Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The oldest operating pier railway in Britain

FreeFoto.com - Hythe, Hampshire In the unlikely event that I can actually be arsed on that hypothetical day when (if) the weather turns fine again here, I'm filing an idea for a theoretical day out. If you'll be in the area, you can beat me to it ...

Anorak required for this trip, BTW, not just for train spotting and cold weather (it's August, but there's a biting wind), but as Wikipedia tell us, Hythe's position makes it one of the best vantage points for viewing liners arriving at the port of Southampton, which attracts many ship-watchers to the area. The pub is called the Lord Nelson and I keep being reminded of his local connections every time I go into the local newsagents to be greeted by his picture on a tourist map.

In fact, Nelson keeps appearing everywhere I look lately: First there was the re-enactment of the Battle of Santa Cruz, in Tenerife, I bumped into him again readying his fleet in the bay of Marmaris in Turkey, then he turns up for a last time (getting fatally shot on the deck of HMS Victory) in Alexandre Dumas' lost, last book, The Last Cavalier. Is the seeming coincidence trying to tell me something and, should follow the trail to discover what it is? :)

FreeFoto.com - Hythe Pier and Railway, Hampshire - The oldest operating pier railway in Britain Amongst other famous British folk who've passed through this area was T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia (someone perhaps less welcomed by the Turks.) Then known as T. E. Shaw, he turned up in Hythe in 1931, seconded by the RAF to the British Power Boats factory in Shore Road. He lodged in Myrtle Cottage (pic) at the junction of St John Street and Shore Road and left in 1932.

Since he only lodged there for a short while, it really does seem like stretching the point a bit to put up a blue plaque or call this the "Home of British legend", but I saw in the local paper that "his" cottage was on sale for £350k.

FreeFoto.com - Hythe Ferry, Solent, Hampshire Browsing the charity shops (always better quality cast-offs in richer areas) and just enjoying the seaside village scenery will do me nicely, but the cute little Hythe Pier Railway looks like the real scene stealer. Opened in 1881 and electrified in 1922, it still uses Word War I locos. Catch the train to catch the ferry across to Southampton (for ship-spotting, a bit of shopping and more), from where I could catch the train directly home.

Bus #112 (PDF) plies the route from Lymington to Hythe, via Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum gates for a triple helping of local sightseeing.

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Pictures by: Ian Britton - FreeFoto.com 

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