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Visit Reports

Trip to the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth Sunday 22nd – Tuesday 24th April 2018

We enjoyed a glorious and well organised 3-day visit, every day packed with experiences. Even on the journey down, we stopped at Guildford Cathedral for coffee and then at Chichester for lunch. We had time to visit the town centre shops and cafes, and Chichester Cathedral with its magnificent gardens.

Your Chairman and her two companions had an unusual encounter: puzzled – indeed slightly suspicious – at an approach from a besuited gentleman (labels still hanging out) in Marks and Spencer who had lost his wife but wanted her to evaluate the suit before purchase. Off we went down the High Street in pursuit of a lady in a dark top with two dogs. We were delighted to reunite the happy couple (actually, we didn’t stop to find out the tenor of their reunion) in the foyer of M&S. Mission accomplished.

Moving on towards Portsmouth, we visited Fishbourne Roman Palace which houses the largest collection of in situ mosaic floors in Britain. Many were laid at the time of the Palace’s construction in AD 75 – AD 80. This was a chance find during a project to build a development of new houses in 1960. In those days, conservation wasn’t as actively pursued as now, and it was only thanks to a local benefactor who was especially interested in archaeology that the site was thoroughly researched and saved for the nation.

Cupid on a Dolphin

We arrived early evening at our hotel in Hayling Island to find that the driver and guide had driven there and back while we were at Fishbourne, to get our rooms assigned and deliver our suitcases.

On Monday we took a trip to the Isle of Wight to visit Osborne House, built between 1845 and 1851 as a summer home for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children. “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot”, said the Queen. Spring had definitely sprung earlier than in Hertfordshire, and the tulips and camellias offered a wonderful display.

The house was superbly presented, filled with artefacts collected by real art lovers – and with a noticeably Germanic slant. We appreciated also a display of the genealogy of Victoria and Albert’s sons and daughters, showing how they effectively founded, by marriage, many of the royal familiies of Europe. She was a canny queen.

We also visited Whippingham Church where the Royal family worshipped. It contains a side chapel which houses the tomb of Princess Beatrice, the youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and her husband Prince Henry of Battenberg.

Tuesday morning was spent in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The highlight for most of us was the Mary Rose, stunningly displayed in half-light, on several levels, with clever visuals of real people doing the things real people did on warships in those days: manning and firing cannons; drinking and playing backgammon; tending to the injured; doing the laundry and preparing the ovens ... The display cabinets made the maximum of artefacts and human remains found in the wreck, even to deducing the role played by people found only as a skull and bones with some fabric and tools nearby.

Those who had time also visited the Warrior 1860 (Queen Victoria’s warship, pride of her fleet) and the HMS Victory, Nelson’s famous flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. We all agreed another visit was needed to see the many treasures of the Historic Shipyard and the Royal Navy.

Lastly, we joined the harbour cruise which toured all the major shipyard sights, including the latest addition to our national fleet: HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s largest ever aircraft carrier. The cruise delivered us to Gunwharf Quay from where it was only a short walk to the Spinnaker Tower for afternoon ‘high’ tea – and photographs, marred slightly by the first rain showers of our trip.

From the Spinnaker Tower: HMS Queen Elizabeth II in the background; Warrior 1860 in the foreground   

The Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

Stephanie Reynard