This is where the route began to unravel as due to the difficulties of public transport and the time I had available I could only manage this section in small chunks at a time during light evenings after lectures. This part of the Solent Way involves a lot of road walking unfortunately, so I essentially skipped those parts and just did the off-road sections. I also never quite got to Hythe, as most of the way from Beaulieu was along the road between the two places.
Still despite this, there were some very nice small sections of walk which fit the bill perfectly from my point of view. The first little section from Lymington started at the ferry port, where I was lucky enough to see the heritage electric train that had been temporarily assigned to ply the short branch line to Brockenhurst. I’ve never been sure how busy this route actually is, but obviously enough to warrant a half hourly service. The train was one of the old style slam door trains that had been recently replaced. It was painted in the old Southern Railway green colours although I’m not sure it ever actually carried those colours in service. Further information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_421 .
The route then headed inland a bit through a small piece of woodland before coming out on to open fields. It soon became clear though that these were not ordinary fields but the remnants of an airfield, used in WWII but still equipped with a hangar, windsock and makeshift runway. This is still in private use apparently and more about the site can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Lymington . Ahead there were some wonderful views of the Isle of Wight, including still across to the Needles. I headed down the lane for a stretch before eventually coming to the western end of Pylewell Park. At this point I returned to the car and drove a bit further along the road to walk the next stretch of the path through Pylewell Park itself. I parked at the end of Tanners Lane and walked back through the park, catching sight of a cricket match on the way as well as have a nose at the large house which is at the centre of the Park (see the interesting history at http://www.peerage.org/genealogy/pylewell.htm) . On this July evening the weather was absolutely superb and the light fantastic. After reaching the point that I had left the previous short section I returned to the car and then headed away for a couple of miles east. It was rather a dissatisfying way of walking along here, but necessary as the last bus through these parts was around 5.30pm, shortly after I had left lectures! By now it was about 8.30pm and I had only about another 40 minutes or so of daylight so did what I could and then returned to the car.
I didn’t walk the three miles or so to Bucklers Hard, since it was completely road walking and this coincided with the route I was taking in the car. The section from Bucklers Hard to Beaulieu did look most interesting however, and on another evening in late March I rushed out of Southampton to make the most of the short piece of light evening I would get immediately following the clocks going forward. I parked at Beaulieu village and walked the couple of miles along the Beaulieu River. On the way out I followed the riverside walk exactly, although this is not the official route of the Solent Way. If you get time I would urge you to do this, there were some truly magnificent views of the river through the trees on this late March evening. Of course the trees were completely devoid of leaves which helped provide the views. I am also a great fan of boardwalks, which this section of riverbank uses extensively.
When eventually I reached Bucklers Hard I had the place pretty much to myself, which I am sure is in complete contrast to a summer’s Sunday afternoon. It gave me about half an hour of snooping around unmolested before I decided it was time to get back to Beaulieu before the sun went down. The only down side to coming on a midweek evening was that I was outside opening hours and couldn’t therefore do much except enjoy the ambience of the place. One day I shall return as a tourist and get the most of what is a beautiful place. Want to see more? Take a look at the website to whet your appetite at http://www.bucklershard.co.uk/ipus/bucklershard/index . I returned to Beaulieu via the official path which heads in a straight line through the woodland that flanks the river, getting back just as the sun was setting.
I have to confess that I never walked the section from Beaulieu to Hythe. Most of the route is alongside a busy road, which is the way I drove to Beaulieu from Southampton and I never had the appetite to complete it. One day I shall take a trip out and complete the whole of this section in one day as I’m sure it will be more satisfying than doing bits and pieces over a period of time and missing out great chunks.