A Travellerspoint blog

England

Portsmouth August 2017

A few hours by the sea.

My husband is obsessed with football and he has a brother who is obsessed with football, too, so when they both decided to go and see their team, Walsall, play in Portsmouth, I came along to see the town. I must admit I had not researched my visit and did not know what there was to see, but as my brother-in-law dropped me off in a handy area for sights and as there were frequent touristic maps located around the streets, I managed to do quite well in the three or four hours I was there.

Portsmouth is a port city in Hampshire, around seventy miles south-west of London. Throughout history Portsmouth has been a significant naval port and it has the world's oldest dry dock. Its seafront has long been heavily fortified to withstand invasion from Europe and some of these fortifications still remain. During the Second World War, Portsmouth was an embarkation point for the D-Day landings. At this time the city was badly bombed in the Portsmouth Blitz, resulting in the deaths of 930 people. The Royal Yacht Britannia left from here to attend the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and I saw it when it arrived at the other end in Hong Kong. Portsmouth is home to some famous ships, including Henry VIII's Mary Rose, which, of course, had to be rescued from the seabed and Horatio Nelson's HMS Victory. Portsmouth is also the birthplace of several famous people, such as, author Charles Dickens and engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

My brother-in-law dropped me off next to Clarence Pier which has a large amusement park next to it. I headed off in the direction of an impressive looking monument I could see in the distance. This turned out to be the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. It is located on Southsea Common and commemorates nearly 10,000 naval personnel who died at sea during the First World War. It was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole. It was unveiled on the 15th of October 1924 by Prince Albert, the future King George VI. A Second World War extension was later added to commemorate 15,000 people who died at sea during the Second World War. This was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with additional sculptures by Charles Wheeler, William and was unveiled by the Queen Mother, on the 29th of April 1953.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

After looking at this, I headed off along the rather bracing seafront towards Southsea Castle. Southsea Castle dates from 1544 when Henry VIII built a series of fortifications to strengthen England's coast against invaders. Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose, sank more or less in front of Southsea Castle. At one point in its history the castle was a military prison. In the 1820s a lighthouse was built on the castle grounds. Southsea castle is free to enter. It has some displays showing its history, a microbrewery, a cafe and a gift shop. I enjoyed wandering around here an gazing out to sea from its ramparts.

My walk along the seafront.

My walk along the seafront.

My walk along the seafront.

My walk along the seafront.

Southsea Castle.

Southsea Castle.

Southsea Castle.

Southsea Castle.

Southsea Castle.

Southsea Castle.

Watch out, ladies, look who is home!

Watch out, ladies, look who is home!

Not far from the castle there are some very pretty gardens. I took a stroll through the Rock Gardens, then crossed a road to walk through Southsea Parade Gardens. In the distance I could see Southsea Pier. I passed the Pyramids Leisure Centre which apparently has a pool and gym.

Southsea Rock Gardens.

Southsea Rock Gardens.

Southsea Parade Gardens.

Southsea Parade Gardens.

Southsea Pier.

Southsea Pier.

Pyramids Centre.

Pyramids Centre.

After looking around this area I doubled back and set off towards the historic heart of Portsmouth. I walked along the seafront and passed some of Portsmouth's historic fortifications. I noticed a lovely ruined church slightly inland and went to investigate. This turned out to be the Royal Garrison Church. The Royal Garrison Church was built around 1212 by the Bishop of Winchester. Originally it was part of a hospital and hostel for pilgrims. The church was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1941.

Along the waterfront.

Along the waterfront.

View of Isle of Wight ferry.

View of Isle of Wight ferry.

The Royal Garrison Church

The Royal Garrison Church

The Royal Garrison Church

The Royal Garrison Church

The Royal Garrison Church.

The Royal Garrison Church.

After leaving the church I saw a statue to Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. His flagship HMS Victory on which he fought at the Battle of Trafalgar is in dry dock in Portsmouth.

Lord Nelson.

Lord Nelson.

