildford Castle
Guildford Castle

From here the path continues across the parkland to the gates at Merrow (once an independent village, now a suburb of Guildford). There are a pair of gate houses, and a postman was delivering letters to them. He told me that he had only once known the driveway leading to the gates used, when Lord Onslow's body was brought to the nearby St John's church for his funeral (the Guardian's website carries an interesting obituary of Michael William Coplestone Dillon Onslow, seventh Earl of Onslow, born 28 February 1938; died 14 May 2011).

Railway bridge
Railway bridge over the Wey Navigation

I briefly looked into St John's church. It was rebuilt in the 19th century, and it wasn't very interesting. From the church I turned down Trodd's Lane (uncomfortably narrow, without a pavement) to pick up a path that cut behind houses to reach Fairway (a private road). At the bottom of Fairway, a path continued south to reach Merrow Downs, common land occupied by Guildford Golf Course. A legal notice stipulates that 'Golf shall not until Michaelmas 2038 be played on the land other than by a person authorised to do so by the Guildford Golf Club or the Guildford Ladies Golf Club'. There are some very extensive views from Merrow Downs.

Pill Box
Pill box, on the Wey Navigation

I walked along the edge of the course to the club house, and then cut south west along a bridleway to reach Warren Road. I noted that the local dog walkers ignored the signs asking them to stick to the paths to avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds, and ignored a sign asking then not to exercise their dogs in an informal play area.

From Warren Road I took a footpath across scrubby farm land to reach Pewley Down. Pewley Down is an absolute gem - big views and wonderful flowers. There is a memorial on the Down about the size of a trig point, recording that it was presented to Guildford by the Friary Brewery to commemorate the end of the Great War. The memorial itself is modern.

Lady Selsey
Lady Selsey, Unstead Lock

I found some pyramidal orchids, but the notice board at the exit to the Down said that several other types could be found there as well.

I left the Down to walk down Pewley Hill. The seventh semaphore station is at the junction of Pewley Hill and Semaphore Road. It's now called Semaphore House, and it's still recognisable, though someone as added an ogee-shaped cupola to the tower.

Horse drawing a barge, Catteshall Lock

From the semaphore station, I carried on down Pewley Hill (with great views over Guildford and its cathedral) to reach the remains of Guildford Castle. It is set in delightfully old-fashioned formal municipal gardens, complete with an immaculate display of bedding plants.

I stopped at the castle to eat my sandwiches, and then walked down to the bridge over the Wey. From here I followed the Wey-South Path (which I've walked before) as far as Broadford Bridge at Shalford. Along this section, the Wey-South Path just follows the towpath of the Wey Navigation.

From Broadford Bridge I continued on the towpath along the Godalming Navigation (the Wey and Arun Canal joined the Navigation just south of Broadford Bridge). I'd not walked this before. It goes through very pleasant countryside. At Unstead Lock I watched a couple of steam powered launches go through, with that evocative smell of coal, steam and oil.

View from path near Ladywell Convent

At Catteshall Lock I saw a horse drawn barge (full of tourists) for the first time ever. It was a big horse. The most southerly navigable point on the Godalming Navigation is at Godalming Wharf. The towpath continues to Town Bridge, which I crossed to reach Bridge Street and then Godalming High Street.

Johnsons wickerwork shop, Witley

Godalming is an attractive town, with some old buildings. I stopped at Costa Coffee (all towns now have a Costa Coffee) for a cappuccino and to plan my onward route. I picked a course using suburban footpaths crossing Godalming at a diagonal going roughly south-west, passing the recreation ground and Godalming College. This reached the edge of Godalming on Ashtead Lane. From here I took a footpath to Tuesley, a small village.

The path went past Ladywell Convent. The glimpses I got of this from the path made it look more like a modern housing estate than a convent. A search of the web turned up the 'Ladywell Retreat and Spirituality Centre'. It is 'the Motherhouse of an International Catholic Religious Congregation - The Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood'.

