Today was my longest day to date – 22 miles (including about a half mile to get to the station.) Fortunately, it was a superb day for walking, which was a surprise as, when I dropped my sister off yesterday, en route to Southampton, it was freezing and wet. I got to my hotel at just about 9pm last night, on the north side of the city centre. First impressions made me homesick for the classy Hotel Salubrious back in Cliftonville – there was a live banjo evening in full swing when I arrived and my room was right over the bar. However, I have been pleasantly surprised – they made me supper, although it was 9.05pm, the room was clean and I even have fresh towels today. The staff couldn’t be more helpful.
Because the place was a-jumpin’ and a-jivin’ until late, I didn’t get the early night I had planned so missed getting the 8.05 fast train back to Portsmouth, however the slow train was very pleasant, stopping at all sorts of interesting little stations, and got me to Portsmouth at about 10am. I crossed to Gosport on the ferry which was super – an excellent view of the Victory and the Spinnaker. A quick breakfast (see review) then I was off around the edge of the marina, admiring the yachts. The Solent Way quickly gets back to the sea front at Gilicker Point, another site of special conservation value along the coast. I spotted white sea campion, lots of thrift, sea kale, and spiral dock. Still not much good at birds, but today included a heron, a lesser-crested grebe, wagtails and a shoveler duck as well as the usual swans and oyster catchers.
Most of the day was walking on shingle, which is very hard work – I am so looking forward to the sandy beaches in the west! There were lots of people about enjoying the sun and there were dozens of yachts, water boards, sail boards and those rather interesting things like surfboards, but with the person standing and paddling – I’d like to give that a try.
The Isle of Wight seemed very close, today, I could just about make out buildings.
As I passed Lee-on-Solent I came to a secluded part of the beach which was not exactly a naturist beach, as I understand that Naturists eschew all clothing, but it was not a normal beach either, as generally, people are clothed (to a greater or lesser degree) from the waist down. These people were fully dressed from the waist up. It was very – well, I was going to say disconcerting, but, I think discombobulating is a more apt description!.
I reached Warsash about 3.30pm and crossed to Hamble-le-Rice on the little ferry service – 10 minutes on a tiny pink craft for £1.50 – marvellous! Hamble is rather full of itself – and despite being only 4pm on a sunny Bank Holiday Saturday most of the cafes and bars were no longer serving food, however I did eventually find an excellent spot for a late lunch. (See review). Leaving Hamble, I was back onto the shingle, marching on to the amazing ruins of Netley Priory. A former Cistercian House, it was founded in the 1220s by a bishop of Winchester. After the dissolution it became a manor house, owned by Sir William Paulet, a big noise from Henry VIII’s days to those of Elizabeth. It was abandoned in the 18th Century but the ruins are very impressive. I was getting rather tired now but still had 6 miles to go. I crossed into Southampton over the Ichenor Bridge. I assume Southampton suffered extensive bomb damage, as although there are fragments of the old town wall and one of the Bars, the majority of it is one of those hideous concrete 1960s cities – all dirty concrete and underpasses leading nowhere. I crawled back into the hotel at around 8pm, and am writing this in the bar after an excellent supper and with a very good glass of red in hand.