by Katie Isham.
Guys, I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I think autumn is upon us. The days are dwindling, the blackberries are plumping and the schools are back in session. I know it’s been particularly hot this week, but don’t let that fool you: that mercury is about to drop. So I say, let’s make the most of the last heady days of summer. Let’s bask on the beach and let’s eat chips on the sea wall. One last hurrah!
And I know just the place.
At the south-eastern corner of the city, just before Hamble dips a toe into the water, you’ll find the suburb of Netley. It’s probably most famous for the Abbey or the Household Waste Recycling Centre. One of which I might take you for a stroll around another time.
For now let’s start on Beach Lane. If you’re driving, park at the public hard or the nearby Abbey Hall car park. Though, you could also traverse this route by bike, even if the shingle is a challenge in places.
However you get there, get to the sea. Pause, smell the seaweed, wave at the ferries. Then turn right. The sea wall cuts a line between the cricket field on the hill and the drop off to the beach. Walk the wall. Detour to the playground if you have tiny dictators in tow. Resist the need to walk on the stones yet. Stick to the side to skirt the line of trees.
Here it narrows as you dip between the stonework wall defences. Passing places are few and far between and you may need to embrace the brambles. Even though the view out to sea is alluring, remember to look right to gaze up at the glorious Castle View.
The wall leads you to Weston Sailing Club. I suggest taking a break on the seat-shaped wall to greet the dogs that will inevitably pass by. If the tide is high, you might also get to dip your toes. Now is the time to idle on the shingle: search for sea glass; marvel at everyone’s favourite skeleton tree; delight in finding that champion skimmer.
When ready (relatively), leave the beach and head onto the paved footpath. Turn back on yourself and follow the curve past the best line of trees in the city, through a wild meadow and then into a small patch of woodland. Nearly all the habitats covered.
You’ll emerge from the trees onto the road. Follow the pavement to the right until you get back to the field. The row of colourful houses along here are a true Southampton landmark. The grass hill opposite, leading back down to the water is dotted with commemorative benches to remind us of our history. Take a seat and enjoy the vibrant life you can see both on the field and on the water.
We’re on a downhill run to the shore, but first make a pitstop in one of the fine establishments along from the Balamory imitators. The only thing that will improve sitting on the sea wall is sitting on the sea wall with a bag of chips to hand. Stop in at The Jolly Friar before finding your own piece of the wall.
One of my favourite things about The Jolly Friar is its sense of humour. It recently added a salad to its menu. I was still laughing as I stuffed wooden forkfuls of salt and vinegary golden goodness into my mouth, dangling my weary feet whilst watching the water and avoiding eye contact with circling seabirds. There’s a time and a place for salad, and this is not it. Winter is coming so lets carb up in the sunshine while we can.
Cost: Free for the walk and the view. Refreshments may need to be purchased for the complete experience.
Accessibility: Gravel path along the sea wall but it does get narrow at points. Paved route through the park that joins onto the pavement alongside the road. Lots of shingle beach to walk on. Reach Netley via road travelling south from Weston Shore or from Grange Road. Get the train and alight at Netley, less than a mile’s walk from the shore.
Facilities: Small car park at Beach Lane and parking at Abbey Hall. A playground on the field. Restaurants, takeaways, bakery, pubs and of course, the fish and chip shop along Netley parade.
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