Historic Hythe – ‘The Gateway to The New Forest’

Historic Hythe – ‘The Gateway to The New Forest’

Marketing and Projects admin assistant, Maggie Blight, must have one of the most unusual commutes to work of anyone; taking in a narrow guage train along a pier, a ferry, a bus, another train, then arriving at an airport and going through security, before finally arriving at her desk. Here she talks about the charming waterside Hampshire town of Hythe where she lives:

For those of you not lucky enough to live here already – a visit to the small town of Hythe is a must see.  It is an easy and pleasurable journey to make from the airport (I know first hand as I do this every day!)

Hythe has so much history and just getting here from across the water is a step back in time.  I travel on the famous Hythe Ferry to get across every day and with crossings every half an hour and the journey itself only taking 15 minutes, it is a pleasant way to avoid the traffic and take in a mini cruise.

Hythe Ferry has been in operation in it’s present form since being taken over by the Percy family in 1887, (however there are markings on maps from as far back as the 16th century detailing a ferry at Hythe). The first ferry to be named ‘Hotspur’ began in 1889 and here I will quote from their informative website, ‘James Percy was a direct descendent of Sir Henry Percy, first Earl of Northumberland and father of Harry, called Hotspur, known as the small warrior with the great heart, for his valorous deeds in the 14th century.’  Subsequent ferries have continued to be named in his honour and we are currently travelling on ‘Hotspur IV’.

With deep water and double tides, Southampton Water is able to accommodate the vast array of cruise ships, ocean liners and merchant vessels and it is a bustling waterway and there is always something to see.  The Hythe Ferry is an excellent way of viewing some of the world famous ‘Cunard’, P & O and Princess ships of Carnival UK up close and many visitors come to take photographs from the deck of the ferry or indeed from the end of historic Hythe Pier.

Hythe Ferry Pier Train is in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the ‘oldest working pier train in the world’!  The train journey is included in the price of your ferry ticket and transports you via this iconic electric train the 700 yards to Hythe centre.  In dry weather, it is a very pleasant and interesting walk along the pier – there are notices along the hand rails detailing historic information and events for you to read and also, even the wooden planks you walk on are engraved with messages inscribed by loved ones to loved ones, to commemorate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and the like.  You can enquire at the ferry office to arrange such a gift yourself – a lasting legacy!

Once in Hythe itself, there are lots of things to do and see.  We have an array of shops which are retailing from beautiful old Georgian buildings and there are plenty of pubs and eateries to cater for every taste from modern restaurants on the marina, to more traditional pubs and restaurants with sea views from the village centre.  We have a beautiful marina village and several parks to enjoy the views across the water.  Hythe has been the birthplace and residence of some famous people too over the years – ‘Sir Christopher Cockerell’ who invented the hovercraft was born and died in Hythe (his family home can be seen from the pier train); ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ lived in Hythe village (as it was then) between 1931 and 1932 and more recently, ‘Bruce Parry’ (the adventurer and presenter of many television documentaries) was born in Hythe in 1969.

We really are ‘the gateway to the New Forest’ too.  It is easy to take a short 5 minute bus ride or taxi from the ferry terminal to access the forest on foot, (and if you have come across on the ferry with your bicycle – you won’t even have to wait!)  From the roundabout at Dibden Purlieu – you can cross the road safely and be in the heart of the forest in two minutes.  The ponies are donning their winter coats just now and are evident throughout the forest.  They are well used to visitors however so can be very inquisitive so please don’t feed them – more than one picnic has been overturned by ‘enthusiastic’ ponies and donkeys!  During the summer months, you are also able to board an open-topped ‘New Forest Tour Bus’ from the ferry and there is room for your bike on the back too – you really can explore at your leisure.

So if you are looking for something different to do whilst visiting Southampton and the surrounding areas, take in a trip on the Hythe Ferry to historic Hythe and the New Forest – see you soon!