Totton To Calshot (Including Hythe Pier) Hampshire
Monday, March 16, 2020
It's Monday 16th March 20, myself and Dave Beech have set off early to Totton in Hampshire to walk to Calshot Beach, roughly 16 miles. After a brief set back at London Waterloo due to our train being cancelled, we eventually arrive at Totton around 09:30. Totton, located on the River Test, was the site of an early battle between Anglo-Saxon invaders under Cerdic and local Romano-Celtic peoples under Natanleod. This area is closely linked to timber unlawfully obtained from the New Forest and to local ship and boat building. It was once the largest village in England until being made a town in 1974.
Walking from the station it's a beautiful sunny morning with clear blue skies and it seems that the problems with the Coronavirus are a world away. Obviously we have now learnt that such trips like this one will be off the cards for sometime, so I would like to send everyone a good luck message from me and from the Wrong Roaders walking club. It is a worry, but follow the guidelines and hopefully everyone will come through it OK.
Soon we arrive at the beautiful Eling Tide Mill spanning Bartley Water one of only two working tide mills in Britain, the other being Woodbridge Suffolk. Tide mills work by the power of estuarine tides falling and rising, thus rotating a water wheel for milling. They also trap the water behind a one way sea gate in a dam wall or as here, an artificial causeway. Once the tide goes out sluice gates are then opened to let the force of the water turn the wheel once more, this has been repeated at this spot for centuries. Over the same causeway is a toll crossing which is said to date back to the 1700's, in recent times the £1 toll has been challenged due to it not having a Royal Charter, personally for me it's the one time I wouldn't mind making the small payment to cross. I must also mention just up the road, the Norman church of St Marys sitting in its raised position above the River Test. It was built on a Saxon settlement foundation and is the 10th oldest church in England.
After the church a small diversion takes us through Trotts lane and over Trotts lane level crossing, where the rail freight line serves the nearby Fawley Oil Refinery. Walking through nice copsed woods and down a flooded Bridleway we soon arrive at the busy Marchwood Road which feeds lorries into and out of industrial Marchwood. Pleasantly there is a good cycle path here which can be walked safely, but alas it doesn't last long for us and it's back to walking on a grass verge of the equally busy Admiralty Way. One of my rules is that I have to walk as close to the foreshore wherever possible and this diversion to the waters edge of the River Test seems hardly worth it on paper. However to our surprise walking through this part of Marchwood (Drakes Walk) gives us some great views across the Test to the busy Millbrook Container Terminal and Southampton Docks. Also close by is the Marchwood Military Port built in 1943 to aid the D-day assault on Normandy in 1944 and later the Falklands War. In more recent times the port has largely been used by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, but today it is now leased by the UK Government to the Solent Gateway group for 35 years. The idea is to fully utilise the port, which is still employed for military cargo and personnel movement, but also to open up the facility to handle the wider shipping transportation markets.
Beside the wonderful church of Saint John the Apostle Marchwood, is a memorial dedicated to the memory of the men of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Sir Galahad, SS Atlantic Conveyor and Sir Tristram, who lost their lives in the South Atlantic in 1982 in defence of the Falkland Islands and its dependencies.
Leaving the memorial we soon pass Marchwood railway station part of the old Totton, Hythe and Fawley Light Railway which closed to passengers in 1966. After walking the Hythe road for 0.5km we soon find the footpath which starts near Veal's Farm. It's a nice path until we get to within a kilometre of Hythe, where the path turns to a muddy quagmire and typically just before a lunch time pint we again get covered with mud! It's a great relief that we soon arrive at Hythe Marina and a good walking surface. Entering the town we spy a nicely restored RAF Thornycroft 43ft Range Safety Launch (RSL) 1650, which is now part of several nautical displays spread around the new marina. Sadly, I had read that it had been subjected to several attacks of vandalism and her condition had been deteriorating, but I thought it looked in quite good condition, however I would think a move to a river side position on the front would probably stop these attacks.
After a brief stop to talk to two nice gentleman about their vintage boat and about my own memories around boats as a kid, it's only a short walk from the Marina into the centre of Hythe.
Hythe, which means landing place or haven, is a lovely town and it feels very homely, everyone we meet is welcoming and friendly to talk to. It has a nice feeling about the place and after only two visits here I can see community matters. However, as soon as we arrive my eyes are immediately drawn to Hythe Pier and its Hythe Railway Line, which stretches 700yrds out into Southampton Water. The pier here opened in 1881 and the electrified railway line was added in 1922. From the pier head runs the Hythe Ferry, a very successful commuter and tourist ferry service operated by Blue Funnel Ferries between Hythe and Town Quay Southampton.
Now, another rule I have, is wherever possible I want to walk all pleasure piers around the UK, but it makes no sense to walk this one now because later in the day we are using the ferry here to cross back over to Southampton for our nights accommodation, as unfortunately I had been unable to find a suitable place to stay in either Hythe or Calshot. So you will see photo's from me walking it at the end of today's walk and tomorrow at the start of the next days walking section from Calshot to Hill Top Beaulieu on the 17th march 20.
From Hythe our walk continues briefly along the Solent Way which crosses over here on the Hythe Ferry, however this is short lived and we soon leave it again and continue along the busy A326 around Fawley Oil Refinery. At Fawley it's a short walk to the lovely Ashlett Creek where the opportunity to have a quick pint at the Jolly Sailor presents itself, being we are slightly ahead of time at this stage of the walk. We get a nice warm welcome at this 160 year old smugglers pub and it's hard to tear ourselves away from a second pint. Outside, beside the slipway, is Ashlett Mill built in 1816, now a sailing club clubhouse, it is another good example of a tide mill in a good state of preservation.
From the creek the walk is finally back on the foreshore and it looks like the path might be a nice one beside the waters edge, but how wrong I am, as soon as we round the corner, the path again turns to another quagmire and we have no choice but to walk through deep water and mud, not pictured because it's the last thing on my mind! Eventually however the drama is over and with more Hawthorn scratches added to the extensive collection on my arms, we finally get onto a good path around the disused Fawley Power Station.
This old oil fired power station with it's 198 metre chimney, a prominent, sometimes beloved landmark in the area, will soon be demolished making way for a proposed new town. It is funny how we get attached to things that in fact were very bad for us and this power station was no different, pumping out pollution on a huge scale. I was shocked to read online that these types of power stations and especially this one, when in full production, may have been responsible for killing 50,000 fish a week on the screens of the plants cooling water lines. This locally may have resulted in reduced numbers of some species of fish like Bass and I for one am glad that renewable or sustainable energy sources are now common place.
From the power station the full extent of Calshot spit can be seen across Calshot Marsh Nature Reserve and after crossing the swing bridge that crosses the once busy tidal inlet to the power station dock, it's a straight walk to the road and to the Solent foreshore. At the Solent the beach huts mark the end of today's walk and I have to say it has been a walk of surprises, expecting a walk mostly comprised of industrial units and heavy traffic, it had a lot to see and some great vistas too. 16.92 miles.
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