To be honest this was not a walk I was looking forward to very much, as much of it is in an urban or industrial area and much of it is also walking next to busy dual carriageways – never pleasant. Nevertheless it turned out better than expected and had some nice spots, too although the latter part was pretty tedious.
I had spent the night near Christchurch, so only had a short drive this morning via the A35 and A326 to reach Marchwood. I even managed to get through Lyndhurst without a delay.
I followed the signs to the car park and found myself behind the odd little shopping centre. There were no signs up and no payment machine, so I assumed it was free parking. Certainly I left my car there without paying and didn’t get a parking ticket!
It was a humid day with some hazy sunshine. I followed the road from the car park to the aptly named Main Road. Not sure of the way I turned right to the church and then thought I’d better check the map, and realised I was going the wrong way. Not a good start.
I turned off Main Road onto Main Road (confusing!) which turned out to be more the village centre. I was beginning to wonder if the odd 1980s shopping centre I had parked at was all there was to the village, so it was nice to see there was an older village centre, too.
I followed this along the old village passing a pub and a few shops and then back to residential streets, soon with a recreation ground on the right. Just pass Old Magazine Close on the right, presumably a reference to the military past of the area, I picked up a footpath ahead. The path wasn’t quite as straightforward to follow as I hoped, as it meandered around a housing estate. But I think I found the right way and ended up on Normandy Way.
Here I had hoped there would be a pavement. It was not to be, but at least there was a grass verge wide enough to walk on and it looked like it had recently been cut. The houses had ended now and there were fields and power lines about.
I turned left and followed this to a roundabout I remembered driving around on my way to Marchwood. Here I turned right along Bury Road. This passed the sewage works on the right, but thankfully there was not much smell. I was hoping for views of Southampton water here, but it was not visible. To my left were fields and gravel workings beyond. There was more traffic than I expected, so I had to keep an ear out for it approaching and head back onto the grass verge where possible. I passed Bury Farm on the right with a track off to the left. Soon I was passing under power lines again, probably from Fawley. I passed the access road to what looks like a residential caravan park and then came to the junction for Elling. So far, it had not been an especially good walk and I didn’t have much enthusiasm.
Here though I could turn right and, thankfully, most of the traffic kept on the road I had left, so it was nice not to have to be dodging cars at regular intervals. Shortly after I came to another road junction where there was a pub, King Rufus. The building on the other side of the road had also obviously been a pub, but had a sign in the window saying it was “No longer a pub”. A shame, but then it was too early for a drink. The narrow road headed through the village. Soon there was a pavement, but it was rather useless as a pavement because cars were parked all over it. As I neared the church I found out why, as a service was on, I could hear music and singing from in the church.
Here I turned off the road the church and followed through the church yard and the path beyond to head downhill to a park beside Southampton Water.
My first view of the coast on this walk! The tide was out so the channel ahead of me was more mud than water and the view slightly marred by the large number of power lines that crossed the river.
To the south I could see 3 large container ships moored up presumably either loading or unloading, as this is one of the largest container ports (and cruise ship ports) in the UK. The park had lots of seats alongside the river and was proving popular with dog walkers. I turned left and followed Southampton Water until I reached Bartley Water which separates Elling from the larger village of Totton. There was a gravel path beside this that took me back to the road, with a nice view of the church and a large house alongside it on the way.
To my right I had glimpses over the pleasant little harbour of Elling. Soon I reached the bridge, almost a causeway really, that links Elling and Totton. To the left is the large mill pond and to the right the small harbour leading out to Southampton Water.
I’m not seeing the harbour at it’s best, because the tide is out, but it is still pleasant. Unusually the bridge is a toll bridge, but it is free for pedestrian and cyclists. I pass the Eling tide mill on the right. This used to be open to the public, but when I passed it was closed for refurbishment works, not due to open until sometime in 2016. (Update as of June 2016 – now expected to re-open in 2017). Once over I turned right to head on the north side of Eling harbour along the quay.
I followed the road as it turned left, away from the water, beside a pub, and then into industry on the right and houses on the left. It was not especially inspiring.
Ahead I reach the A35. Here the road I was on went under the A35, but I took the bridge up onto the main roadway by turning right up a ramp. There is a combined footpath and cycle path on the bridge and it provides a means to cross the river Test and Southampton Water and other than the Hythe Ferry is the lowest point you can cross the river. I soon get good views over the river, although the railway bridge just to my right limits views a bit.
