Trip reports

November Coach Trip to Lymington-Keyhaven Marshes

November Coach Trip to Lymington-Keyhaven Marshes
Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Like many people, I treat the first part of our coach journeys as an opportunity to catch up on the sleep lost due to the early start. On this occasion, however, a feast of autumn colours and misty vistas bathed in morning sunshine sliding past the coach windows made sleep impossible. I just had to keep looking.

This was an unusual trip for us in that the coach dropped us at one place and picked us up at another, making the logistics more than usually complicated. Most of us left the coach at Keyhaven, allowing a five mile linear walk along the Solent Way to Lymington where we were to be reunited with the coach. Those wanting a shorter walk stayed with the coach to Lymington and explored from there.

Although idyllic today, in the 18th century the whole area was a hive of industry. Evaporating ponds for salt manufacture stretched along the whole route. Windmills pumped brine into the pools, boiling houses belched smoke and the air would have been filled with white dust. The remains of the dock can still be seen where coal was delivered and salt taken away. Nature has reclaimed the area and on such a sparkling autumn day it was hard to picture this as an industrial landscape.

The Solent Way follows the sea wall, so navigating was largely a matter of keeping the sea on your right and the land on your left. Between the wall and the sea are expanses of saltmarsh, and to the landward side are a series of lagoons left over from the salt industry, both home to a variety of common waders and ducks plus pintail, snipe, curlew, greenshank, and spotted redshank. In the scrub close to our lunch stop most of us had a sight of a Dartford warbler and stonechat.

Out in the Solent we had good views of red-breasted mergansers, distant views of eider ducks and remarkable views of my favourite bird, (for this week anyway) the Slavonian grebe, in elegant black and white winter livery. Hundreds of brent geese, calling loudly, flew low over our heads: a spectacular sight in the low afternoon sunshine, which also picked out Isle of Wight ferries steaming back and forth to Yarmouth, just across the water.

Such was the temptation to stop and stare on this walk that, with the light failing, we had to take a short cut at the end to reach the coach on time, passing rambling hedges with long-tailed tits and goldcrests flitting about. It was some relief to see that the coach was where it was supposed to be and that the whole party had found their way to it. There is more to see here and we will undoubtedly visit again.