Stokes Bay once had a pier. Built in 1862-3 it acted as ferry terminal and took passengers to the Isle of Wight, with ferries running five times a day and with a journey time of 15 minutes. It even had a double-track railway on it, running passengers from the local branch line up to the embarkation point. The last train ran in 1915, and the Admiralty then rented it and used it as a torpedo testing station. In World War Two the pier was damaged from air attack, never recovered, and was eventually demolished in the 1970’s. It is said that when the tide is exceptionally low the pier bases can be seen. For us, the tide was in an we could see nothing but sea.
Stokes Bay, it is said, has a fine shelving beach. What is a shelving beach, you ask? A steeply shelving beach steps down rapidly, meaning you might want to roll more than just your trouser legs up if you fancy going for a paddle. Steeply shelving beaches are not considered good for allowing small children to bathe in, but they are considered excellent if you want to race in with attack craft, land, gain a foothold on dry land and from there take over the whole of the UK.
Stokes Bay is close to Portsmouth. It was considered unfortunate, therefore, that Stokes Bay presented such a good opportunity for the casual invader to run aground, attack Portsmouth and still be home again in time for tea and scones (or, more likely, cafe au lait and a pain au chocolat).
In 1708 it was proposed that seven gun emplacements be constructed to defend this stretch of coastline. Nothing was done about this proposal until 1782, when seven redoubts were built on the high ground alongside the River Alver. The area was beefed up with a series of moats, ramparts and batteries in the 1840’s and 1850’s when the threat of invasion was considered to be imminent. These are known as the Stokes Bay Lines.
When walking along the coast today little can be seen of the Stokes Bay Lines, but here they are, hidden away in the treeline:
Right in the very distance you can just about see Battery No 2. Can’t see it? Here it is closer up (it’s the one in the background, not the WC block in the foreground):
Battery Number 2 is home to a Diving Museum today. Can you see all the diving bells to the left of the photograph? Let’s go take a look…
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Approximate Position of Stokes Bay Pier: N 50° 47.070 W 001° 09.730
- Stokes Bay Lines: N 50° 47.145 W 001° 09.850
- Battery Number Two: N 50° 47.200 W 001° 10.115
Walk #66 Statistics (of which this post forms the fourth part):
- Date of Walk: 19 February 2014
- Walk #66 total distance covered: 15.29 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 554.05 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!