When I first commented to a former resident that I was considering visiting Portsmouth, the prestigious home of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, I must admit I was a little taken aback by their answer – “Don’t bother going into the city – it’s bloody awful”. Needless to say I heeded their advice & avoided the central district like the plague & as my train rolled through the suburbs, instead of disembarking at Portsmouth & Southsea, I stayed-on for a further 2 minutes into Portsmouth Harbour Station, whereby I was immediately treated to the impressive sight of HMS Warrior – a steam powered, 40-gun, armoured frigate, moored at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I was also treated to a less than impressive sight of a bunch of young, Love Island chav-types who at 11.30am were well on their way to being completely ‘wasted*’ in the sunshine. (*I do believe this is a modern expression used by the younger generation meaning ‘slightly inebriated’)
From the station approach I jumped onto my trusty Brompton & pedalled all of 60 metres where I then got off & wheeled through the archway into Gunwharf Quay – a busy shopping & eating complex which was jammed full of busy people shopping & eating. Making my way through the masses I soon arrived at a marina, whereby I observed the impressive erection that is the Spinnaker Tower – a 170 metre tourist observation platform, no doubt jammed full of tourists observing. I was in no mood for observing with tourists at altitude so I followed the waters edge away from the tower through a frightfully nice residential area.
Eventually I emerged at a road that was full of cars waiting to board the Island ferry & after a deft bit of Brompton handling over a cobbled road, I finally ended up in the vicinity of the Square Tower. I must say that when riding a Brompton bicycle over cobbles, one must ensure all surplus adipose tissue is strapped tight to one’s body, otherwise you experience a highly undignified affliction known as the cobble wobbles.
Beyond the cobbles, I was unable to locate the National Cycle Network route markers so I ended up wheeling over the pavement towards the Nelson Monument on Battery Row.
After showing one of our nation’s greatest hero’s my modern velocipede (he didn’t seem particularly enamoured to be honest), I passed the remains of the 13th century Royal Garrison Church, which was built by the then Bishop of Winchester, pondering if he wore his mitre whilst he mixed up the mortar. I later found out that this church was bombed during WW2 & has been kept unroofed as a memorial to this time.
Turning right onto Pembrooke Rd, I finally got my legs spinning like a jenny as I whistled past rows of parked automobiles, eventually heading back towards the flashing neon Southsea Pier & Funfair along Pier road. I resisted the attraction of the attractions & proceeded in an easterly direction along the esplanade – pausing momentarily to observe the small Isle of Wight hovercraft & made a mental note to self to voyage on this in the future as it looks jolly good fun.
Further up Clarence Esplanade I paused to admire (Admiring whilst out dawdling is an opportunity to ponder thoughts) the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on the edge of Southsea Common – a commemoration to those brave sailors who died in the great wars.
Not far from this, out the corner of my eye I spotted a rather impressive WW2 Landing Craft that had managed to land on the pavement quite someway from the sea. (As military type, I have always been tickled by the arse-about-face way that military stuff is described – Jumper Heavy Wool, Boots Combat High, Condom Rubber Mens) This particular craft is known as an LCT (Landing Craft Tank) & sits infront of the D–Day museum.
Whizzing through the car park behind the museum, I puffed up a steep slope onto the headland & followed a track towards Southsea Castle Lighthouse. Unfortunately they were chaps busy at work refurbishing the lighthouse & it’s environs, so I had to cut back down to a park at the far end of the automobile park – blast, I thought to myself.
Back on the esplanade I finally picked up the National Cycle Network route markers & headed along a lovely straight cycle route past the former Royal Marine barracks at Eastney. (By the way, as good as the route is, it is located between a row of parked automobiles & the esplanade pavement – I must make you aware of open doors, people walking across the lane & queues for ice-cream vans). When the lane deviated away from the beach I decided to head onto the shingle & imbibe the ambiance for a moment. I later found out that just 100 metres up the beach from where I was perched was a naturist beach where people take the air in the nip. Good Lord!!!
After approximately minutes I had had my fill of ambiance & retraced my steps (or more precisely, wheel-tracks) back towards where I’d been (only this time keeping to the proper cycle route that cut through the common).
Back at Nelson’s Memorial I mooched along a small road that led from the Square Tower to the Round Tower, where a series of arches that had been turned into arty shops. Being a highly observant sort, I did notice that one arch was open & on closer inspection, led to a secret beach beyond. It was at this moment that I decided to beat a hasty retreat, as the area turned out to be full of chav-types, so I took a pic of my Brompton in the archway & scuttled off.
Back on the road & without realising that I was on a spit of land, I ended up doing a few laps around the Spice Island pub & The Bridge Tavern, before finally resulting to the saviour of all travellers (Google Maps) in order to get back to Gunwharf Quay. Now I know what you may be thinking, why did I not stop & quench my thirst at one of these fine hostelries on the waterside? Well, as it was such a frightfully hot day, & with my disposition for drinking alcohol in the hot sun, I was afraid I may end up on the cross-Channel ferry Brompton-less, stark-bollock-naked, singing rugby songs. So instead I wheeled-off in the direction of a local eatery (Café Rouge), where I suitably feasted on garlic mushrooms, steak & frites & garlic bread for a little over £20.
After lunch (well, by that time, early evening tea) I decided to head-off to investigate the Historic Dockyard, but in the end I decided to just sit & watch the waterborne world go by.
PS. For those wishing to learn more about the places of interest (annotated in italics) about which I have dawdled, I would suggest that you consult Google for a greater understanding.