Southampton to Hamble-le-Rice
After the peace and tranquillity of the New Forest this walk returns to the coast at Southampton. From the town quay (for the ferry from Hythe) the walk goes round the east of Southampton and across the Itchen Bridge. Descending down from the bridge the path soon re-joins the coast which it then follows all the way to Hamble-le-Rice, passing through the Royal Victoria Country Park on the way.
Getting to the Start
Southampton is easily accessed from the M27, M271 and M3 motorways as well as many A-roads. Most of the car parks are in the city centre are near the West Quay Centre and retail park. There is also a car park near to the Town Quay. Note that traffic in Southampton does get very heavy at times, with traffic for the city centre but also a lot of traffic heading to the docks. A park and ride service does operate from Southampton Airport (Parkway) station, just off junction 5 of the M27, with trains taking around 10 minutes to get into the city centre and running about every 20 minutes although the parking at the station is expensive.
By public transport Southampton has excellent rail services. South West Trains run frequent trains from London, Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Eastleigh, Brockenhurst, Bournemouth, Poole, Dorchester and Weymouth to Southampton. They also operate local services between Portsmouth and Southampton, Romsey and Totton (via Chandlers Ford) and between Southampton and Wareham. Wessex Trains operate frequent trains to Southampton from Cardiff, Newport, Bristol, Bath, Salisbury, Fareham and Portsmouth. Virgin Trains operate services to Southampton from Winchester, Basingstoke, Reading, Oxford, Banbury, Birmingham, the North and Scotland. Finally Southern run services along the South Coast from Brighton, Worthing, Chichester and Havant to Southampton. By bus, Wilts and Dorset, First Southampton, Solent Blue Line and Stagecoach Hampshire run a large network of bus services to Southampton with services running from most local towns and cities, including Bournemouth, Salisbury and Winchester. Finally, there are three ferry services to Southampton. The Hythe Ferry runs frequently from Hythe Pier (near the Solent Way) to Southampton Town Quay generally every 30 minutes. The Red Jet ferry services operates generally every 30 minutes from West Cowes to Southampton Town Quay taking only around 20 minutes. Finally Red Funnel operate a car and passenger ferry from Southampton to East Cowes generally running hourly and taking 55 minutes.
This walk begins from the Town Quay in Southampton. If you're starting from the station or the shopping centre, a free bus runs frequently to the quay. From the quay the walk is initially urban on the way out of the city. Walk from the town quay to the main road and turn right (the road is called Town Quay). As this road splits keep to the right-hand road (Platform Road), passing a large building to the right and a small park. Continue on this road as it becomes Canute Road past some industrial buildings on the right towards Ocean Village. As this road starts to curve round to the left you'll see the road bridge above. Climb the stairs up onto the Itchen Bridge. This impressive (if ugly) bridge was built in 1977 and replaced an earlier floating bridge (chain ferry). The path now crosses the bridge and from it's summit you have impressive views down Southampton Water and in-land over the industrial landscape of Southampton.
|View from Itchen Bridge|
Once over the bridge you descend down the steps into a small car park. Head from the car park to the main road (Bridge Road) and follow this into Victoria Road. This road is a mixture of residential buildings, industrial buildings and shops, although when I walked this part of the path several of the industrial units were boarded-up. As you get to the end of the road you arrive back at the coast, a welcome relief from the traffic. Here you have fine views over to the Eastern Docks and down Southampton Water.
|View of the Eastern Docks from Woolston||Boats in the dock|
The path continues on the tarmacked path and cycle track along the coast and past the sailing club. Along the coast here you get view of the industrial areas of Southampton, of Hythe and of the many towers of Fawley Power station across the estuary. The path passes a recreation ground and pitch-and-putt course on the left. Here the coast line is dominated by some rather ugly concrete tower blocks on the left although the sand and shingle beach to the right is pleasant enough.
|Fawley Power station across the estuary||Ugly tower blocks by the coast|
The path then initially continues alongside the road through the edge of Westwood Woodland Park. Here the beach is peaceful with just tress to the left and the gentle sound of the sea to the right. As the road turns off to the left the path continues straight on along the coast.
|The beach near Weston||The beach near Weston|
Soon you have a choice of routes, with the path either continuing on the coast, past Netley Castle or heading a little in-land to the remains of Netley Abbey. I stuck to the coastal route past the castle to avoid some more road walking. In places though on this route there isn't a path so you have to walk along the beach. The official route follows Victoria Road through Netley.
|Netley Castle||The beach beyond Netley Castle|
|The beach at Netley looking across the estuary||The beach at Netley|
Whichever path you take you'll soon end up at the entrance to the Royal Victoria Country Park. The path follows along the concrete sea wall at the bottom of the park, although due to erosion of this path by the sea you can't continue quite along to the end as you have to climb up steps onto the top of the cliffs to get round the damaged part of the wall.
|The sea wall|
This park is named after the Royal Victoria Hospital which was built in 1863 and was, at the time, the largest military hospital in Britain. The building was used during both World War I and World War II but after the war it fell into disuse and was damaged by a major fire in 1963, being demolished three years later. Nevertheless the lovely chapel still survives, dominating the park. The tower is open to the public for much of the year, giving excellent views over Southampton Water and The Solent.
|Netley Hospital Chapel||View from near the entrance to the Chapel|
|Netley Hospital Chapel|
Soon the Country Park comes to an end and the path returns to the beach once more. The beach beyond the country park towards Hamble is sand and shingle, but walking nearer the low-tide mark where the sand is harder is easier going.
|The beach towards Hamble|
The path continues on the back of the beach, past a pipe-line heading under the sea and then the path comes next to an oil terminal on this side of the estuary. The pier for loading and unloading boats can be seen jutting out into the sea ahead. On the opposite side of the river you can see Calshot Power Station and beyond that Calshot Castle and the coast guard tower.
|A pipeline heads under the sea|
The path continues on a concrete path next to the fence beside the oil terminal, though you may prefer to walk on the beach, passing under the pier into the terminal. Beyond the pier the oil-terminal gives way to Hamble Common, a more rural scene. Soon the Solent Way heads across the common, although you may prefer to continue on the coastal path (it appears to be marked with a strawberry for much of it's length) round the common to the car park (where there is the remains of a coastal fort). Here the path heads in land to the edge of the river estuary following it round to re-join the Solent Way into Hamble. This part of the path can become a bit boggy however.
|The fort near Hamble||View along the beach to the River Hamble|
The path now comes out onto School Road which you follow into the High Street, turning right into the pretty village square. From here the path continues down the High Street to the River Hamble, the end of the walk. Here the pink ferry crosses the river to Warsash on the other side, where the path continues.
|The mariner at Hamble||Part of the river estuary|
|The water front at Hamble||The ferry|
|Hamble||The square in Hamble|
First Southampton bus 16 departs every 30 minutes Monday - Saturday and every hour on Sundays to Southampton City Centre, though the service is not very direct and takes around 35 minutes. Solent Blue Line service 9a departs hourly (every two hours on Sundays) from Hamble Square to Netley, Hedge End, Southampton Airport (Parkway) Station and Eastleigh. This service is also useful if you used the park and ride from Southampton Airport (Parkway) station to get to Southampton. There is a rail station at Hamble, but it is a little over a mile from the square, up The High Street then Hamble Lane. Hamble station has hourly trains to Southampton and to Portsmouth, operated by South West Trains. The train from Hamble to Southampton takes around 20 minutes. Both bus services from Hamble also pass the station, saving the walk along the busy road from the square.
The following web sites provide information on the area.
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