Things to see and do on the Lymington coastline
PUBLISHED: 12:26 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:26 17 June 2019
Dive on shipwrecks, kayak with seals, or sip a G&T as you sail on the Solent – Lymington has plenty to offer those who take to its waters
Lymington doesn't just offer fun on the water, dive beneath the surface and you can discover many shipwrecks on the seabed. Dave Wendes from White Spirit Diving Charters has been operating out of Lymington for 20 years and has produced a book South Coast Shipwrecks of East Dorset & Wight 1870 - 1979 with a follow-up book coming soon.
"They contain details of the many ships wrecked during both world wars, as well as many others lost through collision and storms. There are steamships, armed trawlers, steam drifters, motor ships, submarines, warships, large and small sailing ships, tankers, WW2 landing craft and so on," Dave explains.
"Inshore wrecks include: Dutch schooner Fenna, sunk in bad weather in 1881. Not much of the ship is left, but her cargo of iron rails, glass and iron goods in barrels stand up off the seabed, providing a haven for all manner of fish life. Being in only 23 metres of water she is an ideal dive for those who prefer shallower water."
"HM/Submarine Swordfish was blown in half by a mine in 1940," Dave continues, "HMS Warwick Deeping, an armed trawler, shelled by German destroyers in 1940. Steamship Mendi, sunk in collision with very heavy loss of life in 1917. About 650 men, mostly from a South African native labour battalion, drowned. These wrecks lie off St Catherine's Point in 36-40 metres of water.
"The more spectacular wrecks lie offshore in deeper water, notably the clipper ship Smyrna in 55 metres, outward bound for Australia with a full general cargo in 1888. She was also sunk in collision and today makes a lovely dive, with her elegant concave bows, rigging deadeyes and cargo."
One June, Dave had one of his best dives on Smyrna: "As soon as we entered the water it was obvious it was going to be a great dive because the plankton had disappeared, leaving the water crystal clear. Although the wreck was in 55 metres, none of the divers went below 40 metres because at that depth it was possible to see the entire wreck and the surrounding seabed, showing the wreck was lying in a large depression, no doubt caused by the scouring effect of the tidal streams.
"Another wreck is the steamship Saxmundham, sunk in collision after being struck by a sailing ship. She has a wonderful example of Victorian engineering in the form of her massive compound engines and boilers, which stand about eight metres high. These offshore wrecks are usually blessed with clear water, exceptionally in excess of 30 metres visibility, but 15-20 metres being common."
When it comes to spotting sea life, Dave says that dolphins, seals and sunfish make the occasional appearance: "and, very rarely, sharks jumping clear of the water mid-Channel!"
"On the wrecks sometimes the fish life is so thick it's impossible to see the wreck until they disperse. There are always shoals of pouting and plenty of conger eels, frequently the girth of telegraph poles (though not quite as long). There are lots of crabs and lobsters, as well as shoals of cod and pollock on the offshore wrecks. Some of these are a metre or so in length, so quite big fish. On the inshore reefs there are mussel beds, oysters, various soft corals and ballan wrasse."
The diving season usually runs from late March to October, although it has been known to carry on until December. Although the very best time to dive, according to Dave, is the second week of May, when the 'black water' arrives, virtually overnight, from the west: "This is a term used to describe the change in water clarity, from poor to very good, which occurs annually. Inshore, water clarity diminishes when the autumn gales arrive but improves when the weather settles down again."
While the shallowest wreck is in just five metres, the deepest is 95 metres - offering recreational diving opportunities for all levels.
Dave also works with the Southampton-based Maritime Archaeology Trust - which investigates and surveys very old wrecks and underwater sites up to 8,500 years old - and Hampshire Wildlife Trust which conducts surveys on various sea creatures to assess the health of our waters.
Splash in the bath…
Lymington is home to the oldest open air sea water baths in the UK. Dating back to 1833 the Grade II listed baths were once famous for their natural mud minerals and health-giving waters.
These days you'll find a fully-staffed 110 metre sea water pool with a plethora of activities to keep locals and tourists happy. Along with stand-up paddleboards and children's splash pool, there's also the biggest inflatable obstacle course in South Coast - at 200 metres!
Open throughout the summer months, the baths offer a really good value, family fun day out.
Have a paddle…
For a unique view of Lymington from the water, as well as cracking views of the Isle of Wight and the Solent - hire a kayak! Lymington Kayaks, located on the Quayside, have a new fleet of sit-on-top kayaks suitable for single paddlers, or two adults and a child.
Open all year round, highlights include: an eclectic mix of boats and wildlife. Spot birds on the marshes and, if you're really lucky, you may even have seals swimming beneath the boats!
Sunnies - check; Champagne - check; 40ft luxury yacht - check! You are now ready to sail the Solent in style. Escape Yachting offer day trips from Lymington, where you'll spend the day kicking back on a beautiful, modern yacht and admiring the endless blue.
Anchor off the Isle of Wight for a spot of freshly-prepared lunch and perhaps a dip in the ocean. It's totally up to you how much you want to get involved, so if sitting back and doing nothing but relaxing is on the agenda - that's absolutely acceptable.
Perfect for couples, friends and family or colleagues and if there are 8 or more people, you'll have exclusive use of a private yacht and can really pretend it's yours!
Do your bit
In a bid to keep Lymington clean for future generations SAS Plastic Free Lymington (part of the Surfers Against Sewage national initiative) runs regular beach cleans in the area - including stand-up paddle board litter picks.
This grassroots volunteer community group, headed up by Christine Spreiter, works to reduce the impact of single use plastic in the local environment, whilst having fun at the same time. Its most recent beach clean at Tanner's Lane foreshore involved 40 people of all ages, one dog and nine donkeys!
"We had a great turnout of 40 people of all ages, one dog and nine donkeys!" says Christine. "We collected from about two miles of coastline and found: 43 drink cans, 44 glass bottles, 54 plastic bottles, a tyre, a crate, barbed wire, heaps of fishing nets, and bags and bags of assorted food packaging, broken down plastic, caps, bags - about 80kg all in."
All information recorded was sent to the Marine Consevation Society beachwatch survey, as well as being logged on the national databases from where it can be accessed by researchers such as Defra.
- Route for an Isle of Wight walk at Niton - We head south to the Isle of Wight to discover the delights of Niton on a long walk