Shirley's UK Trip 2012 travel blog

Hythe Pier & train

Southampton Harbour

Exbury Gardens

Exbury Gardens & Beaulieu River

Exbury Gardens Steam Train

Yesterday I got very tired & I didn’t sleep well last night so today I had an easy day.

I started off in the little village of Hythe which is on the coast & I’d read that it boasted the world’s oldest pier train. The pier itself is also quite old, opened in 1881 & at 2,100 ft is one of the 10 longest pier in the UK.

For the princely sum of £3, I could not only ride the train to the end of the pier, I could also catch the ferry from there, across Southampton harbour to Southampton & back. What a bargain. I couldn’t resist.

The ferry goes right past the berth of Queen Victoria, Queen Mary II & Queen Elizabeth II when they’re at home but unfortunately they’re not right now. I notice all 3 will be in port at the same time in June for the Queen’s jubilee. That would really be a sight.

So I sailed across to Southampton but only spent ½ an hour there, then caught the next ferry back because I’d only paid for 2 hours in the parking meter. It was fun though & very relaxing.

Then I drove to Exbury, which is quite close to Beaulieu, to see the world-famous gardens which were established by Lionel de Rothschild in the 1920’s. It’s particularly famous for its rhododendrons but I was just a little bit early. I was told it’s really at the height of its colour in May but there were still some pretty spectacular sights.

Lionel’s son, Leopold, always wanted to put in a steam train around the gardens but could never get planning permission from the New Forest authorities. He wanted a full-sized line but finally got the OK for a small 12¼ inch gauge & it was completed in 2002. I think the total length is about 1½ miles & it’s a lovely way to see the gardens.

The train driver told me it cost about £2 million to construct & it doesn’t hurt if you own a merchant bank to pay for the maintenance.

So a nice peaceful day, still warm & sunny but I think our stretch of good weather is coming to its end. The forecast is for the weather to be back to its normal 12 – 14 by the weekend. It’s been a real bonus while it lasted though.

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