All Saints church
All Saints church, Witley

From Thursley I took a footpath that skirts the site of the derelict Milford Hospital, originally the Surrey County Sanatorium. Galton and Simpson (writers of Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son) met here in 1948, being treated for TB. There are aggressive 'Private Land' notices at regular intervals along the path, erected by the Homes and Communities Agency (who are presumably planning to develop the site). The path eventually reaches Milford Station, passing a large field of polytunnels, which were being worked on by a gang of East Europeans.

At Milford Station I crossed the railway by the level crossing, and then turned down the footpath that parallels the railway. The path from here to Witley Crossways is perhaps one of the most boring in Surrey, being hemmed in by thick vegetation, allowing no views.

View from Church Lane, south of Witley

At Witley I admired Johnsons, a shop selling nothing but wickerwork, and then took a footpath parallel to the A 283 heading south to Witley Church. I called in to look round the church, which has the faint traces of wall paintings on the south side of the nave, dating from the 12th century.

From the church I walked along Church Lane. This soon enters a very deep narrow cutting, but fortunately there is a footpath along the top of the cutting, edged with old beech trees and giving occasional wide views eastwards. At Banacle Common (the spelling on the map), a scrap of woodland, I left Church Lane briefly to follow the path around the edge of the common. Back on Church Lane I soon came to Hill House.

Beech tree
Beech tree, Church Lane

The excellent Exploring Surrey's Past website records 'Bannicle or Bannack Hill Telegraph station. The site was about 30 yards east of the present Hill House, on commanding ground. No trace has apparently survived'. A quick look confirms that Hill House bears no resemblance to a semaphore station, but it's the nearest significant building on the site.

From Hill House I walked down Bannacle Hill Road (the spelling on the road sign), following the Greensand Way, which I've walked previously. The Greensand Way took me to Witley Station (which seems to be in Wormley). The Greensand way has very variable waymarks, and I noticed that Surrey County Council have introduced yet another new design. It's rather weak and fussy.

At Witley Station I found I had a 45 minute wait for a train north, and the local pub had closed. I therefore took a train south to change at Haselmere, simply to occupy the time.

The Hill House
The Hill House, Bannacle Hill

I'd arranged to stop at Godalming to have a beer with George, an old colleague. We met at the Richmond Arms, reasonably handy for the station. It's an excellent little pub, and was serving Harveys. And then I got the train home.

The weather had started rather cloudy, and had threatened rain at lunchtime, but by the evening it had cleared. A good walk for the most part, though I wouldn't recommend the bit between Milford Station and Witley Crossways - but I can't see an obvious alternative.

Greensand Way waymark

Pyramidal Orchid Agrimony Wild Thyme


23 July 2011: Witley Station - Haste Hill - Kings Arms, Midhurst Road, Fernhurst

22.1 km (13.8 miles)

View towards Hindhead Common from south of Bannicle Hill

I took the train back to Witley Station and retraced my steps along the Greensand Way to Bannicle Hill. From the top of the hill, I walked a short way down Church Lane, heading east, to pick a footpath heading due south. The footpath joins a bridleway in an area of woodland, which the OS map calls Hopkiln Reeds to the west and Hopkins Reeds to the east. The bridleway reaches the A 286 at Littlebrook Farm.

Boundary post
Cast-iron boundary post, Tuder's Copse

I walked a little way along the A 286 to turn into Holman's Grove, a Forestry Commission plantation. As usual in plantations, there was little relationship between the paths and rides show on the map and those that actually exist. I was aiming for a crossing under the railway towards the southern end of the plantation, and ended up circling right round the plantation to come to the underpass.

Small White butterfly

The crossing under the railway took me back to the A 286, which I walked along to reach a footpath to South Park Farm, crossing the railway again, this time on an overbridge. The road was not pleasant, with overgrown verges and fast traffic.

At South Park Farm I followed the footpath that runs roughly parallel to the railway. At Tuder's Copse, close to another crossing of the railway, I found an interesting cast-iron boundary post, something like a coal tax post. It had a coat of arms cast into it, obscured by thick layers of paint. I've not managed to find any information about it.

National Trust sign
National Trust sign, Swan Barn Farm

I turned south east to cross the railway by a foot level crossing to reach to edge of Grayswood, attracted by a pub symbol on the map. This was the Wheatsheaf Inn, on the A 286. It was one of those pubs that are geared to the Sunday lunch market, not drinkers. I bought a shandy, but the (very friendly) staff struggled to find change, eventually raiding the tips pot.

