Experiencing Heritage on the Solent

Twenty-two GTO readers and guests enjoyed a two-night visit to explore Portsmouth and Hampshire in mid-March, Val Baynton reports back.

This readers’ event gave us a wonderful insight into the varied and well-thought out offers for groups in Portsmouth and Gosport. We met at Away Resorts on Hayling Island, where we also stayed, and after a welcome from Head of Sales, Cathy Murphy and Geoff Holt from award-winning groups specialist Isle of Wight Tours, we boarded our luxury IOW coach. Thanks Geoff for your expertise in guiding us and the delicious treats you provided during our journey showing why travel with IOW is so well-regarded by GTOs.

Our first day was spent in Gosport, which, offers a mix of waterfront activities and important naval heritage as well as the little gem of the 1642 Living History Village of Little Woodham. Here, volunteer historical re-enactors have researched and brought to life a period of 17th century history, and you can meet characters such as the village potter, blacksmith, lace maker, and ale house keeper going about their daily tasks in the timber framed, wattle and daub buildings.

“It was a good few days… the Mary Rose Tour was enlightening.”
Jackie Ames, London

“It was so well organised with brilliant places to visit. Mill Rythe offers good accommodation, great food and first class entertainment and we will certainly consider taking a group there in the future.”
Beccy Baker, Kent

The villagers of 1642 would have been amazed by our next destination – the Royal Navy Submarine Museum – but so was the group as a whole, since for most of us it was our first taste of what it would be like to work and live on a submarine. Part of the Museum of the Royal Navy, HMS Alliance is Britain’s only surviving Second World War era ocean-going submarine and the tour was enhanced by hearing at first-hand from submariners about their experiences, experiencing the small space in the submarine and the challenge this presented when at sea for long periods of time. The attached museum with its interactive galleries and many insights into naval heritage was fascinating too.

Portsmouth was the destination for our second day and it began with a visit to the D_Day Museum to see the magnificent Overlord Embroidery – the museum is now closed for redisplay until 2018. Next, we went to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where there was time for a quick look at HMS M.33, the only surviving warship from the Gallipoli Campaign, before we enjoyed an outstanding guided tour of The Mary Rose. This battleship, beloved by Henry VIII, is now fully conserved and is displayed with many of the artefacts that were recovered from the sea on show in galleries alongside the ship itself. Its impressive history is imaginatively interpreted and the museum will appeal to all age groups. There is much else to see in the Dockyard – including HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and Boathouse 4 – and groups need to allow more than a day to see everything!

A 15-minute walk brought us to Gunwharf Quays at the entrance to Portsmouth’s historic harbour, where we travelled to the top of the Emirates Spinnaker Tower for a delicious afternoon tea with views out to sea. The brave amongst the group, including a somewhat nervous Geoff, also tried out the glass floor Sky Walk! A joint package of harbour tour and tower visit with a range of catering options is available from Spinnaker Tower.

Very comfortable accommodation was provided by Mill Rythe and the two-night stay meant we experienced the superb food at breakfast and dinner, the resort’s varied entertainment from dancing to cabaret shows as well as the evening bingo and quiz competitions. And there was time to explore the park’s spacious grounds that border the coastal path and include petanque pitches, an outdoor swimming pool and all-weather sports courts.

“The Royal Navy Submarine was of interest to us all, and the ‘High Tea’ was a highlight of day two, with the weather a great help with clear views from  Emirates Spinnaker Tower.”
June Barnard, London

The fam trip was enjoyed by everyone with the excellent insights provided by the enthusiastic guides and volunteers at venues particularly appreciated by us all.

For further information

AWAY RESORTS
tel  01442 508850  website  www.awayresorts.co.uk

EMIRATES SPINNAKER TOWER
tel  023 9285 7520 opt 3  website  www.spinnakertower.co.uk

IOW TOURS
tel  01983 405116  website  www.iowtours.com

PORTSMOUTH HISTORIC DOCKYARD
tel  023 9283 9766  website  www.historicdockyard.co.uk