Leaving the statue I returned to the waterfront and saw the Square Tower. A tower was first built here in 1494 as part of the attempt to strengthen England's coastal defences. The square tower was at that time home to the Governor of Portsmouth. Then in 1584 it was converted to a gunpowder store. When the royalists surrendered Portsmouth during the English Civil War, 1200 barrels of gunpowder were stored here. The royalists used the threat of blowing this up as a bargaining chip in the war. In 1779 the Square Tower was converted to a Royal Navy meat store. Nowadays it can be hired as a slightly unusual wedding venue.

The Square Tower.

The Square Tower.

Further along I came to the Round Tower. A wooden tower was built here between 1418 and 1426 on the orders of King Henry V. Later in the 1490's the wooden tower was rebuilt in stone.

The Round Tower.

The Round Tower.

The Round Tower.

The Round Tower.


View from the Round Tower.

View from the Round Tower.

Then I wandered through Portsmouth's old town. In the distance I could see one of its newest tourist attractions - the Spinnaker Tower. This is a 560-foot observation tower in the middle of Portsmouth Harbour. It is shaped like a sail to reflect Portsmouth's maritime links. The tower was opened on the 18th of October 2005. I had hoped to be able to go to Portsmouth's historic dockyard from where I was, and in fact I did, but in a very roundabout way due to everything being separated by water. I passed a statue commemorating pioneering families who set out from Portsmouth for a new life in the Americas.

Portsmouth's old town.

Portsmouth's old town.

The Spinnaker Tower.

The Spinnaker Tower.

The waterfront.

The waterfront.

The waterfront.

The waterfront.

Pioneering family.

Pioneering family.

Of course due to having to take a round about route getting to Portsmouth's historic dockyard took me longer than I expected. I managed to see the HMS Warrior and then I had to make my way back to meet up with my husband and brother-in-law again. The HMS Warrior was Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured battleship. She was launched in 1860. Near to the place where I viewed the ship from there was a statue of some mud larks - these were poor people who made their living by scavenging for items of value in river mud.

HMS Warrior.

HMS Warrior.

HMS Warrior.

HMS Warrior.

The mudlarks.

The mudlarks.

I ended up getting back faster than I thought as I went directly and not round the water. On my way I passed Portsmouth's lovely cathedral - the Anglican Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury.

Portsmouth Cathedral.

Portsmouth Cathedral.

Posted by irenevt 22:03 Archived in England Comments (0)

A Country Walk

A lake and some bluebell woods.

When we stay at my husband's brothers house, he and his family usually take us somewhere in Buckinghamshire or Bedfordshire for a walk. This year they took us to College Lake.

College Lake is a nature reserve near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. It occupies the site of a former chalk quarry. We had a lovely walk around the lake, apart from being plagued by flies on one side of it.

College Lake has parking, a shop, a cafe and clean toilets.

All around the lake and even around the car park was covered in tiny yellow cowslips when we visited.

cowslips.

cowslips.

Ready to set off.

Ready to set off.

College Lake.

College Lake.

College Lake.

College Lake.

Black sheep, College Lake.

Black sheep, College Lake.

Primroses by the lake.

Primroses by the lake.

On the way back to my brother-in -law's house we drove through Dockey Wood, Ashridge, Hertfordshire. These woods are carpeted with bluebells every April and May. We did not go for a walk here. We just drove through and stopped briefly to take photos.

The bluebell woods.

The bluebell woods.

The bluebell woods.

The bluebell woods.

Posted by irenevt 05:58 Archived in England Comments (3)

Chester

Visiting Friends

We travelled from Penkridge to Chester for the day to visit a friend. Chester is the county town of Cheshire. It is famous for its old wooden black and white buildings.

Shortly after we left the station we passed the Shropshire Union Canal and noticed the steam mill dating from 1834. This was originally a warehouse for a seed company. Nowadays it has been converted into offices.

The Steam Mill on the canal.

The Steam Mill on the canal.