From Grayswood I took the lane to Holdfast, then turned west along a footpath that passed through Swan Barn Farm, land owned by the National Trust. About a kilometre along the path I picked up the Serpent Trail, and turned south to reach the B 2131. Here I left the Serpent Trail (though I would meet it again later) to climb Hast Hill by way of an unfenced lane through woodland. At the top of the hill the lane met Scotland Lane.

Haste Hill
Haste Hill and Whitwell Hatch from below

The ninth semaphore station was on the top of Haste Hill. After the semaphore line closed, the Admiralty sold the site and it eventually became the Whitwell Hatch Hotel (although it was used in World War II as a Royal Naval Signals School).

The Exploring Surrey's Past website records 'It is possible that parts of the semaphore bungalow are incorporated into the walls of the hall and dining room'.

Chestnut coppice
Chestnut coppice

However, the hotel is now closed and the building has been recently converted into apartments (still called Whitwell Hatch) by William Lacey Construction. I very much doubt if anything remains of interest. As the building is no longer public, I didn't go to look at it, but continued along Scotland Lane and then turned down the byway heading down hill to Bell Vale Lane. Just before reaching the lane I diverted eastwards along a footpath following the valley bottom, past a small vineyard, to have a look at Haste Hill and Whitwell Hatch from below. This is a very peaceful valley, so I stopped to eat my sandwiches.

View towards Older Hill

Returning to Bell Vale Lane, I again picked up the Serpent Trail (here coincident with the Sussex Border Path) for a short way, but soon turned south to follow a rather intricate set of paths and private roads, to reach Kingsley Green on the A 286. Across the road, I walk southwards under Marley Heights, finally escaping the private roads and large houses that surround Haslemere at Crab Copse, where I turned west along a track through chestnut coppice. From this track I turned south on another track (which became a path) to Greenhill House.

Fernhurst Furnace
Remains of Fernhurst Furnace

Greenhill House, which is large, is being made very large and my planned route was blocked by building work. This wasn't signed for those coming from the north, so it took me some time to work out what was closed and what was open. I took a diversion eastwards, and then returned westwards along Vann Road, passing High Buildings Farm. From the road I took a footpath south-westwards to Furnace Pond, in Furnace Wood.

Furnace pond dam, Fernhurst Furnace

This was the site of Fernhurst Furnace. A notice on the site explains it's one of the best preserved in the Sussex Weald, and operated in the 17th and 18th centuries, using local ore and charcoal. Frankly, there is very little to be seen, other than the furnace pond and its dam, with a few small footings indicating where the furnace stood.

View towards Bexleyhill Common from bus stop on Midhurst Road

As I was leaving the site, a gentleman with a large camera arrived, and asked me where the furnace was. He was an enthusiast, and had come from Hastings to see it, and was clearly disappointed when I pointed out he was looking at it. He was expecting something much larger and better preserved.

From the furnace I took the bridleway heading east to reach the A 286 (again), here called Midhurst Road. The bridleway goes through an area of patchy forest, and is rather pleasant.

At Midhurst Road I turned south to find the bus stop near the Kings Arms (advertised as 'Marco Pierre White - Wheeler's at the Kings Arms'). The Kings Arms didn't look like the place for a pint, and there was a bus due in 15 minutes, so I didn't call in.

The No 70 bus took me to Haslemere Station for the train home. A mixed day's walking, good at each end, but too much on road through the environs of Haslemere. The weather was indifferent, but dry.



30 July 2011: Kings Arms, Midhurst Road, Fernhurst - Older Hill - Elsted

18.7 km (11.7 miles)

Silver-washed Fritillary

I took the train to Haslemere Station and got the No 70 bus back to the bus stop near the Kings Arms on Midhurst Road. From there I retraced my steps on 23 July, along the bridleway from the A 286 towards Fernhurst Furnace. However, at Amon's Copse I took the footpath due west, heading towards Upper and Lower North Park Farms. The path was evidently not much used (I think most walkers continue along the bridleway), and skirted fields of oil seed rape. The rape had started to be harvested, and there was a big combine harvester about to start work at Lower North Park Farm.

