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The Solent, Hampshire | Isle of Wight

The Solent
The Solent is the stretch of sea that lies between mainland England and the Isle of Wight. The relative narrowness of the Solent and the tidal patterns created there are very advantageous to shipping.

Portsmouth , which is essentially also an island, has provided shelter for military vessels since at least Roman times and is still one of the Royal Navyís most important ports. Admiral Nelsonís flagship HMS Victory is on display at Portsmouth, lying in dry dock in the in the old dockyard area. The mighty warship is in almost exactly the same condition as it was when Nelson last sailed on it before his death at the Battle of Trafalgar . Tours of the ship offer a fascinating glimpse into life in the navy when she was launched in 1765. HMS Warrior, the first iron hulled, armour-plated warship built for the Royal Navy is also now fully restored and docked for public display at Portsmouth.

Few people realise that Portsmouth is also the site of the worldís first ever mass-production line. The line was set up in 1802 at the Portsmouth Block Mills to manufacture pulley-blocks for the navy.

Southampton has developed as a commercial port thanks to itís advantageous position on the mainland Solent coastline. A very large oil refinery was established in 1921 at Fawley on banks of the mouth of the River Hamble. Situated just where the Hamble meets the Solent, it is still Britainís largest oil refinery. There is also an oil terminal in the River Hamble.

With such a rich maritime history itís no surprise to find a lot of shipping at the bottom of the Solent, including Henry VIII ís famous flagship the Mary Rose which sank there on 19 July 1545. What you might not expect to find underwater is the prehistoric sunken forest that lies off Hayling Island reclaimed by the sea and preserved for thousands of years. Hayling Island is an island to the east of Portsmouth, it is the location of just some of the great beaches that lie along the shores of the Solent.

The Solent is famous for the annual Cowes Week , a festival of sailing based at the Isle of Wight in the port of Cowes . Other towns along the Solent coastline of the Isle of Wight include Yarmouth , at the western tip, and Ryde , which is the destination for the car-ferry from Portsmouth. The magnificent hovercraft still runs between Southsea beach and Ryde, but itís foot-passengers only though for the exhilarating ten minute Ďflightí across the Solent on a cushion of air.

More British Natural features?

Other Hampshire Naturals

The New Forest
South Downs
Cranborne Chase
North Wessex Downs
River Test
River Hamble
River Itchen
Portsea Island
Selborne Hill
River Meon

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On this day:
Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway - 1582, London Gazette First Published - 1665, Treasure Island Published - 1883, Britainís first female mayor elected - 1908, BBC begins Broadcasts - 1922, Coventry Blitz - 1940, NME Publishes First UK Singles Chart - 1952, First British Record Chart Published - 1952, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips Marry - 1973
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