66. Hythe, Fawley to Calshot

Entrance to Hythe Ferry, Ruth's coastal walk.Today I start my walk from Hythe Pier and I plan to travel southeast – to reach the sea-shore at Calshot.

I’m not looking forward to the walk today. Although I am on the edge of the famous ‘New Forest’, I am sticking to the coastline where the map shows a huge oil refinery and then a power station. These large industrial complexes lie between my route and the water’s side. Much of my walking today will be along roads. I am particularly dreading the A326; I anticipate this will be busy and, because it runs along the edge of the industrial area, I expect the scenery to be brutally unappealing. I don’t even know if there is a footpath.

It turns out that I am wrong.

seagulls in Hythe, Hampshire, Ruth's walk around the coast, UK.
Hythe is full of late holiday makers, strolling and enjoying the Saturday sunshine. A row of cheeky sea gulls line the railing along the water’s edge.

I am unable to follow the coast and walk along a quiet road. But as I leave Hythe behind, the countryside opens out and I have a wonderful view across marshy land to the edge of Southampton Water. Beyond, across the busy waterway where the Isle of Wight Ferry is passing by, I can see the wooded shore I walked along on my previous day of walking.

Southampton Water - View from Langdown, Ruth's walk around the coast.

The road turns inland and, reluctantly, I leave the shore behind. Over a railway line, I find a track leading off to the left. Here runs the official Solent Way.

wooded path - Solent Way - From Hythe to Fawley, Ruth's coast walkThe track winds through woods. To begin with, there are houses and the occasional vehicle. Further on, the track becomes a bridle way. There is a small bridge across a stream. Vehicles cannot pass along here. The woods are old, consisting mainly of beautiful oak trees. I hear a popping sound overhead and small objects are falling from the trees. At first I think someone is throwing stones. At me? Then I realise; it is acorns, falling out of the trees.

This is a beautiful walk. I enjoy it immensely. I meet a couple on mountain bikes and a woman with a horse, but nobody else.

Jesus is Lord - Solent Way, Ruth's coastal walkJust as I approach the end of this leafy lane, I come across a small building with an ugly temporary cabin attached. It is a small church. How strange!

From here, I join the main road – the dreaded A326. It is surprisingly pleasant.

A326 - surprisingly pleasant, Ruth's coastal walk past FawleyAlthough the main road is reasonably busy, there is a quiet residential access road running parallel to it, with wide pavements.

There are tall trees lining the road – so tall and thick, I am unable to see beyond them. although I know that the sprawling complex of the Fawley Refinery lies just on the other side of the trees, I can’t actually see any sign of it – no chimneys, no flares, no smoke – nothing.

At the end of the road is a roundabout and I bear left, continuing to walk along the outskirts of the invisible oil refinery.

To my right is open ground with park land and playing fields. Men are playing football. Girls are watching them. It is sunny and warm.

playing fields, Ruth's coastal walk

Past the playing fields, I turn off the main road, heading for the coast. There is a footpath marked on my map, beginning at a place called Ashlett, just the other side of the village of Fawley.

I walk through Fawley village. It is one of those quiet places where no large chain shops want to set up and the main shopping street, if you can call it that, has a mix of local shops. There is something refreshingly different and unique about such places. It reminds me of Bourne, in Lincolnshire. For some reason, here there are two wedding shops.

Through Fawley, I head down a lane signposted to Ashlett Creek. I am not expecting much, but come to a part of the road where the land falls away and I have a view of busy Southampton Water – large commercial ships and small pleasure craft.

Ashlett Creek, Southampton Water, Ruth's coastal walk

The road heads down and I reach the creek. This is beautiful. The tide is out and the creek is muddy, with ships and small tugs lying in the mud. There is an old mill. And a lovely pub, the Jolly Sailor.

Jolly Sailor Pub, Ashlett, Fawley, Ruth's coastal walk.

Families are sitting out, in front of the pub, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, finishing off their lunches and enjoying cold drinks. It is very scenic and I am tempted to stop for a drink. But I have arranged to meet my husband (and his mother) in Calshot and I don’t want to be late.

horses on common land, Ashlett, Ruth's coastal walk through New Forest.Beyond the pub is an area of common land. I am now, according to the map, within the New Forest National Park. I come across horses grazing – the first of many horses I meet in the New Forest, roaming free.

