Today was a red-letter day – the first day out when I left my waterproof behind: and my faith was justified. It has been a glorious early summer day. I burnt my left arm yesterday so still had to wear long sleeves, but it was lovely not to cart the anorak around.
I had checked the ferry times, and since the first sailing on a Sunday is at 10am I had a leisurely walk down to the Town Quay, passing the interesting ruins of Holy Rood church – another victim of the wholesale bombing of the city in 1940-42 and now a memorial to all sailors. There is also an interesting pair of plaques commemorating some 22 men and boys who perished attempting to extinguish a huge conflagration in the city in 1837.
The Hythe ferry (fare £4.50) takes some 12 minutes to cross Southampton Water – a tiny craft surrounded by the enormous cruise ships. The Queen Elizabeth was in, looking like an oversized city block. Yesterday, I saw the Queen Mary floating out on the evening tide.
The ferry had several interesting passengers I enjoyed chatting to. We were on the Hotspur IV, built in Colchester and launched in 1946. On the Hythe end, the ferry docks at the end of the pier – 700 yards long and the 7th longest in the UK. A little pier train runs up and down, marvellous fun!
Hythe is more pleased with itself than is really warranted, so I walked through fairly briskly. Because of the huge oil refinery at Fawley, the Solent Way goes inland at this point. I could have walked along roads down to the sea but decided to follow the path and see a bit of the New Forest. The way crosses Beaulieu Heath – a mixture of pines and gorse on fairly marshy ground with various cows and horses dawdling over it. The path then runs into Beaulieu – beautifully kept, but everything clearly still owned by the Lords Montague. All of the houses had the little coat of arms of three diamonds (I don’t know the heraldic term) on plaques by the front door. No doubt the rent is paid by going up to the Big House on Lady Day and handing over the pennies whilst tugging your forelock or curtseying.
A very fine ice cream was had in The Chocolate Studio on the high street.
The path runs along the River Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard, through delightful woodland and managed grassland. Bucklers Hard was full of families enjoying the day out. More estate workers’ cottages, looking picturesque – one was turned into a tiny chapel in the 1850s and still holds Sunday services. After Bucklers Hard, the way continues for several miles along the lanes – pretty enough, but hard on the feet. The ruins of St Leonard’s Grange were a high point. As the path approaches Lymington, the sea can be seen again, about a mile to the south, with the Isle of Wight looking close enough to touch. The walk then crosses fields on the outskirts of the town. Having had a run in with Bluebell, Daisy and Buttercup on the Coast-to-Coast walk a few years ago, I am rather more chary of cows than I used to be, so was not thrilled to see a warning against a bull. Happily, I arrived unscathed in Lymington around 5.15 – a shorter day than yesterday at only just over 18 miles. I had plenty of time for an excellent supper (see review) before taking the train back from Lymington Pier to Southampton – very handy.