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The Solent is a stretch of sea separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of Great Britain. It is a great centre for yachting and is renowned as one of the most expensive waters to cross by ferry in the world. It is greatly sheltered by the island, and has a very complex tidal pattern. The cities of Portsmouth and Southampton nestle on its shores. Spithead, an area of Gilkicker point near Gosport, is renowned as the place where the Royal Navy is reviewed by the monarch of the day.

Archaeologists have discovered that the Solent was above sea level until about 8,000 years ago, and was covered by an oak forest. When glaciers covering the north of Britain melted at the end of the last ice age, the island tilted about an east-west axis, submerging parts of the south coast, including the Solent. Remains of human habitation have been found from the prehistoric, Roman and Saxon eras, showing that humans retreated towards progressively higher ground over these periods.