View back from below Telegraph Hill

Between Upper and Lower North Park Farms I followed a short section of Whites Lane, and then took the footpath heading south. I thought it looked familiar, and then realised it was part of the New Lipchis Way.

Brackenwood, Telegraph Hill (Older Hill)

The path starts across along the edge of a field, but soon turns into woodland to follow a forest road, at first through deciduous trees and then through pine. At the bottom of Older Hill (locally, Telegraph Hill), I turned west along another forest road, that in about half a kilometre, joins an unnamed lane over Woolbeding Common. I didn't go quite as far as the lane, but turned south along a short steep footpath to climb to the top of Telegraph Hill.

Roman road
Course of Roman road, south of Iping Lane

The top of Telegraph Hill is occupied by a number of houses reached by a private drive. I've been here before on various walks, including a walk that was part of a series to climb all the Marilyns and HuMPs in my walking territory (Telegraph Hill is a HuMP). I was frustrated then by the fact that the high point was in the garden of one of the houses, Brackenwood, and therefore not accessible. I'm fairly sure that Brackenwood is also the site of the 10th semaphore station in the line. It's difficult to see from the path, but it looks very much as if it incorporates the original semaphore station, though here without the characteristic tower, being just a bungalow.

St Mary's Church, Chithurst

From the driveway into Brackenwood I took the footpath westwards, down onto the lane over Woolbeding Common. There are wonderful, extensive views westwards here. Resisting the urge to go and touch the nearby trig point yet again, I walked along the lane for about a kilometre, and then turned off along a short path to reach Linch Road, passing the grounds of Linch Old Rectory. Crossing the road, I continued south west to Woolhouse Farm, a nice building in a lovely setting. There was a small herd of British White cattle in a nearby field, a very attractive breed, white with a distinctive black nose (officially, it has 'dark points').

Hassock in St Mary's Church, Chithurst

From Woolhouse Farm I followed a bridleway that ran along the side of the valley of a tributary of the Rother, heading to Ash House. Just north of Ash house I turned west, climbing over Cooper's Heath to reach Iping Lane. Where Iping Lane turns sharply north, I turned south along a footpath that follows the course of a Roman road, though I could see no obvious sign of the original agger (in railway terms, the formation). This path starts through a wood, which a notice announces is a 'quiet zone', the woods being owned by Chithurst Buddhist Monastery.

Common earthball
Common earthball on Trotton Common

I crossed Hammer Lane, and continued along a footpath into Iping village. I stopped in the churchyard to eat my sandwiches, helped by a collie from the next door field, where preparations were being made for an event involving ponies.

From Iping I followed the footpath to Chithurst. On the edge of the village there is a corrugated iron barn, still standing on traditional stone stools, to keep the rats out. The blackberries here were large, ripe and sweet. Pevsner notes of the 11th century church that 'poverty or remoteness have kept the original dimensions without any kind of additions'. It's very plain and very charming.

View south from Trotton Common

I turned south along Chithurst Lane, crossed the A 272 and walked south over Trotton Common, a remaining piece of greensand heathland. If you haven't walked it, I can recommend the Serpent Trail, which crosses Trotton Common. The Serpent Trail is a long distance path that links up most sections of remaining heathland in West Sussex to create one of the best walks in the South East.

I left the common to follow a footpath across fields, passing Bridgelands Farm and Goldrings Farm to reach Dumpford Manor Farm on Trotton Road. The field were planted with maize and oil seed rape, uneven underfoot.

View back, from near Dumpford Manor Farm

I walked down Trotton Road as far as Hayters Plantation, and then took the footpath south-westwards. The path crosses the old Midhurst to Petersfield railway. As I approached the old formation I saw two walkers in bright orange jackets with a dog, resting on some logs. When I reached them, I realised they were a search and rescue team. They were looking for a 71 year old lady called Hillary who had been missing from South Harting since Thursday. I promised to keep an eye out for her.

