Come and discover one of the best day’s out in the New Forest with a day trip to Hurst Castle.
Located at the seaward end of a spit commanding the entrance to the Solent, means getting to the castle is the start of your adventure! Access is either a leisurely ferry ride from Keyhaven, where there’s the chance to spot the abundant wildlife as you meander down the Keyhaven river, or a 2-mile walk along Hurst Spit, where you can enjoy the fantastic views either side of the spit. Many visitors walk out and catch the ferry back, but the choice is yours.
Once at the castle there is lots of explore! From the Tudor keep basement, which was used for storing food, fuel, weapons and gunpowder and by the 17th century was a great place for storing smuggled contraband, to the vast West wing where you’ll find The Garrison Theatre, thought to be the last surviving theatre constructed by the garrison. The castle, however, is best understood from the Top of the Tudor keep where you are also offered one of the best views in England – it really is the perfect place to make memories this summer.
With so much to see and do it’s a must visit on your list of things to do in the New Forest.
October 2022 has seen the next phase of conservation begin at Hurst Castle with work to strengthen the counterscarp wall in front of the south bastion, as well as geotechnical investigations taking place.
The counterscarp wall was initially built to define a shingle ditch in front of the castle’s keep, but due to coastal change, it now forms an important part of the sea defences. As part of English Heritage’s ongoing programme of work at Hurst Castle, the charity has commissioned repairs to strengthen the wall and help protect the castle from the impact of wave action, ahead of the winter storms.
With teams working tirelessly since the partial collapse at Hurst Castle in 2021, 22,000 tonnes of shingle and rock armour has been transported along the spit to protect the east wing and a permanent revetment sea defence engineered to provide protection for the next 50 years has been completed. As part of this next phase, English Heritage has commissioned specialist contractors Socotec UK to conduct extensive geotechnical investigations around the castle and on the spit itself.
These investigations will look into understanding the forces at work on this exposed shingle causeway and the geology under the castle, and is essential in informing the best course of action with regards to the future repair of the breach. A range of techniques will be employed (including Hand Digging, Cable Percussion, Rotary Coring, Trial Pitting and Concrete Coring) to assess the ground conditions under the east and west wing castle walls, looking at the structural integrity of the existing foundations.
Whilst English Heritage is pleased to be able to proceed with this next stage, we must stress that there can be no quick fix to the complex issues facing the castle, from sea level rise to climate change. However, the conservation work and investigations we are conducting will prove invaluable for future protection of the historic structure.
Hurst Castle has been named to the 2022 World Monuments Watch, a selection of 25 heritage sites of worldwide significance whose preservation is urgent and vital to the communities surrounding them. These sites powerfully demonstrate pressing global challenges of climate change, imbalanced tourism, underrepresentation, and recovery from crisis, underscoring the need for greater action to support heritage places and the people who care for them. You can view the full list of 2022 Watch sites here.
Bird spotting notes
The summer visitors have departed and the winter visitors are arriving.
We expect more winter visitors driven down from northern countries if the weather gets very cold.
Brent Gs – estimated 600 in one main flock. They feed in the field east of New Lane when tide is very high.
Shelduck – about a dozen across the patch
Wigeon – about 50 in one main flock on the marsh
Pintail – 1 male with 2 females seen in one of the marsh creeks
Eider – 1 adult male in river entrance
Long-tailed Duck – female; a rare visitor here. Seen feeding in the river entrance. Breeds in the Arctic. Females do not have a ‘long tail’.
Red-breasted Merganser – 5 seen feeding in Mount Lake
Great-crested Grebe – up to 7 seen feeding in the creeks and river entrance.
Marsh Harrier – single bird flying over the marsh
Oystercatcher – 38 counted across the patch with one gathering of around 20.
Golden Plover – small flock of 10
Grey Plover – around 25 counted; spread across the marsh
Bar-tailed Godwit – 4 feeding together in the estuary
Dunlin – a very good count of approximately 900 feeding along the mudflats.
Snipe – one seen at Hurst
Redshank – around 30 across the patch
Black-headed Gull – only about 100 in the area including those on Sturt Pond
Guillemot – 1 found dead on the beach
Short-eared Owl – 1 adult hunting near the Castle. A beautiful species and uncommon visitor. Breeds in open boreal forests in Scotland and Northern Europe and occasionally seen along the south coast in winter. It probably gets overlooked as it is sedentary at rest but it is diurnal.
Peregrine – adult seen sitting on a post on the marsh.
Spoonbill – up to 2-3 on the marsh, 2 weeks ago.
Hope that gives a flavour of what is around.
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