Roaming Southern England – Portsmouth, Brighton and Winchester

If you have been reading my website at endlessroaming.com you would be aware that I have been blogging and photographing my 8-month road trip around the world in 2019. Most recently I have been driving in the USA, I’ll be writing about this soon enough but first of all this blog is about my recent adventure across England during what has been described as the “UK Heatwave” a few months ago. The previous blog was from Bristol to Bournemouth, this is the continuation along the coast, Portsmouth to Bristol and inland to Winchester.

After 3 nights in Bournemouth (see previous blog) I continued heading east to the next coastal city of Portsmouth. With a population of around 240,000 its a historical port city. I was staying only one night so decided to take advantage of the UK Heatwave and concentrated on exploring Portsmouth’s coastline. To the west of the port were moored historical tall ships, Lord Nelsons HMS Victory and the HMS Warrior. There appeared to be many more museums in the Historic Port area and you could spend a lot of time exploring if you had a mind and time too. The harbour also includes a ferry port for the Isle of Wight but as I didn’t have a car to explore the Isle nor the time for museums I continued my walk.

Next to the Historic area is Gunwhwarf Quays, first notable building is the 560 feet Spinnaker Tower which stands tall overlooking all the historical and new buildings below, the building has a spinnaker sail appearing at the top of the structure. The quay was rammed with shoppers as the entire area is made of mid-level to high quality retail shopping and restaurants, Gunwhwarf was completed in the early 2000s and to me it didn’t seem out of place in this historical area. I think Portsmouth have done quite an effective job in merging historic with new. I continued my walk past the monster sized cruise ships moored in the harbour and historic bars and restaurants.

I checked out the Round (1418) and Square (1494) Towers, these were originally built to protect the Harbour from invading navies, the rooftop providing great views along the coastline and the surrounding harbour and busy shipping lanes. I continued along the Tower Walls walking passed inner harbour beaches with people taking advantage of the hot English sun. The Walls gave way to the expansive Southsea Common, I stopped to look at the fenced off Garrison Church (1212), Clarence Pier Amusement Park which unlike other piers Id seen recently did not extend out to the ocean, then I passed the Portsmouth War Memorial (1924) and entered Southsea Castle (1544). Next to the castle in the park live music was being played with hundreds of people on picnic blankets gathered around.

I listened to a few tunes, had a nap, and then continued walking till I reached the South Parade Pier. Built in 1878 the pier has a long history of being destroyed by fire, being closed, redeveloped and has undergone various repairs, the most recent being its reopening in 2017. I grabbed a meal, looked at the attractions of which there were many, it appeared that the owners of the pier had packed in as many attractions as possible and it was very crowded. After a few ciders and chancing my hand at a few gambling machines I finished up and headed back to my hotel for a few beers and some rest, it had been a very full day.

The following morning a fire alarm kicked off at 5am and the hotel had to be evacuated, waking up was a little earlier than planned. So with that my next destination was further east along the coast to the city of Brighton. Brighton much like Bournemouth is a seaside resort city and with a population of 230,000 its a very popular destination especially for those that come down from London which is only an hour away. Unfortunately whilst the weather was quite warm a gusty wind had picked up for the few days I was there so I didn’t get a chance to lay about the beach. Brighton had also just experienced a massive gay pride festival a few days before Id arrived so there were many colourful banners on light poles, posters scattered around town and glitter on the streets, it appears that it was the party and a shame that Id missed it.

I first headed for Brighton’s Grand Pier, for the most part this pier has operated intact since 1899. It was turned into an amusement park after the theatre on the pier partially burnt down in 1973. Much like the other piers there was a grand entrance, extended walking bridge and plenty of amusement machines, rides and restaurants. The machines for the most part appeared to be authentically old as well as the buildings, there were amusement centres on the beachfront that included machines among other attractions. The pier and beachfront to me appeared the most historically authentic amusement centre which Id visited. At the end of the pier I sat in a bar and watched the Ashes, if you don’t know the Ashes is a cricket series played between Australia and England approximately every four years or so. It’s a great source of rivalry between our countries and as per norm Australia won the test and went onto win the series. It was cool to watch a historically traditional cricket game in a traditional tourist location.