View back, from near Elsted

The footpath emerges on Elsted Road, which I crossed to follow a bridleway through a wood to reach a lane heading south. I followed the lane as far a house called Grevatts, then turned west on a footpath through wheat fields that lead me into Elsted, with good views south to the Downs. The path met the road through the village at the Three Horseshoes pub, which looked inviting. However, there was a No 91 bus to Midhurst due in 15 minutes, so I decided to defer a pint.

In Midhurst I called into the Swan Inn for a pint of Harveys, and then went back to the bus station to get the No 70 bus to Haslemere for the train home. An excellent day's walking in good weather.

Himalayan Balsam


01 September 2011: Elsted - Beacon Hill - Compton Down - Rowlands Castle

18.4 km (11.5 miles)

St May's church
St May's church, Tryford

I'd taken a day off work, and took the train to Petersfield, then the No 91 bus to Elsted. I walked to Tryford, stopping to look at the remains of St May's church, closed in 1849. From there I climbed to the top of the downs by a footpath through Manor Farm.

South Harting
South Harting from Beacon Hill

I then followed the South Downs Way to Beacon Hill, the site of a hill fort (and a trig point). From there it was a short walk to Telegraph House, the eleventh semaphore station. It's now a private house, made more private by a high hedge. However, something can be seen of it from the bridleway that runs in front of it. The tower remains.

Telegraph House
Telegraph House

From the semaphore station I headed back to the South Downs Way and followed it a short way westwards before turning south on the bridleway over Little Round Down and North Marden Down.

Uppark, from Telegraph Hill

Crossing the B 2141 I took the bridleway up to Telegraph Hill, but detoured along a footpath loop through Handle Down to add interest. The tower of the eleventh semaphore station was clearly visible when looking back from the top of Telegraph Hill.

The twelfth semaphore station is on top of Telegraph Hill, above Compton (presumably it was once called Compton Down). The semaphore station is a bungalow without tower, now a private house.

Telegraph House, from Telegraph Hill
View towards Telegraph House, from Telegraph Hill

From the top of Telegraph Hill I dropped down the hill to visit Compton, a pretty little village. I ate my sandwiches in the church yard, and had a pint in the Coach and Horses.

I then continued by following a bridleway diagonally up the flank of Telegraph Hill, and then dropping down to West Marden. The Victoria Inn had an inviting garden, and I was just in time to buy another pint before they closed for the afternoon.

Semaphore station on Telegraph Hill
Semaphore station on Telegraph Hill

To minimise road walking, I took a bridleway loop out of the village passing West Marden Hall, walked a little way along the road to Rowlands Castle, and then took a byway and footpaths to reach Forestside Farm. From here it was a lovely walk through the fields bordering Stansted Forest to reach Rowlands Castle, for a train home.

A superb day's walking, with fine views, in perfect weather.

Path bordering Stansted Forest
Looking back along path bordering Stansted Forest



17 September 2011: Rowlands Castle - Camp Down - Lumps Fort - Portsmouth Dockyard

26.7 km (16.7 miles)

The King's Stone
The King's Stone

I took the train to Rowlands Castle to continue the Semaphore Line. I hadn't decided whether to walk the final section in one or two days, but as the weather was fine, I ended up completing the walk today.

Horses, Staunton Country Park

From Rowlands Castle station I walked around the green, then turned south along a bridleway for a short distance, then east along a suburban street to return to the main road, which I followed to the crossroads with the B 2148 and B 2149. I diverted up the B 2149 a little way to see the King's Stone, which marks the place where King George VI stood on 22 May 1944 to review the troops embarking for the liberation of Europe.

View over Portsmouth from Camp Down

I then took the long straight bridleway heading due west across Staunton Country Park. Just south of Dunsbury Hill Farm I turned south along Park Lane. I then did my best to skirt around the north west edge of Havant, keeping to footpaths where possible. I crossed the A 3(M) at Junction 4, and turned south along the road skirting the eastern edge of Purbrook. Where the road enters a deep cutting through the Downs, I took the footpath that runs along the top of the cutting and then turned east along the top of Camp Down. There are fine views over Portsmouth from here.

