Eling Tide Mill uses the power of the tide to drive two flour mills for the purpose of grinding corn into flour.
One of the mills is normally stationary to enable visitors to see the mechanism and the other is usually in operation. The site is advertised as one of only two operating tide mills in the country but is at present undergoing refurbishment so cannot be visited. The accompanying road toll bridge over the embankment was however fully functional taking £1 for each vehicle but foot travellers walk for free.
The weather on the day of the visit was sunny with a few high clouds but an overnight frost meant for a chilly start. Fortunately the weather warmed up during the day which turned out to be warm and sunny. The walk started from the cemetery car park near the mill embankment and followed the coast on the west side of Southampton Water overlooking the container port on the far bank.
Loading a giant container ship provided occasional spells of interest during the walk and the constant hum of machinery was present all the time. Nevertheless the noise was ignored after a while and other more rural features provided the interest.
A grassed area has been provided for picnics and barbeques around Goatee beach which provided easy walking during the early stages. Goatee beach is something of a misnomer as it consists mainly of a narrow strip of gravel but the grassed area is large enough for games and relaxation. There were few birds on the water but Swallows and House Martins could be seen making their way north for the summer. It seems that Southampton Water forms a large pointer for migrating birds to find their way home.
The walk along the coast soon entered woodland which formed a narrow strip all the way to Marchwood. The wood on the banks of Southampton Water consisted of mixed deciduous trees such as Oak, Willow, and Beech with Hazel that had been coppiced sometime in the past.
Open woodland such as this enables spring flowers to flourish and the floor was covered in English Bluebells with the white star flowers of Wood Anemone giving a pleasing contrast. Yellow Lesser Celandine grew in swathes along the sides of the track but the blue Dog Violets were harder to find.
Other wild flowers included Stitchwort, Bugle, Ground Ivy and the occasional Primrose. In one area of the wood, amongst the Wood Anemones, grew Moschatel or Town Hall Clock. This was also growing with some vigour and could easily be seen without bending down to search the undergrowth. The plant is not rare but is usually unnoticed because of its green colour and small size.
It is called a Town Hall clock because of the four flower heads growing at the top of the frail stem each facing one of the compass points. It also has a fifth flower pointing to the sky; presumably so very small aircraft can tell the time.
Spring has been very variable this year. The mild winter encouraged many plants to start growing only to be stopped by a cold spell in the spring. Longer days and a slight rise in temperature has meant leaves and flowers resumed their growth.
In addition the high rainfall and saturated ground has turned many woodland tracks into muddy mires. Tracks through this woodland were no exception and slow progress was made trying to pick the best way round large puddles. Several springs issued crystal clear water only yards from the coast forming ponds or streams down to the sea. A small glade with white Blackthorn blossom and yellow Gorse forming protective walls all around made a delightful place to stop in the warm sunshine.
Queen bees and the occasional butterfly completed the picture. In the past a ring of Blackthorn around a field was considered to ward off the devil and he was certainly missing on this peaceful sunny day.
A circular route being impossible the return was a repeat of the outward journey except for a diversion through the grounds of St. Mary the Virgin Church; regarded as the mother church of the Waterside. A church has been on the site since the ninth century and being the highest point of the area must have overlooked many changes to the houses and ships sailing beneath its walls. Hopefully it will continue to see many agreeable changes in the future.