A HAMPSHIRE beach was sealed off today after the discovery of an unexploded shell.

A 100-metre exclusion zone was set up on Hurst Spit after the Howitzer shell - thought to date from the Victorian era - was discovered near the high-water mark.

The cordon meant people were unable to walk along the spit to reach historic Hurst Castle, which is open to the public.

A Royal Navy bomb disposal team from Portsmouth was called out to deal with the shell, thought to have been a practice round fired from the castle and washed ashore as a result of the Storm Brian.

Countless shells from the two world wars have been found on the spit but the ordnance discovered today is believed to have been much older.

A coastguard spokesman said it was found by a member of the public who was walking along the shingle spit at about 9am.

He added: "Police and coastguards attended and the spit was closed to the public. A navy team disabled the shell and took it away.

"It was found about halfway along the seaward side of the spit after being washed ashore, probably as a result of the rough weather."

People planning to visit Hurst Castle were unable to get there on foot but could catch a passenger ferry that operates from nearby Keyhaven.

The coastguard spokesman said the shell was thought to have been a practice round fired from the castle in Victorian times but added: "There is always a danger with ordnance."

A Hampshire police spokesman confirmed that the area had now been declared safe.