Portsmouth(Mike Oldfield) - A Day at the Historic Portsmouth Dockyard - 29th July 2016

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July 29th 2016
Published: August 1st 2016
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We weren’t too sure what Jean and Stella have planned for us today but the weather doesn’t look too bad for some sightseeing in the Portsmouth area.

Breakfast done and we are off to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and with Stella driving we can sit back and be passengers.

Like most large cities Portsmouth can be a problem to find a car park handy to where you are going so we travelled down to the Park and Ride and took a double decker bus down to the harbour where the bus stopped almost right outside the entrance.

Portsmouth has had a long association of over 800 years with the Royal Navy although the days of the Navy needing all of the port for its facilities have passed and what they don’t need has been developed into a world class tourist attraction.

We were quickly into the dockyard and called first into the Boathouse where you can witness traditional small boat building happening. There is also an exhibition of the ‘Forgotten Craft’ which are small boats that have had a part in history over the last 100 years or so.

The first of the two main attractions was next stop for us and we boarded Lord Nelson’s flagship the HMS Victory which has been faithfully restored and maintained over the years to give you a very real feel of what it would have been like to be a sailor 250 years ago.

The most famous battle HMS Victory took part in was of course The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 during which Lord Nelson was shot and died on the ship. The spot of where he was shot on the main deck is marked and you have to be careful not to trip over it. On a deck or two below there is also the spot where he was taken and later died. The story goes that his body was put into a brandy barrel and lashed to the mainmast until the ship, which was heavily damaged was towed back to port after the battle. Nelson is buried at St Pauls in London and we saw his grave when we visited there on the BBA V1.

The whole ship is open to walk around. Getting between decks is a challenge to the taller person and I found the best way down was to go down the stairs backwards to avoid hitting your head on the bulkhead.

As we went lower in the ship so did the head space and I was pleased I was wearing a hat to help me keep my head down. An interesting fact we found out on the lowest deck we got down to where the ships carpenter worked was that he was 6ft 7in tall yet the head space was just over 5ft!He would have spent his working time below decks half bent over!

Next on the list to visit was the exhibit that had only just opened in the previous week so we had timed our visit perfectly.

The Mary Rose was a warship launched in 1512 for King Henry 8th’s navy and was sunk in the nearby Solent in 1545 during a battle against the invading French.

She lay on the sea floor until 1971 when the wreck was rediscovered and a trust was formed to raise money to salvage her and put her on display. When the salvage was completed it was one of the most expensive exercises ever undertaken.

The restoration of the ship to its current appearance has taken years and in recent years a new building has been constructed over where the remains of the ship had been housed and today that forms a very informative museum with artefacts found on the ship and stories of its short history.

Naturally, a ship that had been under the sea for so long needs very careful management to preserve what has been salvaged and as you pass along the viewing decks the light on the ship is kept relatively dimmed and for a short period darkens when videos pictures are shown on parts of the ship to demonstrate the life of the sailors of the day.

It was time for a quick lunch before we boarded a boat trip that took us around the wharf area and past several Royal Navy ships in port including the latest destroyers which are designed to not show up on enemy radar by having a shape and lines that deflect the radar.

There were a couple of ferries in port and we passed another catamaran ferry that plies between Portsmouth and Cherbourg at speeds up to 40 knots carrying up to 900 passengers and 150+ cars.

We got off the boat near the Emirates Spinnaker Tower which was erected in 2005 and has become a popular tourist attraction. The building is in the shape of the Burj Hotel in Dubai.

We had just missed the Navy Bank performing for the crowds on the waterfront esplanade so we headed off through the large shopping precinct calling into the Nike shop and buying a new pair of shoes at about 1/3rd of the cost at home in NZ.

We were ready for the bus ride back to the Park and Ride and a bit of relaxation before we went out for dinner with Jeans other daughter Janet and her husband Dave.

We had travelled into Portsmouth on the top deck of the bus but there were people sitting in the front seats.However we nabbed the front seats on the way back which enabled us to tick another 'must do'off our bucket list.

The sun was shining warmly and we relaxed in the back garden with a cup of tea until the wind got up and the sky clouded over. We retreated inside and Stella made a pitcher of Pimms, a refreshing drink we haven’t had for years.

One of the beauties of living in a small village with a local pub and it was just a short stroll around to the Golden Lion for dinner with the family. The pub is very traditional with a small bar and tables for couples and then slightly larger tables in a small restaurant area just off the bar. Exposed dark timbered beams gave the interior a warm, friendly appeal. The pub had a colourful history as a ‘watering hole’ for troops leading up to the launch of D-Day in WW2 and there are mementos including pictures and photos from that time.

Twilight was fading as we finished dinner and wandered back home for a coffee before calling it a day.

Tomorrow we head east through Sussex to Kent for a two night stop near Maidstone and a plan to visit historic Canterbury Cathedral.

PS:todays video/music blog title is a traditional hornpipe type tune which will give you the full flavour of this historic,Royal Navy seaside city.Enjoy on Youtube as usual.

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