Discover Lymington: three historic walks around Lymington
Take in the rich history of Lymington in three easy walks around town, saltmarshes and nature reserve
These walks give an introduction to historic Lymington so that both tourists and residents can appreciate the history and development of the town. You can pick up a paper copy of these walks at various points around town, showing this fantastic illustrated map by Alan Rowe.
All three walks start and finish at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in New Street, where there is a lovely café - the perfect pitstop after your tour!
As you can see on the map (there's a larger version at the end of this article) the three walks are interlinked - we've attempted to make this clear below, whilst avoiding too much duplication. If in doubt, look at the fabulous map!
Walk 1 (red route) takes in the High Street, Quay and central Lymington
- Approx distance: 1.25 miles (2km) - approx 1 hour
- Walk: easy town paths
Walk 2 (blue route) continues with the Marinas and Sea Water Baths
- Approx Distance: 4.4 miles (7 km) - approx 2 hours
- Walk: Easy town paths, gravel track and country lanes
Walk 3 (green route) continues with part of the Solent Way and Normady Marsh nature reserve
- Approx Distance: 4.4 miles (7 km) - approx 2 hours
- Walk: Easy town paths, gravel track and country lanes
There is a larger version of the map at the end of the article - so that you can see easily where the three walks follow the same route or branch off.
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Start for all three walks: red, blue and green routes
St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery is situated within a former Victorian schoolhouse. The museum explores the unique history of Lymington and the New Forest Coast. The art galleries host regularly changing exhibitions and often include works on loan from national and regional collections. St Barbe was refurbished in 2017 and now includes a delightful café.
All three walks start at St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery.
Walk towards the High Street. The Literary Institute on your left (dated 1846) was formed to promote the cultural and educational improvement of the townspeople.
Turn left into the High Street. From the Angel Inn, an 18th-century coaching inn and one of the oldest in Lymington (now the Angel and Blue Pig), and the Nags’s Head opposite (now Fat Face and Boots Opticians) coaches left for Southampton and London almost daily. Many of the town’s proclamations were announced from the first-floor balcony of the Angel Inn and the adjacent Assembly Rooms formed the centre of much of the social life of Lymington.
Often described as ‘Georgian Lymington’, the High Street of the town actually demonstrates a variety of architecture: Georgian, Victorian, Art Deco together with evidence of medieval origins and some modern 20th century infill.
Lymington was granted its first Charter between 1193 and 1217 by William de Redvers giving it Borough status. Various rights were granted including the right to hold a market (which still runs weekly on Saturdays).
Numerous ‘courts’ running off the street can be seen to the left of the High Street, which once formed additional space for traders behind or between the street’s ‘burgage plots’. The plots can be identified because they are in multiples of perches – the basic medieval unit of measurement of 5 1⁄2 yards (5.03 m) wide. Until it was demolished in 1858, there was a Town Hall standing in the middle of the High Street, near the Angel Inn. Today's Town Hall, home of Lymington & Pennington Town Council, can be found in Avenue Road.
The largest 'court' today is Angel Courtyard, behind the Angel and Blue Pig, well worth a visit to the shops including the excellent A&J Seal Butcher, Roots & Fruits Greengrocer, Florist and Juice Bar, plus a little further on to Café Gelati.
Descending the High Street, notice the views of the Monument in the distance over the river in Walhampton. This granite obelisk commemorates the life of Sir Harry Burrard Neale, MP for Lymington between 1790 and 1835.
The Catholic church, through an entrance on the left, was designed in the late 1850s by Joseph Hansom (architect and designer of the ‘Hansom cab’). The gold-painted post box on the right is in recognition of sailor Sir Ben Ainslie, Lymington resident and the first person to win medals in five different Olympic Games in sailing.
Quay Hill and the old Town Quay
Cross the road at the bottom of the hill into Quay Hill
As Quay Hill turns into Quay Street, the former pub The Old Alarm was named after the yacht built for Joseph Weld in 1821, at a time when yacht building was taking over from salt as a major industry in Lymington.
Lymington was once a busy port and during the reign of Edward I (1239-1307) was a considerable place of entry for French wines and other commodities.
The Quay used to be a bustling area, with sailing ships importing coal and timber and carrying away the salt produced locally. This would once have been a rough and disreputable area - many parents in Lymington forbade their young children from venturing anywhere near the Quay due to the uncivil behaviour of some of the residents living there, aggravated by the large number of ale houses packed into a confined area. Despite such infamy, these families around the Quay always rallied in support if their neighbours fell on ill times.
Present buildings on the quay include The Ship Inn (dating from 1850) and The House on the Quay (once a bakery and shipping suppliers) built in 1675.
