Southampton is not usually forthcoming on Christmas lights as much as other cities – What with the Christmas market and so many lights from shops, ships and offices – But, to open up a leisure area for Christmas at West Quay malls this year, a stunning loop of 7-minute, light and sound illuminations ran on our Old Town Wall at the weekend.
Depicted, was the history of Southampton’s port, which focused on departures of: Henry V troops leaving for Agincourt, The Mayflower with Pilgrims preparing for America, The Titanic leaving for New York, boats and planes in WW2 manoeuvres, J-Class yachts, powerboats, hovercraft, container-ships and so on.
Christmas is a very peaceful time in the neighbourhood where I am. Mainly because there is a big exodus of students and people who visit relatives in other countries leaving just about a quarter of the crowded streets. Sometimes I feel like I have God’s earth all to myself.
Bright sunshine combined with tropical-style rain this autumn has meant a great many and unusual rainbows over Britain. I have never seen so many different types in one season. So quickly taking snaps of them (often through rain on windows) before they disappear, here are the ones over Southampton:
“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.
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).
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.
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.
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 theIsle 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 theBeach Guideand 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.
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.
There is Weston Shore in Netley and Calshot Beach(officially in Southampton and on Southampton Water but part of the New Forest) SO45 1BL.
Click Discoverfor what to see and do in Southampton.
Regular readers will know that I am going to live on a sailing boat with my husband as we have to move soon. We are selling or giving away worldly goods and doing up an old Maxi 95 sloop.
Re-learn all the ropes
Hoisting and reefing the main sail
As it has been 15 years or so since I did any sailing, and pre-cancer/chemo, I thought it best to go on a refresher sailing course with a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor.
Last weekend I got on a run as a team of five of like-minded individuals also honing their skills. We sailed from Shamrock Quay in Southampton to the Isle of Wight, where Cowes Week brought sailing boats from all over the world.
Dodging other vessels – what does that horn signal?
re-learning the knots
The severe treatment for my Hodgkin Lymphoma left my body and brain somewhat disorientated. I describe my brain as living in a town where a bomb has hit and roads have been blocked off. I have had to find detours and rebuild. I had been having terrible balance problems since the treatment, but following a number of NHS exercises I have not had any accidents for about a year now.
Although I was used to sailing I had been extremely nervous about going out, especially onto the Solent, which requires strength, skill and alertness due to its tides, geographical structure and the many number of different vessels using its channel.
Out of my price range – the Champagne bus at Cowes
Some revellers at Cowes
Opposition used to be ‘Morning Cloud’ Prime Minister Edward Heath’s boat that he used in the Fastnet race in the 70s.
Great learning for groups of young people on The Tall Ships Challenger boats.
This weekend course really helped me to regain my confidence and sort out what I could remember and what I needed to practice.
Visitors from around the world, but especially from North America, emerge from cruise ships at Southampton Docks and head immediately for London or Stonehenge. Many stay at the prestigious Grand Harbour Hotel on West Quay without knowing that their country’s heroes had stayed on that very piece of land before sacrificing their lives.
This historically, was the site for troops to be stationed before going off to wars, from Agincourt to The Falklands.
WW2 allied troops would have health check-ups and their vehicles disinfected. Servicemen would kill time playing cards and etching their names on the red-brick boundary wall. One of the most prolific times was when North American service personnel were stationed here during the run up to the D-Day manoeuvres.
When the site was demolished, local people campaigned to keep the brickwork of names standing as a monument. Unfortunately, with no glass or perspex covering these names deteriorate each year. Responsibility for the wall shifts from pillar to post.
After some research on the internet I found one man who, in despair, felt it important to catalogue the names that were still legible some years ago. However even by the time I took this photo, last year, some of those have disappeared.
Here is the list according to that person, some of the names are still very readable:
W.E SHIRK, Wm MUELLER, CLEMTATIO, JOE HAMMOND, H.L. EATHERINGTON – ZION T/S, ROBERT M RAY & DAVE RAY OHIO, ROBERT GOLDEN, Geo FABER OF COLO, JAMES HENLEY, LAWRENCE MATHIS 1941 DEC 23, JAMES ?, DES PENNY, VIRRLA PENNY, CALAVERY AMER ? ?, D CHICAGO ILLINOIS, F.F JOHNSON USA, JOE N JONES DEC 22 1944, D.W SMITH, J.C KELLOE, CHARSTON S.C, BILLIE WILSON, P.W ?- AAL, RALPH ODEL, J.L PLIEL, JONY JOHNSTON, BILL ? URBAN, W KNIGHT
And hidden behind dustbins a small demolished section of this wall in jumbled order
M.P CARTER AUG 44, M J WOMPON FEB 45, ?F RECINE – OCT 10,1944 FRANCE, P.D B?EECH – CATAWISSA PENNA, J.C CHRISTEN ?, N ALDEN BOLL M???NN, G.N BUNKER ? – CITY IOWA – 1945 BALTIMORE, EDDIE MEYER ILLINOIS 17/21/44, JOHN HELMLIIIO ELYRIA OHIO 11-4-44, DOOLING – BEVERLY MASS, R FINN, J.E WETTA- CALLAWA MIAMI FLORIDA LAB RY MT NC, ED C??BA??K – BOUND BROOK, JO COURT, ?.M SLATER MAY 13 1937, VANEE, MARTIN VA