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Monday, 11 November 2013

Walk 107 Hythe, Calshot, Lepe and Bucklers Hard (Hants)

 Walk  107  Hythe, Calshot, Lepe and Bucklers Hard (Hants)

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

Map: L/R 196
Distance: Four separate short walks totalling 3/4 miles at the most.
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: paths and pavement
Access: Parking at all 4 locations
Public transport: Buses are possible from Southampton to Hythe (8 and 9) and from Hythe to Calshot (8). A passenger ferry from Southampton docks goes to and from the pier at Hythe. The other locations are to difficult to access using public transport.

This is one of those rare occasions when I have abandoned the idea of trying to walk from each location. It is no doubt possible using a lot of minor roads, mostly inland, but I prefer to focus on the coast only.

The first location is Hythe. Start at the marina and walk south to the pier which is a prominent feature. A passenger ferry to Southampton can be caught at the end. In 2003 a drunken captain of a dredger collided with the pier and it had to be rebuilt in 2004. The captain was jailed for 8 months. Hythe is a very old port with records going back to 1293. It was well positioned for trading, ship building and fishing. During World War 2 it was a base for motor torpedo boats and air sea rescue. The USA army also had a base here from 1968-2006. Christopher Cockerel (the inventor of the hovercraft in the 1960s) had his factory here.

The next stop is Calshot near the southern end of Southampton Water. Residents of the island of Tristan Da Cunha were evacuated to the village in 1961 when a volcano erupted. Many of them returned when the island was safe but some remained behind hence the community around Tristan Close. Looking west across the beach at Stanswood Bay the Isle of Wight is clearly visible. Walk to Calshot Spit with its activity centre and castle. The large activity centre is housed in hangars once used for flying boats and aircraft and in buildings once used by the navy. The facilities include an indoor climbing centre, a velodrome and a dry ski slope. The sea is used for many other activities.

The Royal Naval Flying Corps was based here in 1913. Look out for the two red brick buildings named after significant people. Lawrence House named after T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was based here from 1929-1931. Houston House is named after Lady Houston who sponsored the R J Mitchell (of Spitfire fame) designed Supermarine which won the Schneider Trophy for the fastest seaplane. The competition was held here in 1931.

Near the end of Calshot Spit is Calshot Castle. This was built in 1540 by Henry V111 as part of his defence on the southern coast (device forts) when he split with the Catholic Church. From 1774 until 1956 it was used as a residence and is now owned by English Heritage. A moat surrounds the castle which can be visited at certain times. Calshot Spit is constantly changing shape due to gradual accretion and erosion. Nearby is a nature reserve. I was told that some unusual species live here due to the warming water that comes from nearby Fawley Power station.

The  next stop is Lepe where you can park very close to the beach. Looking west is Needs Ore Point which is in the estuary of the River Beaulieu. Henry 11 landed at Lepe to take possession of the English throne.

The last stop is Bucklers Hard. This owes its existence to the second Duke Of Montagu who aimed to create a port to import West Indian sugar. The idea came to nothing but a shipbuilding industry grew up instead and by the end of the 18th century 4000 men were employed here.  It was at Bucklers Hard that many of the ships that fought in the Battle of Trafalgar were built by Henry Adams and Sons. Nelson’s ship Agamemmon was built here and it was while commanding the ship in Corsica that he lost his eye. The famous Mulberry Floating Harbours were also constructed for the D Day landings in Normandy in June 1944. Their role was to keep the allied forces supplied.

There are a number of interesting features and places to learn more including a maritime museum, a chapel and a workman’s cottage.
Snaps show: Calshot Castle; Bucklers Hard; River Beaulieu; Hythe Pier.

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