Approximately 8 miles north west as the crow flies from Lee on Solent and a few miles further by road, Hamble is a gem of a place snuggled at the mouth of the River Hamble as it flows into Southampton Water and the Solent beyond. It is well known to the sailing fraternity, who moor their many and varied yachts in the protected waters of the marina. I remember Hamble as a child, but chose to visit more recently. We stayed at the Riverside Campsite for a couple of nights in order to carry out some research for my second novel, but have stopped off on a couple of occasions since, just because it is so lovely and peaceful.
Passing Tesco on your right as you leave the M27 at Junction 8 you might wonder where on earth you are going to be staying, but as soon as you turn into Satchels Lane you are in the countryside. The campsite is situated behind the marina, right on the river, with a pleasant restaurant only a couple of minutes away, if you don’t want to cook. As a base to discover the history of the area, or to just explore and enjoy a refreshing break, it is perfect. Just ten minutes walk and you are in the village of Hamble. Unspoilt by time, its cobbled streets and quaint shops, inns and restaurants lead you down to the quayside, where you can watch the river traffic, have a cup of tea or ice cream and plan your day.
What a choice! You could take the Pink Ferry across to Warsash and take a walk along the river or have a bite to eat at The Rising Sun. You might be interested to know that the WRAF, the Women’s Royal Air Force was formed in April 1918 and some were based at the Airstation at Warsash.
Alternatively you could catch a boat trip up to Bursledon, hearing about the history of the area on route. There you might be surprised to see the Woolston Ferry at its final destination. Now a restaurant, The Floating Bridge is moored beside the river and it is certainly on my ‘to go’ list.
There are several walks into the history of the area, which could be combined into one full days walk. Well marked paths take you through woodlands, along the river, on the banks of Southampton Water and across fields which were once airfields. Maps can be picked up at the campsite with all the details.
One walk takes you close to Southampton Water, with a couple of detours, and over to The Royal Victoria Park, location of the old Victorian hospital, which I will describe in my next post.
Another walk visits the sites of the two original airfields in the area. Aviation history seeps into the very pores of Hamble where planes were built as far back as 1911 at Hamble Point. The First World War brought famous names like AV Roe and Sopwith. In fact the Avro 504, featuring in my novel, could well have been built in Hamble. Fairy Aviation, too, developed a factory in the area. By World War Two around 3000 people were employed making amongst others Spitfires, Wellington Bombers and Sunderlands. I was interested to read that worker travelled from nearly villages and towns including Woolston. Also, when I attend one of Shuttleworth’s air display days, I don’t just observe planes fly with the respect they are due. Now I recognise so many of their names and by association I imagine the people who made them, the location of their manufacture as well as their important place in our history.
It is hard to believe that this sleepy backwater was such a hub of technological revolution in the early 20th century and the locals in those days were not all that enthusiastic about the noise pollution either!
That is not to say that aviation has left Hamble for good. Near the old church, well worth a visit, Follands remains, with a red Gnat outside its main gates.
Here is the main cobbled street of Hamble meandering down to the quay.