Before I catch up with posts for the last month or so of our travels I have to re-iterate how we often miss out on what’s right on our doorstep.
We are going to try to make sure we put this right over the coming months (whilst we’re at home), and we started last week when our fellow campers, Steve and Denise, stopped with us in Nutbourne before heading off to Spain for the winter (just a bit jealous..)
Anyway, we decided to take them to Portsmouth on the Monday, well Southsea. We drove in from the Eastney end so they got the full view of the sea – all the way from Farlington Marshes and down the Eastern Road. It’s an aspect of Portsmouth that I believe is sadly neglected, unless you happen to live up that end of course!
We passed the old military barracks – now residential but housing the Royal Marines Museum as well, the beach huts, canoe lake, the putting green (and the Tenth Hole where we intended to eat cake, but sadly ran out of time) and the model village.
Moving on we passed the bowling green, D-Day museum (which seems to be in the process of being refurbished), the Pyramids centre (swimming and nightlife) and, of course, Southsea Castle (free to visit from March to October), the castle field and the bandstand. This is such an amazing area and holds so many fantastic memories for me. I used to take my boys to the castle regularly (as well as Fort Nelson ‘up on the hill’).
Castle Field stretches my memory further back in time to when Radio 1 Roadshows were all the rage,
and every year saw them visit with different dj’s – I remember seeing Tony Blackburn, DLT, Mike Reid and Mike Smith among many others! Finally, the Bandstand. Free concerts are held here every weekend throughout the summer – this is something that I’ve always wanted to take advantage of but have never yet had the opportunity.
We parked opposite the Naval Memorial, where Calv told me he used to play as a boy. I never before appreciated just how impressive it is. There are other memorials along the seafront, between Mozarella Joe’s and the Hovercraft, that I’ve never taken any notice of.
We, unfortunately, missed seeing the hovercraft come in or leave as it had just gone when we arrived. It is an amazing spectacle though, and apparently a bit of a tourist attraction on it’s own!
We wandered through Clarence Pier fair, stopping to get hot doughnuts, which were unfortunately rather disappointing (a bit greasy), but that won’t stop me from trying again! We didn’t have time to stop for a game of crazy golf as we’d only put 4 hours on the parking and we wanted to get to Gunwharf and back.
We took the seafront path along to Old Portsmouth, which took us past the old fortifications, the Square Tower and the Round Tower (all of which you will see lined with people when the big ships are moving in or out of port – most recently, of course, the new aircraft carrier The Queen Elizabeth). Once in the historic area of Old Portsmouth we stopped for a drink in the Still and West, which is located right on the water on the historic wharf.
We then headed through Old Portsmouth admiring the many fine old buildings as we went (and Ben Ainslie’s newest addition – his Racing headquarters on the camber). Our destination of Gunwharf Quays was closer than we thought. No, seriously, there was a shortcut which we missed and went the long way round! I found it on the way back, as I walked while the others jumped in a taxi (we were sailing close to the wind on the parking time..!)
We had a bite to eat in Gunwharf, had a quick look at the Spinnaker Tower (we didn’t go up as we were running out of time), a brief jaunt around the shops and then back to the car.
I think we enjoyed our afternoon as much as Steve and Denise did as we were looking at our home city through different eyes. I can’t wait to go back!!
Now today we went for a walk, just about 1/2 mile or so I suppose up the hill behind our house, over the motorway (there is a footbridge!), a little more of a muddy path to follow before coming to the road over the hill and Fort Nelson (so named as it was the one built closest to Nelson’s Memorial). The views as we were walking up make the climb well worthwhile!
Fort Nelson (The Royal Armouries) is somewhere else that I used to take the boys regularly when they were younger. Like Southsea Castle it is free to visit and well worth taking the time to do so. It has changed since I last went though as there was a major refurbishment back in 2011. This was Calv’s first visit (even though he’s lived in Portsmouth almost all of his life) and he was suitably impressed and surprised by the quality of this attraction.
Sadly the Victorian loos that the boys always used to insist on using, no longer appear to be open! However, as well as the wealth of weaponry on display, you can see the old guardroom cells with some very well preserved graffiti, the tunnels, the parade ground and, often, live firings of the guns.
In fact this was the main reason we visited today. We wanted to attend some sort of Remembrance ceremony and here, instead of a bugle playing the last post (which we did miss) we had a gun fired at the beginning and end of the 2 minutes silence, together with a number of readings.
There is a nice little café (very reasonably priced) and a small shop and many staff on hand to provide information to anyone who needs it. For £3 per adult you can have a guided tour and there are many events held throughout the year.
Also one of my niece’s insists to this day that she saw a ghost down one of the tunnels here – so maybe that will help you decide to visit!
I think we might be visiting again with the grandchildren in the not too distant future!