Lepe Country Park is situated within the New Forest National Park on the shores of the Solent with magnificent views across to the Isle of Wight. The park is managed by Hampshire County Council and is open every day from 7.30am until 8pm or dusk, whichever is earliest. It comprises of two sections – the cliff top and the beach below, both of which have “Pay & Display” car parks.
The cliff top has large lawn areas and fields perfect for picnics, children’s’ games or just relaxing and enjoying the fine views which stretch from Hurst Castle to the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. The cliff top area also has an adventure playground for kids and two BBQ hearths which can be hired by groups.
For those feeling more energetic there is a circular five mile walk, the Lepe Loop, which takes you along the coast and adjacent countryside. The country park is also a haven for wildlife across its varied habitats, particularly birds ranging from flocks of geese and waders feeding on the shore to the small birds busily feeding in the pine trees and hedgerows around the park. Dog walkers are also welcome but please keep your dogs under control at all times and use the bins provided.
Lepe is also ideal spot to just sit and watch the activity on the water with many ship movements in and out of the nearby large port of Southampton plus a variety of leisure craft. During early August each year you can witness the spectacle of Cowes Week, one of the longest running regattas in the world. With 40 daily races, up to 1,000 boats, and 8,000 competitors ranging from Olympic and world class professionals to weekend sailors, it is the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world.
The park’s shoreline which stretches for over a mile is mainly shingle and is ideal for sunbathing or a paddle but not for swimming, unless you are a strong swimmer, in view of the strong tides that funnel between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. In addition, there are no lifeguards. However, it is a favourite spot for experienced wind and kite surfers, for whom a lawn and tap beside the café is provided for rigging up. The beach café offers a range of hot and cold snacks and drinks and is ideal for a spot of lunch or an afternoon tea. It also has a gift shop that caters for most of those seaside needs.
A short walk from the cliff top car park or along the shoreline in an easterly direction leads you to the remains of a site that played a major role in the largest military seaborne invasion in world history – D Day. Here you will find the remains of a Mulberry harbour construction site and the start of the temporary “PLUTO” pipeline that carried fuel to the Allied troops advancing through France.
The site now occupied by Lepe Country Park was a hive of activity in the spring of 1944. There was a camp of twenty one army huts situated in the grassy areas above the cliffs and a construction works camp behind the Mulberry Harbour construction site. The present day Restaurant and Information Centre stand on a site once occupied by a barracks and a cobblers shop, where army boots were mended! On the cliff top looking out to sea is a memorial to the many brave men who never returned.