Smuggling became an important part of economic life in Lymington towards the end of the 17th century and it received widespread support from the local community. Items smuggled included wine, brandy, silks, coffee, tea and other dutiable items. Stories abound of cellars and tunnels in the High Street. Goods were landed in creeks around Lymington and then taken inland as far and fast as possible by teams of packhorses and cart. Some smuggled goods reached Lymington residents and were concealed within their houses.
In 1900, a rowing boat (the ‘penny ferry’) would cross from the Quay to the old ferry house on the Walhampton side opposite. Most clients, however, paid 1⁄2 d, which only took them to the jetty behind the railway bridge.
A longer journey from town to Walhampton and the Isle of Wight Ferry would be across the river along Bridge Road (or toll house causeway) and the Undershore to the Wightlink Ferry terminal.
WALK 1 (red route) continued
Branch here for WALK 2 and WALK 3 (see details below) or carry on with WALK 1
Walk past the car park and toilets, turn right into Nelson Place and walk up into Grove Road. The large and leafy open public space on the right is Grove Gardens. Follow Grove Road round to turn right into Church Lane.
Lymington’s wavy walls
Church Lane’s walls are both historic and of interesting construction.
The wavy (or ‘crinkle-crankle’) walls are built with only a single brick width - extra strength being given by the wavy shape.
The first wavy wall on the right was built by the author Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977) who lived at adjacent Grove Place. The wall survived after the house was demolished in 1969.
The wavy wall at Elm Grove House is thought to have been constructed in the early 19th century, possibly by Hanoverian soldiers when they were in exile in Lymington from the Napoleonic Wars.
On the right, the foundations of the walls clearly reveal a variety of materials. They are of considerable antiquity and marked the western boundary of the ancient 13th century Borough at the granting of the town’s charter about 1200.
Monmouth House and St Thomas
At the end of Church Lane is Monmouth House, probably the oldest complete domestic house in the town, dating from the late 1600s.
The parish church of St Thomas has a commanding position at the top of the High Street. Parts of the building date back to 1250.
Returning along the High Street, behind the railing at number 48, we come to Bellevue House, built in 1765 and for many years the home of Charles St Barbe - banker, saltern owner and five times mayor of the Borough. Today this is Moore Blatch Solicitors.
Ashley Lane, a passageway off the High Street has medieval origins dating at least to 1335 since when it has been called ‘Alremanne Lane’ or ‘Aishleys Lane’. Admiral Arthur Phillip RN lived in Ashley Lane 1798 – 1803. Philip, the first Governor of New South Wales, had sailed with the First Fleet to the proposed British penal colony that became Sydney.
Along Ashley Lane find Lanes Restaurant, formally a church and a school!
Back in New Street (just past St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery), on the corner with Cannon Street, is the Malt House. Having once housed French military emigrants in the 1790s, the Malt House now forms part of the thriving Lymington Community Centre - since 1946, the home of many cultural and educational clubs and associations as well as the area’s only cinema.
This is the end of the walk - time for a pitstop at the St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery café!
WALK 2 (blue route) continued
Continue from the Quay along Bath Road following signs to the Sea Water Baths.
On the left is the Berthon Lymington Marina and boatyard. There was a boatyard at Berthon in the 16th century. Thomas Inman took over the boatyard in 1819 and built the trophy-winning Alarm in 1830 for the Weld family. In August 1851, the Alarm raced against the schooner America in the forerunner of the America’s Cup.
Lymington has been building boats since medieval times. It has been said that Lymington supplied more ships than Southampton at the time of the Armada - and during the reign of Edward III (1312-1377) furnished nine ships and 159 men for the defence of the realm - almost double that of Portsmouth!
Recently BHG Marine moved to Bath Road, find out more about this family business which last year celebrated their 70th birthday. Earlier this year BHG became part of Lymington Marina, a subsidiary of Berthon.
Press Gang Cottage at number 10 (accessed via steps) was once The Old Harlequin Inn reputed as being the headquarters of the Press Gang in the early 1800s (groups of men under the command of an officer, employed to press men for service in the Army or here, the Royal Navy).
There has been a car ferry crossing to Yarmouth IOW since the early days of motoring in the 1900s. Replacing specially constructed rowboats in the 1830s, steamboats and barges ferried passengers and animals until double-ended car ferries were introduced in 1936.
The Bath Road riverfront was once a place to listen to band concerts on the Victorian bandstand. The structure mysteriously disappeared during World War II to be replaced in 2000 by a new bandstand for the Millennium celebrations.
Next to the Royal Lymington Yacht Club is a large ornate cast-iron gas standard. Gaslighting came to Lymington in 1832. Two influential townsmen raised £3,000 to start the project and two local doctors proposed the formation of the Lymington Gas and Coke Company which would manufacture and supply the gas. Iron columns for the gas lights were presented to the town by Sir Harry Burrard Neale, while his brother George Burrard supplied the lamps. This commemorative column stood outside the Town Hall in the High Street from 1832 to 1858.
