I was not particularly looking forward to this walk for two reasons, the first being that there was going to be a lot of road walking and the second that I had developed a groin strain over my past two outings, which although not preventing me walking, meant any over-stretching of my step was painful.
Because of the above I had decided on just doing a single days walk and that being a Sunday this would present some challenges in sorting out the public transport to get me to the start of the walk. I had looked at using the the New Forest Tour bus service, but on looking closely, the cost was based on Day Tickets and the cheapest day ticket, even on a concessionary rate was £14! So, £14 for a three mile bus journey was a non-starter. So it was back to making use of my bike. I drove down to and parked in the village car park at Beaulieu and then cycled to the edge of Dibden Purlieu. Here, I locked the bike up and caught the 07:10 #9 bus to Totton.
I made my way to the Car Park in Totton where I had finished my walk last week and set off down a quiet road towards Eling. I crossed over the unmanned Toll Road bridge at the Tide Mill and continued through the deserted village heading south-east along Marchwood and Bury roads. Although the road was quiet there ws still a footpath alongside. I soon arrived at the village of Marchwood, which was just waking up. I headed through the village and crossed over the Fawley rail branch line, which once served the nearby Military Port and Fawley Power station up till 2016. Although still intact, the road crossings gates of the line are now done by hand. The line has been marked for potential upgrade for passenger use and two “fact-finding” trains with passengers run in 2020 and 2021.
Virtually, all of this side of Southampton Water has little or no access to the shoreline. I left the Hythe Road and followed a footpath that crossed over the railway line and continued through green lanes into Hythe. By this time, my groin strain was very ‘achy’ and I did wonder if I could complete today’s walk. I decided to give it until Calshot before I made a decision. I had a rest of 15 minutes which helped somewhat. I passed through the town of Hythe, while pausing at Hythe Pier. Here a ferry service operates to Southampton. The Pier at Hythe is quite long and has an electric railway running along its length.
I cross over the Fawley railway again heading inland to get around the huge Fawley Oil Refinery and join up with the busy A326 which leads me past Holbury village. At Newlands Road I hear the roar of engines and am surprised to come upon a small Hovercraft event. Races are well underway and I stand watch for 10 minutes. Back in the 1980’s, I built a formula 3 and Formula 1 craft., which I used to race them at national events and even took my Formula 1 craft over to Belgium to race. Unfortunately, due to lack of practice and space to practice I was never any good at it!
I pushed on heading for the small village centre at Fawley and then on to Ashlett Quay. Here, I was almost on the coast for the first time today. I picked up a coastal footpath and headed around the seaward edge of Fawley Power Station. Although shut down since 2013 the site is being demolished in stages. There are currently plans to site housing on the site, but within the perimeter fencing I could see the unmistakable outline of huge wind turbine blades, which could mean the site having a different purpose? I arrived at a point where a short swing bridge operated to let sea craft enter the site. I was amazed and quite annoyed to find the swing bridge was out of action, awaiting parts. I had not passed any signs to warn me of this closure, so it was now a case of heading over a mile back to Ashlett Quay. I decided to see if I could follow the perimeter fence around to the west over old concrete slabs, but the vegetation was quite dense and I was almost back at Ashlett Quay when I picked up another footpath that led onto the Calshot Road.
I decided to miss out doing a there and back to Calshot, as progress along shoreline west of Calshot would have probably meant trespassing. I headed down lovely tree-lined roads which unfortunately saw lots of summer traffic. The rest of the walk all the way to Beaulieu was purgatory, with continually having to step onto a verge, that was either full of thigh-high nettles or tick-laden bracken. The only respite from this hell was the brief interlude of some shoreline waking from Lepe Beach onwards to where the minor road heads towards Exbury.
Overall, I had not intended to walk this far today and after 9.5 hours on the road I was relieved to get back to the car. A far from enjoyable walk around an area whose shoreline is dominated by industry, power stations, ports and large private properties. The enduring image of the area for me were the signs saying “We are watching you”, an area I will certainly not return to!
Distance today = 25 miles
Total distance = 6,635 miles