Waste transfer facility
Waste transfer facility, Farlington Redoubt

There are a series of forts along the top of the Downs above Portsmouth, protecting the harbour. I'm not sure exactly where the thirteenth semaphore station was located. Most sources say it was Farlington Redoubt, but I've seen it argued that it was a little further east. However, nothing remains and the site of Farlington Redoubt is now a deep pit, occupied by waste transfer facility operated by L&S Waste Management Ltd. The map shows the right of way ending abruptly above the pit, but in practice you can walk down to the B 2177 following a route made by the local dog walkers.

'Yomper', Eastney Fort

The Wayfarers Walk runs along the road here, and I followed it for a short way westward, before turning south to work my way through Farlington (passing the Farlington Works of the Portsmouth Water Company). I've a photograph of the inn sign for the Sunshine pub - I can't remember if I stopped for a pint there, but it's likely.

Hitting the A 2030, I followed it south, crossing under the A 27 to reach the Solent Way.

I'd already followed the Solent Way in to Portsmouth, so I won't describe it again here. The trig point overlooking Langstone Harbour was even more overgrown than when I'd last visited it.

Lumps Fort
Lumps Fort (Southsea Rose Garden)

I'd remembered a fort at Eastney, with a statue of 'Yomper' outside it (an outsized figure of a Royal Marine, commemorating the Falklands War) and had mistakenly thought it was Lumps Fort, the fourteenth semaphore station. It wasn't. Lumps Fort was further west, and is now barely recognisable from the road, as it's occupied by Southsea Rose Garden, and a model village perches on the ramparts.

Lumps Fort
Lumps Fort (model village)

From Lumps Fort I continued along the Solent Way, following the sea, into Old Portsmouth. I detoured round the Point, then walked to Portsmouth Dockyard, which was beginning to close. I looked round, and took my final photographs of the Semaphore Tower, which is topped by a signal tower. I'm sure it's not the original, final semaphore station [1], but it makes a suitable end to the Semaphore Line.

A long walk in fine weather. Today's walk was never going to be an entirely scenic walk, but it had its own interest, albeit with more road walking than I like.

Semaphore Tower
Semaphore Tower, Portsmouth Dockyard



[1] I've spent some time trying to find reliable information on the web about the exact location of the final semaphore station in Portsmouth. Much of the information is contradictory or derivative. However, using the best sources I can find, the facts appear to be as follows:

The first location of the semaphore station seems to have been the Square Tower in Old Portsmouth (Broad Street). PastScape describes the Square Tower as a 'Stone and brick tower standing 9m tall. Built in 1494 as a gun platform and house, it was used as a powder magazine from the late 16th century to the early 18th century. Rebuilt in the 19th century and used as an admiralty semaphore telegraph station between 1822 and 1833'.

Elsewhere the site says 'Between 1822 and 1833, the Square Tower was the site of the Admiralty Semaphore Telegraph in Portsmouth before it was transfered to the Sail Loft and Rigging House'. It cites as a reference 'The Old Telegraph London Philmore & Co 1976 (G Wilson) Page(s)58-59'.

(The information on PastScape is derived from the National Monuments Record database which holds records on the architectural and archaeological heritage of England. The National Monuments Record is the public archive of English Heritage.)

The Sea Your History website then fills in the next bit of the story:

'On Sunday 20 December 1913 a fire broke out in the Sail Loft, which spread to engulf the building, which included Semaphore Tower. Semaphore Tower was used as a communication post, it was part of a network of Semaphore Towers that spread from the South to Whitehall. It took until 1928 to start rebuilding the nearby building which was to house the Rangefinder Test house, the Rigging House and Semaphore Tower itself. The Dockyard moved the Sail Loft to another building in the Dockyard and opened the new Semaphore Tower building on 4 July 1930.'

Interestingly, the Square Tower website says that:

'In 1823 the admiralty added a semaphore station on top of the tower to carry messages from the shore to ships in harbour and at sea. The first of a chain linking Portsmouth with the admiralty in London. The semaphore became redundant with the introduction of the electric telegraph system and the semaphore tower was demolished in 1848.'

I think this is likely to be erroneous.

Square Tower
Square Tower, Portsmouth