Up the Creek - South Coast
Keyhaven, Western Solent
The quiet rural charm of the village is heightened by the maritime views across to Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight. Once an important port particularly for the salt trade, Keyhaven is now a quiet haven for yachting, fishing and bird watching. In the 12th century some of the land was owned by the Priory of Bath. Someone reputedly called “Nigel” held one virgate (30 acres) of land, six salt pans, a well and half a furlong of land for a rent of two horse loads of salt, three shillings and a pound of cumin a year. Its sheltered position between the Solent, the open sea and the natural facilities for making salt meant that it was much more important than might be expected today. It was a port by 1206. A finger of the creek may have extended towards the junction by the green over the area now occupied by the end of the car park and the field known as 'Baskets' opposite Fishers Mead. Until the early years of the 19th century Keyhaven was part of the prime salt producing centre based around Lymington but there was a rapid decline following competition from Cheshire rock salt combined with rapidly rising coal prices and high duties. Wild fowling was a profitable pursuit for men of all levels of society and 16th century records note complaints about men setting nets to trap birds. Farmers objected to the activity as it interfered with regular work on the land.
If entering from the west beware of “The Trap”, the possible fast running tide and the steep shore adjacent to Hurst Castle south frontage. Do not enter in strong easterlies since the Bar is not too easy. The entrance is through red & green buoys and with a leading line of 2 small red/white horizontal striped buoys at about 283º although these may now have been changed for beacons. Anchor just inside past North Point well to the east of the green buoys and dinghy to the shore for the wildlife, BBQ and Hurst Castle. The mooring is a very good overnight stay and Hurst Castle is very much worth a visit. The Castle was built in the 1540’s as part of Henry VIII's coastal defence. Much of the stone came from Beaulieu Abbey and during the Civil War Charles 1st was imprisoned there. In the 19th century extensive rebuilding was undertaken and it maintained its strategic importance through both World Wars. Many buildings have come and gone and today tourists visit it either on foot along the shingle bank or by ferry from Keyhaven. The cannon shells are about 12” diameter and one cannon now installed and originally recovered from Spit Sand Fort reputedly fired a shell clean over the Isle of Wight. All the other mooring buoys are private but may be used with the Harbourmaster’s authority and a small charge. Should you feel adventurous then passage onwards past Mount Lake on port and Keyhaven Lake on starboard then onwards right up to Keyhaven Yacht Club being aware of the many dinghy’s. Once there moor alongside the Harbour wall which is very much a drying mooring. You will also find Hurst Castle Sailing Club both clubs welcoming visitors. Of course there are other “establishments” to visit close by. Ensure plenty of water as should the Harbour wall be occupied then you will have to return to the Pool just inside North Point. On a calm day try a mooring by anchor outside Keyhaven in the bay on the hard sand & gravel beach and dinghy ashore. This shore is easier than in the Pool although the bird life inside is another attraction.