Facing the slipway is the RNLI Lifeboat station, home of the inshore Lymington lifeboat.
The Lymington Town Sailing Club occupies the former 1833 Bath House and just along the sea wall are the Lymington Sea Water Baths, the oldest open air natural swimming pool in the UK. The open air baths are now open daily in summer. Find out more about the Sea Water Baths here.
At the corner was once the boat shed of the legendary Lymington character Dan Bran (1869-1950). Dan was a boat builder and designer of the ‘Lymington Pram’ and also the Lymington Scow, still much loved and raced today. Unable to read or write, he worked ‘by eye.’
Walk along the gravelled path beside the marina berths to Lymington Yacht Haven.
Time for a pitstop at The Haven Bar & Restaurant, upstairs at the main Yacht Haven building. Open all day for breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, sundowners and dinner, The Haven is perfectly situated for picturesque views across the marina to the Solent shore and mouth of the Lymington River.
Branch here for WALK 3 (see details below) or carry on with WALK 2
Bearing right beyond the main Yacht Haven building, turn out of the marina entrance and take Kings Saltern Road (to the left) then straight ahead to Brook Lane and branch left as the road becomes Waterford Lane. Waterford Lane comprises a wide range of residential property.
When Waterford Lane becomes Church Lane re-join Walk 1 (Red route) at Lymington's Wavy Walls (above) to get back to the High Street.
WALK 3 (green route) continued
Continue from Yacht Haven building to the Solent Way
From the Yacht Haven building, follow the road and either cross the carpark and boat park to join the Solent Way (taking the signposted roped path left marked ‘Public Footpath Solent Way’) OR follow the marina to the left, through the berthholders carpark to a gated entrance to the Solent Way. (see red arrows on map)
The Isle of Wight and the western Solent form an impressive backdrop ahead whilst inland, inside the seawall to the right, are the mudflats, ponds and ditches of Normandy Lagoon forming part of the Lymington–Keyhaven Nature Reserve.
There are good views of the marshes and birdlife from the coastal path that follows the seawall. The area forming the lagoons was old salt workings. This is now the Normandy Marsh nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Lymington's Salt Industry
For more than 700 years Lymington was a principal manufacturer of salt. Until the end of the 18th century, there was a continuous line of salt works along the coastline from Lymington to Hurst Spit, the biggest area of sea salt production in the country. It brought great wealth to the town.
The salt workings (variously called salt pans or salterns) included evaporating ponds, boiling houses, wind pumps and docks for transporting coal and salt. By 1660 as much coal for the salterns was handled at Lymington as in London, with ships of up to 1,300 tons berthing at the Quay to load and unload.
The salt trade died in the early 1800s. There was a great local outcry in 1808 when the Government duty had reached 15 shillings a bushel, whereas the actual value of the salt was just 1 shilling. The trade had ceased by 1845, when cheaper salt from the Cheshire mines could be readily transported by rail.
Lymington's Nature Reserve
Walk along the sea wall path. From here you can see views of the Isle of Wight, Hurst Castle, the Needles and (looking inland) the cupola of St. Thomas Church.
Ignore the first gate on the right but continue to the sailing lake at Eight Acre Pond. During the late 1950s, Major Tony Hibbert MBE MC (1917-2014) had this 8 acre salt pan on his land dredged out to a depth of 3 feet to provide a safe place to learn to sail. He established Salterns Sailing Club in 1960 as a sailing club for children, run by children. Children learn to sail and race here, and get practical experience running a club in a safe environment. Over the years thousands of young people have learnt to sail at Salterns, developing a respect and love for the sea which has stayed with them all their lives. Many applied their experience in running the club to good effect, in running of other clubs and in their chosen careers. The Salterns has been a starting point and inspiration for many national and international champions in a myriad of classes. Find out more about Salterns Sailing Club here.
Turn right to walk either side of the small inlet. Join the road, bear right and then turn left into Maiden Lane. At the end of Maiden Lane turn right into Woodside Lane.
Woodside Lane has some pleasant properties, including the Manor House dating from the early 17th century. Turn left at the junction with All Saints Road, noticing The Old Sunday School - a charming detached cottage built in 1877 by Francis Crozier for the children of Woodside. The Millennium Gardens and the Woodside Gardens are on the left before walking along Belmore Lane.
Turn right into St Thomas Street to re-join Walk 1 at Monmouth House and St Thomas (above).
A paper copy of this map with walks is available at St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery and at various dispenser points around town. Map by Alan Rowe.
Photos in this article: thanks to Steve Elson and Ollie Baddeley