Monday 9th September – With Dave Scott, coach driver of Travel Wright, Newark it was a 9.10am start for 38 residents of Winthorpe and friends as we set off on a bright sunny morning, for a five-day holiday to Hampshire.
Hampshire, a county on the southern coast of England is in an area known as the South Downs. The county is bordered by Dorset to the west, Wiltshire to the north-west, Berkshire to the north, Surrey to the north-east, and West Sussex to the east. The southern boundary is the coastline of the English Channel and the Solent, facing the Isle of Wight. It could be called a ceremonial county, as it houses the birthplaces of the Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force. Hampshire is a relatively affluent county once reliant on agriculture but now concentrates on dairy farming.
A coffee stop was made at the Warwick Services on the M40 followed by a lunch stop at the city of Oxford. I managed to get a quick look at the Carfax Tower which is considered to be the centre of the city. It is the remains of the 12th century St. Martin’s Church. It was wonderful to hear the chimes of the clock’s six bells.
Continuing our journey we passed through many picturesque villages, with their colourful red brick houses, thatched roofs and cottage gardens. The larger houses had for their roofing red flat clay tiles known as pegs.
It was tea time when we arrived at our final destination, the four-star Q Norton Park Hotel and Spa at Sutton Scotney, five miles outside Winchester. Set in 54 acres of parkland this 175-room modern hotel was superb with its hospitality and catering.
Tuesday 10th September – On a warm and sunny morning we set off for our visit to Portsmouth. Half of the group went shopping, whilst the rest, mainly men, visited the Historic Dockyard.
Portsmouth, known as ‘Pompey, to naval personnel, was once a vital naval port for the Royal Navy. Located on Portsea Island, it is the United Kingdom’s only island city. It is home to the world’s oldest dry dock still in use today and also home to some famous ships, including the Tudor warship Mary Rose, Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.
The Mary Rose, the favourite ship of King Henry V111, capsized on its maiden voyage as it left to fight the French in 1545. It was recovered from the sea in 1982 along with many of the 16th century artefacts objects. After a complete restoration, which lasted twenty years, the hull is located in a specially constructed boat-shaped museum. With the preserving sprays, now switched off, the final phase of the hull's conservation can be seen through windows into a ‘hotbox.’ On display, in the same building, are thousands of artefacts, giving an absorbing insight into the life at sea in Tudor times.
Alongside the Mary Rose Museum is HMS Victory, the English flagship on which Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, Britons naval hero, was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Now fully restored to its former glory she is used as a museum ship. She is also the flagship of the First Sea Lord and is the oldest naval ship still in commission
Nearby is another museum ship HMS Warrior. Built for the Royal Navy in 1859–61, this three-masted ship was the world’s first iron-hulled armoured warship powered by steam as well as sail.
Located in the dockyard’s Georgian storehouses is the National Museum of the Royal Navy. There. exhibits tell the story of the Royal Navy and its people from earliest times to the present.
Among the many models of ships old and new was a large scale model of Commander Grey’s yacht ‘Chatham’ which carried Nelson’s body up the River Thames to Greenwich in preparation of his state funeral. Two of the many 17th century paintings had ships with cannons firing and women on deck attending to the wounded. Women on warships I found unbelievable.
Following all this was a one hour cruise around the harbour and Naval Docks. Alongside a running commentary by the boat’s captain, we were able to view the historical sites, modern Royal Navy ships, a Geest banana boat unloading its wares and a cruise liner. A prominent sight out at sea was four large forts created in the 1860s as part of an attempt to defend the Solent and the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour against the threat of invasion.
The final visit of the day was a trip up the Spinnaker Tower. This striking structure, representing sails billowing in the wind, is a design accomplished by using two large, white, sweeping steel arcs, which give the tower its spinnaker sail design. Taking one of the two lifts, which takes 28 seconds, to the top of the 170 metres (560 feet) tower is a triple observation deck, providing a 350° view of the city of Portsmouth, the Langstone and Portsmouth harbours, and a viewing distance of 37 kilometres (23 miles).
A sit down and coffee in the tower’s shop was most welcome.
East of the town is the seaside resort of Southsea where the D-Day Museum is situated. The museum tells the story of Operation Overlord during the D-Day landings, on the 6th of June 1944, at Normandy, France. Nearby was Southsea Castle built in 1544 as a defensive fort by Henry V111 and where he watched his flagship Mary Rose sink.
