Having failed to renew our annual membership of Hillier Gardens (we just tend to do so on our next visit), we noticed with interest an advert for Hampshire County Council’s Culture-all Passport when at Royal Victoria Country Park last weekend. This entitles two adults (at least one of whom must be named on the card) and two children, free entry to any of the Council’s attractions. This includes Hilliers and another local favourite, Manor Farm Country Park, as well as some attractions further afield which we thought might provide for useful distraction e.g. the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke. Perhaps equally important, it gives you free parking at all of the Country Parks owned by the Council.
I ordered a ‘passport’ online and it duly turned up this morning via registered delivery. We decided to try out one of the venues that we haven’t visited before: Lepe Country Park down on the Solent. There were beautiful blue skies as we parked the car on the shoreline with a view across the water to the Isle of Wight. After a quick inspection of the beach (largely stoney but with some sand), Emma set off for the playground. We then managed a walk along the front before having to return to the car for lunch. Despite the sunshine there was a stiff breeze coming in off the water and we had to shelter in the car for warmth.
After lunch we set out on the 5 mile Lepe Loop with Emma and Duncan in their respective carriers. Unfortunately the tide was in by this point so we had to take the inshore route along the coast. When the route turned inland there wasn’t a great deal to see other than green fields with the tall Fawley oil refinery towers looming in the distance. It was a pleasant enough way to spend an afternoon though.
The real downside to Lepe is its location. It took us nearly 40 minutes to get there with most of that time on the long drag down from Totton, past Dibden and Hythe and through Blackfield. Whilst we may return, it’s unlikely to be a regular haunt. Oh, and £2 saved on parking – only another £67 to recoup on our passport!