The interaction between man and landscape along the Shipwrights Way goes back centuries.
The clay soils, woodland for fuel and access to rivers for transport gave rise to a thriving Roman pottery industry, supplying three quarters of London's pots.
The heathlands around Bordon were, until just over a century ago, very sparsely populated, used for open grazing as the land was too poor to farm. In the early 1900’s the army arrived, bringing people, buildings and the training activity which continues to this day. The extensive military railway linking to Bentley, Liphook and Liss was used for training and transporting troops. Today, the army shares its ranges with wildlife and (when the red flags are not flying) the public. The area is soon to change again, with the building of the eco-town.
Petersfield held livestock markets for many centuries and hosted trades typical of a market town of its day: butchers, bakers, brewers, shoemakers, carpenters and blacksmiths. On market day, the town would have been busy, noisy and probably smelly - full of sheep, cattle and horses, and the farmers, merchants, weavers and tanners from the surrounding villages who’d come to trade. At one time, Petersfield’s wool industry supported 1,000 poor people in the area, who lived by weaving. Today, sheep remain important to the surrounding area, helping to preserve the chalk downland habitat and providing meat and wool.
There are remains of a Roman farmstead at Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
The area surrounding Rowlands Castle was once part of the huge, medieval Forest of Bere, with the commons being grazed by royal deer and animals belonging to local people. Using local clay, the Romans made brick and tiles there and for centuries it was known for its brick making industry. The village also developed a reputation for smuggling and poaching!
Havant housed industries relating to the use of animal skins, including tanning, glove making and parchment making. Parchment was made from the skins of sheep, goats or calves, which were soaked in Havant’s pure spring water to produce bright white parchment; a high quality product. Find out more about Havant’s history at the Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in East Street.
Hayling Island was a place of farmers and fishermen for much of its history and there was also a Roman shrine there. It was only connected to the mainland in the 1820’s.
In the 1930’s, Hayling became a popular holiday resort, with many visitors coming to enjoy the funfair and staying at the new holiday camps. Many arrived by train, on the line which today forms part of Shipwrights Way.
Portsmouth has an extremely rich history, initially as a merchant port and from 1500 as a naval port, where royal warships were built and repaired. The Historic Dockyard is a fascinating place. Among the many things to see is an exhibition about shipwrights, the new Mary Rose museum containing the ship itself and HMS Victory - ships of the times when large numbers of trees at Alice Holt were felled for shipbuilding.