Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Solent Way Day 4 Warsash - Lee-on-the-Solent

Solent Sunset
It was back to another fragmented section, necessary as I had very short opportunities to walk this part of the coast. It was slightly disappointing not to ride the very striking pink ferry that plies its trade across the Hamble River between Hamble-Le-Rice and Warsash, but it wasn’t really practical. I split this walk into four distinct sections, from Warsash to Hook Lake (only about a mile), Hook Lake to Solent Breezes Caravan Park, Solent Breezes to Hillhead and the last part into Lee itself.
The first mile or so was necessarily short as it was completed on a September evening, when the sun was already very low in the sky. I was able to park up at Warsash just near the ferry and wander down to Hook Lake, a freshwater lake formed from the damming of a small stream by a shingle spit. It had been a very beautiful late summer afternoon and I was anxious to see the sun setting over the Solent. I wasn’t disappointed although it was questionable whether Fawley Refinery right behind the sun setting was the best backdrop!

Warsash Pond

The next short section as far as Solent Breezes was completed as part of a circular walk that I cribbed from one of the excellent Jarrold/ OS walking books that have served as an inspiration to me for many years. This particular one is in the Hampshire edition in case you’re interested. The coastal part of this walk was perhaps the most disappointing element although I did pass some of the best shingle plants I have ever seen including a very lush looking sea kale. Just inland was a large lake where all the local birds seemed to be, ignoring Southampton Water on the other side of me.

Shingle Plants
The best section of the walk is the other side of Solent Breezes Caravan Park, which acts as a major barrier on this part of the coast. I didn’t bother negotiating this as I did the next section as a linear walk from Hillhead Harbour, simply retracing my steps when I got to the caravans. The main feature of this walk is the unexpected cliffline – only small perhaps but definitely cliffs! I also enjoyed the relative solitude of this part of the coast, again a surprising feature considering how many people live in this part of Hampshire. Along the cliff top were more reminders of the strategic importance of this port with Calshot Castle now visible at the entrance to Southampton Water on the opposite shore and a pillbox guarding the side I was on.
Hook Lake

Away in the distance I could see Cowes harbour and the sea between us simply sparkled in the late September sunshine. What was very surprising about this day’s short walk was that I was able to do it all. I detoured there on the way home on Friday afternoon only after the most incredible rain shower had passed by. It gave the air a clarity that you only get after rain, although it has to be said that the intensity had gone from the sun as a result.
Watching Post

The Solent was a constant buzz of shipping, with huge container vessels going to and from Southampton and being raced by the Isle of Wight vehicular ferries and passenger hydrofoils. They were all dodging the dozens of sailing boats that were like a huge swarm on the fairly small area of sea between here and the Isle of Wight. It did make for an enjoyable spectacle and was a constantly changing view.

Hovercraft Museum
The last stretch of the walk was completed on the way home in January 2007. The days were very short and the weather was typical January; very blustery and cold! The last section from Hillhead to Lee-on-the-Solent is much more developed and a complete contrast to the cliff top walk I had completed before. It was however perfect for a January day for essentially it follows the promenade. It was great for blowing the cobwebs away after a tough week at the University. The most interesting sight was the view of the Hovercraft museum that is housed at Lee-on-the Solent. One day I shall visit, but today I had to content myself with the view of the SRN4 craft that is parked just behind the gate. Details on open days can be found at . Might see you there!

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