|Author: Peter Keat||Published: 25th June 2008 22:35|
When I was a kid I, and my mates, must have spent hundreds of hours, cycling over, walking across or tramping around Farlington Marshes, little knowing that we were in a very historic and ecological unique area. To us it was just some where to play, fish and explore the old gun emplacements and buildings on the Marshes. Today Farlington Marshes are a wild yet accessible place and one of England's premier bird watching areas and it plays an important role in maintaining environmental welfare on this heavily developed coastline.
This 300 acre site was the first nature reserve to come into Hampshire Wildlife Trust's care. Leased from Portsmouth City Council in 1962, it was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1974 and designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1985. Langstone Harbour itself is designated a European Special Protection Area and has been awarded the highest international conservation designation, becoming a 'Ramsar' site.
But what is its history? 250 years ago most of Farlington Marshes would have been underwater. In 1773, a major reclamation project was undertaken by the Lord of the Manor of Farlington to build a sea wall across the creeks. On completion the salt-marsh islands and mudflats, similar to those seen today, became linked to create this promontory of land. In 1840 severe storms damaged the sea wall, costing £5,000 to repair. The discovery of Neolithic flints, fire sites and remains of Roman pottery provide evidence of early settlements in Langstone Harbour. Maps of 1666 and 1816 indicate people living off this land. The two concrete 'blockhouses' on the sea wall were constructed during World War II. Three bombs aimed at these batteries landed nearby, creating the round ponds seen today.
Grazing is vital to the wildlife of the reserve. The cropped grass provides ideal conditions for visiting waders and wild fowl and has prevented rarer plants from being shaded out. The presence of cattle over the centuries has therefore resulted in a rich community of plants and animals. Their survival depends on the continuation of this practice. A third of the marshes has open access. The rest is managed as a sanctuary for wildlife.
The Wildlife Trust employs a warden to look after the site who is further assisted by a number of voluntary wardens. You are welcome to visit this reserve, please treat it with respect.
And there we were just thinking it was just somewhere to play in!!!!!
There again many of us spent a lot of our childhood hours playing on the slopes of Portsdown Hill, and some of us also spent quite some time there during our teenage years as well. But to us it was just a facility on the doorstep, we explored the contours of the slopes, grubbed around in the chalk pits avoiding the hermit who lived in one of them, and explored the old military installations the gun emplacements opposite the George Inn and the one at the top of Farlington Avenue. This particular installation I could actually see from my bedroom at home. There was, of course, the part completed Fort Redoubt at the Bedhampton end of the hill. To us, as with the marshes, these were just places to play, we either did not know, or were not interested in the areas flora and fauna and its fascinating history. Just somewhere to play.
But being the age most of us are we missed the horror of the last war and do not realise the amount of activity there was in the defence of this area. Just as an indication below I have noted a list of the Warden Posts in the area, the number and some of the locations certainly surprised me!
T, W & V groups posts as of September 1939 were at :-
T1 in basement East Cosham House (6 Wardens)
T2, Hut behind Southern Garage, Havant Road. (6 Wardens)
T3, Underground shelter , Court Lane Sewage Works (6 Wardens) but this post on Jan 12th 1940 closed due to sewage seeping through. Next it moved to 18 Salisbury Road, thence to a Brick Surface Shelter Court Lane/Old Manor Way corner.
12th December 1939 "W" Group amalgamated with "T" & "V" groups, so "T" took over Boundary Oak School (T4), and Uplands Road Seaview Road (T5)
T2 moved to Underground shelter at Church of the on December 20th 1939. T2 was used as the HQ Post from 18th February 1940 until the end of War in Europe.
T4 was in a reinforced room in the Boundary Oak School. 27th December 1941 T4 moved to an Underground Shelter Top of Portsdown Hill at the London Road/Drayton Lane angle
1945 Posts T1 & T5 closed down.
The LDV (later Home Guard), from 7th September 1940 to Mid 1942 patrolled Portsdown Hill. In T4 area a Home Guard volunteer fired shots at a Military Lorry that failed to stop when challenged.
T Group HQ was 168 Havant Road until 6th Jan 1945.E,J, Brewer, Senior was Head Fire Guard until Mr Marshall took over, also, T, Eyels Fire Guard Head for West Cosham.
Public Air Raid Shelters:- Havant Road/Lodge Avenue, Carmarthen Avenue, and opposite "The George" on Portsdown Hill. Gas Detector Boards placed on top of (Post Office) Pillar Boxes in the Cosham area.
And when we were kids we knew none of this.
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