Friday, July 10, 2009

Lepe, Hampshire, England

More on my recent visit to England
Another walk in the New Forest National Park:

 On this day, we set out,  for the hamlet of
Lepe, in the county of Hampshire, which is a coastal Country Park in the New Forest National Park. There are stunning views across the Solent ,  a narrow channel between the Isle of Wight and the southern mainland of England.

Lepe has a wonderful mix of habitats;  birds watch over the shoreline of the Solent which provides access to the port of Southampton Strait of the English Channel. It extends 15 miles between mainland England and the Isle of Wight and varies in width from 2 to 5 miles.

There is over a mile of beach, pine fringed cliffs and wild flower meadows where butterflies are attracted to the wildflowers.

The park is popular for walking, swimming, fishing, windsurfing and bird or boat watching.
On the day we visited the park was tranquil and there were very few people around.

This lighthouse was built by the local community to commemorate 
the 2000 Bicentennial.

As we walked along the quiet shore it was hard to imagine that this peaceful area had played such an important role in the WWII  D-Day landing of Normandy. 
Troops, vehicles and supplies bound for Normandy, left the Lepe coast 
on the 6 June 1944:  thousands of troops with their vehicles and supplies left Britain for the beaches of Normandy. This was D-Day, the start of the great campaign to drive the German army out of France and to bring the Second World War to its end. The D-Day invasion, code named Operation Overlord, one of the most remarkable feats in military history, was under way. It had taken over two years of planning, and was one of the best kept secrets of the war.
Many hundreds of troops with their equipment, vehicles and ammunition were hidden along the narrow roads and in the woods of the area.

My sister and her childhood friend walking side by side, having a chat,  as they have done so many times before.

Watch House is still lived in today and it is just what it's name says,  a lookout built to keep an eye on the harbor.
Almost anywhere that you visit in England the area is steeped in history and local legends.
In the 1800’s after years of smuggling in the area, the Coast Guard Cottages and Watch House were built, housing the Preventative Officers and their boat. Soon after Billy Coombes, the captain of a smuggling ship, was captured and hanged at Stone Point.

Local history of Lepe can be traced back 70,000 years during the last Ice Age, when sea levels were low and a chalk ridge extended from Studland in Dorset to The Needles, Isle of Wight. 
5-12,000 years ago humans lived a nomadic life in small groups at seasonal camps but were forced inland as sea levels continued to rise.
1-5,000 years ago they began farming and so settled in villages leaving evidence in the form of Bronze Age burial mounds, Iron Age pottery, Roman coins, and Medieval tidal mills.
Lepe harbour was used for ship building until 1825 when it silted up.

Lepe has a stony, sandy and muddy shore, without a large number of rocks and the foreshore is often disturbed by bait-diggers after lug worms.  This scenic photo shows a local fisherman digging for bait with the Isle of Wight in the background.

 Another delightful  day enjoying each other's company and exploring  the  beauty of this shoreline.  This area is so peaceful and it was interesting to recall how important this site  was during WWII and that  Lepe was once one of the main ports in the Solent but was wiped out of existence by a great storm in the seventeenth century resulting in the complete demise of the related fishing community.

Nowadays the area is a  destination for the pure enjoyment of observing nature and walking, while taking a break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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