About Calshot Tower

Calshot Spit is a one-mile long sand and shingle bank at the seaward end of Southampton Water. On the spit at its far end are Calshot Castle built by Henry VIII and now owned by English Heritage, The former RAF base now Calshot Activities Centre, the RNLI lifeboat station, and adjoining that the tower lookout occupied by Calshot NCI.

The tower is owned by ABP and was built in 1973 as part of the Southampton VTS radar chain. It served as a Coastguard lookout from1974 until the 1990s and was opened as an NCI station in July 2010.

The lookout viewing platform is approximately 100 feet above sea level and has a 360° view over Southampton Water and the Solent with a horizon distance of 11 nautical miles to the SE. In other directions the view extends to the shore line while the ESSO Oil Jetties partially obstruct the view of Southampton Water. A CCTV camera is used to view the inshore area which would be hidden by the large Sunderland Hangar.

There are 38 permanent buoys and marks visible from the tower, and another two-dozen landmark points that would be used in specifying a location for SAR purposes, and to a large extent this supersedes traditional Lat/Long or bearing and distance position fixing for immediate urgent direction of local rescue services such as the RNLI and independent Lifeboats.

The port of Southampton is one of the country’s busiest with constant commercial traffic which includes the world’s largest cruise ships, container vessels and oil tankers, as well as regular car ferry and high-speed ferry services through the area.

The summer months also see intensive leisure use with the River Hamble and Cowes sailing centres in the immediate vicinity, with large numbers of recreational sailing events regularly scheduled. The Calshot Activity Centre and its associated slipways are in regular use and it is normal for more than 200 leisure vessels to be within sight of the tower on a typical weekend day – and more like 2000 during Cowes Week and major racing events.

We are often asked whether there is a lift in the Tower. The answer is definitely “NO”! There are 8 flights of steep step ladders which have to be climbed to reach the operations room. Because of the difficulty of access, and because the operations room is relatively small, we are not able to open the Tower to the public. However individual visits may be possible by prior appointment.

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