Hilsea Lines has long been a poor relation of the open space at the other end of Portsmouth. But while being smaller and having a different character to the much-loved Southsea Common, it too is an important area of natural beauty in the city.
It is, though, largely overlooked by most people, even those who live nearby.
If in terms of open space, residents tend to focus far more on the Common, then from a historical point of view, Palmerston’s forts in the Solent and along the ridge of Portsdown Hill command a good deal more attention.
Yet Hilsea Lines were intrinsic to the military defence of Britain’s premier naval port.
With the hill forts, they provided a man-made bastion against any French attack from the north 200 or so years ago.
Preventing assault from the sea was not enough for Lord Palmerston – he also wanted to avoid a landing elsewhere followed by a land attack.
His ring of fortifications have gone into legend as Palmerston’s Follies – but history shows us that the French never came from the north or south.
Oh that similar ‘follies’ had been in place around Singapore in the 1940s rather than every big gun being trained on the sea approaches to the south.
So in Hilsea Lines we have a place of both natural and historic importance in this city. We welcome then the £20,000 grant obtained by Portsmouth City Council from the Forestry Commission to improve accessibility to the woods. That money will pay for improvements to paths as well as new interpretation boards, seating and the setting up of a designated woodland walk.
It is a worthwhile investment in an underused and arguably underloved part of Portsmouth and will complement the marvellous work done by volunteers at Hilsea Lido.
For too long, and perhaps with some good reason, many people in the north of the city have felt that their leisure provision does not match that of the south.
The work on Hilsea Lines will, we hope, help to balance that – and attract people from a far wider area.