Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Trip down south

Our few days' holiday in the south of England already seems a long time ago. We set off at the end of play on Wednesday, and spent the night with old friends in Surrey. We decided to visit Portsmouth the next day, and started at the Naval Dockyards where HMS Victory and the Mary Rose are on show, along with a whole lot of other sea-related artifacts.

Well, I admit that naval history leaves me cold, while Mr A laps up every book ever published on the subject, so a day in the dockyards wouldn't have been my first choice. But in fact, it was wonderful. HMS Victory has been restored and laid out almost as it would have been at Trafalgar in 1805, and a dapper uniformed naval chappie conducted the tour and delivered the script very efficiently, complete with amusing jokes.

Stern of HMS Victory
One of the most interesting bits of the tour was the arrangement of lighting in the hold that contained all the gunpowder, which clearly couldn't be allowed anywhere near a candle or other naked flame, which was the only way of providing light in those days. The lanterns are in a room accessed entirely separately from the gunpowder, then there are two sets of walls containing windows between the Light Room and the Filling Room. There, the charges were filled with gunpowder from barrels, separated from one another with leather sheets to prevent any chance of them rubbing together and producing a spark. The whole of this area was lined with copper, which is resistant to rust, sparks, and rats.

There was lots more to the Victory, and I can highly recommend a visit. We also saw the Mary Rose (which is still undergoing conservation) and some of the treasures they retrieved from that site. We'd been persuaded to buy a ticket for all the Historic Dockyard attractions that is valid for a year, so we came back on Friday to see more. The package includes a harbour tour around the current moorings for Royal Navy ships, most of which made little impression on me, just a succession of grey boats. Then there was the Royal Naval Museum, and more that we simply couldn't fit into two days.

Grey ship
We booked into a B&B for a couple of nights, and after all the exertions of sightseeing for the previous two days we had a lazy morning on Saturday, went out for a walk in the New Forest, visited Mr A's parents, and had dinner with friends in Christchurch. But none of that is very interesting to hear about if you weren't there. By a stroke of luck the weather was wonderful: the last vestige of summer, because now we're home it's turned quite chilly in the evenings.

Plants in the New Forest


aims said...

I think those ships are incredible. How lucky you got to tour a couple even though you aren't that interested.

I took a tour of a submarine that was used in WW11. OMG! I was stunned! So incredibly different from the movies! I had to laugh at myself that I had been so brainwashed by Hollywood that the real thing almost felt like a fake.


English Mum said...

Actually, I'd be with you on the naval stuff - it's all a bit 'meh' to me, but it did seem quite interesting I'll admit.

Loved you Haiku by the way. Classic xx

Jay said...

I'm not into Naval history as such either, but I am fascinated with those old ships.. they're so small!! And very well built with so much detail and care and craftsmanship.

I'd be interested to see both of those. The gunpowder room, especially!

I remember when they brought the Mary Rose up. It was just incredible to watch, though very, very slow.