Lepe seafront

A family walk around Lepe Loop, Hampshire

“Are we near the sea yet?” my son asked as we drove into the beach car park at Lepe Country Park. “Er, yes, look in front of you”. To be fair, the drive down hadn’t provided any of the tantalising sea glimpses that normally precede arrival at a beach. But now the Solent sparkled just a few metres away.

Walking towards Watch House, Lepe
Walking towards Watch House, Lepe

The weather forecast was perfect for a weekend outing to the seaside; a day out to capture the remnants of summer. The busy car park informed us we weren’t the only ones with this idea. Although we were missing one essential item, a dog. You cannot take a dog onto Lepe family beach during the summer months. But from the start of October everyone brings their pooches for a paddle!

Family tradition dictates that we start our days out with a visit to a cafe. Fortunately Lepe had a beach cafe, albeit heaving with ramblers, families and day trippers all making the most of the autumn sun. We shared a couple of slices of cake, fuel for our morning walk.

Lepe Loop

Our route for the day was the 5 mile Lepe Loop. The circular trail runs west along the beachfront before heading inland along footpaths and gravel tracks. It’s an easy route to follow, both in terms of terrain and navigation. The walk is marked throughout with Lepe Loop signs.

Turnstone on Lepe beach
Turnstone on Lepe beach

As we set off along the seafront a small flock of turnstone ran back and forth, flying off whenever we got too close only to land again a few feet in front of us. They entertained us for quite some time and I even managed a couple of photos during one of their rare standing still(ish) interludes.

The Isle of Wight looked deceptively close. So close that if it wasn’t for the busy shipping channel you could almost imagine swimming over (well, not me, I’m a terrible swimmer). There were a couple of hardy swimmers taking a morning dip closer to shore. Evidently the sea is at its warmest temperature in late summer but rather them than me.

Walking along Lepe beach
Walking along Lepe beach

Along the waterfront we found clumps of pampas grass. I hardly see them nowadays but I’m old enough to remember when every house in the 1970s had a clump in the front garden. Although in my naivety I’ve only just discovered that it was evidently a signal for couples who enjoyed other activities too!

Lepe Lighthouse

Our route took us past the small, but perfectly proportioned, lighthouse. It’s officially a Millennium River Beacon, and looks much older than it actually is. Only built in 2000 its job is to steer seafarers into the Beaulieu River from the busy Solent.

Around Lepe lighthouse
Around Lepe lighthouse

We coincided our walk with high tide so followed the detour onto a country lane near Inchmery House. As we walked past we were intrigued by the extensive CCTV signs. Minutes later a police car cruised slowly by so we decided it was time to Google the owner. This turned out to be the historian and TV presenter Dan Snow. Just as interesting were its former owners, mercenary Simon Mann and the Mitford and de Rothschild families. If walls could talk!

Picnic site on the Lepe Loop
Picnic site on the Lepe Loop

Although high tide scuppered plans to eat our picnic on the beach we managed to find a spot on the edge of the salt marsh at the junction of the high and low tide routes. With the warm October sun shining on us and calm water lapping at our toes it was an idyllic place.

Living inland, the huge appeal of walking the Lepe Loop was the first mile or so along the waterfront. Whilst the remainder of the walk was pleasant enough I can trek through fields and along tracks almost any day. That’s my excuse for realising I’d taken lots of photographs of the beach, but none of the rest of the walk!

View from Lepe Country Park over the Solent
View from Lepe Country Park over the Solent

D-Day at Lepe

After the main walk we wandered east along the beach to look for the World War II remains. The beach was used for loading heavy equipment in preparation for the D-Day invasion, and some of the structures are still visible. There’s an information board that explains the various items; the rusty platforms below are known as dolphins and were used to help load the departing ships.

World War II ruins, off Lepe beach
World War II ruins, off Lepe beach

We also found chocolate bars. Don’t get too excited, they’re made of concrete and although they appear to be modelled on Dairy Milk they were actually used to strengthen the beach so the tanks could be loaded onto the departing ships.

Elsewhere in the park there is a Cold War underground monitoring bunker which is being restored. Strange to think that when I visited Lepe as a child this was probably in use.

