Been to Southampton beach yet?

“Been to Southampton beach yet?” – is a common joke older students ask Freshers when they arrive to start their new course at University. Most of the beaches in the UK are pretty, so many coming to study assume that as Southampton on the very edge of the sea in the south must have a good beach.

This is not our beach, it is a make-do place at the Town’s quay to see a glimpse of water and sunbathe

If they did their research they would realise that Southampton is one of the biggest industrial ports there is. Its coast is taken up with docks, crammed with shipping vessels and harbours boxed up with metal containers that arrive and depart all over the world. Residents are blocked off from a view of the sea, apart from a few spaces to get a glimpse of light dazzling on the waves of Southampton Water, such as Mayflower Park (SO14 2AQ).

The Port of Southampton is one of the worlds most productive and busiest

There were attempts in the early 1980s to boost tourism. A sand beach was built near Mayflower Park to welcome Carnival Line and to tempt cruise liner passengers to stay for a day. The cash injection did not work and landed us in debt, so it was not kept up. For any day trippers today there is an excellent walk around the old city walls (guided by volunteers even) lined with ancient pubs, five stunning parks – the odd museum and ancient plaques stating what or who used to be here.

Southampton’s artificial beach at the town quay in the 1980s

In Jane Austen’s time Southampton was a fashionable spa town. Most of Southampton’s elegant buildings were Blitzed during WW2 and being an important financial hub and port, white concrete architectures was quickly thrown up. Most of the tourism to Southampton today is for its diverse range of live music and arts and festivals. West End theatre shows that tour usually start here. Sadly the city no longer worries about holiday-makers and has no tourist office – (though you can get info online and leaflets from the library) – but provides excellent transport links for cruise ship passengers to get to other more desirable destinations quickly, whether its London (70 minutes) the New Forest (10 minutes) or Stonehenge.

The Jurassic coast line that stretches from Hampshire to Cornwall © Southampton Old Lady

We tend to swim at a pool or in one of our rivers. As for beaches Southampton is surrounded by the most beautiful beaches, so why compete?  It would not take you long to get anywhere along the Jurassic Coastline. You can take a short ferry ride to the Isle of Wight , a train to  Bournemouth a taxi to Southsea. Not to far by car you can visit Lepe, Hayling Island, Brownsea Island, Sandbanks (29 miles), Hengisburty Head (21 miles), Barton on Sea or Highcliffe (Click on the Beach Guide and look under Hampshire and Dorset). 

Greater Southampton does have beaches though, but these are not as pretty and take just as long to get to as those outside of its boundary.

Weston Shore, as seen from Victoria Country Park, Southampton

Our beaches are mainly used for water-sports, as Southampton Water and the Solent are incredible tests for such enthusiasts. They are of pebble, not sand, they have views of residential or factory blocks, even an oil refinery.

Another view of Weston Shore across to the oil refinery

There is Weston Shore in Netley and Calshot Beach (officially in Southampton and on Southampton Water but part of the New Forest) SO45 1BL.

Calshot Beach is excellent for sailing, windsurfing and has an olympic sports centre. It is one of the best place to see ocean-liners arrive and depart and has a fort built by Henry VIII

Click Discover for what to see and do in Southampton.

















America’s Cup World Series – Portsmouth

Rita (named by Ainslie's mum after St Rita) sails back past Gunwharf Quays marina.
Rita (named by Ainslie’s mum after St Rita) sails back past Gunwharf Quays marina.

This weekend we went to Portsmouth to view the sailing boats for The Luis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. With daggerboards to lift the catamarans clear of the water for speed, and wings instead of sails, the America’s Cup Class boat has been described as ‘a fighter jet on water’. The Duke of Edinburgh and later Prince William and Kate arrived meet up with Sir Ben Ainslie whose team was the overall winner this weekend. Ainslie skippered for Oracle Team USA in 2013 but since then has had his own team Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) and since 2015 has partnered with Land Rover. Some of the best sailors in the world were at this event.

