RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Warblington Sea Shore

I often enjoy this stroll around the top of Emsworth channel.

Friday, 3rd March 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:19 pm

There are plenty of sea birds to see if the tide is low and you can walk back along the foreshore, from Brent geese to tiny wading birds called Dunlin, that look like white mice as they scamper along the edge of the tide feeding on shrimps and miniature snails.

If the tide is high or coming up then do not attempt the shore but return as you went, across the meadows. Parking is signed off the Warblington roundabout as Warblington Church and Cemetery, just before the junction of the A27 and A259, nearly a mile west of Emsworth in Hampshire. Down Pook Lane you will find the church of Thomas a’ Becket at SU729054.

There is a large old female yew tree on the south side of the church. It was recorded as having a girth of 26 feet in 1836, and it added another four feet in the next 60 years. Churchyard yews do grow much faster than those on stony ground of the Downs.

This one equals the enormous yew that Gilbert White knew at Selborne churchyard but which is now no more. Note the three male yews which are now in full flower and emitting clouds of pollen to fertilize the old queen.

Our footpath, known variously as Church Path, Solent Way, or Wayfarer’s Walk, tracks eastward across the meadows and by the watercress beds. I once saw a ‘Chocolate Curlew’ here, its proper name being a Glossy ibis, a great rarity to Britain from the Adriatic. What you should certainly see in the rushy meadows are Moorhens, while if you hold today’s lottery number you’ll get a glimpse of a Water rail, which is a bit of a rarity and only the size of a Blackbird.

Crossing the streams may yield another trio of rarities this month, as they are often seen here, these being a Spotted redshank, a Greenshank, or a Green sandpiper. Swat up on your bird identifications before you leave home as these three rarities don’t hang around to give you a second chance. Knowing their warning calls is a vital aid to identification.

Sometimes I amble on into Emsworth to get a cup of tea at this point; sometimes I return along the shore, having been certain of what that tide is up to first.

Don’t get wet feet, it will rot your socks.