We walked along the Foregate which is a shopping street lined with wonderful old black and white wooden buildings, most of which are now shops, or pubs or restaurants. We passed through the Eastgate with its famous clock. Apparently it is the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. Eastgate is located at the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix, the old Roman settlement which eventually developed into Chester.

Old wooden buildings, Chester.

Old wooden buildings, Chester.

Eastgate Clock.

Eastgate Clock.

Looking through the Eastgate.

Looking through the Eastgate.

We met our friend, who lives in Chester, outside Chester's wonderful old cathedral. Chester Cathedral was originally founded as a Benedictine abbey in 1092. It is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Entry to the cathedral is free.

Chester Cathedral.

Chester Cathedral.

Chester Cathedral.

Chester Cathedral.

Our friend took us on a walk around Chester's old city walls. These walls were started by the Romans when they established the fortress of Deva Victrix between 70 and 80 AD. They have been improved many times throughout their history. They stretch right round the ancient heart of Chester and are almost two miles long. Some stretches of wall were being restored during our visit.

Chester city walls.

Chester city walls.

At one point the city walls pass by Chester Race Course. Chester Racecourse, known as the Roodee, is the oldest and smallest racecourse in England. Racing here dates back to the early sixteenth century.

Chester Racecourse.

Chester Racecourse.

The next sight on our walk was Chester Castle perched on a little hill overlooking the River Dee. Chester Castle was built in 1070 by Hugh Lupus, the first Earl of Chester.

Chester Castle.

Chester Castle.

We cut off the walls shortly after the castle to go and have a cup of coffee in our friend's house. He lived very near another beautiful old black and white wooden building.

Ye Olde King's Head.

Ye Olde King's Head.

After coffee, we took a stroll through Chester's beautiful Grosvenor Park and a walk down to the river to see the Queen's park Bridge.

Grosvenor Park.

Grosvenor Park.

Richard Grosvenor, Second Marquess of Westminster

Richard Grosvenor, Second Marquess of Westminster

On Queens Bridge.

On Queens Bridge.

On Queen's Bridge.

On Queen's Bridge.

Finally we strolled passed the lovely ruins of St John's Church and the remains of the Roman amphitheatre before heading off for dinner.

St John's Church.

St John's Church.

The Roman amphitheatre.

The Roman amphitheatre.

Posted by irenevt 01:01 Archived in England Comments (1)

Shrewsbury

What I get up to when hubbie goes to the football.

I see quite a lot of the UK thanks to my husband's obsession with Walsall football club. On this occasion they had the decency to play away somewhere really nice - Shrewsbury. For me this was my second visit to Shrewsbury. My first visit was many years ago when I wanted to look at the town due to my fondness for the Cadfael stories written by Ellis Peters. Ellis Peters is the nom de plume of Edith Mary Pargeter, a Shropshire born writer who created the character of Brother Cadfael, a monk based in Shrewsbury Abbey who solves many intriguing mysteries. Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire and it is located on the River Severn.

We arrived in Shrewsbury by train. I rather liked its impressive looking station building.

Shrewsbury train station.

Shrewsbury train station.

After leaving the station, we walked to Shrewsbury library which was looking stunning with its blossom filled garden. In front of the library there is a seated statue of Charles Darwin who was born in Shrewsbury in 1809. Shrewsbury Library is situated in a grade 1 listed building which housed Shrewsbury School from 1550 until 1882. It became a library in 1885. Also in the library grounds there is a bust of romantic novelist and poet, Mary Webb.

Shrewsbury Library.

Shrewsbury Library.

Charles Darwin statue.

Charles Darwin statue.

Bust of Mary Webb.

Bust of Mary Webb.

Across the road from the library there are some lovely old buildings, including the Castle Gate House, and some spectacular gardens which lead the way to Shrewsbury Castle. Shrewsbury Castle was built by Roger de Montgomery in 1070. In 1645 it was captured by the Parliamentarians and was not surrendered back to the crown until 1660 when Charles II became king. This castle is now home to the Shropshire Regimental Museum. We did not go inside, but we very much enjoyed wandering the flower filled grounds. It's not for nothing that Shrewsbury is known as the International Award Winning Town of Flowers.