Southsea, offers its residents and visitors, fine views of the coming and going of ships of all kinds through the swiftly flowing harbour mouth.
Wednesday 11th September – It was another bright sunny morning for our visit to Furzey Gardens in the picturesque village of Minstead, situated in the New Forest, England’s smallest National Park.
The New Forest is an area of wild uncultivated open unfenced heath-land and woodland. A system of rights, called commoning, has been established to allow commoners to graze their livestock in this forest. These include cattle, pigs and ponies.
Furzey Gardens is a garden of wonder. An informal woodland garden, which started in 1922, is a plants man’s paradise. There are many rare and beautiful plants from around the world providing a year round colour. Paths, which twist and turn, giving the visitor something different around every corner. Tree houses with tiny fairy doors, giving a magical feel, from which one expects to see a fairy coming out. Small thatched buildings, a Lantern, which is a small open fronted building made of old tree branches and a wheat straw thatch, a large pond covered with water lilies, a play area with tree houses and a wild flower meadow with alpacas roaming around. This garden is made for wildlife, children and people with learning difficulties. Among the collection of heathers was one that originated from Furzey Gardens. It is called Erica x darleyensis Furzey, and considered one of the best winter flowering heathers.
At the Garden's entrance was a charming cottage believed to have been built in 1560. Its timbers are reputed to come from Tudor boatyards in nearby Lymington. Upstairs, in one of its two bedrooms, was a mother sitting in a rocking chair while close by in a cot was her child. The second bedroom had 13 children sleeping in a bed head to toe. Outside, the vegetable garden was laid out in a formal style.
In 2012 TV Gardening personality Chris Beardshaw and his learning disability team won a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show with a design to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Furzey Gardens. This garden has been recreated at Furzey Gardens and is overlooking the lake.
Leaving Furzey Gardens we continued our journey passing Lyndhurst, capital of the New Forest, along single track roads, through villages with their red brick cottages, thatched roofs and pretty informal style gardens. Several cottages had cattle grids at their entrances, these preventing entry of the wild ponies that were grazing on the roadsides.
Our lunch stop was at the coastal town of Lymington on the southern edge of the New Forest. From the Parish Church of St. Thomas, the High Street with its Georgian houses and small independent shops, lead down to a cobbled road and then to the Old Town Quay. The town is world renown as a sailing resort. On the High Street, Royal Mail has painted a post-box gold in honour of Ben Ainslie, now knighted. Ben won a Gold Medal in the London Olympics 2012 for sailing in the 'Finn – Men Heavyweight Dinghy' class.
Continuing our journey we had a short stop at Burley. Burley is a small village with pretty thatched cottages that seemed to have remained untouched by time, nestling in the lee of a hill and surrounded by oak and beech trees. Close to the car park was a large herd of deer on the open heathland.
Thursday 12th September – After overnight rain and with an overcast morning we set off to Portsmouth to catch the 10am ferry for a day’s visit to the Isle of Wight. It was a smooth 35 minute crossing the Solent to Fishbourne.
The Isle of Wight, known to the Romans as Vectis, is England’s largest island, 23 miles by 13 miles. It has the distinction of being England’s smallest county during high tide, while Rutland is the smallest when the island is at low tide. It could be called a Garden Island because of the number of wild flowers growing on its chalky soil. Hydrangeas, agapanthus and lavenders were growing in abundance. The island has a strong arable and sheep farming industry. The Needles, a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk rising out at sea, was clearly visible. The sun had now appeared and was to stay with us all day. Half of the group decided to have a coach tour of the island whilst the rest of us visited Osbourne House.
Osbourne House was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat. Prince Albert designed the house himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo. Following the death of Queen Victoria on the 22nd of January 1901, the house became surplus to royal requirements and was given to the state with a few rooms retained as a private royal museum dedicated to Queen Victoria. From 1903 until 1921 the building, which is now the main entrance, a shop and restaurant, was used as a junior officer training college for the Royal Navy known as the Royal Naval College, Osborne. Today Osborne House, under the care of English Heritage, is open to the general public.
A horse and carriage took us from the entrance to the main house, followed by a one hour tour inside. The house, full of family mementoes, is furnished as much as the Royal Family had left it.
The Royal Apartments were made up of different rooms.
