Today it’s up the east side of Southampton Water and down the west side. My first port of call (did you like the way I did that – ports and all that!) is Hamble-le-Rice. What a name; it sounds so historical. This is reflected in its narrow cobbled streets that don’t seem to have changed for centuries. Along the banks of the River Hamble it provides moorings for a huge fleet of very classy yachts arnd sailing boats. At high tide the vessels can escape the clutches of the village by entering the main channel and heading out into the Solent and the open sea. I rather liked the village itself and its sense of timelessness.
Heading up the Water I hit the city of Southamton. The banks of very channel, every creek, every tributary, every part of the estuary have disappeared into new developments of tall, classy & classy apartment, I’m sure with a suitable amount of social housing, and high end office blocks.
Industry and commerce have stood their ground on the banks. The docks, numbering at least 20, claim ownership of much of the waterway. Other industries fight for space – huge container parks, parked cars awaiting exportation, an oil terminal, a power station, cruising and ferry terminals, cranes and piles of containers hog the skyline, despite the efforts of picturesque boats trying to hide the sore.
Down the west side of Southampton Water is the small gem of a town called Hythe. Its cobbled, traffic free streets give it a charm, exaggerated by the grey hair of visitors and locals alike. Its main claim to fame is its passenger ferry across the estuary to Southampton which has been operating since the mid 16th century. The ferry is reached by a long pier, maybe about 500 metres in length, that struts out into the main channel. To help with the walking a small line runs beside it and a small engine and carriages runs up around down the pier. My luck is in.
Calshot lies right down the bottom of the estuary. A rather grand collection of beach huts line the pebbled shore.
Sadly a barrier stops exploration of the point with Calshot Castle in the distance. However the map on the gate shows that it is now a Activity Centre with a velodrome and a dry ski slope. The castle was built by Henry VIII in 1540. During the war the buildings housed the workshops that built the Sunderland sea planes. The radar is still working and aid the cruise liners and cargo ships as they negotiate their way up the Solent.