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.
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!!!