Sunday, April 30, 2017

Historic Dockyard Portsmouth, England

Visitor Centre 2017

I  consider the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth to be an outstanding experience and good value. You will need a few days to enjoy the many attractions.

Because there are so many attractions, I recommend viewing the website and planning a visit. I also suggest the harbour tour early on to get an overview with commentary. Sit on the starboard side for most of the commentary.

Here's a brief videoclip of the harbour tour.

Because there are so many things to see, I will review them separately. A few highlights in 2017 included HMS WarriorHMS Victory,  Mary Rose, and  HMS Alliance.

Other museums and experiences are worth a visit so plan on a few days.

Video of boating in front of Action Stations, which is Boathouse 6.

Tips and Suggestions

The multiple attractions ticket purchased online is the best value. I got mine on the morning of the first day. Show the confirmation email to collect the ticket and keep it handy to show at each attraction. There is a shorter line for returning visitors.

Toilets are in building 7 and elsewhere but not in the Visitors Centre.

There are several restaurants or cafes in the different attractions as well as places for a picnic.

The gift shops offer both educational and other souvenirs-- some made outside the UK.

The dockyards are family friendly with many activities for children. I saw a number of care providers/ parents and children interacting. Some locations even had board games.

A few activities might scare young children e.g. blood, amputations,  explosions.

Photos are permitted in most places but flash is often not permitted.

Some attractions require bending over to enter or negotiate small spaces e.g., in Submarines.

See the Historic Dockyard website for details.

EXPLOSION The Museum of Navy Firepower Gosport UK

The museum located in Gosport takes visitors on a tour of naval weaponry housed within buildings dating to the 18th century.

I visited as part of a mulsti-attraction ticket to the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth. The included waterbus service from the Dockyards adds to the experience, which affords pleasant views of Portsmouth Harbour.

Inside you will see a variety of weapons along with storyboards and audiovisual presentations. There are also interactive exhibits.

A variety of naval guns are outside the complex.

There is a cafe and outdoor tables for picnics. And places to view the harbour.

Learn more about the museum at their website

Monitor HMS 33 Gallipoli and WW I

HMS 33 by Geoff W. Sutton 2017
HMS 33 is the only British war ship from the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign. As you enter the ship at the Historic Dockyard, you experience a sight and sound experience of war--including the perspectives of those on board.

Following the audio-visual presentation, there's opportunity to inspect the insides and topside, which includes some re-creations of shiplife.

The ship is a small, spartan war machine- home to 72 crew for more than three years.

The tour is worth including in a visit to the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth.

Learn more at the website

Royal Navy Submarine Museum Gosport UK

After visiting the star attraction, HMS Alliance, outside the submarine museum, it's worth having a look at the history of submarines inside the museum.

The exhibits and storyboards depict the progress made from small and simple underwater craft to modern stealth machines capable of quick, silent, moves far below the waves.

I visited as part of a multi-attraction ticket. A waterbus provides transportation between the museum and the main dockyard buildings.

See the website for more details.

HMS Alliance Portsmouth UK

HMS Alliance - Geoff W Sutton 2017
I toured the HMS Alliance at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. A tour of the submarine provides insight into nearly three decades of this aspect of defense from the end of WW II into the Cold War era. The Alliance was commissioned into service in 1947.

I was fortunate to have conversations with two retired submariners who served on the Alliance--one a cook, the other an electrician.

Our tour began by the forward torpedoes.

Forward torpedo area

and moved through dining and sleeping areas to the control room.


Before exiting, the guides explain the engine room, aft torpedoes, and method of escape from a submarine.

Submariner explains how to escape

Even a short tour can give many a sense of claustrophobia as one tourist felt the need to retreat after a few minutes. As fellow tourists impede movement its easy to get a sense that not all humans could likely adapt to this underwater environment beneath the waves with human and mechanical sounds and smells.

The Alliance and the nearby museum are worth a visit as part of the Historic Dockyards multi-attraction ticket.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Watercress Line- Thomas and Others

Watercress Railway-Alresford Station- Geoff W. Sutton 2017
I visited the Watercress Line at the New Alresford station on a weekend when Thomas the Train was featured. Thomas was ill at first but his pals were active.

Diesel and steam train rides are regularly featured. Check the website for specia days like the Thomas Train Event. As a fan of trains, especially railway history, I think it worth a visit with or without the special events.

For one fee, you can ride the trains all day. See the website for prices. Fees on special event days were higher. But, there were many activities for children to enjoy.

