To catch the tides it meant an early start; well early for an autumnal Sunday morning. The Hamble is a tidal river and paddling with the tide makes it easier and also makes the upper reaches a little more accessible. Our destination for the day was a riverside pub some distance along the upper Hamble where at low tide it is little more than a large stream.
The River Hamble is close to Southampton and flows into The Solent. A short distance from the mouth of the river is a large marina filled with boats. Here is the Jolly Sailor pub. It is here that the TV series Howard’s Way was filmed. Across from the Jolly Sailor is a public “hard” or launching ramp used by many kayakers. Being tidal the river is accessible to anyone.
I have been kayaking in many parts of the world from Australia to Canada but have done little of it in my own backyard. It was about time I explored some of the rivers and estuaries closer to home
Launching from here we were surrounded by huge multi-million pound luxury boats. Many of them towered several storeys above our diminutive kayaks. This meant we had to be aware of other river traffic as kayaks at water level, no matter how brightly coloured, are not all that visible from the wheelhouse of a luxury boat. We paddled past only slightly less expensive yachts moored in close proximity to each other along the floating maze of pontoons; their masts and rigging rattling in the breeze like the percussion section of a large orchestra.
As the moored boats became less ostentatious and smaller on the further reaches of the marina road rail and the M27 crossed the river. After the M27 the Hamble left behind the urbanisation of Southampton and its satellite towns. Even before we had left the M27 behind we became aware of wildlife along the banks and on the river. Now the meadows and woodland, some of it belonging to the National Trust, came right down to river.
Apparently there is the rotting remains of one of Henry V’s warhsips here, evidence of the river’s military history. Howeer it is only visible at very low tide and we were paddling up the river on an incoming tide nearing its maximum so saw no sign of the vessel. Also around here the landing boats for the D-day landings were moored but any sign of them is long gone.
Fields, meadows, woodland and reed beds meant there was a huge variety of birdlife to see. Raptors watch the movements at the waters edge and in the meadows hoping for a meal of tasty small mammal. A nuthatch slowly searched the bark of a fallen tree for its breakfast of insects.
The Hamble is a wide tidal river which divides into the two arms of the Upper Hamble narrow considerably. Reeds and a wooded shoreline are a haven for birds and small mammals. The only sounds here were the rustle of the breeze in the dry reeds, the gentle music of birdsong and the muted dip and drip of paddles propelling kayaks through the narrow channel between the reeds; a very bucolic scene.
We egressed at a small inlet with a tiny jetty. The Horse and Jockey pub, despite its name, draws many of its customers from the river and kayakers are more than welcome. The drink and the hot snack were most welcome even mid-morning. This was our destination for the day.
We watched as the tide slackened and turned. Already the water was fast receding as we eased ourselves back into the kayaks. A small rim of mud began to appear beneath the reeds and the egrets began searching for their food. Paddling was easy and gentle as the tide was taking us with it. This was the reason for the relatively early Sunday morning start. Now I was thankful for it.