Hamble-le-Rice is a wonderful place, and the Hamble Peninsula holds so many sites of interest which can be walked to without too much effort. One of the easiest is Royal Victoria Country Park (RVCP) at Netley.
Today the 1st August 2018 is the “soft” opening day for the newly restored Chapel of the of The Royal Victoria Military Hospital.
This was once the largest Hospital, and reputedly the largest building in Europe, and although the buildings fell into rack and ruin some time ago, the chapel was saved and has been renovated with the help of Lottery Money.
This walk is on the ordinance Survey Map OL22 excerpt below:
The Green circle is the start, yellow line the route, red circle the end. Although I am only describing a short walk of about 2-2.5 miles round trip, you can of course start from Hamble Village, head across Hamble Common, turn right, then carry on walking up the beach until you come to RVCP on your right after about 2 miles. But I’ll describe that in another blog, for now here is the shorter walk:
The Path is picked up from Hamble Lane, It is signposted to Netley and marked as a national Cycle Path. If you are coming from the North down Hamble Lane towards Hamble, then the entrance is a few dozen yards past the school on your right, just past the old light railway level crossing bars (disused). If you are coming up from Hamble heading North on Hamble Lane, then the entrance to the path is on your left a few dozen yards past the small parade of shops on your left. here are a few parking places along the road near the school, or you can park in Hamble and walk up.
The path from Hamble to RVCP is an easy fairly flat walk, of about a mile, shielded by trees along a raised causeway that leads into the Southern entrance to the Country Park. If you stay on this raised broad path you will not get lost, as it leads directly into the Park.
On the route, once you are near to the park you will see some low information boards giving a little information and showing a direction to different facts and features.
When you leave the trees through the wooden barrier you will see the open grass and scattered trees of the RVCP and a little way ahead the Chapel dominating the view.
To the West, on your right, is a sloping vista leading the eye to Beach on the Solent and the view across to the New Forest side of the water.
Before you reach the Chapel you will see some information booths to your left as you enter the park, and ahead towards the Chapel as well as on the far side of it, they are art in themselves and are well worth spending some time studying.
The front of the building, and its entrance, faces the Solent, and it’s worth a walk down the short boulevard of trees sloping down from the main entrance to the Solent.
Here you’ll find more information boards, a memorial to the D-Day Invasion (unfortunately slightly defaced by scratches by anti-social morons).
There are some benches where you can have a seat in the sun, relax and watch the plethora of Cruise Liners, Container Ships, Yachts, Cruisers, and jet-skis, enjoying the Solent’s Waters, and the pebble beach stretching from Hamble Point to the mouth of the River Itchen at Southampton.
This view-point is where the old pier reached out into the Solent to receive the cargo of wounded soldiers from steamers in the channel.
Heading back to the Chapel it is now open to the Public, the attendants are friendly and helpful, and it’s worth a couple of hours looking at its history.
What mustn’t be missed is the chance to climb the stairs up to the bell tower in the roof. There is a lift, but the stairs (109 steps) are worth the effort as you will see different views at different points on the way up.
Once at the top there is artwork to show what the view would have looked like at various dates in the past which is a very nice touch.
If you are lucky, and you ask the tour guide nicely enough they may let you actually ring the bell, but be warned it is very loud. We were the first public tour of the Tower on the opening day so a few of us got to do this. Very satisfying.
Remember to take some 20p coins with you to use the old seaside style telescope that is mounted in one of the windows looking out across the Solent.
The views from up here are tremendous, with or without the telescope and really shouldn’t be missed. Southampton Docks are visible to the North, and the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth to the South. Look carefully to the South and you’ll just see the masts of yachts in the Hamble River at Hamble Point. Across the Solent is the Industrial, but none-the-less picturesque outline of Fawley, the Oil Terminal (worth a visit itself if you like some industrial heritage), and further down the Solent to the South the omnipresent Chimney at Fawley Power Station.
We you come back down stop at the large reception area and take a look out of the big window:
Then turn directly around and go into the chapel gallery. In here are some fascinating stories of former military patients, complete with photographs, printed on the back of the benches.
After this go back down stairs to the main exhibition. When you stand in front of the video panels, step back a little and make sure you are under the area speakers, which quietly direct recollections from patients and nurses into a small area set back from the screen.
To return from the RVCP to Hamble, just retrace your steps the way you came.
If you’d like to know more about the Military Hospital at Netley, and the presence of the Kray Twins’ Family at the Hospital and in Hamble then you can read more here:
The Kray Twins on the Hamble Peninsula
You can also see the piece I did on this with Fred Dinenage from ITV Meridian by following this link: ITV Meriden Interview
Hope you enjoy this short walk. More will follow.