Old houses near castle foregate.

Old houses near castle foregate.

Shrewsbury Castle grounds.

Shrewsbury Castle grounds.

Shrewsbury Castle.

Shrewsbury Castle.

From the castle grounds it is possible to walk up to Laura's Tower which is located on the site of an earlier Norman castle.

Laura's Tower.

Laura's Tower.

When I had finished viewing the castle grounds, I wandered towards the town centre stopping to visit the Church of St Mary's on route. St Mary's dates from Saxon times and has one of the tallest spires in England. Near the main door of the church there is a memorial to local steeplejack and daredevil, Robert Cadman, who fell to his death while performing balancing tricks on a rope suspended from the church spire in 1739.

St Mary's Church.

St Mary's Church.

St Mary's Church detail.

St Mary's Church detail.

Memorial to the unfortunate Cadman.

Memorial to the unfortunate Cadman.

Next I headed for the old market square of Shrewsbury, now just known as The Square. The Square is surrounded by lovely old buildings such as the market building itself and the Old Music Hall which now houses Shrewsbury Museum. A statue of Clive of India stands in the centre of the square. Major-General Robert Clive who was born in Shropshire acquired much of India for the British Empire.

Clive of India with the market place behind him.

Clive of India with the market place behind him.

Not far from the square the Bear Steps, possibly named for an old inn that once stood here, lead up to lovely old wooden building now home to The Bear Steps Gallery and St Alkmund's Church. St Alkmund’s was founded in the tenth century, supposedly by Aethefleda, daughter of King Alfred the Great.

The Bear Steps.

The Bear Steps.

St Alkmund's Church

St Alkmund's Church

Bear Steps Gallery.

Bear Steps Gallery.

Next I wandered off to see the remains of old St Chad's Church. Shrewsbury has had churches dedicated to St Chad, first Bishop of Mercia, since medieval times. In 1788 the deteriorating St Chad's Church suddenly fell down and a new St Chad's had to be built. Some of the stones from the old church were used to build the new one. Part of old St Chad's still remains.

Old St Chad's.

Old St Chad's.

After that I went to visit Shrewsbury Cathedral. Shrewsbury Cathedral's proper name is apparently The Cathedral Church of Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Peter of Alcantara, but that is a bit of a mouthful. It is a Roman Catholic cathedral dating from 1856.

Shrewsbury Cathedral.

Shrewsbury Cathedral.

Next I crossed the Severn River to visit Shrewsbury Abbey. Shrewsbury bAbbey's proper name is The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It was founded in 1083 as a Benedictine monastery by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery. As I visited on Good Friday there was a service going on when I arrived. I sat and listened to it for a while.

Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey

Then I wandered back to the centre of Shrewsbury via the lovely English Bridge with its fantastic views up the River Severn.

The English Bridge.

The English Bridge.

Passing many of the earlier sights I had visited, no-one could ever accuse me of ever choosing the most practical route, I walked to the new Church of St Chad's. This church dates from 1792. Charles Darwin was baptised here and the grave of Ebenezer Scrooge, a prop from the 1984 film 'A Christmas Carol' is supposedly in its churchyard, though I could not manage to find it.

The new Church of St Chad's.

The new Church of St Chad's.

Across the road from new St Chad's Church is one of Shrewsbury's loveliest sights the Quarry Gardens, home to the Dingle a garden created by Percy Thrower, the Blue Peter gardener.

The Dingle.

The Dingle.

Bust of Percy Thrower.

Bust of Percy Thrower.

The Dingle.

The Dingle.

The Dingle.

The Dingle.

Sabrina, goddess of the River Severn.

Sabrina, goddess of the River Severn.

