As we walked along the promenade at Southsea we saw three of the four Solent Forts (the fourth, St Helens Fort, lies about 2½ miles further south, so was out of our viewing range today). These forts were constructed during 1865-1880 as part of the Royal Commission Forts which were built to defend against the threat of a French invasion which, at the start of the building programme, was much feared. By the time the forts were completed the threat had long since passed. They never saw action and thus became three of the so-called “Palmerston Follies” which were named after Lord Palmerston, who in 1859 who had instigated the Royal Commission.
The easternmost of the three, Horse Sand Fort, lay silhouetted against the waves and the hazy sky.
In 2012 the BBC reported that the derelict fort was to be turned into a museum and living time capsule, showing how it would have looked in its day. I would quite like to visit when it opens.
No Man’s Land Fort lay further away towards the Isle of Wight, too distant to be seen properly.
In 1972 this fort was used to film some scenes for Doctor Who, and was then converted to a luxury hospitality centre with swimming pool, gym, sauna and two helipads. In 2004 the fort was bought by millionaire property developer Harmesh Pooni, but almost at once Legionnaire’s Disease was found, resulting in the business being shut down. Mr Pooni’s backers went bust and KPMG were brought in as administrators. KPMG claimed the ownership of the fort had passed to them. Mr Pooni disagreed; after 130 years of waiting patiently No Man’s Land Fort finally served its purpose as a defensive structure, for Mr Pooni shut the doors, barricaded himself in and refused to come out again. He did eventually emerge when he was evicted the next year. Although it cost £462,500 to build (that’s over £43 million in today’s prices), and although Mr Pooni acquired it for £6 million, it was sold for £910,000 when he was finally evicted and most recently re-sold for £150,000 in March 2012.
Spitbank Fort is the westernmost of the forts.
Sold by the Ministry of Defence in 1982, it was first a museum and then a hospitality venue, which it remains today, with 9 bedrooms, an open-air hot pool, wine cellar and games rooms. To hire the fort for one night costs £5,000. Alternatively, you can book a room for the night from £495. I am not sure whether that includes transport to and from the venue or whether you have to arrange that yourself.
Transport was the least of our worries. My wife pulled buttons and IOU’s out of my wallet to see if we could afford a night’s lodging, but it was clear we were going to have to walk on and leave this luxury venue behind.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Horse Sand Fort: N 50°44.980 W 001°04.340
- No Man’s Land Fort: N 50°44.380 W 001°05.700
- Spitbank Fort: N 50°46.225 W 001°05.943
Walk #65 Statistics (of which this post forms the fourth part):
- Date of Walk: 2 February 2014
- Walk #65 total distance covered (not including ferry ride): 8.53 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 538.76 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!
Great story about Mr. Pooni!
I wonder what he did all that time! One newspaper article I read said he made regular trips to the mainland for supplies – SURELY that’s cheating! Fishing rods and well water with a twist of Legionnaire’s is surely the proper way!
Even Lord Palmerston wasn’t quite so foolish as to defend against an enemy who’d been dead over 40 years – the Napoleonic Wars ended at Waterloo in 1815 and Napoleon himself died in 1821. Palmerston was actually worried about his nephew, Napoleon III, who despite his name, wasn’t actually at war with us.
Hmm. Apparently I’m also a nitpicky mammal. Sorry about that. Normal helpfulness will resume shortly.
I am very grateful Ju! An edit will follow shortly! Nic
ps – 50 years out is rather a large nit – I’d probably want to pick it too!
I’m just wondering how you manage the logistics of the walks – how do you get back from the start of your walk to your transport at the beginning? We’ve (Mr Hg137 and me) done a number of linear walks in sections, such as the South Downs Way and Ridgeway and have mostly ended up taking two cars … it works but there’s a lot of car shuffling. any better ideas on how it could be done would be most welcome.
PS We’ve followed your blog since the start and it’s fascinating!
Hi there Mrs HG and thank you for your comment. If you check the Statistics page of our walk you will see that for every mile we walk we spend about £1.50 in taxi fares! I am not overly happy about this mode of transport, for both environmental and financial reasons, but after walking all day I do not particularly want to take buses and trains back to our starting point, particularly on a Sunday and particularly with two children who have school the next day. We sometimes take two cars if taxis are looking particularly doubtful. Dungeness springs to mind – we took two cars but my wife realised she left her car keys in my car (which was at the start of the walk) when we reached her car (at the end of the walk). I hitch-hiked back on that occasion and by pure fluke the first car actually lived in the exact road I wanted to get back to – and this was Boxing Day!
If you need advice on more public and environmentally modes of transport you might want to check out Ruth’s Coastal Walk or Helpful Mammal’s Journal. Both Ruth and Ju are more accustomed to those methods of transport I believe! There are links from our blog (right hand side of page under “Blogs I Follow”).
Best wishes and good luck with your car shuffling (I know the feeling only too well).