Cycling from Guildford

Cycling routes throughout the South East, accessible from Guildford in a day


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Route J: Southampton to Portsmouth

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Summary Another chunk of the South Coast is covered in this ride cycling from Southampton to Portsmouth, which mainly follows NCN 2. A watery ride this one, crossing the Itchen on a bridge, and using ferries across the Hamble to Warsash and across Portsmouth Harbour at Gosport. Quite built up, but enough cycling beside Southampton Water and the Solent to make it worthwhile.

Distance/time: Approx 21 miles between Southampton and Portsmouth Harbour Stations, about 3 hours cycling, excluding any cycling to/from your parked car.
Start: Southampton Station
Finish: Portsmouth Harbour Station
Transport: Using trains: get the train from Guildford to Woking, then change for the train to Southampton Central. Return direct from Portsmouth Harbour Station to Guildford.

By car and train: drive to a suitable parking site. To avoid parking charges, I drove to the free car park on Portsdown Hill above Cosham, just East of the Old A3, then rode down to nearby Cosham Station for the train direct to Southampton. From Portsmouth Harbour I followed the rather poorly signed NCN22 back to the car. You could also use the (expensive) pay parking at Gunwharf Quay beside Portsmouth Harbour Station and take the train to Southampton Central.

The ferry services are pretty good – see links embedded in the Route Description.
Conditions under the tyre: Roadside cycle tracks in Southampton, plus some fairly busy roads up to and over the Itchen Bridge. Some off road tracks beyond Warsash, then some busy sea front roads, leavened by some cycle track and proximity to the sea. Good Railway path in Gosport. Some busy roads interleaved with off road tracks if you cycle out of Portsmouth back to your car.

There are no major hills on the route itself, although if you take the option to park on Portsdown Hill, you will have to cycle back up at the end of the ride.
Reverse route: It should be straightforward (and desirable with an Easterly wind) to reverse this route.

Route variations: This ride is quite short: you could tack a bit on by cycling on from Portsmouth Harbour to Havant Station (for trains direct back to Guildford), following the last bit of my Guildford to Portsmouth ride ie along Southsea Sea Front, over the Hayling Island Ferry (that would make it three), and up the Eastern side of Langstone Harbour on the Hayling Billy Trail.

Route description:

These route directions should be used in conjunction with the Google map at the head of this web page (it can be opened in a new window).

From Southampton Central Station, exit on the south side, cross the A3024 at a Pelican Crossing and work your way through rather a maze of car parks and superstores, then on a cycle path beside Harbour Parade, then via West Quay and Town Quay past the Town Quay pier. Follow the main road (the A33) around the Queen’s Park one way, then out along the B3039 (Canute Road) which takes you past Ocean Village and on to the A3025 over the river on the Itchen Bridge. After crossing the river head right into Woolston, picking up Victoria Road from which, next to Southampton Sailing Club, you can access the Solent Way. As you cycle along, there are good views across Southampton Water to the Fawley refinery and the New Forest beyond. There is a short stretch on a path, then a road (Weston Parade) by the water, before the road moves inland again, passing Weston Sailing Club on the right and the ruins of Netley Abbey on the left.

Carry on and enter Royal Victoria Country Park, traffic free and by the water again, then turn sharp left to pass the old Hospital Chapel, then right, passing the miniature railway to leave the park on a track heading more or less due west first through woods then between playing fields. Join the B3397 to Hamble-le-Rice and in the village continue down to the Quay and the ferry landing stage. Take the ferry over to the Warsash landing stage. (The ferry is pink, and operates on demand, Summer 9am - 6pm, Winter 9am - 4pm.)