Fly Emirates Team New Zealand in Portsmouth Harbour. They have an impressive record of winning the Cup in the past, plus developed and brought foiling into mainstream sailing.
Tall structures. Solent landmark, the Spinnaker Tower (170 m / 560 ft) high) meets it fellow sponsor the Fly Emirates Team NZ catamaran (23.9m 78.6 ft). The residential building known as The Lipstick due to its shape is 101 m / 331 ft high.
Emirates Team New Zealand crew disembark onto Solent raft after competing in the America’s Cup World Series – Portsmouth
Americas cup
Portsmouth was crowded viewing all the America’s Cup Class catamarans foils. Overall standings: Emirates Team NZ. Land Rover BAR. Oracle Team USA. Artemis Racing. SoftBank Team Japan. Groupama Team France.
Transporter trucks with charge to “Bring The Cup Home” to Britain. The America’s Cup trophy, known affectionately as ‘the Auld Mug’, has never been won by a British team before, despite the race originating on the Solent in 1851.

Up and Coming America’s Cup World Series dates:

10-11 Sept 2016 Toulon, France

18-20 Nov 2016 Fukuoka, Japan

Another World Series TBA for the first quarter of 2017

26 May – 5 June 2017 America’s Cup Qualifiers Bermuda

7-12 June 2017 Cup Challenger play-offs – Bermuda

17-29 June 2017 America’s Cup Match – Bermuda (Top Challengers advances to the America’s Cup Match against the last winners: Oracle Team USA)



The Day Southampton Made Me Cry

“Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.” – Thomas Hardy. Southampton Civic Centre Clock (Kimber’s Chimney) © Southampton Old Lady

It has been graduation day at Southampton University. It is always wonderful to see successful students celebrating their achievements and sad to see them saying farewell and hugging their companions while new lost-looking youngsters wonder around the streets nervously.

I follow some of the students in their new careers on their blogs and am proud of the fact that my city has allowed them to travel the world with their exciting work. One student I follow who left a few years ago has a blog entitled My Little Journal (sign up from your email to request to follow).

She was sad when she saw the graduation ceremony being live-streamed and today, under the heading “The Day Southampton Made Me Cry” –  she wrote:

Somehow, all the emotions and memories came rushing back to me. When I looked at their graduation photos, I felt a pang of sadness. I’ve always associated them with Southampton, along with memories attached to each person. And now, as their Southampton chapter is ending, I feel lost. It’s a nasty jab when I realized, if someday I come back to Southampton, everything will be different. I might not know anyone there, and I might feel alienated in a place that was utterly familiar to me. In a way, I guess it’s worse than moving to a completely new place, where you don’t have pieces of dormant memories tucked in every corner of the city, ready to be awoken at any moment.

Southampton means a lot to me. It was the place where I met some of the most incredible people in my life. It was the place where I found my true self, and the courage to be that self. It was the place where I fell in love, got heartbroken, and recovered in a way that made me not just stronger, but also wiser and richer.

Southampton introduced me to the best version of myself I hadn’t known before, and for that reason alone, it holds a special place in my heart.

Usually, I distract myself before I get too emotional. Today, I let myself cry.

I hope I can see you again, Southampton. :’)

Energy Switch Inertia


By now the term ‘energy-switch’ has probably already caused you to yawn and click off. If you are outside of Britain then click-off anyway as it won’t affect you.

According to the BBC, a new generation of energy switching services is emerging, claiming to offer better ways for millions of people to cut their gas and electricity bills.

Apps will soon be available that can switch you to these automatically to suit your needs.

You will just receive a text message informing you of who your new supplier is.

“They are designed to help overcome the problem of inertia – the seemingly stubborn refusal of more than 17 million UK households to switch energy suppliers regularly, despite the large potential savings available to those which do.”

The poorest amongst us often have to make a choice between eating and heating in the winter. Government Ministers and regulators endlessly encourage non-switchers to seek out better deals for gas and electricity as the key to forcing the energy market to become more consumer-friendly.


But with fewer than 15% of households switching last year, this strategy seems not to be working.

The way the energy market now operates, people who switch suppliers benefit from the attractive low-price deals companies offer new customers. Those who rarely or never switch mostly end up paying companies’ notoriously expensive Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs).

I personally, hate apps, but have just switched energy supplier as I came to the end of a great deal that included £240 worth of shopping vouchers a year. If I did nothing, I will have had to pay nearly 50% again and without vouchers. So I went on to a comparison site and changed. It only took 5 minutes online and they do all the work and notify your old supplier etc. I will be paying an estimated £280 less than the good deal last year, with a newly formed company.


