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Calshot Castle >  Google™ Map Sep 2022  Hampshire Coat of Arms

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Sep 2022

"Artillery fort built by Henry VIII to defend the sea passage to Southampton and recently used as a Navy and RAF base", they say.

Hampshire Coat of Arms

Not fed up yet of hanging around South Coast headlands that poke into the Solent? Good, because here's another one only this has an artillery fort built by Henry VIII to defend the sea passage to Southampton and recently used as a Navy and RAF base, alright.

Yes, more of Henry's handiwork who was a very busy boy in the 1530s with a flurry of construction from Cornwall to Kent. There's quite a concentration on this stretch what with the Isle of Wight being a convenient spot for the Holy Roman Empire to refuel before dethroning the divorce-mad despot

It's remarkably intact thanks to ding-dongs, actual and potential, with the Dutch, Napolean and you-know-who during World War II all making the upkeep necessary.

Calshot Castle
Calshot Castle - View from Atop

English Heritage keeps guard, these days, and for a small number of pounds, a lady in a shop will let you in and atop. There are, not unreasonably, reasonable views, from the roof of the circular structure if views of the industry on Southampton's doorstep get you all excited, that is.

There's something about twice the height next door and that looks like a Coastguard lookout tower, right?

National Coastwatch Institution Calshot Tower

Well, it would be if rounds of funding cuts hadn't rendered it redundant despite this being one of the busiest areas of water in the UK. It's now run by the National Coastwatch Institution, a charitable organisation whose volunteers clock the conditions and, well, call the Coastguard should a situation arise.

That might sound like a bunch of busybodies who like nothing better than looking at boats but the founders' intentions were more grounded. A loss of lives in Cornwall was said to have been preventable if their local Coastguard Station hadn't closed, so fine work there fellas or lovely work there ladies, if applicable.

It's a simple enough service that's not disimilar to the days of Henry VIII although the government now get it all for free, right comrades?

There's some hanging around some hangars, inside and out, since the Sunderland Hangar contains Calshot Activities Centre's climbing wall, the tallest in the South, they say.

Calshot Activities Centre
Calshot Activities Centre

It's quite some setup and also home to a velodrome and a dry ski slope, no less, and not just any old velodrome, the UK's oldest velodrome, no lesser. The Schneider and Sopwith Hangars, on the other hand, provide faded five-a-side facilities and, rather boringly, boating storage, respectively.

Hang on a minute! Hangars? Isn't that an aircraft thing?

Some buildings on the narrow road in do indeed look like somewhere one may once have been billeted but the RAF? The RAF? Given the location, surely the Royal Navy but no, the RAF! The RAF?

Near Calshot Castle - Former RAF Barracks

So where was the runway and just how were the RAF ever going to land on a shingle spit, not to mention the marshes that live next door? On the sea, you see, for RAF Calshot was the base for pioneering, seaplane innovation and they set up shop here just before World War I.

If you know your Airfix™es, Sunderland, Schneider and Sopwith were the clue, as is the big, erm, seaplane on the side of what once were barracks, probably.

Near Calshot Castle - Former RAF Barracks

T.E., not D.H., Lawrence served here incognito following his Arabian escapades and the speed-mad Ottoman agitator was later involved in prestigious seaplane races, like he hadn't packed enough in already?

Near Calshot Castle - TE's Way Out

His untimely demise, however, wasn't down to him zipping off far too quickly back to Dorset on his motorbike from here. It's just over an hour on a good run but TE would have done it in 45 minutes, probably.

The beach is a little shinglier than you might like although dozens of hut owners clearly disagree, just shown. There's also the drowning-out sound of some twits in a powerboat or at least that's what was first thought.

Near Calshot Castle - Calshot Beach

Not that Southampton Water is no stranger to twits in powerboats but this is the Isle of Wight ferry or rather the passenger-only service that gets you there in half an hour. The big one that carries your car takes double that but the Red Jet, just about visible there, is red and gleaming as it makes its way into Cowes.

That's news to SlyBob. We thought the Isle of Wight ferry was brown and steaming and came out of the back of Cowes, eh?

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 National Coastwatch Institution Calshot Tower
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