If Austria has a problem with a superabundance of natural beauty (see previous post) then the area immediately around Southampton docks might be said to have the opposite problem. Hundreds of years of shaping and reshaping the waterfront for the convenience of docking, boarding, lading and unlading large ships has pretty much eliminated any natural anything. It's a man-made space with all the architectural splendour of a multi-storey carpark.
And yet, Southampton Water itself has the silvery, ever-changing mystery of all large estuaries. It is continually polluted, not least by the Fawley refinery, but twice a day the sea reaches in via the Solent, and pulls out much of the crap we put in. Two splendid rivers, the Test and the Itchen, constantly feed fresh water into the brackish mix, too; it's not (yet) toxic enough to act as a barrier to salmon making their way from the sea up the Test each autumn, though numbers are dwindling. I remember, 30 years ago, joining a small crowd watching salmon leaping a weir on the Test in Romsey, one every 30 seconds or so. I don't think anyone much bothers to turn up now, and the sandbags which used to protect the fish from the stonework have been allowed to rot away.
I went for a walk on Friday along the western shore of Southampton Water, just down from the tide-mill at Eling, where the New Forest leans into the estuary. Although not spectacular, the view of container-ships being serviced by giant cranes and a constant stream of specialised vehicles is quite engrossing. The water is only about 500 metres across at this point, and from amongst the trees you can clearly hear amplified supervisory voices booming across from the docks, punctuated by the echoing boom of empty containers being dropped or bashed like gongs.