There is no ‘best’ supplier, we all have different needs.

For some people it is not just about the money, some have commitments to the most ecological energy. If you are elderly or disabled a company which has the best customer-care service may be your priority. If you are Scottish, as an example, you may want to support a supplier from your country as opposed to say a German one.

Those continually on the move, such as students, may have payment meters or need tariffs with no ‘exit fees’ (which can cost up to £60 for each type of energy). If you are out most of the time, then some are now offering free weekend electricity, or a tariff 7 just for night-time users.

Often when you change there is a two-week cooling off period, and you existing supplier will more than likely contact you about cheaper tariffs. If the energy supplier is named in your rental contract, you can often find out if you are on the best tariff with them this way.

Each time your tariff changes your company is obliged to let you know your kw that you used for the year – this will give you the most accurate estimate of savings on a comparison site. You can call them for this or you can just use the monthly bill rate to see if you might be better off somewhere else.

The government has done much in the way of regulations to make it easier to change nowadays.

I myself switched via these: as they use big and small companies to compare and give review ratings. There are sites like GoCompare and USwitch but I think that they are more biased towards switching you to the bigger companies, which is fine if that is what you feel safer with. There are plenty of comparison sites out there, it is worth looking at a few.

As a general rule if you have dual fuel, pay by monthly direct debit and are prepared to do your own meter readings online it will be cheaper, but not always.

One thing is for certain, the more we are prepared to switch, the more accountable the energy companies have to become.

Why not do a check?  Or, let me know your thoughts and tips.

All photos © by Southampton Old Lady

Southampton, Polish Capital of Britain

Southampton Communities: Polish

I have been meaning to do a series of all the wonderful different cultures that make up the people of my City for some time. With so many xenophobic comments about immigrants during the EU Referendum, I think this is long overdue.


According to the statistics of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland, the first Polish refugees to Britain numbered just over 460 in 1851 and over 200 left the country.  At that time the general number of Polish refugees numbered about 800 people. The refugees from Turkey came to different English ports: Liverpool, Leeds and Southampton. Many of them decided to emigrate to US. There were further waves before WW2, in the fifties and in the early noughties. Polish immigrants now make up 10 per cent of the population of Southampton.

This programme was made for Channel 5 in 2014 when the biggest influx of Polish where celebrating 10 years of living in Southampton.

As well as the changes mentioned in the film clip, some of the changes I have noticed are the Catholic churches being full again on Sundays, family picnics along the rivers and on the common (something I haven’t seen since the sixties) and a great respect for the elderly – something I think the traditional English could learn from.



World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle!

I wasn’t tempted but the kids loved it.


bouncycastleComing to a big weekend music festival near you!  The world’s biggest bouncy castle will appear at UK music festivals this year.  Creator Matt the Hat will debut the bouncy castle at the Common People music festival this weekend in Southampton City Centre.   The bouncy castle fits 100 party-goers.  It measures 78ft long, 68ft wide, 42ft high and takes 5,000 cubic ft of air to inflate.

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Common People – Day 1

Well I went to this day with my daughter at Southampton’ Common People Festival and it was wonderful. One of my first posts was last year’s festival and I have come full circle.
Over to Emmy – do take a look at her blog…


I spent the weekend chilling out in the sunshine on Southampton Common, listening to some great music and getting inspired. This blog post is about the first day of the festival, with a post about Day 2 coming up on Friday.

Saturday 28th May 2016

Common People opened their gates to the general public at around 10:30 in the morning. Walking into the festival was an amazing feeling, it was so colourful and bright, helped out by the great weather we had over the weekend. The first thing to catch my eye was the Ferris Wheel, I was desperate to go on it and get some amazing views of the festival grounds. It was very quiet in the morning, but made for some great photos!

Of course a festival is all about the entertainment and music. The first act I saw there was the Chuckle Brothers. If you don’t know, they are…

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Firework Shop Fire Sets Off Spectacular Display

A bit of history exploded! Well I passed by the next day and just assumed that it had been demolished. It wasn’t until I read about it on my fellow Sotonian blogger: that I realised.

A creative blogger has even written a clever poem about it on WordPress:

Because it happened after dawn, many people filmed it and it is all over YouTube:



More than 70 firefighters have been battling a major blaze at a garden centre that sells fireworks.

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