The following day I headed to the Royal Pavilion, constructed in 1823 it appears more like a building from India, spires protruding from the roof, its an extraordinary piece of architecture. This was reflected on the entry price which I elected not to pay so I headed next door to the much cheaper Brighton Museum. Exhibits included a large diverse collections including ancient Egypt, the history of Puppetry from around the world and Transology which is documenting the history of the LGBTIQ Brighton community though photography and fashion, its very diverse and has something for everyone. The gardens surrounding the Pavillion and museum are amazing with lots of flowerbeds and trees, it’s a very relaxing area to pass the day.

If not chilling out in the gardens of the Royal Pavilion or visiting Brighton Pier then Brighton offers vibrant shopping, restaurants and bar scene. As I was not into shopping due to lugging a 30kg backpack and being to cheap to eat at restaurants this left me the bar scene. The scene proved very friendly whether you are straight, gay or transgender there are venues for all tastes. I spent most of my time in an area known as the Lanes and North Laine, made up of small arty shops, restaurants and bars all compactly grouped together its a maze which is quite easy to get lost in, especially if you choose to drink many pints of lager. I spent both nights in the Lanes meeting all different types of friendly people and enjoyed more than a few heated discussions on who has the better cricket team (its Australia). After a few days walking around Brighton and getting lost in the Lanes it was off to my next destination.

It was time to leave the English south coast and before heading to London I had one more stop, the town of Winchester. Now Winchester is steeped in English history, its impossible not to visit something of historical significance and after ignoring a lot of amazing history in favour of outdoor sunshine it was time to cram as much history in as I could.. Winchester originally has roots going back to 150BC, it was further developed by occupying Romans over a 400 year period and during the dark ages become the Saxon capital. There was more development by the Normans after victory at the Battle of Hasting in 1066, and during most of this time Winchester was England’s capital city. It was during the Dark Ages that Winchester seceded power to London as the new capital sometime in 11th to 12th century. The city fell into decline during the Black Death in 1361 when half the population passed away, now it’s a tourist and market town of 35,000 people, like I say steeped in history.

First up I headed up to Winchester Castle, built during the reign of William the Conqueror in 1067, the highlight is the Great Hall where its claimed that King Arthur held court around the Legendary Round Table. I can categorically say that this is true as their table is hanging on the wall and a rather drunk man I met in the bar later that evening by the name of Merlin told me that its all fact so it must be. After taking a selfie of the table I walked down to the next attraction, the City Museum, it includes documents detailing the history of Winchester from the Iron age to today, including Roman Mosaics, jewellery from Anglo Saxon times, Victorian pieces of art and personal items owned by Jane Austen.

I then headed across the park to Winchester Cathedral, originally built in 7th century it was the site where English Paganism turned to Christianity. In the 11th century William the Conqueror rebuilt the the site as a Cathedral where he was crowned King of England, but what you see today was mostly completed in the 16th century, after years of Catholic upheaval under Henry VIII. Today he Cathedral is part of the Church of England. Much like its ancient and turbulent history of conquests and religious wars there is a mix of architecture in this building, it’s the longest and one of the largest Gothic Cathedrals in the world taking in Roman, Saxon and Norman architecture. There are many rooms, chapels and tombs which includes England’s famed author Jane Austen, there is also the Morley Library which dates back to the 17th century. The Cathedral takes a few hours to view and much longer to really appreciate.

After a few beers with my new mate Merlin I headed to bed, the following morning I continuing my walk around the city, Winchester College grounds, College and the High street, St Cross Hospital and the Winchester City Mill. There are so many attractions within the town area and its all in easy walking distance, its so much history that its difficult to take it all in. I was told there are also many other attractions outside the town but I didn’t have time to head out of Winchester itself so I spent most of my time walking the streets, looking at the shops, eating scones and jam and enjoying the atmosphere during two beautiful days of the UK Heatwave.

