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Lepe

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General details:

Lepe is a south facing sandy beach right next to the entrance to Beaulieu river. Lepe is in the fortunate position of being adjacent to the western end of the Isle of Wight, which means that when a south westerly wind is blowing, the wind gets funnelled into the Solent, providing stronger winds than else where on the south coast. Unfortunately this position also has disadvantages - on hot summer days, the Isle of Wight interferes with the sea breeze, so if heading to the coast in the hope of catching a sea breeze, Lepe (or Calshot) is not the place to go.

The launching area itself provides a sloping sandy beach which leads down to a 50yard shingle shelf. On a spring low tide the shingle shelf will be exposed, however the walk out isn't too bad (in fact better than most other nearby locations), just be careful with fins when the tide starts dropping.

The large car park at Lepe is pay and display (£4.20 for all day - April 2002) and rigging up is either done on the beach, the car park, or on the designated grassy rigging area just behind the car park. Better yet there is a tap and hose provided in the rigging area to help wash off your kit.

On good weather weekends & bank holidays, it gets very busy.

Water quality is allegedly good.

For the non windsurfer, or younger generation still aspiring to take up the sport, there is Lepe country park just behind the car park, providing swings etc. (I must confess, I have never been in there so don't actually know what is there, its just you can see the swings from the car park. A large amount of the traffic turns into the country park so there is presumably something worth seeing in there.)

There is a clean toilet block provided and a cafe which provides an ample supply of bangers, chips, ice creams etc, highly recommended. I have never tested their tolerance to wet suits coming into the cafe area, I suspect they would suggest you get changed prior to entering. They do however have an outside serving hatch for essentials such as coffee and ice-cream.

Extra reassurance is provided at Lepe by the presence of the coast guard look out station (Solent Rescue) at the top of the hill just above the car park. The inshore lifeboat is frequently anchored just off the beach here ready to go. The station is manned on Saturdays from March till end October. In 2007 they intend to extend the manned days to Sat & Sunday (inc Bank Holidays). Visit www.solent-rescue.co.uk or call James Martin 07769 727 296. The crew are all volunteers (not part of the RNLI but the SSRO, they get tasked directly from the Coast Guard) and are very welcoming to windsurfers. If you plan to cross to the I.O.W., want to know the weather forecast or have any questions please let them know so they can keep an eye on you.

A few hundred yards east of the launch point there is a sand bar which throws up waves. I have never seen the waves in a useable state, however I suspect I just haven't been there at the right time.

Click on the thumbnails below to see a larger image of the facilities at Lepe:

Shop & car park Towards the IOW beach at HW. Looking E
car park & shop etc. (73k)
Sailing in 4.2m weather (Isle of Wight in background) (43k)
Beach at High Tide (59k)

Lepe is one of the more practical places from which to mount a trip across to the Isle of Wight. If you must go; go in a group and take flares, tow rope, spare fins etc to help ensure a self sufficient recovery should things not go according to plan. Let someone who is going to remain on the land know you are going and when you expect to be back. Most importantly of all, let them know when you do get back.

While this is a very tempting thing to do, "because its there", windsurfers are particularly vunerable when sailing long distances in open water due to wind shifts & changes, sailor fatigue, equipment failure and less expected things like hitting a piece of drift wood at full speed. Think very carefully before embarking on such an activity, it is very embarrasing looking at the number of windsurfing incidents the coastguard and RNLI get called out to each year.

Alternative light wind activities include a trip to Beaulieu which is only a short distance away. On the road back towards Fawley you will pick up signs to Beaulieu.

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Directions to the right place:

Head towards Southampton (from the west country). Shortly before reaching Southampton, start following signs to Fawley and the A326. Drive past Fawley and pick up signs to Lepe Country Park. Shortly after going past the entrance to the country park the road arrives at the beach. The car park, shop etc are on the left hand side.

Click here for a location map

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How the winds work:

Despite what was said above, here's a quote I saw some time ago (but can't remember where):

"Works well in anything from W thru' S to E. Best in W or SW on ebb tide. Sea breezes in spring/summer can add two strengths to the wind (eg: turns a force 3 into a force 5)."

Anything with North in it is useless at Lepe because of the cliff behind the car park and the large trees by the shore line. NE May be worth checking out. If you know, please let us know.

W - Cross shore

SW - Wind gets funnelled by the Isle of Wight.

S - Shingle bar to the E produces great flat water blasting/speed course.

SE - Shingle bar to the E produces great flat water blasting/speed course.

E - Cross shore.

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Tidal conditions:

HW springs tend to occur around 12:00 - 13:00. HW neaps around 06:30 - 08:30 (19:00 - 20:00) (GMT).

Highest spring tides tend to be around 3m, typical spring HW is 2.7m, typical neap HW is 2.4m. unlike further west along the S coast, lepe does not really have any double-tide effects like at Poole or Portland. However, on spring tides, the high tide hangs around for ages and then disappears like someone's pulled the plug out giving lw some 3 hours after the tide noticably starts dropping. This makes for strong currents out in the channel and in Southampton Water on spring tides. It takes the normal 6 hours or so for the tide to flood. On neap tides there's the more "normal" 6 hour ebb and 7 hour flood.

Lepe can be sailed in all states of the tide. Be careful of the currents, particularly during spring tides.

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Hazards:

Parking wardens!

Shingle shelf as the tide drops; causes shoredump at HW.

Tidal current.

Groynes.

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Facilities:

Toilets

Hose pipe for rinsing off kit!

Cafe serving good value basic food.

Gift shop

Country park

Swings

Solent Rescue Lifeboat - Operational on Saturdays (Sat & Sun planned for 2007). Lookout open 10am till 5:30pm. Visit www.solent-rescue.co.uk or call James Martin 07769 727 296

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B&B's / campsites

I don't know of any campsite or B&Bs located near by, however I'm sure a quick drive around the area will reveal some. The little tourist shop in the car park almost certainly keeps details of suitable places.

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Pubs and eateries

The road from Fawley has numerous pubs scattered along it. I have never tried any of them so can't offer any particular recommendations. Please let us know if you have tried any of them..The cafe in the car park provides good basic food & essentials such as coffee and ice-cream.

Mike Day (Jan 2005) says:
after visiting lepe, we always eat at the heath hotel Dibden Purlieu, which is a Brewers Fayre and children friendly. Highly recommended.

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Content supplied by , , , Mike Day-Jan '05, James Martin - Sept 2006. Many thanks.

Note: All comments and opinions mentioned in this section of the site are the personal opinions of the various contributors. Inevitably, one person's favourite may be another person's least favourite.

The information provided here is provided in good faith. We can take no responsibility for the consequences of any inaccuracies. Should you find any inaccuracies, then please take the trouble to tell us, using any of the update links.

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