Grumpy Old Men, Crazed Cows And Indulgent Skippers In Keyhaven

Cows hate me. For some reason my presence sends them into a frenzy. Shame it’s only cows that are always so excited to see me.

Look at this docile beast I came upon as I embarked upon a day’s ramble around Keyhaven. Before it spotted me, that is.

docile cow

Then, it spots me.

cross cow

angry cow

Once I got past the beast (who immediately became soft as putty again) I headed away from the shoreline along the Ancient Highway. This leaflet gives you a good idea of the layout of the reserve and the wildlife therein.

Within the first 15 minutes I spotted this little beauty trotting towards me.


Everywhere I turned there were birds and animals.




In Victorian times, wildfowling was a popular winter sport here in these marshes and many geese and wild ducks were shot. Next door to The Gun public house in Keyhaven stands Hawker’s Cottage, home of famous wildfowler Peter Hawker in the early 19th century. Hawker kept a macabre diary of his wildfowling activities on the marshes. Read more about his exploits here and a little of the history of The Gun here

I decided to head towards The Chequer’s pub. The route is somewhat of an obstacle course through the trees so downing a pint or two on arrival feels like just reward.

pub walk2

This pub is the stamping ground of The Grumpies Racing team. This group of sailors was formed from the Tuesday night pub get togethers of – you’ve guessed it – grumpy old men. Together they’ve tackled the world’s largest trans-ocean sailing event, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and between them admit to being “much older than they would like to be” and to enjoying a regular intake of ale and wine. One of the grumpies is “prone to early passage seasickness but always recovers in time for post race parties.”

Being a Sunday lunchtime the pub was very busy so I headed off instead to continue my ramble right by the coast. As this was June, I didn’t expect to see many birds as the best times are between October and March when the high numbers of twitchers and photographers positioned throughout the reserve is a big clue.

Continuing on I had the Isle of Wight and Hurst Castle in my view. The castle was built at the narrow entrance to the Solent by Henry VIII to defend the approach to Southampton water. The ebb and flow of the tides here creates strong currents, putting not only would-be invaders at its mercy but several years ago me too, as I’ll never forget struggling through there at the helm of a yacht on a furiously wet and windy day. I may be exaggerating slightly – although I was indeed at the helm, I had by this point covered my eyes with my hands and the skipper positioned directly behind me was expertly navigating us through the boiling tempest.

Later on in the marina at Lymington, fellow sailors seemed mightily impressed that I’d battled the currents as a novice. I opened my mouth to put the record straight when I caught the eye of my skipper. He winked slowly. Fair enough. Thanks guys – I’ll be happy to accept all those offers of drinks then. Cheers!


Isle of Wight

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  • Carl Mynott

    fab shots of Goldfinch and Lapwing – lovely!  The cow’s not bad either.  ;-)

    • karenguttridge

      Thank you. I was lucky that the birds and animals were so close! I especially love Keyhaven in the migration seasons when so many beautiful birds are around. As for the cows – I’m working on my bravery…!