I have paddled in a kayak among the islands of a Baltic archipelago off the coast of Sweden; along the Ardeche Gorge in France; in the Nitmiluk Gorge in Northern Territory, Australia; with killer whales in Johnstone Strait off the BC coast of Canada; and with humpbacks off Newfoundland. There are more places I have paddled and still more to come but my own backyard, Southampton Water, is where I hone my skills and learn new ones.
All too often the places closest to home are the ones we visit the least, or in the my case write about the least. I am hoping to remedy that and this post is the start. If Southampton Water is in my backyard, the New Forest is on my doorstep. Keep a watch for posts on either of these in the future.
Southampton Water is the long inlet stretching north-west from the Solent several miles into the heart of Hampshire. It is sheltered and has deep water so is the ideal place for a port. Today it is a container port and one of the largest cruise ports in Europe but in the past it served the Queens of Cunard and the luxury liners of the White Star Line. It was from Southampton the Titanic sailed on its fateful maiden voyage and in the early days of transcontinental flight Southampton Water was where the flying boats of Imperial Airways landed and took off.
Three rivers empty into Southampton Water: the Test, the Itchen and the Hamble. The tidal reaches of all three are accessible by kayak using public launch sites or by paddling up from Southampton Water itself. The paddling is relatively easy if you take account of the tides and wind conditions. Time it right and you can have a tide assisted paddle in both directions.
The video below is of a paddle with a few friends from Eling Creek, where you can visit Britain’s only working tide mill, to Redbridge where the Test enters Southampton Water. This is the narrowest point and is where road and rail bridges cross from Southampton into Hampshire. There are several bridges here that in themselves tell the story of transport links. The oldest is a medieval bridge, no longer used for traffic. Beside this are two road bridges carrying a dual carriageway across the water. It was not always so as only a paddle under the bridges reveals an older single carriageway with a much later additional carriageway. Finally there is a rail bridge.
This is the first in an occasional series exploring Southampton Water and its environment. The video was filmed using a GoPro camera attached to the front of the cockpit of my kayak.