I can also see the cranes of the docks beyond. Once over I can take the path down away from the dual carriageway onto Old Redbridge Road. This turned out to be more pleasant than expected, and it was nice to get away from the dual carriageway. It looked like a bit of an old village centre, which I hadn’t expected, with a couple of nice looking pubs and some nice old houses.
These soon gave way to more modern housing though and at the end of the road I reached the main road, which now seems to have adopted the number A33 instead. It is the main trunk road into Southampton and busy. Thankfully I can follow the pavement beside an adjacent access road. I pass a garage on the right and then the little access road turns off to the right to run parallel with the A33. It is dusty and there is lots of traffic noise but at least with it being Sunday most of the industry is closed.
At a T-junction I turned left to continue parallel with the A33 passing another garage on the right. Soon this road ends at the Millbrook roundabout. Here I could follow the cycle paths over the roundabout, which has pedestrian crossings. On the other side once again I can follow the pavement beside an access road adjacent to the main A33, which goes on a flyover over the roundabout. There are more garages on the right and after a while this gives way to a recreation ground on the right. At last something green!
I was hoping there might be a toilet here, as I now needed to go, but sadly no. Still the road alongside led to a petrol station. I went in to the Co-Op shop attached hoping it might have a toilet. Still no. At this point the road I had been following turned to the left back to the A33. Here I turned right alongside the A33. Thankfully there was a pavement and the traffic lights at the previous junction had slowed the approaching traffic a little. Soon on the right I passed Millbrook Station. A more depressing looking station it was difficult to imagine, with a platform in the middle of the tracks, with the A33 on one side and the industry of the docks on the other.
Here the cycle path I had been following ran along a sliproad onto the A33, oddly with one of the lanes a bus lane, but again, there was a pavement. Briefly there were woodlands on the left between the sliproad and the A33. At the end of the slip road I could fork right into Waterloo Road, a residential road. I turned right down Almond Road to Millbrook Road East and turned left along it. This was now a mixture of residential on the left and industry and business units on the right. As I neared the A3057 the business units were unused and awaiting redevelopment. Just before the A3057 I spotted a sign on the right for the station and followed this under the A3057 and onto the road in front of the railway station. I’ve been to Southampton Central station a few times but always used the exit on the other side.
This side was not very pleasant with some very ugly 1960s developments still on the left side of the road. I could end the walk here, as I started my next coastal walk from the station. But I checked the bus times and realised I had nearly half an hour to wait. Instead I continued along the road and at the junction at the end, turning right and passing an Asda. Here I stopped to double check the bus times and was accosted by a man so drunk he could barely speak and clutching an open can of lager. I wondered if he was drunk from this morning or still drunk from last night. He wanted the bus to Millbrook and I told him when the next bus was. Unfortunately, it was also the bus I wanted to catch.
I carried on to the West Quay shopping centre, having found the bus stop I needed more or less outside the entrance by Waterstones. I headed into the shopping centre browsing in Waterstones to pass the time before my bus (I tend to regard shopping as something to be done as rarely and as quickly as possible). When the bus was a few minutes from due I headed out and it was already there waiting. I took this back to Marchwood. Thankfully the very drunk man must have found another bus. It was a pleasant enough journey back to Marchwood.
This was not an especially good walk, being urban for most of it and mostly along roads. There were however some nice parts, primarily around Eling and Totton. I can’t say I’d be in a hurry to repeat this walk, though.
Here are the details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Solent Blue Star route 8 : Southampton – Millbrook – Totton – Rushington – Pooksgreen – Marchwood – Hythe – Holbury – Blackfield – Fawley – Calshot. Twice an hour Monday – Saturday between Southampton and Marchwood (with less frequent services on to Calshot). Hourly on Sundays between Southampton and Hythe (via Marchwood) only (no service to Calshot on Sunday).
Having been following the Solent coast there has been a constant companion (other than the sea) to my right, the Isle of Wight. Although I hadn’t initially planned to walk around all the islands I have passed on this walk I’ve so far made it to all the islands – and the same is true for the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight also has a coast path. Southampton is roughly the mid-point of the northern coast of the island and there is a ferry from Southampton to Cowes on the island. So next time I’ll be crossing the Solent and beginning my walk around this beautiful island. It will be nice to get away from the industry around Southampton!