Richly decorated State Rooms, where Queen Victoria received foreign royalty and people in office. The Drawing Room where she often retired after dinner to play cards. The Council Room used for dancing. The Family Rooms, where we could take a glimpse into Queen Victoria’s family life, had bedrooms, dressing rooms, bathrooms and the royal nursery. This part of the house had two wrought iron gates, one at each end of the corridors, which could be used to prevent unauthorised entry into their private quarters.
There were stunning views from the house windows of the extensive grounds with the Solent in the background.
Following the house tour, a ride on a small coach took us to Queen Victoria’s private beach. Outside the café was her personal bathing machine.
The Victorian Walled Garden had a central path covered with arches of heavily scented trailing roses. The side gardens were brimming with flowers all designed to attract wildlife. Fruit and vegetables were in abundance. In one of the greenhouses, a traditional Victorian staged bedding display of clay pots with blocks of fuchsias, begonias, gloxinias and Maidenhair ferns. The rear wall had shelves from floor to ceiling with pots of plants.
This was wonderful.
Shortage of time prevented a visit to the Swiss Cottage and it’s Garden.
Friday 13th September – Leaving our hotel on a sunny morning for our journey home we visited the historic city of Winchester for our lunch stop.
Winchester, known by the Romans as Venta Belgarum, is the county town of Hampshire and a former capital city of England. Winchester’s major landmark is the cathedral.
Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the distinction of having the longest nave and overall length of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe. The first church was in 648 but the present building was begun in 1097. Originally a Benedictine monastery, much of the Norman architecture still survives despite continual modifications.
It was market day in Winchester with the High Street bustling with people milling around the market’s colourful stalls. The High Street, now pedestrianised, was once the Roman route east to west through the city. The street is home to a wealth of shops with Regency and Elizabethan bow-fronted windows. At the bottom of High Street is Abbey House, erected in 1750 as a private house. It is now owned by the City Council and is the residence of the Mayor of Winchester This is useful for him as he doesn’t have far to go to work as the Council Buildings are quite close just behind the Old Guildhall. In the scented part of the public gardens behind the house was an unusual water sundial. Part way up the street at the entrance to the Square stands Butter Cross. Dating back to the 1400’s, it is a place where goods were once sold. Nearby is the impressive Lloyds Bank building, formerly the Guildhall and the nightly curfew is still rung from the clock above it. At Westgate, at the top of the High Street and located on high ground, stands a mediaeval gatehouse. This is one of two surviving gatehouses, which leads into the city. It looks simple having an arched passageway through which traffic could enter and a pedestrian walkway. Traffic has now been diverted around the gatehouse.
Leaving Winchester to continue our journey home having a tea stop at the Cherwell Valley Services on the M40. We arrived back in Winthorpe at teatime.
Pat Finn October 2013.
The trip to the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth was the highlight of this holiday. I saw seven of the Dockyards main attractions: The Mary Rose Museum, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, a Harbour Tour and a trip up the Spinniker Tower. Each was different in its own way. But the highlight has to be the £27 million Mary Rose Museum showing the hull of this Tudor ship along with recovered objects, which even included the skeleton of the ship’s dog. All that was missing was the singing of sea shanties.
A special thanks must go to Peter Foden who organised the holiday and choosing this hotel. Peter, along with his wife Jean, had to withdraw from the holiday. Peter was convalescing after hospital treatment.
Thank you Peter.
Stepping in for Peter as our coach organizer was John Nelson. (Sadly, no relation to Lord Nelson) John with his calm temperament and friendly manner did an excellent job. The passengers were always on time and never let him down. He had a competitor in Dave, the coach driver, for the usual morning jokes. In the signal Vice Admiral Lord Nelson sent at the Battle of Trafalgar, “England expects that everyman to do his duty”.
John, you did yours.
Thank you John.
Thanks to our coach driver, Dave Scott, for his excellent driving skills and making the holiday pleasant and safe.
The total milage was 700 miles.
Cannons on the three decks of HMS Victory, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
HMS Duncan, D37 class, air defence destroyer, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
The Shop and Cafe, Furzey Gardens, Minstead, Hampshire.
The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
The Royal Mail gold painted post-box in honour of Gold Medal winner Ben Ainslie for sailing in the 2012 London Olympics, Lymington, Hampshire.
The Water Sundial, Abbey Gardens, Winchester, Hampshire.
Butter Cross, High Street, Winchester, Hampshire.
Elizabeth Foden thanking, coach organizer, John Nelson.
Furzey Gardens, Minstead, Hampshire.