Hope it was worth the wait.
Posted by Caroline on December 15, 1997 at 23:12:18:
In response to Thanks for your efforts, written by Tom on December 09, 1997 at 13:08:19
Tom, you've got me all interested, guessing her intentions - a boat adrift on a storm-tossed sea? Someone watching the arrival of a Navy ship from a lighthouse?
What I'm going to do is to 'sail 'you from St Alban's Head to Southampton, telling you what's what, where and why. Let's assume we are on a fairly large ship, not a fishing boat, and that it's a fine day, there is no real swell from bad weather in the last few days, visibility is good, the wind is the prevailing one, i.e. sw.
The rough direction is sw-ne, i.e. almost exactly with the wind. As we round St Alban's Head, Durleston Point is directly in front of us. This rocky promontory contains the Tilly Whim Caves,(smuggler's haunt) and perched on the end, is a lighthouse. Like all the lighthouses I am going to mention, it existed prior to about 1810, but I'm not sure in what form. Beyond Durleston is rolling hills which fall gently down to the coast, and the ancient port of Swanage. From Swanage harbour, the western end of The Isle of Wight is clearly visible, including the westernmost extremity, a series of stark, white sea-stacks called The Needles. These are quite ferocious looking, and have their own lighthouse. The western end of the IOW is all chalk cliffs.
The mainland becomes much lower and flatter, with extensive marshland and mudflats almost masking the entrance to Poole Harbour. This huge, circular natural shelter contains the uninhabited Brownsea island, and has several little villages on its fringes, as well as the busy cargo port of Poole itself. Beyond Poole, the land rises again into a series of wild wind-swept cliffs which are almost uninhabited, unless you count the house of eccentric Squire Tregonwell, built in 1811, which is credited as being the start of the flourishing Victorian resort town of Bournemouth.
Keeping the mainland on the left, and the IOW on the right, we pass into the channel of water known as the Solent. The IOW chalk gives way to multi-coloured sandstone cliffs at Alum Bay, whilst on the mainland side we are moving fast towards a sand spit known as Hurst Castle Spit. This is a potential danger to shipping, and the Lighthouse is located in the ruined castle on the banks. The distance between Hurst castle and The Needles is actually quite wide, and as long as the prevailing wind isn't storm force, and your ship doesn't have damaged rigging, there shouldn't be a problem. Just occasionally a strong nor-easter blows here, and the Captain would have to Tack (i.e. zig-zag) between the island and the mainland.
Safely past Hurst Castle, The mainland coast becomes gentle again as you approach the New Forest, whilst the IOW coast is still quite hilly. The small port of Lymington comes up on the left, and beyond it the estuary of the Beaulieu River. You won't be able to see it, but up this river is the village of Buckler's Hard, a tiny place famous for building very big ships, including Nelson's own favourite, the Agamemnon. From the Beaulieu River , the lights and Lighthouse of Portsmouth Harbour are clear. Portsmouth was at this time the major Naval port, where the Naval academy, the most important admirals, the Marines and boatyards were. Between Portsmouth and Beaulieu, on the island side, is the "corner' of the diamond -shaped IOW and the town of Cowes, then , as now, a sailing centre, and port. It has a light now, and I presume it did in Georgian times, too.
We turn to northeast, and head up into Southampton Water, place of four tides per day., past another sand spit called Calshott, which also has a castle. To the left is the tiny village of Hythe, on the right, the Hamble river estuary. Just up from Hamble, on the right (east) side, is Netley Abbey, a ruin popularised by poets (Pope, I think) and made the subject of a Humourous farce in about 1790. There remains one single mile to Southampton itself, and as the bumboats and the customs-men row out to greet you, I leave the rest to your imagination. Hope you enjoyed the trip.
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