Head south along the shore-side track, though a car park and leave Warsash on the Warsash Road. Shortly after crossing a roundabout take Dible Road (marked as a no through road) to the right. At the end of Dible Road bear right onto Fleet End Road, then right (south) on Hook Lane which is a traffic free lane down to Chilling Barn. Here, turn left (West) on a track which is signed as the NCN2. Follow this good track till it emerges back on tarmac at Beach Road, where turn right (south) to the sea shore at Tichfield Haven Nature Reserve. Follow this road parallel to the sea shore. It joins the B3333 at Lee-on-Solent, and then bears inland slightly to pass round the Military Danger Area. Watch out for, and take, Browndown Road on the right down to Stokes Bay. Where the Stokes Bay Road again veers inland, a nice new red tarmac path continues along the sea front past Stokes Bay Sailing club to the IRB station. Here head inland on the Military Road. At the roundabout with the main road, cross over into Anglesey Road, then make a right into Crescent Road.

Beyond an attractive regency-style crescent of white painted houses, take the old railway path on the left. Follow this North crossing Stoke Lake on a causeway, and at the B3333, turn right and follow down to the Gosport Ferry . Take the ferry over Portsmouth Harbour to disembark next to Portsmouth harbour station. (The ferry is a much used commuter service, so availability should not be an issue.)
Refreshments:

There are tea rooms in the Royal Victoria Country Park, at the Tichfield Haven Nature Reserve Visitor Centre, and various eateries and pubs in Hamble and Warsash and along the Portsmouth Harbour front at Gunwharf Quays.
Points of Interest On the waterfront at Southampton is the Mayflower Park, a good spot from which to view the docks to the north west along the River Test, and to see liners and other ships coming and going. The name commemorates the sailing of the Mayflower ‘fleet’ from Southampton in 1620 (It was not their last sight of England however: the ships had to put into Dartmouth for repairs.) Just where you join the sea front, in the old Wool House, is the Southampton Maritime Museum which recalls the history of the Docks. Ocean Village is a modern marina development, with several shops and waterfront eateries.

The extensive ruins of Netley Abbey are in the care of English Heritage and are open free to the public. Founded in 1238, it is the most complete surviving Cistercian monastery in southern England. At the dissolution in 1536 the estate was granted by Henry VIII to Sir William Paulet, who converted the buildings into a grand Tudor mansion, which was abandoned in the eighteenth century.

The Royal Victoria Country Park occupies the site of the eponymous military hospital, built following the Crimean War. It opened in 1863, and was a vast place. It continued to treat wounded and sick soldiers through the two world wars, following which its use declined. The buildings were badly damaged by fire in 1963 and most were then demolished. The remaining buildings continued as an asylum until final closure and demolition in 1978. The tracks of the railway which served the site can still be seen in places, and in the woods there is a large cemetery, with many commonwealth war graves. The only remaining building is the huge chapel. A miniature railway operates in the park.

Hamble-le-Rice is the centre for the Port Hamble Marina, a mecca for ‘yachties’. Warsash on the other bank of the Hamble is the home of Warsash Maritime Academy a faculty of the University of Southampton.

Tichfield Haven Nature Reserve includes areas of reedbed and marsh at the mouth of the Meon Valley, and is a good spot for birding. Some of the lakes can be viewed from the road, and there is a good café and toilets at the visitor centre.

The shingle beach from Lee-on-Solent past Stokes Bay to the Portsmouth Harbour Mouth is claimed to be the longest continuous shingle beach in England.

The Crescent in Gosport (more correctly, Alverstoke) is an attractive white-painted Regency terrace completed in 1830 to provide fashionable seaside villas, and a hotel, The Anglesey. The disused railway track into Gosport was a branchline which opened in 1863 from Gosport to Stokes Bay from which a ferry service ran to Ryde. The track crosses Stoke “Lake” which is actually a tidal inlet. There is a pleasant view to St Mary’s Church, Alverstoke, across the tidal pool, which is used as a sailing lake. A short way East on Clayhall Road along the south side of Stoke Lake you will find the Haslar Naval Cemetery, which is the last resting place of many sailors of the Royal Navy.

Finding your way

The route follows National Cycle Route 2 although the signing is rather patchy. The stretch through Royal Victoria Country Park has yet to be finalised, and it’s easy to take the wrong path when exiting the park. OS maps are strongly recommended: the OS Explorer Outdoor Leisure map of the New Forest, OL22, covers the first part from Southampton, and Explorer 119 does the rest.