There are places for picnics and opportunities to purchase refreshments.

I arrived by bus from Winchester. I noticed a lot of parking spaces, which were filled due to the special event.

Toilets are available but only a few people can be accommodated at one time.

Gift shops feature a variety of train-themed toys.

Although I began at New Alresford, there are other stations along the route to Alton.

Visit the website for details:

Hovercraft Adventure

Hovercraft at Ryde by Geoff W. Sutton

I took the hovercraft from Portsmouth to Ryde on the Isle of Wight for the experience. I recommend it as a quick and affordable way to cross the Solent.

The seating was comfortable and the cabin clean.

The staff were friendly and helpful with luggage-- larger items are stowed outside.

Photos and videos are best before or after because there is little to see from the inside cabin with sprayed windows.

Video of Hovercraft taking off

After arriving at Ryde, Isle of Wight, I took this video of the next craft arriving.

See the website for details

HMS WARRIOR, Historic Dockyards Portsmouth Uk

HMS Warrior Geoff W. Sutton 2017

HMS Warrior 1860 is a restored mid-nineteenth century warship designed to compete with progress in the French fleet. It is the first Royal Navy ship with an iron hull and a symbol of pride in Queen Victoria's fleet.

The ship was powerered by both sail and steam.

The figurehead is modeled after the original.

Some lived in fine quarters.

The tour offers an in depth look at the components of a warship and a glimpse of life on board. The staff answer questions and add to the experience.

Her firepower was greater than any other ships of her era carrying both 25 68-pounders and 10 110-pounders. 

On her first sailing, the crew numbered about 700.

Laundry- Geoff W Sutton 2017

I  consider this a very good experience if you like ships and a bit of history.
There's some climbing.
It is family friendly.
It is a good value when combined with a multi-attraction ticket.

Spinnaker Tower Portsmouth UK

Spinnaker Tower by Geoff W. Sutton 2017
On my last day in Portsmouth, I purchased a ticket to the tower, which has great views of the harbour, historic dockyards, and city.

HMS Warrior view from Spinnaker Tower by Geoff W Sutton 2017

If I had it to do over, I would have gone up the tower first to get an overview of the area. Panels around the windows provide local information. There are also touch screens with more information.

I noticed some were reluctant to walk on a portion of one deck, which has a glass floor. But most enjoyed taking a picture looking straight down at the activities below.

Looking down from Spinnaker Tower, Geoff W. Sutton 2017

Video Clip from the Tower

Time of day matters as does sunshine. I went in the afternoon and experienced quite a glare making some views difficult.

Fees vary so check the website. When I went a ticket permitted returns during the same day.

I didn't find the introductory film of much interest.

Gifts are available and there is a restaurant with nice views of the harbour.

HMS Victory Portsmouth

HMS Victory by Geoff W. Sutton

HMS Victory was Lord Nelson's flagship in the Battle of Trafalgar 1805. On 7 May 1765m HMS Victory left the Chatham Royal Dockyard, The ship was active during the American War for Independence, the French Revolution and the war against Napoleon.

For the British, HMS Victory is remembered for the greatest naval victory led by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar when the British defeated the French and Spanish fleets.

The restored 104-gun-ship is an attraction at the Historic Dockyards, Portsmouth, UK. HMS Victory saw some service in the early 1800s. The ship was placed in permanent dry dock in 1922.

HMS Victory was manned by a crew of over 800. With a maximum of 37 sails (5,400 square yards), it could achieve a speed of 9 knots about 10 mph). The three heavy masts are too much for the ship to bear and will be replaced with lighter materials for the display. More than 6,000 trees were felled to build the ship--most were oak. The ship's cordage ran to 26 miles. The weight of the cannons is too much for the ship to support in dry dock.

The presentation at the Dockyards focuses attention on the Battle of Trafalgar 21 October 1805. Nelson led 27 British ships against the 33 ships of the French and Spanish. After a five-hour battle, the British destroyed 19 enemy ships and lost none; however, Nelson was shot by a French sniper and died within a half-hour. His grand funeral took place at St. Paul's in London and a statue was raised in his honour at Trafalgar Square.

Where Nelson fell
During the Battle of Trafalgar, the crew numbered 821, which included 31 boys. Most crew were seamen (500) who sailed and fought. The tour includes a look at multiple decks and reveals insights into the accommodations of officers as well as the work areas for craftsmen and other crew members. An audio guide describes the scene.

A selection of my photos follows.

Nelson's bed