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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Walk 106 Hamble Le Rice to Southampton

 Walk  106  Hamble le Rice to Southampton (Hants)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 196
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Bus 6 runs frequently between Southampton and Hamble Le Rice

Walk down the side of the River Hamble and past the large marina and then cross over to the oil terminals which are adjacent to Southampton Water.

Hamble Le Rice (until fairly recently known just as Hamble) was known for being an aircraft training centre during World War 2. It retains its links with aviation as many residents work at the Hamble Aerostructures Factory.

Look out for the large gun which points over Southampton Water near to the oil terminals. This is a similar anti-aircraft gun to that which used to protect the oil terminal during World War 2. If you are lucky enough to walk here at low tide you may see the remains of St Andrew’s Castle. This was built by Henry V111 in 1543 to defend against the French.

Soon after leaving Hamble is the Royal Victoria Park which extends up to the shoreline. These are the grounds of a former military hospital – the first purpose built one in the country. The construction was partly due to Queen Victoria’s horror at the conditions soldiers endured when injured in the Crimean War. The hospital was demolished in 1966 but the rather impressive green domed chapel remains. It can be visited as it is now a heritage centre.  The remains of a pier are nearby. This was built in 1865 and was originally 190 yards long. It was designed to receive hospital ships from all parts of the British Empire. After the hospital was opened in 1900 the pier was used by patients for fishing. It was demolished in 1955.

Walking northwards from here look out for the sculpted stone which was presented by people from the Basque area in Spain. It is a meeting stone once used by village people.

The walk continues northwards and passes by Netley Castle. This was originally a Tudor Blockhouse (a small detached fort) and was converted into a ‘show’ castle in Victorian times. The castle was a convalescent home for a long time but has now been converted into flats.

Continue the walk up to the Weston Shore, overlooked by some particularly unattractive blocks of flats. (Probably great views if you live in one). On the shore there are clear views to Southampton docks.

The walk into Woolston is along a road. This is an area I know well as my mother in law lived here for the last part of her life. She was a fierce opponent of The Itchen Bridge which is now a toll bridge into Southampton. I have to agree that, knowing the place before and after, it is a blot on the landscape. It was built in 1977 and replaced the floating bridge ferry (when I went it this had been converted into a restaurant). Woolston itself (as the name would suggest) was a wool trading port until about 1876 when ship building began. Vosper Thorneycroft had a large factory here that was closed in 2004.

Cross the Itchen Bridge into Southampton (walking is free). The help points along the bridge for those contemplating suicide seem to be depressingly necessary.

There is little of the coast that can be walked in Southampton. However, there are many historical points to look at around the old docks area. These include the 14th century town walls which were nearer to the coast than they are now. Through the Westgate archway of these walls marched the army of Henry V on its way to Agincourt in 1415.The pilgrim fathers embarked from the West Quay on the Mayflower in 1620.

Town Quay and West Quay are berths for cruise ships. There is also a ferry to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Alongside the quays is Mayflower Park, this area was a spa resort in Georgian times and there was a waterside promenade for people to exercise. Jane Austen and her family frequently walked this shore. Less idyllic is the silver dome on the opposite shore – this is a waste incinerator.

Two of the significant buildings on the West Quay are Harbour House, now a casino and the Royal Pier Pavilion, now a Chinese restaurant. A pier was opened here by Princess Victoria in 1833 and in 1906 the pavilion was introduced. Like many other piers, fire destroyed much of it in 1987 and 1992.

Look out for the Platform Tavern down a side street opposite the quay. It dates back to 1873 and is of interest as it was built against the town wall. The tide from the River Test used to come right up to the town walls. There is a section of the wall which has been recreated to show where the boats would have been moored against the walls.   The pub gets its name from a part of the quay called The Platform – it contained a gun battery that was used for ceremonial purposes. The Woolhouse, now the maritime museum, is worth a visit. It was erected in the 14th century to store wool before it was exported. During the Napoleonic Wars it housed French prisoners of war.

This is only a flavour of Southampton. There is much of historic and cultural interest to look at if you have the time.

Snaps show: The Woolhouse, Southampton; Itchen Bridge, Woolston; Tudor Market Hall, Southampton; The gun emplacement at Hamble.

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