Opposite Old Portsmouth at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour is Fort Blockhouse. It was built in the 1850/60s to protect the city, the harbour and the naval base against a French invasion. It is open to the public and is largely unaltered with the parade ground, gun ramps, moated keep, washrooms and armoury clearly seen.
A short distance along The Solent is Fort Monckton, an abandoned military fort built at the end of the 18th century.
Gosport, on the west side of Portsmouth Harbour, was a major town associated with the defence and supply of the naval base opposite. Many of the old military installations have been closed and re-opened to the public as tourism & heritage sites. The town’s seafront is across country on The Solent at Alverstoke, facing the Isle of Wight. It has a long, open promenade with some very basic beach huts.
Lee is the next settlement along The Solent. A wide promenade runs along the shingle beach, protecting the car park, the road, and the blocks of 1980/90s’ apartments and guest houses from the weather and the sea.
The village of Hill Head lies at the end of the beach
Where the River Hamble enters Southampton Water is the quaint, picturesque village of Hamble-le-Rice, with stunning views, period cottages, pretty walks and a fine selection of local pubs and restaurants. A ferry crosses the river to Warsash.
In the Royal Victoria Country Park, further up the coast, are the remains of the UK’s first, purpose-built military hospital, opened in 1856. Southampton’s port buildings can be seen in the distance through the haze.
Ocean Village, Southampton
Much of the Southampton’s historical waterfront stretching back 1000s of years, has been redeveloped into glitzy tower blocks, residential apartments, recreational centres, offices, business centres and marinas. Ocean Village is a marina, residential, business and leisure development on the site of Southampton’s first working docks which originally opened in 1842. It was redeveloped in 1986 with a cinema, cafes, wine bars and restaurants. At the top of Southampton Sound, and before the bridge over the River Itchen, lies the Ocean Cruise Terminal and the Red Ferry Terminal for ferries to the Isle of Wight. The passenger ferry to and from Hythe also berths here.
The west bank is a mixture of industry and commerce, yacht clubs and marina berths for some very fine yachts and sailing boats and a mixture of residential developments. The water is a constant buzz of vessels of all descriptions.
Totton and Eling
Totton and Eling is a town on the west bank, where Bartley Water enters the main channel of the River Test, on the edge of a commercial/ industrial area of Southampton.
On the western bank of Southampton Water, through the city, down through the industrial parks, the commercial areas, the warehouses and the dock yards, is the town of Hythe. A ferry has operated from here since the Middle Ages. Hythe’s pier opened in 1881 to carry passengers to the ferry that operated from the far end. A narrow-gauge railway was built in 1909 to replace the trucks that carried the luggage along the 640 metres to where the ferry pulls up. It was electrified in 1922. It is the oldest, continuously operating, public pier train in the world. Today the ferry carries bicycles and passengers and the crossing takes about 10 minutes.
The town has medieval and Georgian and a long seafront promenade from Victorian times. The 11th century church of St Leonard is up on the hill. The chancel covers an ossuary, a bone store, lined with 2,000 skulls and 8,000 thigh bones. They date from the mediaeval period, probably having been stored after removal, to make way for new graves. From the centre, alleys lead up to the steeper parts of town. The pebble beach and promenade provide opportunities for long walks, flying kites and fishing. There are plenty of fish & chip shops and cafes.