Historic sites

Lepe Country Park

Lepe Country Park opposite the Isle of Wight contains a unique range of archaeological and historic features. 

A timeline of history - from about 200,000 years ago up to the Cold War period of the 1950s - is in evidence all at this one site.

Before the chalk ridge that once extended from Dorset to the Needles was broken through by the sea, rivers that once flowed through the area between about 200,000 to 40,000 years ago deposited the gravel that now form part of the low cliffs along this section of the New Forest coast.

Just below the beach and close to the cliffs at Lepe Country Park a water channel dating from the last interglacial period about 120,000 years ago survives. It contains preserved plant remains and other organic material that provide a rare insight into the environment and vegetation from that time.

Sites of other archaeological periods are well represented on and close to the country park from at least the late Neolithic; possibly associated with the first farming activities in the area. Burial mounds characterise the Bronze Age as well as mounds of burnt flint. At least two burnt flint mounds survive within the country park, though their purpose can only be guessed at.

Iron Age settlement sites exist in the area and the site is close to a Roman road that runs parallel to Southampton Water and probably provided a communication route to the Isle of Wight.

Close by is one of the traditional landing places of Cerdic and his son Cynric in the late 5th or early 6th century AD - the founders of the Wessex kingdom. The section of coast has always been important for defensive purposes and the country park sits between the Tudor castles at Hurst and Calshot built in the 16th century by Henry VIII.

By 1700 small harbours existed at Lepe and the adjacent Stone Point - the latter destroyed by a storm - though Lepe harbour continued with ship and boat building until 1825. The 19th century coastguard cottages and watch tower at Lepe reflect the ease with which smuggling had occurred along this coastline in earlier periods.

As part of the Cadland Estate the landscape changed dramatically in the 18th century with the creation of a more regular pattern of fields and has left evidence of other agricultural improvements of that period. The remains of Lady Scarborough’s early 20th century garden associated with the now demolished cottage can be seen in the country park.

During World War II Lepe played a significant part in the Nation’s defence as many Mulberry Harbours - the concrete harbours that were floated to the French coast - were manufactured at Lepe. Their construction involved over 600 Irish labourers who required accommodation in the vicinity. On 6 June 1944 Lepe played an important role in the D-Day landings as a major departure point for troops, vehicles and supplies, and as a mainland base for the Pipeline Under The Ocean (P.L.U.T.O.) that provided fuel for the Allies in France.

In the late 1950s a concrete underground Royal Observer Corps observation structure was created on the site and its contents are still largely intact.

  1. Historic parks and gardens
  2. Buckler's Hard
  3. Lepe Country Park (you are here)

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