The harbour of Ashlett Creek is one of the Solent’s most delightful hidden treasures, as Peter Bruce discovers...
Ashlett Creek is an attractive little harbour, despite being hemmed in to the north by the largest oil refinery in the country and to the south by a huge redundant power station.
Once the inner area is reached, the disused Fawley power station and oil refinery fade out of sight and what you see is pretty woodland, a large ancient mill house built in 1816 with a mansard roof, a sailing club and a pub.
This natural creek dries out at low water, leaving about 50 permanently based shoal draft vessels high and dry, which must all be less than 34ft in length to be eligible for a mooring.
At the turn of the last century, large ships used to come in to embark grain or flour, and a quay was completed in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
This still serves visiting mariners who do not have to walk far from the quay to the Jolly Sailor pub.
The channel is probably shallower but better marked than in Queen Victoria’s time and a wise first-time visitor will feel their way in on a rising tide.
When coming from the south, head towards the Fawley refinery marine terminal, keeping outside the western side of the primary shipping channel.
About 380 metres short of the southern end of the jetty turn sharply to port and head towards the shore, aiming to pass between the two Ashlett Creek entrance buoys – Hamble Point buoy will be astern – but be aware that the outside buoys can unexpectedly disappear due to the unwelcome action of late-night trawlermen.
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The first green starboard hand buoy is in place, but at the time of writing the port hand one is believed to have been trawled and has consequently been replaced by a temporary white buoy marked ‘Temp No 6’.
A little further down the channel there is a conspicuous second green buoy marked with a faint ‘7’, followed by a succession of posts on both sides of the channel that take you round the right handed bend to the sharp left hand bend, just after the Ashlett Sailing Club pontoon jetty.
There is a green starboard hand buoy on this corner. The channel is a bit sinuous and variable on the final leg to the Victoria Quay where about 1.2 metres will be found at high water.
Founded in 1949, Ashlett Sailing Club, which is based on a Second World War Bofors gun site at the southern promontory of the harbour, is active and friendly.
Visitors to the club are welcome to use the eastern side of the club jetty opposite the club for £12 a night or £4 for a lunch stop.
This means that when the tide is up Solent sailors owning shoal draft craft can take great pleasure in a visit to the picturesque Ashlett Creek and its convenient pub.