The Solent forms the largest estuarine system of the south coast of the UK. The components of this system include the West and East Solent and their approaches, the Eastern harbours of Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester, Southampton Water and other small tributary rivers such as the River Beaulieu, Lymington, Hamble and the Yar.
Southampton Water is the stretch of the sea north of the Solent, with the city of Southampton lying at its head. Along its saltmarsh-fringed western shores lie New Forest villages and the Esso oil refinery at Fawley. On the slightly steeper eastern shore are Southampton suburbs, the villages of Netley and Hamble-le-Rice, Royal Victoria Country Park and the mouth of the River Hamble.
There are five estuaries located on the north and north-eastern coasts of the Isle of Wight. These are the Medina, Western Yar, Bembridge, Newtown and Wootton Creek. The Medina is the longest estuary on the Isle of Wight and extends nearly 7km between Cowes and Newport. It is an important waterway for industry, transport and recreation.
Cowes Harbour on the Isle of Wight is a key economic driver and gateway to the Island. Ferries and commercial ships enter the harbour 24/7 and carry approximately three million passengers, plus freight and coaches, and 99% of all the bulk shipping import and export goods for the Island - including fuel supplies. Yachting, power boating and the marine services sector also create local jobs and contribute in excess of £25 million to the local economy in Cowes and the Medina Valley.