Tag Archives: Hamble

Virtual Tour of the Solent ~ The Story so far and where to next?

Solent map googleCalshot

I began this virtual tour to show that a sense of place is important in my writing. I need to describe the areas in my novel enough to help the reader to feel that ‘sense of place,’ but I thought it might be helpful to give a little more background information and description. I have written ten posts around the Solent area so far, but before I leave the shores of mainland England I thought a summary would be helpful:

1 ~ At the beginning of this year I began my virtual tour at Gilkicker Fort on the strategic peninsula guarding the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. It was there that one of my main characters, Harriet’s daughter Sarah, was stationed  with the husband, at the newly refurbished married quarters, back in 1910. It was a life that Sarah found hard to come to terms with but then came the war which changed everything.

2 ~ Close by was Fort Grange, still enclosed in the Naval Station today, where early pilots were trained for combat and reconnaissance missions in WW1 including Anthony, Sarah’s husband.

3 ~ A short distance along the coast is Lee on Solent, not strictly speaking in Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home, but it may be in the no, 3 in the series. Lee was important at that time though, since it was one of the earliest Flying Boat Stations on the south coast.

4 ~ Just up the estuary takes you to the sheltered inlet into Hamble, which is an unspoilt haven for sailing boats. Anthony’s family lived there, with its cobbled streets and a small ferry over to Warsash, much the same today as it was at the turn of the last century, I should imagine.

5 ~ Further up Southampton Water is The Royal Victoria Park, once the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, with only the tall chapel remaining as a signal to the grandeur of the original building which had corridors a quarter of a mile long. It is still a lovely place to visit, go for a stroll, have a picnic and find out about its interesting history. Jane, one of my characters, well known to those who have read Riduna, was stationed there, close enough to Harriet for them to remain friends although Jane had little time to spare for social calls, especially during the war.

6 ~ Visiting the ghostly remains of Netley Abbey en-route, popular with the Victorians, we reach Weston Shore, important in both of my novels as a place to feel the sea and watch those on their journeys too and from Southampton Docks. It could be a place you might overlook, but if you make the efffort and stop and have a walk along its shores, it’s a haven for wildlife and it’s a wonderful place to watch the world go by. It’s here that the name of my novel seemed so apt. ‘Ancasta’ ~ ‘The Swift One.’ Many folks have stood, as Harriet did, on these shores and prayed for the swift and safe return of their loved ones, but for Harriet it was more than that. It was here she watched the Channel Island Ferries as they journeyed to the place of her birth. It was a direct channel to Guernsey (Sarnia in my novel) and Alderney (Riduna in my novel) which she loved but had left behind so long ago.

7 ~ Woolston. The Newton family grew up in the heart of Woolston, working in the local industry, initially as boat builders but subsequently early flying boats. (Supermarine) Harriet ran a popular guest house mainly for travellers. One of her son’s worked in a bicycle shop too. Each of her family played their part in WW1, Sarah returning home for the duration of the war with her little son Timothy.

8~ Southampton. Across the Floating Bridge is Southampton itself, still a thriving port and the window to the world to many of my characters including Edward, also well known to many of you from Riduna, Harriet’s childhood sweetheart from the island of Riduna. Their lives took very different paths but they continue to cross at times and Edward’s occasional visits still have a positive impact on the lives of the Newton family, especially Timothy and Sarah.

9~ Over the Hotspur to Hythe is where Edward lives, when he’s on land, with his more than housekeeper Marie. She’s a larger than life character and I’m quite fond of her, even though I feel a bit disloyal to Harriet for doing so.

10 ~ Just a few miles up to the peninsula we reach Cashot, at the mouth of Southampton Water, and if you want a place to ‘ship watch’ this is it. One of Harriet’s son’s Jack was stationed here before and at the start of WW1, where he was an engineer at the new RNAS flying boat station back in 1913.  He continued to travel home to his young family in Woolston, that was until he joined up and travelled to join the HMS Ben my Chree, one of the earliest sea plane carriers which went out to Turkey.

So, where does my virtual tour go to next? We reach the point when we now travel beyond the Solent, and we’re heading across the sea to The Channel Islands as from Monday. In fact that’s where the original story  of Riduna began.

Meanwhile I’m continuing my real centenary tour

at Waterstones in St Neots this Saturday on 23rd March from 11am.

I look forward to meeting some more of you then.

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Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Early Flight, Events, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Riduna, Southampton, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, Weston Shore, Woolston

The Solent ~ Virtual history tour No 4 ~ Amble in Hamble

Solent map googleHamble

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.

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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.

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Filed under Ancasta, Early Flight, Research, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond