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A first peek at Portsmouth

Day one in Hampshire was a low key affair and after a lazy morning we had a fairly leisurely expedition into Portsmouth.

As mentioned, dad’s dad came from Portsmouth hence our reason for loitering in the area. Dad still has a few cousins in England, several of whom he hadn’t met, but the one he knows best lives locally. We picked Helen up from her place and ventured out for a late lunch.

Sunday roast for lunch (when in Rome and all that) at a pub in the Bere Forest area on our way in to Portsmouth

It was a slightly hurried affair. A gypsy fair was being staged in nearby Wickham the following day with many of them arriving that day, which prompted police to advise local establishments to close mid-afternoon on account of the trouble that may otherwise arise. That teensy observation of how cultures adapt to each other was quite interesting.

We drove on to Portsmouth, specifically the original historic part of the city known as … Old Portsmouth. (Can you see what they did there?) We parked and wandered along the waterfront.

A series of memorials for things such as the Falklands conflict and an expedition that circumnavigated our dear neighbour Australia

The Round Tower, part of Portsmouth’s first permanent defences, flanked by what was the Eighteen Gun Battery

Inside the Round Tower – me with dad and his cousin

Great walkway along the old wall defences

The lay of the land in this part of the world is a bit confusing without the context of a map, on account of the higgledy piggledy coastline and numerous waterways. A good chunk of Portsmouth is actually on an island (Portsea) and other islands take up quite a bit of the harbour. The harbour entry is quite narrow and what you assume is another part of Portsmouth across the water actually isn’t. The Isle of Wight is a short ferry ride away, though we wouldn’t be going there on this trip.

A border agency boat enters Portsmouth Harbour past part of the old naval facilities in Gosport

Old Portsmouth Beach

So far I was liking this city. Waterside location, lots of old bits, especially defences and fortifications, and some grey boats.

Peeking through Old Portsmouth to a moored naval boat

At Spice Island, one end of Old Portsmouth

After pausing in the Spice Island Inn for a fortifying red bull for me, cup of tea for the grown-ups, and warm chocolate brownie, we walked inland 15 minutes or so to where dad’s dad’s family had lived. Mum had been here before so kinda knew where we were going.

A thingy on the Portsmouth Cathedral which our route took us past

What you can do with those cannon barrels you no longer need

Street where dad’s dad lived when he left on his own for NZ as a teenager

The house was where the dark brown brick dwelling is now

A shame that the original house is no longer there but it was great to see the location all the same, and its proximity to the old city. There would be more family places of interest during the week, things that for me were worth the entire trip.

Walking back to the waterfront, we made one more stop in another area. We’d only been in Portsmouth five minutes but it was obvious and surprising how extensive the coastal defences were that once served the city. I saw church ruins nearby and like a magpie distracted by something shiny, I immediately detoured.

The Royal Garrison Church dates back to the 1200s and if not for a fire raid on the city in 1941, it may have been a bit more intact today

A good first day and I was looking forward to coming back tomorrow. Between the Royal Marines Museum and the Historic Dockyard it was going to be a busy one.

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