Returning to the car park we stopped for a while to watch a huge container ship manoeuvre itself out into the Solent from Southampton. It dwarfed the Isle of Wight Red Jet ferry and reminded me just how busy this stretch of water is. Although perhaps quieter than our M3 journey home!

More info

  • We followed the route in the Lepe Loop walking leaflet. Available via the online link and as a printed copy (costs 50p) at the visitor centre in the car park.
  • It cost £6 for a day’s parking at Lepe Country Park. It’s cheaper out of season although Hampshire County Council still classify October as summer. There’s a cafe, small visitor centre and toilet facilities.

33 thoughts on “A family walk around Lepe Loop, Hampshire”

  1. This sounds like a lovely family walk with some beautiful scenery. I love your tradition of starting with a cafe stop and it’s always great when a walk has historical value too, so I really like the bit about the D-Day preparations and the cold war bunker.
    David – Potty Adventures

    1. Almost feels like the one down the road for us too (as it’s probably the one closest to Oxfordshire even if it is 1 hour plus away!)

  2. Really interesting to read about your walk, especially the historical remnants. Looks like a great day out with some stunning scenery..I had no idea about pampas grass either! #countrykids

  3. Oh my goodness. I have never heard anything like that about pampus grass. We had some in our garden when we moved in and it was a devil to get rid of. I’ve not heard of Lepe beach either. Looks an interesting, historical area.

    1. I quite like pampas grass (just to be clear, we don’t have any!) but can imagine how difficult it would be to get rid of the big clumps.

    1. Thanks Ashley. It was my other half (the bird watcher!) who told me they were sanderling. I’m useless at coastal birds. Having looked them up I can immediately see they’re turnstone.

  4. Just the right length of walk for me – with a bit of everything – sea, history, Dan Snow – to keep me interested.
    My inlaws still have pampas grass at the front of their house. Heavens, they’re in their 80s!

  5. Plenty going on beside the sea there. I do love a walk with lots of look out for. sounds like quite a history lesson along with your walk. I still can’t do a beach walk without stopping for photos, it is always a joy to be beside the sea anywhere in the UK. the Isle of Wight does look very close in your photos and I still like pampass grass!

    Thank you for sharing your walk highlights at #CountryKids

    1. Thanks Fiona. I couldn’t believe it when I got home and realised I hadn’t taken any photos of the rest of the walk.

    1. I remember visiting back in the 1980s but I’m pretty sure the D-Day ruins weren’t specifically promoted then. Interesting how important it gets to conserve the war legacies as the years pass.

  6. I had so many things to say about this post as I was reading, and was about to say how my in-laws had a huge pampas grass in their garden that they were very proud of, and now I can’t think of anything else!!!

    1. It’s funny isn’t it. Everywhere I’ve been this week seems to have pampas grass – but I’m sure this is the first time I’ve actually noticed it in years. My mind is forever tainted!

    1. Thanks Merlinda. I think we were very lucky to visit on the last warm day of the year. Only 6 months to wait for another one…..

  7. What a beautiful place. The walk sounds fascinating and full of history. I saw some pampas grass today and it took me back to my childhood as my aunt & uncle had some of it. I didn’t know the significance of it until much much later (and I’m assuming they didn’t either lol)


  8. What a gorgeous walk – especially the sections along the waterfront and love looking out at the ships and ferries – it certainly is a busy stretch of water! I grew up in Hampshire and lived in Southampton for many years but never knew about Lepe Country Park – it looks like a beautiful place to visit. #countrykids

  9. Hi Christine, it looks as if you had a pleasant day out at Lepe Loop. The scenery looks lovely and despite others having the same idea there doesn’t seem to be that many people around.

    I didn’t realise that there are places in the UK you can’t take your dogs in the summer. It’s the same here. And I’m sure I still have the scars left from grabbing the neighbours pampas grass blades as I ran past… Did I learn?… Not really!


    I love the way you fuel with cake before your walk and a picnic during.

    1. I think all of the main beaches in the holiday resorts (or at least parts of them) are dog free during the summer. The dogs must love it when 1 October arrives!

  10. Lepe loop 10th June 2021 me my wife and two dogs.
    5 miles later back at the carpark bacon And eggs milky coffee yum.
    Love Lepe

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