Robin Waldman and his family take a paddle along by Hamble river.


Messing about on the river

The River Hamble provides a world of opportunities for boaters, walkers and cyclists, as well as those who simply want to enjoy a relaxing day by or on the water. 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. Here, we focus on an on-water experience around the Swanwick area, with some ideas for extending this if you have more time. A mellow September day is the perfect time.


Great British Life: Paddleboarding on the River Hamble (c) Robin WaldmanPaddleboarding on the River Hamble (c) Robin Waldman

All a board

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, who also offer tuition if you are new to the sport.


Great British Life: Kayakers on the River Hamble (c) Robin WaldmanKayakers on the River Hamble (c) Robin Waldman

On land or water

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.


Great British Life: The pink ferry at Warsash (c) Robin WaldmanThe pink ferry at Warsash (c) Robin Waldman

Pretty in pink

If you do walk to Warsash you can catch the famous pink ferry over to Hamble, just look out for the little pink ferry hut. 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.


Great British Life: The bridge at River Hamble Country Park (c) Robin WaldmanThe bridge at River Hamble Country Park (c) Robin Waldman

Bridging the gap

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 a popular place you can still find yourself alone with only the open water views and seabirds for company.


Great British Life: Taking a break by the waterside (c) Robin WaldmanTaking a break by the waterside (c) Robin Waldman

Take a break

We made sure we had checked the tide times so we could paddle with the current, at least one way, as it can be hard work paddling against the tide! Luckily on this trip the wind was also very light, so this helped to make it easier and more suitable for the whole family. If you do need a break, there are several pontoons as you pass through Swanwick Marina that you can pull up alongside.


Great British Life: The Jolly Sailor pub in Burlesdon (c) Robin WaldmanThe Jolly Sailor pub in Burlesdon (c) Robin Waldman

A bite to eat

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. Hungry visitors arriving from the water now have a rack store boards to avoid mooring jams, which is provided by the pub. Once your paddleboard is secure, you can walk along the pontoon to find a table.


Great British Life: Secret lanes around the The Jolly Sailor (c) Robin WaldmanSecret lanes around the The Jolly Sailor (c) Robin Waldman

Hidden access

The Jolly Sailor 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 whilst making 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 and it’s also walkable from the train station at Swanwick.


Great British Life: 'Feebz’, on Foulkes & Sons boatyard (c) Robin Waldman'Feebz’, on Foulkes & Sons boatyard (c) Robin Waldman

Sweet treat

It can be hot work out on the water and there’s no better way to cool off than with a riverside ice cream! What better way than buying one on the water, thanks to enterprising Phoebe Kerton, who has set up her 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.