Suburban Safari: Bridge Club  

Suburban Safari: Bridge Club  

by Katie Isham.

Southampton being a sea city, we’re never far from the coast or the numerous bridges spanning the city’s waterways. This safari takes a mooch about under the biggest bridge to marvel at the architecture, enjoy the scenery and maybe even join some activities occurring by the water. 

Start by the city side of the Itchen Bridge. At the base of the bridge is a land of possibility. Head down the steps or slope, or, if you’re arriving from the Northam or Ocean Village areas, the main arteries of Endle Street and Canute Road merge to create the aptly named Crosshouse Road. Take this route toward the ripples of the river. 

Before reaching the slipway, pass the oldest transport shelter in the city. The Crosshouse, after which the road is named, is a circular stone building not much larger than a gazebo. Its conical roof gives it a look reminiscent of the buoys bobbing around nearby. But this structure won’t be eroded by the salty waves. 

Our Crosshouse has stood here since the 1600s, a mind-boggling feat. It was once the stopping point for those crossing the Itchen by boat. Later, it was used to rest weary feet waiting for the floating bridge. It may not be needed to shelter travellers these days, but it still stands proudly as part of the landscape of Southampton. 

Ahead, the river is just beyond the car park. Cross the tarmac to descend the slipway, careful of seaweed and algae exposed by low tides that adds to the slippiness of the slope. It may be a stretch to call this a beach, but there are enough stones exposed to plop into the shallows and seabirds scour the area to keep you company. Not that this space is ever quiet. 

The view from the shore is glorious in its bustle and detail. Upstream, the new building work changes daily, the floating marinas sway in the sunshine and the white webs of St. Mary’s arch into the skyline. Downstream, the liners loom on the horizon, dancing with the container ships as they enter and exit Southampton Water and the whole vista is dissected by the bridge above. 

As a Woolstonian, it’s always intriguing to look upon the home manor from even a little distance. Gaze across the water to the factories and ever-growing towers that dwarf our daily lives. And talk about dwarfing: wander along the short promenade, heading south and you’ll end up directly below our grand bridge. If a different perspective’s what you’re after, this is the place. A gigantic belt of concrete stretches up and beyond as the thunder of passing vehicles echoes above. Small moments in a small landscape can help focus the big picture. 

But enough quiet contemplation; it’s action stations. This small corner of Southampton contains a boatload of opportunity. A stone’s throw apart, you’ll find two sea scout headquarters (an intriguing split?) and two rowing clubs (almost certainly local rivalry abound). Not to mention the Southampton Water Activities Centre to dip a toe into the water (metaphorically and literally) as well as the base of Shirley Sea Angling Club if your potential sea excursions sail a little calmer. 

Such a range of activity goes on quietly below the relentless roar of daily grind. It’s only if you stop and look down from the bridge that these community ventures are revealed, and by taking a detour you may discover your new favourite pastime. Clubs are where interests become passions and excitement is intensified by community. Nobody stays with a club half-heartedly. 

Here, under the grandest bridge in Southampton, the tidal estuary ebbs and flows, yet the industry and the fervent following of hobbies is strong and steady. Who knows what will still be standing in four hundred years like the Crosshouse, but most likely there’ll be some Southampton folk joining together to mess about on a boat. 




Cost: Wandering is free. The long stay car park charges if you’re arriving by vehicle. 

Accessibility: Roads and pavements standardly accessible. Slipway access to the water. Steps and slopes onto the Itchen Bridge. Reach the area by any number of buses that pass over Itchen Bridge from town or Woolston, or via Marine Parade which runs onto Northam. 

Facilities: Car park and a whole of host of clubs available. Shops, restaurants and cinemas available at nearby Ocean Village.




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