I start where I left off last weekend, by the South Parade pier on Portsmouth’s shingle beach. There are signs warning of large waves created by ferries passing by. I feel nostalgic when I see the Isle of Wight ferry. I spent six months working as a surgical house officer in St Mary’s Hospital on the Island, many years ago.
This is a breezy bank holiday weekend and today turns out to be a fantastic day of walking, with a chance to try out my new camera. I take far too many photographs and so my blog of today’s walk will consist mainly of these photos.
(Having broken the autofocus on my old Olympus, I was keen to buy a new DSLR of the same make, so I could use the Olympus lenses. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a new DSLR Olympus for sale. I don’t know why. So, I have bought a Canon EOS 550D. The lens I am using is the basic 18-55mm one that came with the new camera.)
After the pier, I walk past the new Pyramids Centre – a rather fine piece of architecture.
On the southernmost tip of the beach stands Southsea Castle and the lighthouse, incorporated into the castle wall. The castle has been restored. The lighthouse is still functioning.
Beside the lighthouse, on a piece of green land called Southsea Common, is a bandstand. People are assembling at the bandstand and it looks as though some sort of concert is about to take place.
Further on, I walk past Southsea Naval Memorial. This is a fine-looking memorial, flanked by lions and reminiscent of Trafalgar square.
Southsea Common is awash with bright, floating kites and balloons. There is a fun fair and entertainments. Later, I find out that Portsmouth is hosting an International Kite Flying Festival this weekend.
Past the kites, I walk along Clarence Pier. This is the only ‘tacky’ part of the seafront I come across – with amusements, childrens’ rides and arcades.
Beyond Clarence Pier is a renovated area where new sea walls have been constructed and creates a lovely walkway along the sea, overlooking a stretch of water on the landward side. This walk is part of the new Millennium Walkway through the old part of Portsmouth. A chain motif, etched into the paving slabs, provides a nice visual link to the sections of the walk.
Now I come to an area I do recognise. Here are a couple of old, historic pubs and a cobbled street, where my husband and I came in our younger days, grateful to find one scenic spot in this city.
Just beyond the old pubs is a waterfront area that has undergone extensive renovation with new housing overlooking a small marina. Looming over the whole scene is the wonderful shape of the Spinnaker Tower.
The Millennium Walkway continues around the marina and into the new, commercial centre in which the Spinnaker Tower stands.
I have to confess that my husband and I visited the Spinnaker Tower and went up to the viewing platform this morning, before I started my walk today. Having looked forward to this for many weeks, I couldn’t wait! The photographs I took from the top are at the bottom of this blog.
By the time I reach this section of the walk, I am growing tired. I stumble around the shopping area for a while, trying to find my way through to the other side. Unfortunately, I continue following the Millennium Walkway markings, that don’t lead through. Eventually, I find the way out the other side and end up in Portsmouth Harbour.
Looking at the OS map, there is no easy way of walking round the Harbour area. Although there is a section of footpath along the northern part, most of the route around would involve road walking and some of the roads look very busy indeed. So I am pleased to have discovered a ‘Ferry P’ on the map, crossing the narrow channel at the mouth of the Harbour and taking me straight to Gosport.
The Gosport Ferry ride costs me £2.70 (I have to buy a return ticket – they don’t sell singles). This is a fantastic service with a crossing every 7.5 mins in peak times.
It is only after I have wandered around the deck for the whole trip, taking in the views, that I notice the signs telling me that passengers should remain seated at all times!
I get a good view of HMS Warrior, a 19th Century steam and sailing warship. With an iron clad hull, and to defend us against possible French aggression, this was the largest ever ship to be built at the time.
This wonderful ship has been restored and is available for parties and weddings. In fact, my round-the-coast mentor – David Cotton – got married on this ship and instructed me say ‘hello’ to it.
When I get to Gosport, I find the harbour area is surprisingly attractive and stop to watch the ships go by. I can’t resist taking yet another photograph of the wonderful Spinnaker.
Gosport was an important military and naval centre. I discover it very much still is.
A footpath takes me past a marina, past a submarine (now a museum) and then along an extraordinarily boring road.
The road runs past a military area with high walls on either side and checkpoints on the side roads. I cannot get to the coast. The only thing of interest I see is a hospital sign alongside an impressive rectangular tower. (I believe this is part of The Royal Hospital Haslar, a naval hospital, now undergoing redevelopment.)
I am relieved to come to the end of the long, straight, boring road. Turning right, I walk past residential housing and then past a building surrounded by high fences. I believe this to be a prison, but later I discover it is Haslar Immigration Removal Centre.
Just past the Centre, through a car park, I catch a glimpse of the sea. But, after walking across the car park and finding myself on the shore, I am unable to walk any further as the way to the West is barred. It looks as if the barriers are shielding an old fortification. But there are no information signs in place. Later I find out this is Fort Monckton, an ancient fort but also MI6’s training HQ, according to The Times.
To my left I see a new building with high fences and I think this must be a new prison. But I can find no reference to a prison in this area – only to the detention centre. So what is this building? I don’t know.
A footpath leads from the road towards yet another fort, the 19th century Fort Gilkicker. The area around the fort has lakes and public access. The fort itself is closed off, although I see people walking around it.
Beyond the fort, I reach the coast. From an information board, I learn this area of the shore has deep water access and, as a result, could easily be invaded. It was also a great place to practice D-Day landings.
I stop to adjust my blister plaster. I am tired and glad my walk is about to come to an end. But I can’t resist taking one last photograph of the Portsmouth skyline, with The Spinnaker Tower, still visible across fields.
Looking across the shingle beach and the waters of the Solent, silhouetted in the low evening sunshine, are the distant chimneys of Fawley Power Station and nearby oil refinery
Ahead I see a lifeboat station and a car park alongside it. And there, waiting to meet me, is my husband.
Spinnaker Tower visit
Here are some of the photographs I took from the viewing platform on the Spinnaker Tower. I very much enjoyed my visit here. We both stripped off our shoes to walk across the glass floor – a vertigo inducing experience!
The weather today was perfect for photography with the sun shining but enough clouds to make the sky interesting. The only problem was (and I didn’t realise this at the time) that the glass was slightly tinted. This gave the photographs a blue cast and I had to manipulate them with my software to improve the colours. As a result, they have lost some of the depth and clarity of colour and definition.
Artist in Residence
I asked Tim Baynes to use my Spinnaker Tower photos and to capture the essence of this wonderful structure. This is what he produced. I am sure you will agree it is a great piece of artwork and I love the way he incorporates the words from my blog into the painting.
Miles walked = 6.4
High point – the Spinnaker Tower of course!