Hidden routes of Portsmouth – An Urban Hike, by Alice

During July terra firma were invited to take part in a local community initiative and guided group walk organised by Friends of the Earth. Linked into their wider agenda for promoting City walking as a healthy lifestyle choice the event was ably led by local architecture graduate Fiona Rogoff.

Based on her university project about this historical feature, the twenty strong group (of individuals, Portsmouth historical society, local council members and professionals) set out on a Saturday morning to explore and trace the line of the canal, stopping along the way to explore ideas based on Fiona’s vision of using the canal as a basis for future regeneration of derelict and underused corners.

Making connections

The Arundel Navigation Company built the canal in 1823 to connect to Chichester, Arundel and London for transporting previous metals, goods and for military needs during wartime. Today part of the route lies buried under the Fratton to Portsmouth railway line and surrounding areas of housing. The only remaining visible section is at Milton Locks where more information on the history and canal development can be found.

A new walk….

The proposed route extended a total of 4km starting from Portsmouth city centre and heading east to meet its final destination at Locksway Road, Milton and a view out across the harbour.

Arundel canal route, Portsmouth
Reproduction of Route Map followed and Vision by kind permission of Fiona Rogoff and Friends of the Earth.
Start of the route of the Arundel canal, Portsmouth
Starting off from the fountain on Commercial Road / Arundel Street Precinct – the line of the old canal represented in the pedestrian scheme. Salvaged stone and plaques providing a good historical guide.
Discussions at the Arundel canal design workshop
In depth discussions…
Route of te Arundel Canal, Porsmouth
Not the most pleasant section or easiest to use but a surprise to learn that the footpath is on the line of the old towpath.
Route of the Arundel canal, Portsmouth
Nearing the end….
Milton Locks Nature Reserve
Milton Locks Nature Reserve managed by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. A small area of biodiversity surrounded by housing linked to the last remaining area of natural foreshore in the harbour. In stark contrast to the ongoing engineered flood alleviation works occurring further along.

The walk finished in the early afternoon with a stop at the Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve at Milton Locks. A very small but valuable area of grassland and the last remaining section of a natural foreshore. Well worth a visit.

boardwalk at Milton locks
The walk continues along the boardwalk to reach the only visible evidence left of the canal system; Milton Locks now used for small boat mooring.
Milton lock
The last remaining lock and visible remnant of the Canal system. In a dilapidated condition but worth the walk to see.

From our point of view it will be interesting over the coming years to see how this vision is taken forward. As Friends of the Earth would probably agree, it just needs a local idea and to start with a few small steps…..

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