Well I guess this Part 2 off my roam around Southern England during the UK Heatwave. It had been nearly two weeks travel by train along the coast and I have enjoyed every minute of it. The friendly seaside cities of Bristol, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Brighton are similar in many ways with their fantastic coastlines and piers, they also have there own unique character. Ive meeting locals sharing pints of beers discussing many things including sport, BREXIT and “how hot is the weather”. I also loved my crash course in English history at Winchester, walking the streets, viewing the Cathedral and visiting King Authur’s round table. No its one more stop in England coming up, the city of London, I’m sure there are many blogs out there already about London so Ill be adding to the list and trying to make mine a little unique, hope you enjoyed the read and feedback welcome….

Roaming Southern England -Bristol to Bournemouth

If you have been keeping up to date with my website you would know Ive been blogging and photographing my 8-month Roam around the world in 2019. Most recently I have been on a road trip through the USA which I’ll be writing about soon but first to my recent adventure across England during the “UK Heatwave”. I have now returned to Australia, unfortunately in my experience no world trip can be “Endless” without some dose of reality (ie earning an income) so now its time to catch up on the writing between looking for a job.

Recently Id based myself (thanks to close friends) in the northern English city of Chester between trips to Portugal, Spain and Morocco (refer to previous blogs). Chester was a thoroughly enjoyable experience including plenty of Sunday roasts, football and beer. My time was coming to a close however and it was time to plan my last few weeks in England before flying out to the USA. The plan for the next few weeks formed itself really, news reports on the BBC were indicating that an ensuing “UK Heatwave” was coming so as I love with the beach I decided that heading to the English south coast. I bought a ticket at the train station and decided on the city of Bristol for a few days.

Bristol has a population of around half a million people and is a city on the river Avon. Founded around 1000AD, it was a major port in the exploration of the “New World” (USA and Canada) and there are many historical buildings and boats located on the river running through the city centre. Id booked a hostel on a riverboat moored on Bristol Harbour so was right in the centre of the major tourist attractions. The downtown area gravitates towards the harbour and there a series of locks with riverboats moored alongside as well as museums. There was also little street traffic as the roads are narrow and are diverted away from area so its mostly people leisurely walking about. It was quite a pleasant stroll around the Bristol harbour especially on a hot English day.

After the harbour I headed up to one of Bristol’s famous landmarks, Cabot Tower located in Brandon park. The tower is on top of a hill and there were plenty of people lying about sunning themselves taking advantage of the weather. I headed up the spiral tower staircase, 32 metres to the top, the view of Bristol and countryside below was stunning. After a nap in the park I headed into Bristol Old Town, walked the cobbled streets looking at old buildings and had lunch.. I then headed to Bristol Cathedral, inside were hundreds of students dressed in university graduation robes and  camera crews filming the ceremony. These graduation ceremonies were constantly going on for my stay two day stay so I didn’t get a chance to see inside much of the cathedral nor did I choose to visit any museums that Bristol has to offer as I wanted to be outside.

Bristol is famous for hip hop and alternative music and the hostel I was staying at indicated the best nightlife is in an area called Stokes Croft. Stokes Croft is actually a long street which appears run down, the buildings are painted with graffiti and the area is famous within the United Kingdom for this, I thoroughly enjoyed both nights I spent there. Many bars included DJ’s and live music and were doing happy hours selling international and locally brewed cider, beer and food. The people were very friendly, everyone was engaging and interesting. The area king of reminded me of the US city of Portland, London’s Camden Town or my home Newtown in Sydney. If you are not familiar with these places the area is essentially people with a unique fashion sense, men with beards, lots of tattoos and graffiti. After many beers I headed back to my boat hostel passing Llandoger Trow, a building and area where students and others were celebrating university graduation with you guessed it, beer. I felt very home in Stokes Croft and was sad I had to leave so soon, I now intend to make it back there one day.

My second day was all about heading to the beach, Bristol is about 45 minutes by train to the beach side town of Weston-Super-Mare in Northern Somerset. The weather was reaching 30 degrees celsius which is considered hot in England. I walked down the high street towards Grand Pier on the coast, the beach was a scattering of people and mini vans parked with attractions including ice creams and donkeys rides. I went to the shoreline but the water which was dirty brown so rather than swim I explored the pier. This involved few hundred metres walk along the bridge into an adjoining complex full of arcade machines for children. The Grand Pier is actually quite new, originally built in 1904 it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 2008 and is very modern.

