Calshot To Hill Top Beaulieu (Including Hythe Pier) Hampshire
An additional factor here is the phenomenon of the "double tide" which results in unusually prolonged periods of high water and this greatly facilitates the movement of very large ships. Today the route across this major port affords good views of these ocean going liners, container ships, pleasure craft and other boats plying their trade on this huge waterway.
Every ferry that arrives at the pier head is normally met by the the Hythe Pier Railway. Opened in 1922, it uses a third rail conductor to provide power to the two four wheeled electric locomotives built in 1917 and originally from a mustard gas factory at Avonmouth. The line also owns four bogie passenger cars, two of which have driving cabs and a single train is made up of one locomotive propelling three passenger cars and a four wheeled flat car for baggage. There is also an oil-tank car used to carry fuel to the ferry when needed.
The main feature on Calshot spit is the wonderful Calshot Castle, built in 1540 to protect the prosperous port of Southampton as part of Henry VIII's large scale "Device" coastal defence programme. The idea was to defend the Solent too and along with Calshot, three further forts were built at Hurst, East Cowes & West Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
I will mention the red brick building which was the Officers mess at RAF Calshot. On the side of this building is a painted shell relief of Supermarine S.6B S1596 which was created by artist Ken Leech to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Schneider trophy. On Southampton Water in 1931 Pilot Flt.Lt. George Stainforth whilst competing in the Schneider Trophy established a new world speed record of 407.5 mph. The Supermarine British racing seaplane developed by R.J.Mitchell greatly contributed to the development of the later Supermarine Spitfire our most iconic fighter aircraft of the Second World War.
Walking the beach we soon arrive at a metal sign indicating that the shore and foreshore here are owned by the Cadland Estate and there are no public rights of way. Having researched the route and already discovering that I would have to walk further inland along country lanes, it comes as no surprise. Interestingly access to the foreshore between low and high water was enshrined as part of Magna Carta in 1215. Basically, between these two points most of this land around the British Isles belongs to the Crown, with some minor rules, (the right to piscary) gives us the common man access to enter this area for resources such as shellfish or fish etc. However Beaulieu Abbey Estate, which included the Cadland Estate, had rights down to the low water mark that pre-dated this, c1203 and held on to them. So when the Abbey land was sold off by Henry VIII in 1538 the rights went with it, hence no access to the foreshore.
After walking the B3053 and Stanswood Road for a few kilometres we come across this lovely old tree with a gnarly trunk, can you see a face? What causes these trees to go gnarly and grow these burls, multiple in this case, isn't truly understood, but it's believed that the tree has suffered some trauma as its grown possibly from insect infestation, fungal attack or other environmental factors. Thankfully they are generally not thought to affect the overall health of the tree, however burl wood is valuable, cut open, it often reveals a beautiful unique wood grain full of colours, swirls, and interesting patterns, this means it is sought after by Artisans. Poachers illegally strip burls from living trees and sell the wood to unsuspecting customers.
At Lepe Country Park we return back to the foreshore, which is a welcome relief from walking the hard tarmac lanes. Lepe is situated on the edge of the New Forest. Here there is a restaurant and tea room with superb views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Hard to believe now it was once a Mulberry harbour construction site and the start of the temporary "Pluto" pipeline that carried fuel to the allied troops advancing through France in 1944.
Passing the wonderful picturesque Old Coastguard Watch House on the front, we are soon away from the dog walkers and day tourists visiting Lepe Beach. Up on the bank is the Millennium Lighthouse. Built in 2000, it guides boats into the mouth of the River Beaulieu. The foreshore here is more remote and it's pleasant walking along the beach and saltings.
Nearing the Beaulieu River and Lower Exbury we must return to the lanes for the long walk to Beaulieu. Sadly there are no footpaths with permissive access for us to use that follow the river into Beaulieu, which is a shame. However it's not all bad, we do get the chance to see Exbury village, its wonderful St Katharine's Church and the water tower, a prominent feature in the village, which was used to water the estate gardens. If we had more time, which we don't, Exbury Gardens created by Lionel Nathan de Rothschild's, would have been worth a visit too, so I will return at some point in the future.
At Hill Top Beaulieu we are truly within the New Forest National Park which covers an area of 219 sq miles. This unenclosed common pasture land, heathland and forest belongs to the Crown, meaning we have the right to ramble freely. Its current custodians are Forestry England, who balance the needs of the people, nature and business, ensuring that the public are able to enjoy the forest in the most appropriate way.
Lastly, just as we were heading to our bus stop for the journey home, we witnessed the technique for managing the heathland by controlled burning, an activity practised for generations and now undertaken by the Forestry Commission. It's been a great few days and despite having to walk on some roads, very enjoyable. 10.82 miles.