Almost none of this walk is on public footpaths! Fortunately, Hamble Common and Copse are managed by Eastleigh District Council Countryside Service. They have opened up and signed several paths, making possible this short, interesting walk centred round the quaint old heart of the port of Hamble.
1. From the far right-hand corner of the car park, take a path signed 'Hamble Common' by a notice board explaining something of the importance of this area. Follow the clear path as it wends its way through woodland to the common.
2. At a kissing gate on the right, follow the path along the shore and then round to the right to a path junction, signed by a finger post.
3. Turn left, signed 'Hamble Point via estuary'. After crossing a footbridge with a wooden handrail, continue ahead on a path beside the estuary, marked with a green arrow. At the fence surrounding Hamble Point Marina, follow the path round to the right, again marked with a green arrow, to a road.
Estuaries such as this support a distinctive community of plants. The soil, or mud, is salty due to the occasional inundation by the tide and this makes it difficult for the plants to absorb water by osmosis. Therefore, despite living in a place where there would seem to be plenty of water, the plants can be in a state known as physiological drought and many of them have adaptations to help them conserve the water they do manage to absorb. Typical species seen here include purslane, which has small, succulent, rather greyish leaves, and the rather exotic looking glasswort. This is a very succulent, fleshy plant whose cylindrical shoots are made up of obvious segments. The activities of these and other plants slowly transform the salt marsh, adding organic matter as they die and decay and raising the level so it is covered by the sea less often. This gradual change makes it more suitable for other plants, less tolerant of the extreme conditions, which gradually invade; to the right of the path small oaks are beginning to grow.
4. Cross the road to a car park and turn right on a path signed 'Hamble Copse via foreshore'.
The Solent is said to be the home to the largest pleasure sailing fleet in the world with over 32,000 berths in the many marinas. The Hamble estuary, with over 3,000 of those berths, has been one of the most important for decades thanks to the broad estuary. It seems amazing to me they can all find enough sea to sail on but many apparently rarely leave their berths! Not only is this position ideal for yachting but has also long been of military significance due to its command of Southampton Water. The Bofors Gun from the Second World War is a reminder of this and along this stretch of shore was also a gun emplacement from the Napoleonic War and one of Henry VIII's coastal forts, the latter commanded by a reformed pirate, Sir Henry Maynwaring. This coast has been important for the defence of the realm down the centuries, but it has also been at risk. During the 100 Years War, in 1377 the priory, passed later in the walk, was sacked and burned by the French.
5. Shortly before the BP works, recognisable by the long jetty, join a larger path coming in from the right and follow it as it curves right away from the shore, again following the green arrows. Stay on the main path, soon crossing a grassy glade then continuing through trees. Ignore a path on the right, signed 'Hamble Village', and continue ahead, signed 'Hamble Copse'. Watch out for a carved tree truck to the right of the path. Bear left at the next finger post to a road.
The oil terminal you have just passed receives oil by pipeline for distribution by tanker.
6. Turn left to a T junction with a main road and turn right into Hamble. At the square with the main village car park on the left, continue on the narrow road ahead and the teashop is on the right.
The church on the right is all that remains of a priory established here from 1109 by monks from Thiron near Chartres and it still retains some features from that time. For example, on each side of the altar is a carved head, one of a novice of the order and one of a bearded monk. The door is covered in knife marks made by local fishermen, a downwards stroke made before departure and a horizontal cut completing the cross in thanksgiving for a safe return. Hamble has a long association with the sea and was a fishing port famous for oysters until the Second World War. In more recent times, apart from pleasure sailing, the aviation industry has been important. In the church is a memorial to Sir Edwin Alliot Verdon-Roe, the first Englishman to fly. During the First World War he built an aircraft factory on the outskirts of Hamble and the airfield remained in use for training pilots until 1984.
7. From the teashop turn right to continue down the road to the shore. When the road turns right, go ahead along the side of a car park to the edge of the hard. Turn right, passing the ferry to Warsash, then right again at the far end of the car park, passing a plaque summarising the contribution of Hamble to the war effort in the Second World War.
The street winding down the hill to the seashore seems like a bit of Cornwall translated into Hampshire brick. It is lined with numerous old houses, many of them dating back to Georgian times when Hamble was an important shipbuilding centre. This supported various crafts and trades: the street called Rope Walk recalls the rope making that once went on and Copperhill Terrace, a row of 18th-century houses overlooking the square, is named after the coppers in which the tar for preserving the ropes was boiled.
8. Turn left along the road and follow it round to the right, uphill, back to the car park where the walk started.
The start point is Hamble village green car park. From junction 8 on the M27, follow the signs for Hamble (the B3397). Continue along the road into the outskirts of the village and turn right along Copse Lane, signed for 'Hamble Common, Hamble Point and the Marina'. Take the first turning on the left, School Lane, and then the first right into Green Lane to a car park on the far side of the village green on the right.
Hamble train station has services to Portsmouth and Southampton. Buses originating from Southampton run from the station to the village centre.