I relaxed outside on a lounge chair for a while and then walked along the water to an outdoor ocean swimming pool where people were splashing about making most of the sensational weather. The water looked clean so I went for a quick swim and then kept walking along the coast until I came across another creepy looking much larger abandoned Birnbeck Pier which appeared to be effected by some long ago fire, unfortunately the bridge was chained off and I could not access it. I then headed back to the train station past dated 1960’s constructed hotels, some abandoned, people were under umbrellas drinking and eating no doubt shading themselves from the sun. Weston-Super-Mare to me felt like a English sea side village trapped in the 1960’s with, it was a great and almost surreal day. I then headed back to Bristol and even managed sunburn under the sweltering English sun. Please note the surreal-ness I experienced could of been sunstroke and maybe not the town at all.

Sadly the following day I was back on the train and headed for the South Coast city of Bournemouth. Bournemouth has population of just under 200,000 and is perched on 7 miles of coastal beach, much like Weston-Super-Mare, the beach culminates around Bournemouth Pier. The pier was built in the 1850’s and like Weston it contains many children machines with stuffed toy prizes, it also has slot machines for adults inclined to gamble. The pier includes outside attractions such as zip lines, restaurants and bars. The “UK Heatwave” was kicking into full gear so the three days I stayed in Bournemouth I spent down at the beach, the weather was reaching about 36 Celsius and the water was lovely shade of blue with people surfing the waves and swimming about, I spent a fair amount of time in the water. There were plenty of people turning going bright red due to sunburn and not necessarily coping to well with the heat. Australians such as myself are used to this type of this weather where it was evident to me a lot of the English were not. I found out later that Cambridge in the north recorded the hottest day on record in the United Kingdom, 37.8 celsius, boiling hot for some pasty white *Poms or *Pommies.

*Note the word Pom or Pommie is a slang term used by Australians to refer to English people. There are a few thoughts on the etymology of Pom, this includes the phrase “Prisoner of his Majesty” meaning English were left stuck in England while the Colonial convicts that were deported by the English went to Paradise or Australia. Pom also is the likening English people to the pomegranate fruit, the common held belief in Australia that English people will turn bright red when experiencing the Australian sun. The use of the word Pom by Australians is not considered to be an insult but rather affectionate abuse in reference to their paler English ancestors. When the French use of the word Pom it refers to Potato (or pomme de Terre) and should be considered an insult, its fine for Aussies to say Pom, but not the French . The term “Prisoner of Mother England” is incorrect and should not be used to describe a Pom… anyway I digress so apologies and back to my Travel blog.

When not hanging out at the pier or on the beach Bournemouth has a lovely coastal walk, the centre of town also has the Lower Gardens where people can hang about for the day listening to many talented buskers or play football. Bournemouth as typical with most English towns is quite historical and also contains many bars that can and should be frequented. My three days in Bournemouth involved going to the beach to take taking advantage of the heatwave, visiting every fantastic bar and spending the following morning eating a large breakfast fry up of bacon, eggs, beans, sausages, hash browns and mushrooms to deal with the hangover. The bar scene was very friendly, I met a lot of tourists that mainly come down from London to enjoy the weather and also friendly locals that were more than happy to discuss cricket, rugby and other common interest that Aussies and Poms share. I had a friendly and relaxing time and in many ways my short stay in Bournemouth much like Bristol reminded me of Australia.

Well anyway this is Part One of my trip to Southern England, next up Ill cover the towns of Portsmouth, Brighton, Winchester and then onto my last stop in London. As you may tell I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit in the sunny south; so much so I intend to do it again one day soon. With its historical piers and wonderful warm beaches its been an absolute treat, most of all Ive enjoyed the friendly banter with Pommies Ive I’ve met over the past five days. I hope to have a blog out shortly on the rest of my time in England and then will be writing about my trip to the USA, hope you enjoyed the read.

A few photos from my recent Roam around Winchester including King Arthur’s Round Table, next stop London

Following the UK heatwave down to Bournemouth and Portsmouth, next to Winchester, Salsibury and onto London

Roaming around Bristol during the UK heatwave, I’m currently in Bristol, few more weeks in the UK and then onto the USA, will attempt a blog soon