Finally, I took a stroll along the Severn, stopping for a quick look at the Quantum Leap, a sculpture created in 2009 to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth. Apparently locals nickname it the giant slinky, easy to see why. Then I re-met up with my husband and his brother who had enjoyed their football match just as much as I had enjoyed my wandering around wonderful Shrewsbury.

Quantum Leap.

Quantum Leap.

Posted by irenevt 19:55 Archived in England Comments (9)

Stafford

Stafford in spring.

More and more in the UK I am finding that there are places we pass through frequently by train but never look at which, if for one reason or another we do actually stop and look at, turn out to be actually very, very well worth seeing. Previous examples of this include Carlisle, Stoke, Wigan and Lancaster. Our latest find is Stafford.

My husband is from the West Midlands; I am from the west of Scotland, when we return to the UK we are up and down the West Coast Main Line by train continuously. We have passed through Stafford Station without the slightest interest repeatedly, but not too long ago due to engineering work we arrived in Stafford by rail replacement bus. This caused me to notice things such as the lovely park next to the station and thus the desire to plan a visit here was born. On our latest holiday with two days spare and no base, we decided to base ourselves in Penkridge, Stafford and use this as a base to explore Stafford itself.

In Penkridge we stayed in the Mercure Hotel which is located next to the station.

The Mercure Hotel

The Mercure Hotel

I was not expecting much from Penkridge, but it turned out to be quite an attractive little place with a wonderful church. The church in Penkridge is called The Church of St. Michael and All Angels. It dates from Anglo Saxon times. It is a beautiful building surrounded by a well kept graveyard.

Penkridge Church

Penkridge Church

Penkridge Church

Penkridge Church

Inside the church.

Inside the church.

As well as visiting the church, we also went for drinks in a pleasant little pub nearby called the Littleton Arms and took a walk along the river to see the viaduct where the train line crosses the River Penk.

The Littleton Arms.

The Littleton Arms.

Train crossing the River Penk

Train crossing the River Penk

Old house, Penkridge

Old house, Penkridge

After having a quick wander around Penkridge, we took the train into Stafford itself. Directly across from the station is one of Stafford's loveliest sights - Victoria Park. This beautiful flower filled park is located on the banks of the River Sow. There is a statue to Izaak Walton, author of 'The Compleat Angler' who was born in Stafford in 1593. There is also a war memorial, an aviary, two glass conservatories, a bowling green and a bowler statue and the wheels from an old water wheel.

Tulips so dark they look black.

Tulips so dark they look black.

Izaak Walton on the banks of the River Sow.

Izaak Walton on the banks of the River Sow.

Statue of a bowls player next to the bowling green.

Statue of a bowls player next to the bowling green.

Colourful pond.

Colourful pond.

Conservatory in the park.

Conservatory in the park.

Waterwheels.

Waterwheels.

From Victoria Park it is just a short walk to the historic centre of Stafford. We started by walking up a street lined with lovely old Tudor style black and white buildings.

Lovely old buildings in Stafford town centre.

Lovely old buildings in Stafford town centre.

At the end of the street we reached the wonderful, historic Church of St Mary's which has stood in Stafford town centre since the thirteenth century. We did not look inside the church.

St Mary's Church.

St Mary's Church.

On a little alley leading away from the church we could see the back of Stafford's most famous site; its ancient high house which is now its museum. The ancient high house is the largest timber framed town house in England. It was originally built in 1595. With our ever impeccable timing we arrived just as it was closing.

Stafford's ancient high house from the back.

Stafford's ancient high house from the back.

Stafford's ancient high house from the front.

Stafford's ancient high house from the front.

Stafford's historic centre is quite small and its other historic sights are mainly located on the Greengate Street, a short walk on either side from the ancient high house. These include Shire Hall which is now used as a gallery and St Chad's Church. St Chad's dates from the twelfth century and apparently has some lovely stone carvings such as the green man inside. We did not go inside on our visit.

Shire Hall Gallery.

Shire Hall Gallery.

St Chad's Church.

St Chad's Church.

Posted by irenevt 06:56 Archived in England Comments (6)

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