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River Hamble
Hamble River - panoramio - Alistair Cunningham.jpg
Yachts on the Hamble
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Country England
County Hampshire
Settlements Bishops Waltham, Botley, Bursledon, Hamble, Warsash
Physical characteristics
Main source Bishops Waltham, Hampshire.
50°57′15″N 1°12′56″W / 50.954295°N 1.215497°W / 50.954295; -1.215497
River mouth Southampton Water
50°50′30″N 1°18′45″W / 50.841601°N 1.312546°W / 50.841601; -1.312546
Length 10.1 km (6.3 mi)

The River Hamble is in south Hampshire, England. It rises near Bishop's Waltham and flows for 10.1 km (6.3 mi) through Botley, Bursledon, and Lower Swanwick before entering Southampton Water between Hamble Common and Warsash.

The Hamble is tidal for about half its length and is navigable below Botley. From the medieval period to the present it has been a major ship and boat-building area. Leisure craft are still built by the Hamble today. One of the main builders was Luke & co, later Luke Bros a well-reputed yard from around 1890 to its closure in 1945. The lower reaches are a major yachting area with easy access to the sheltered waters of Southampton Water and the Solent.


From its source to mouth, the river makes a repeated curve heading south-south-west. It gains tributary streams before reaching Botley, the site of an ancient watermill. Below Botley, the river becomes tidal and navigable. It gains strength from adjoining streams, draining surrounding Hedge End, Curdridge, Shedfield, and Burridge.

This section was extensively used for medieval shipbuilding, using timber grown locally in the neighbouring woods. Nearby Kings Copse, a cut-back form of Kings Forest, speaks of this key use of the land.

The river's west bank can be accessed from Manor Farm Country Park, where it is possible to walk through Dock Copse and Fosters Copse. At extreme low tide, it is just possible to see the remains of the wreck of Henry V's 15th century warship Grace Dieu. This section of the river was also home to HMS Cricket, the Royal Marine landing craft crew training base, during World War II.

At 2 mi (3.2 km) south of Botley, the river passes between the villages of Bursledon and Lower Swanwick and is crossed by the M27 motorway, the Portsmouth to Southampton railway line, and the A27 road via large bridges. A further 2 mi (3.2 km) south of Bursledon, the river flows between the villages of Hamble-le-Rice and Warsash before entering Southampton Water.

A passenger ferry crosses the river between Hamble-le-Rice and Warsash, forming a link for the Solent Way and E9 European Coastal Path. This section of the river is dominated by a number of marinas, the largest being the Port Hamble Marina, and boat yards on both banks as far upstream as Bursledon. On the east bank, south of Warsash, is the Warsash Maritime School, part of Solent University, which provides training for merchant navy crew.

Water quality

The Environment Agency measure water quality of the river systems in England. Each is given an overall ecological status, which may be one of five levels: high, good, moderate, poor and bad. There are several components that are used to determine this, including biological status, which looks at the quantity and varieties of invertebrates, angiosperms and fish, and chemical status, which compares the concentrations of various chemicals against known safe concentrations. Chemical status is rated good or fail.

Water quality of the River Hamble in 2019:

Section Ecological
Length Catchment Channel
Upper Hamble Moderate Fail Moderate 5.309 km (3.299 mi) 38.062 km2 (14.696 sq mi)
Main River Hamble Moderate Fail Moderate 4.823 km (2.997 mi) 7.176 km2 (2.771 sq mi)

In the 1970s and 80s the many yachts using the river polluted the water by leaching tributyltin from their anti-fouling paints. By 1988 it had the highest known level in the UK. With its banning for use by vessels under 25 m (82 ft) long, the general concentration in the tidal waters declined to that considered harmless.


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