Here there are foals with their mothers and I worry a little. I am not fond of large animals. Well, to be honest, I am frightened of large animals and I wonder if the horses will be protective of their young and resent my walking across their pasture. They trot over towards me but they are just being nosey.

There are lots of small creeks and a motley collection of sailing boats are moored in the mud. I stroll around by the edge of the mud, taking photos, and trying to work out where the footpath is. Meanwhile, the horses follow me, close behind.

Ashlett marina, Fawley, Southampton Water, Ruth's coastal walk, Hampshire.

I find a path and walk through bushes and trees. Ahead, I see the single tall chimney of the Fawley Power Station, rising above the vegetation. The path runs along the outside of the power station, passing between it and the sea-shore. There are huge fences marking the boundary of the station, with warning signs and, apparently, CCTV cameras.

Walking along shore in front of Fawley Power Station, Ruth's Coastal Walk.

But the land in front of the station is open and flat, stretching down to the water. The golden afternoon sunlight falls on the marsh and the grassland, and on the bright blue water beyond.

Fawley Power Station, Ruth's coastal walk.

I stop and take photographs. Today I am using a new lens on my camera, but it has no telephoto features and I am disappointed not to be able to use my zoom, particularly when I see, beyond Calshot Castle, the familiar white spire of Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower in the distance.

There is a haze in the air and the sunshine seems to bend around the structures of the Power Station – so it appears unsubstantial, almost transparent, in the weird light of this late afternoon. I experiment with different exposures on my camera, until I finally manage to capture the effect I am after.

bridge, Fawley Power Station, Ruth's coastal walk.After a while, I walk under the shadow of the tall chimney. Here there are mushrooms growing in the grass.

There is a creek running up the side of the plant and I walk across a strange little bridge – with high fences and a covered top, creating a tunnel effect. From the other side, I can’t see any intimation that this is a footpath, but it is.

Beyond the bridge, the footpath turns inland, heading back towards the road. But ahead of me is a wide track, well trodden, leading towards the beach at Calshot. In the distance I can see a row of beach huts, marking the edge of the beach.

towards Calshot beach huts, from Fawley Power Station, Ruth's coast walk.

On the other side of the beach huts is the beach itself – shingle. Lots of people are parked along the sea front or walking up and down along the promenade. There is somebody in the water, attempting to teach a woman how to kite surf; difficult because there is virtually no wind.

I hear someone calling me. My husband and his mother are sitting in the car, facing the sea, enjoying ice creams.

I arrange to meet them a little further on as I want to walk the last half mile along the sea, as planned. I walk along the shingle for a while until, as I grow tired, I head through the line of beach huts and walk along the coastal road.

To my right, across the fields, I get my last good view of the power station. With the sun sinking lower in the sky, the building looks ghostly. I take more photographs and finish this blog with my final image from this beautiful day of walking.
 Fawley Power Station, Ruth on her walk around the coastline.

Vital statistics: miles walked = 8

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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7 Responses to 66. Hythe, Fawley to Calshot

  1. glen bradford says:

    Hey I will be doing this walk in 2013 I can’t wait I love the outdoors feel free to text me and I will feed you some positive text etc 🙂 07944788823

  2. I’ve yet to visit this particular stretch of the British coast but I think you’ve just inspired me. Thanks (:

  3. tmso says:

    Very nice trip. Industrial areas often surprises me, too. Are you walking the entire British coastline?

  4. Tina says:

    Hi Ruth, thank you for this blog. We are planning a walk on Wednesday and we were looking for an alternative from Lepe Country Park, having already done the Lepe Loop. We are now going to park at Calshot and plan a circular loop around the top of Fawley and back down. Although industrial I think you’ve convinced me that the scenery to Southampton water will be worthwhile. Tina

    • Hi Tina, I hope you have a great walk and now feel a tremendous feeling of responsibility in case you don’t! I quite like industrial scenery, particularly if there is a beautiful backdrop. So I really enjoyed this walk and hope you enjoy yours. 🙂

  5. Karen White says:

    This has added another place to my ‘go to’ list – Ashlett Creek. It is no more than 1/2 an hour drive from me but I have never been there. I didn’t even know about the tide mill, or that Spinnaker Tower could be seen from it.

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