The Supermarine Spitfire is an aviation icon. It combines grace, beauty, raw power and staggering performance. It is arguably the best fighter aircraft ever created with a huge 20,000 plus production run. The Spitfire was in RAF service from her first flight on 5th March 1936 until 1952 and remained in service with foreign Air Forces long past that date.
Created by the brilliant Reginald Mitchell and his team of designers and craftsmen on the banks of the River Itchen at Woolston, this originally private design, needed production on a scale impossible at the Woolston Supermarine works. A shadow factory was, therefore, built at Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands to produce initially the Spitfire MK2. However, 8,000 Spitfires of various MKs were built at Woolston and after the complete destruction of the Supermarine factory by the Luftwaffe in September 1940, in over 28 different, dispersed locations in Hampshire and Wiltshire.
Not much remains of the original Woolston works as the foundations of the 1977 Itchen Bridge occupy that space but you will see the flying boat ramp which is still there plus the original moulding loft where two full sized Spitfires were built out of wood to enable modifications to be tested.
Itchen Ferry Village and its memorial are next. This fishing village was completely destroyed in the Supermarine air raids with the loss of many lives. This deeply affected the families living there.
Our walk takes us on a 90 minute tour of the surviving locations, including the rebuilt Itchen Flying Boats works also destroyed in 1940. Still in use as a packing factory there is an original part of the old plant visible.
We look at the remains of the air raid shelters where the victims of a direct hit still lie buried before walking up to Peartree Green where local residents watched the town burn at the end of November 1940. You will visit Peartree Green Church, the first Anglican Church built in England after the reformation. You will also hear the story of Richard Parker, a victim of the last known act of cannibalism on the high seas, whose remains are buried here.
Walking along Defender Road, so named after the bombed buildings were used for street fighting practice before D-Day and we pass over the site of the camp of Viking King Olaf I
From here he could look down on the hapless Anglo Saxons in Hamwic Town.
We return to our starting point at the Millennium Gardens via a pedestrian railway footbridge, once the site of a 40mm Bofors gun emplacement.
This walk works well with a visit to SOLENT SKY aircraft museum either in the morning or afternoon, together with a walk or one stop bus ride over the Itchen Bridge.
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