Shipbuilding heritage in Beaulieu

Carpet of bluebells
Visiting our friends, the Meakins, is always an interesting experience. They live in Southampton, UK, a city with a rich maritime heritage. In fact there is so much history everywhere that it becomes a game to discover how it all interlocks.

Row, row, row your boat 
On arrival, we were offered a trip up the Hamble River by row boat. Alex and Philip rowed up river against the wind. The marinas got progressively smaller until they disappeared altogether. Here we entered another world. A protected ancient oak forest carpeted with bluebells.

The River Hamble in Hampshire, England flows for 7.5 miles (12 km)  before entering Southampton Water. It is tidal for about half its length and is navigable in its lower reaches, which have facilitated shipbuilding since medieval times. Leisure craft are still built there today and boating is very popular on the River. The river, its banks, and its shipbuilding yards, have also been used for military purposes, particularly during World War II. Its lower reaches are known throughout the sailing world as 'The Heart of British Yachting'.

En route to Beaulieu (pronounced Bewley) we discovered yet another forest preserve. This one dating back to medieval times when the forests were strictly Royal hunting grounds and certain lords retained rights to graze their animals on the grasses freely. Those rights are preserved to this day and one can see herds of horses, deer, cattle and sheep roaming freely without fences in the New Forest National Park, which is actually quite old. The history of the parish dates back to the 1200s and the current Lord Montagu who owns the lands is the 14th in the line of succession from the time when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and sold off their lands. Beaulieu lies 7 miles north-east of Lymington. It is situated on a navigable river bearing the same name, which flows into the Solent.

Beaulieu is a family visitor attraction at the heart of the New Forest National Park operated by Beaulieu Enterprises Ltd. There are over 800 years of heritage to be seen on the estate, which has been in the ownership of the Montagu family for over four centuries. Rarely a primary residence for its owners, the estate was developed by successive owners. John, 2nd Duke of Montagu,  founded the shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard on the estate in the 1720s.

Chichester's Gipsy Moth IV
It is on the Beaulieu River that the Montagus established Buckler's Hard which became a hive of shipbuilding activity in Napoleonic times. About two miles from Beaulieu village, Buckler’s Hard is now a natural and sheltered yacht haven offering permanent and short term berths and moorings in its marina. At the private dock of the Inn, lies Sir Frances Chichester's Gipsy Moth IVa 53-foot ketch, in which he became the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route, west to east via the great Capes, and the fastest circumnavigator, in nine months and one day overall in 1966-67. It has apparently undergone a £400,000 refit in recent years after being left to decay for many years.

Buckler's Hard is also home to workers' cottages, a fascinating maritime museum and an inn overlooking the beautiful scenery of the river. It is here that most of the ships in Admiral Nelson's fleet were built and launched, including his favourite warship the HMS Agamemnon. The 18th century New Inn features many fine paintings of the ships built on this land. There are working exhibits in which traditional boat building is taught. It bears a strong resemblance in my mind to the buildings and slipways at Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua where Nelson's fleet was based in the Caribbean.
The hospital in Victorian times

On our last day, we went for a walk through a park near what was once a vast military hospital. The Royal Victoria Hospital, or Netley Hospital, was constructed started in 1856 on the banks of Southampton Water at the suggestion of Queen Victoria. Its design caused some controversy, chiefly from Florence Nightingale. The hospital was extensively used during the Boer War and the First World War. It became a US general hospital in the Second World War. The main building – the world's longest building when it was completed – was entirely demolished in 1966 after a fire. The chapel remains and is currently undergoing refurbishment. The extensive outbuildings, which once occupied a vast acreage of land behind the hospital, were razed in 1978. The site of the hospital can be explored in Royal Victoria Country Park where giant redwood trees tower over fields of soldiers' burial grounds. Those who could not be repatriated to their lands of origin, some from as far afield as NZ and Australia, are buried together with their compatriots by infantry.

The land across from our landing was used as a military staging ground during WWII

Lovely walk through ancient oak forest

Lynda and Daria 

Lynda and Philip and their lovely rowing boat

The Jolly Sailor a lovely old inn
Warm and cozy with a fine pint of ale

Rowing back proved to be against the wind, again!

The marina on the Beaulieu

Beautiful scenery

The Museum buildings
Animals roaming the forest

The 18th c New Inn
Soldiers from Down Under were not repatriated
Military cemetery

Lovely old redwoods

Horses parading in the park

Heading home

Dun Loaghaire harbour approaching Dublin


Popular posts from this blog

Top 30+ Sailing Movies

Top Ten Books about Sailing (non-fiction)

Top Ten+ Novels Based on Sailing (fiction)