The Hamble River provides a world of opportunities for boaters, walkers, cyclists, as well as those who simply want to enjoy a relaxing day by or on the water – for example, paddleboarding!

Whilst its source is near Bishop’s Waltham it is only when the river flows below Botley that it becomes navigable for small craft. As it flows seaward it widens to accommodate larger boats and its mouth joins the Solent at Hamble Point. In this article we focus on an on-water experience around the Swanwick area, with some ideas for extending this if you have more time.

We love paddleboarding and having checked the tide times we launched our board from the Swanwick car park foreshore. The water here is shallow and warm in the summer. Seasonally the river is home to many jellyfish, including the moon jellyfish. Watching them above on the paddleboard is a curiosity but not so much fun if you are swimming with them! If you don’t have your own board, you can hire paddleboards here from ‘The Paddle Centre’, and there are other hire points on the river too. You can also get lessons if you are new to the sport.

The foreshore at Swanwick is a bustling hub for kayakers, paddleboarders dog walkers and those who simply want to relax and watch the world go by. You can walk a leg of the Solent Way from here with the path hugging the river to Warsash. The Solent Way is sixty miles long and winds its way from Milford on Sea to Emsworth Harbour. It encompasses a wide range of coastal terrain.

Catch a ride on the Pink Ferry

If you do walk to Warsash you can catch the famous pink ferry over to Hamble. The foot/bike ferry has a long history of providing a practical and fun journey across the river and you can’t miss the distinctive pink-painted ferry boats toing and froing between Hamble Pier and Warsash Pontoon.

Once out on the water we made our way south under the A27, M27 and train bridges into open water alongside River Hamble Country Park. This park is a great place for walking with open spaces, playgrounds, café and riverside walks through the woods and although it’s a popular place you can still find yourself alone with just the open water views and seabirds for company.

We made sure we had checked the tide times so we could paddle with the current, at least one way, as it can be such hard work paddling against the tide! Luckily on this trip, the wind was also very light so it helped make it easier. There are always interesting things to see whilst standing  – boats, water birds, fish, boats, including houseboats and the exercise is great as well

Lunch break at The Jolly Sailor

After all the hard work we were ready for lunch and visited a Hamble River classic eatery – The Jolly Sailor pub, tucked right into the hillside next to the river. They have recognised that the boom in SUP also means hungry visitors arriving from the water, and have even provided a rack to avoid mooring jams. Get your paddleboard sorted and walk along the pontoon to find a table.

The pub has been serving thirsty drinkers since 1751 and retains its charm, adapting to the needs of changing times whilst remaining a constant in the area. You can approach by foot as well, though limited parking means you may have to park a distance away. But you will experience the views over the river on your way to the pub and passing houses oozing with character and history. The little lanes above the pub offer glimpses of the river and Hamble Marina from different vantage points. It’s also walkable from the train station at Swanwick.

Café on the water

It can be hot work out on the water. A swim is a great way to cool off, sadly only if the water seems clean enough – not always easy to tell just by looking at it. Plus swimming in a safe area away from boats. The other way, ice cream! What better way than buying one on the water – the enterprising Phoebe Kerton has set up boat café ‘Feebz’,  moored off Foulkes & Sons boatyard, by the M27 bridge, where you can buy drinks and ice creams. It was a great way to end our day on the water.

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