Tag Archives: Weston Shore

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.


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 Area Virtual Tour no 6 ~ Netley Abbey and Weston Shore

Solent map googleWeston Shore

Walking or driving in a north westerly direction along Southampton Water you pass another landmark, Netley Abbey, where you can take an atmospheric stroll amongst its ruins. Originally a monastery, it inspired both artists and poets through the 18th and 19th centuries, including John Constable, and still does today. In fact it has long been a popular tourist attraction, visited by one of my heroines Jane Austen no less, and people used to come down for day trips from London on the train in the Victorian era!

Once you have enjoyed exploring Netley Abbey I would like to take you through a woodland area and along to Weston Shore, a long pebbly beach enjoyed by walkers, wind surfers, fishermen and bird watchers just on the outskirts of Southampton. I must admit that my love of this little corner of England is mixed up with my childhood memories, but it is a wonderful place to watch ships sail along Southampton Water from Southampton Docks.

The Romans sailed in to Britannia along these very waters, allegedly for the first time, and built a settlement, Clausentum, on the banks of the River Itchen at what is now called Bitterne. (Ancasta, the title of my second novel, was allegedly an Anglo Roman Goddess of the River Itchen from which my novel flows) Other famous ships, which would have been observed standing on Weston Shore, included the Mayflower, ship of the Pilgrim Fathers, bound for America in April 1620.  Just over one hundred years ago, in April 1912, the first and last sightings of the Titanic was watched with pride and celebration, soon to be turned to mourning as many a street in the area lost many of their brothers, sisters, friends and neighbours. The whole of the Southampton area was stunned by the loss. Then, through the Crimean and Great Wars troop ships sailed out and returned carrying our injured and in 1913 the unusual sight of flying boats would have inspired speculation, admiration and certainly doubt from the local onlookers.

Then of course there were the Queens which the Southampton people took to their hearts, the Queen Mary, the first Queen Elizabeth and then the QE2, the fastest merchant ship in the world.  (I was so sad when I heard that she was left to rust in Dubai, but I notice recent good news that there are now plans to turn her into a luxury hotel!) I remember the excitement of watching all of these grand ladies both from the shore and from my grandma’s upstairs bedroom window. Even the sight of the massive cruise liners today, including the Queen Mary, stirs emotions, although nothing could beat watching the QE2 in her day, in my opinion.

Back to Weston Shore, today there is a group who have become custodians of the area called The Weston Shore Society. You can get news of their events and updates on The Friends on Weston Shore blog. They arrange regular parties  to clear any rubbish washed on to the tide line and social events and walks for local people to enjoy and appreciate their surroundings. In fact, you can also enjoy the Westwood Woodland Park close by too. You just need to get out of the car an explore.

Weston Shore has its own charm in a quirky sort of way, but it was its proximity to Woolston which made it a perfect setting for scenes in my novels including Ancasta, when my characters sought a place for solace or to breathe and feel connected to the river, sea and the places beyond.

Dreaming of Distant Shores

Dreaming of Distant Shores


Filed under Ancasta, Southampton, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, Weston Shore, Woolston

Memories of My ‘Bookiful’ Weekend

While the whole of the UK are experiencing Olympic withdrawal symptoms, I thought I’d share snapshots of memories of my own eventful weekend, last week. It was a marathon in itself!

Thursday 2nd August

Stopped off to say a big thank you to Rachel Holmes and Colonel Bullied at the

Hampshire Regiment Museum in Winchester:

Hampshire Regiment Museum Winchester






Friday October 3rd

An atmospheric picnic, sharing readings and talking about my writing on Weston Shore as the sun set over Southampton. I was just reading the first chapter when Edward, a sea captain, guides his ship along Southampton Water as a cruise liner left dock and sailed past us!

Weston Shore Southampton








Saturday 4th

Excited to catch the Hythe Ferry. Although this was not a Hotspur as in both of my novels, I still delight in the journey across Southampton Water, evoking many childhood memories, especially taking the train ride along the pier. Spot my poster on the train behind my head!






Then with Colin and at the Herald Office, Hythe:


And on to the Spinnaker Bar Calshot. It was a memorable Day, meeting interesting people along the way.





Sunday 5th August

Back to Bedfordshire and on to the Shuttleworth Collection where so many people stopped by to listen and also share their own fascinating tale.


Finally relaxing and watching the air display with friends and family. A great day was enjoyed by all to complete my ‘Bookiful’ Weekend!!













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Filed under Ancasta, Book reading, Events, Marketing your novel, Southampton, The Shuttleworth Collection, Weston Shore