Argh Winchester on a hot summers day where you can view ye olde Norman Cathedral then read psalms from the pulpit. Where the evenings are glorious , clocks shining brightly and find yourself alongsdide King Alfred (the guy who beat the Vikings on the TV show, Vikings) staring into sunset. Then retire to the pub to imbibe yourself on locally distilled Gin and tankards of ale and last but not least take a selfie with King Arthurs Round Table. Glorious.
To the right is the statue of King Alfred the Great staring down the sunset on thus street in 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….