Click the next button for details of a walk that starts at Hamble Common, explores the pretty village of Hamble-le-Rice, crosses over the river to the not so pretty Warsash and then follows the foreshore down to the river mouth.
As detailed below, on the way it passes a number of interesting, and some not so interesting places. Also on offer are some mighty fine views across the Southampton Water and the Solent.
The going can be a bit soft in places, even in the driest of summers. Particularly crossing Hamble Common, which may become impassable in the winter unless you are wearing wellies.
Hamble Common promises much but delivers very little. According to the display board This area is home to an Iron Age Settlement, a Tudor Castle, a 19th Century Gun Battery and a WWII Bofors Anti-aircraft Gun.
The only visible evidence of an Iron Age Settlement is a bank and ditch running across the neck of land between the creek and the shore, controlling access to what may have been an ancient landing place.
All that can be seen of the TudorSt Andrew's Castle is a scattering of squared off stones on the beach at low tide. This was a blockhouse built in 1543 as one of Henry VIII's device forts.
As for the 19th Century Gun Battery all I could find was the foundations of a couple of walls embedded in the path and what might have been the eroded edge of the gun platform on the water's edge.
The only substantial remains, are those of the WWII Bofors Anti-aircraft Gun Platform. The actual gun was removed after the war, but a similar gun was installed in its place in 1989. Note: When I visited in 2018 the sea had badly undermined one end of the gun platform and the whole thing had been fenced off with substantial metal fencing that probably cost more that it would have done to repair the damage. Strange times we live in.
Adjoining the eastern edge of the common is BP's Oil Terminal which takes products from refineries by pipeline and by ship, and distributes them by pipeline and road tanker.
Inogon Leading Mark
If you walk north from the common along the concrete walkway bordering the Hamble Oil Terminal, at the far end you will find a very interesting object. It's an Inogon Leading Mark.
These lights use the Moiré effect to display arrows pointing either left or right depending where you are. They are normally used to guide ships on to the correct channel. However, in this case it is being used to mark the pipeline between here and the Fawley Oil Refinery.
Tom Scott explains this far better than I can in an excellent video, and I am grateful to him for the many hours he spent researching it and bringing it to our attention.
In the 1960s the decision was taken to expand the area between Southampton and Portsmouth to become what is sometimes referred to as the South Hampshire Built-up Area. This is now the the sixth largest built-up area in England, and the majority of it is of no great age and is not particularly pretty.
Buried in all the urban sprawl are gems such as Old Bursledon, Titchfield and Hamble-le-Rice
Here picturesque streets lead down to the river and the area around the old quay contains many fine houses and several fine pubs.
Before the Second World War the foreshore consisted of little more than three hards, but that was all to change. Immediately to the south of the old quay, an area of land purchased by Hamble Parish Council and was turned into a dock for landing craft by US troops in 1944. Further areas of reed bed were reclaimed in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Then in 1989 the dock was turned into a long-term car park and the new quay was built.
At the entrance to the spur that leads to the well halfway down Well Lane is a display board. This confusingly includes an old photograph that bears no relation to the site or the pump as they appear today.
According to the sign the pump was installed in the late 1800s, but was closed in 1908 due to the poor quality of the water. This was probably due to lack of use, as mains water had come to to the village a few years earlier.
From the ferry landing there is a footpath along the eastern side on the River Hamble that takes you all the way to Lower Swanwick. I've never done it as the lure of the sea is too strong, but it looks very pretty.
Turning right takes you down to the triangle of roads that form the old part of Warsash. Although not a patch on Hamble-le-Rice, it is not without its charms.
Further down the foreshore is Warsash Maritime Academy which claims to be the "world's leading maritime education and training provider". The lifeboat training facility on the end of a pier is a very prominent landmark.
Combined Operations Memorial
The Combined Operations Memorial in Warsash commemorates the fact that nearly 3,000 British and allied naval commando units sailed from the Hamble river on the night of 5th June 1944 for the D Day landings on the Normandy beaches.
It was erected to mark the fortieth anniversary, and its shape is based on the prow of a landing craft.
CEGB Fawley Tunnel
If you follow the path along the foreshore to the east of Warsash, just before you get to the Solent Breezes Holiday Village, you will spot some rather ominous looking low buildings surrounded by heavy duty fencing.
In fact, this is the eastern end of the CEGB Fawley Tunnel, a 3 metre (9.8 ft) diameter, 2 mile (3.2 km) long tunnel under Southampton Water.
It was constructed between 1962 and 1965 at the same time as Fawley Power Station to carry two 400 kV circuits as part of the National Grid.
Apparently a small 3 ft 1 in (943 mm) gauge railway worked by a single battery-electric locomotive was used during construction to remove the clay from the tunnel.