Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Review)

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Review)

Just a few weeks after waving off my eldest to his new temporary home in Portsmouth (where he is embarking on a university work placement), we followed him down for a long weekend.

With early positive reports reaching us of this previously unexplored Hampshire island city, it was definitely the perfect excuse to experience it properly as a family for the first time.

It was an opportunity to appreciate Portsmouth at its most authentic – through its rich maritime history. No better place to start then than at The Historic Dockyard area, where the history of the British Navy dates back 1,200 years to its earliest days under King Alfred the Great in the 860s.

This is the first of a three-part blog, in which I review most of the Portsmouth and The Dockyard’s 12 museums and attractions, all of which can be enjoyed throughout the year with a great value Ultimate Explorer Ticket.

The Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
The preserved remains of the Mary Rose take spectacular centre stage in the museum.

The Mary Rose

History: The flagship of Henry VIII, it served in his fleet for 34 years before sinking during the Battle of the Solent in 1545, with the king watching from nearby Southsea Castle.

The Museum: Her remains, which were raised in 1982, are now on display along with thousands of the original objects recovered alongside the ship, giving a unique and moving insight into life in Tudor England. She is the only ship of her kind on display anywhere in the world. The Museum tells the stories of the 500 men who lived, worked and died on-board. With some 19,000 artefacts on display, recovered from the seabed in one of the most challenging archaeological excavations of all time. You can even listen to the sounds of the past, smell real Tudor smells and see the ship brought to life with cutting-edge technology telling the emotionally compelling stories of what life was like on-board when she sank in the Solent in 1545.

What’s New: This summer visitors can re-live the final moments on board the Mary Rose as it sinks during the Battle of the Solent on 19th July 1545 in the Mary Rose 1545 Experience. Step back in time to hear from King Henry VIII and the crew of Britain’s most famous shipwreck and even experience the immersive Tudor warship sinking. Don’t worry – no sea sickness tablets required!

The Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
The new Mary Rose 1545 Experience

My verdict: This impressive museum certainly does what it says on the tin and is packed to the rafters with thousands of genuinely fascinating artefacts through which we get a glimpse into everyday Tudor life. The new interactive experience is a great addition, especially for families and immediately engages the visitor. It’s easy to see why this museum has won awards and definitely takes centre stage in the Dockyard.

Visit: https://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/site-attractions/attractions/the-mary-rose

HMS Victory, The National Museum of The Royal Navy, The Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum

HMS Victory and Gallery

History: The Royal Navy’s most famous warship, best known as Vice Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.

What’s New: Opened in May, HMS Victory: The Nation’s Flagship exhibition retells the extraordinary story and lesser-known history of the oldest naval ship still in commission in the world. The gallery at the neighbouring National Museum of the Royal Navy, displays previously unseen objects from the ship including a section of HMS Victory mainmast, damaged at the Battle of Trafalgar and displayed in Portsmouth for the first time. Through a mixture of large format cinematic film, interactives, newly displayed and previously unseen artefacts including a shot-damaged section of original Victory mast from the Battle of Trafalgar and a spectacular ten-foot-tall, 200-year-old figurehead, it charts her decline and rescue in the 1920s by the Society of Nautical Research (SNR) and the dramatic events when she could have been permanently lost to the nation.

This enhanced visitor offer also includes a self-guided audio tour of the ship and a dedicated walkway to take you down into the dry dock to view the hull of the enormous 3,600-tonne ship.

Battle of Trafalgar, HMS Victory, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Wyllie’s The Panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar in the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Victory Gallery.

My Verdict: The new gallery is a fabulous addition to the all-round HMS Victory experience. Nothing quite beats standing in the ship directly in front of the spot, marked by a plaque, where Lord Admiral Nelson fell. Being part of the bowels of history in this way is both mystical and magical. And I highly recommend tuning in to the new audio tour which really helps bring the stories to life. A personal highlight from my Dockyard experience so far.

Visit: https://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/site-attractions/attractions/hms-victory

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
HMS Warrior upper deck

HMS Warrior 1860

History: The largest and fastest of all Royal Navy ships, HMS Warrior is Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured battleship and the newest member of the National Museum of The Royal Navy’s fleet. Launched in 1860, at a time of empire and Britain’s dominance in trade and industry, HMS Warrior 1860 was the pride of Queen Victoria’s fleet.

The Museum: Warrior has undergone a re-interpretation, reflecting what she was like in 1863 by opening up new areas of the ship and bringing stories from the period to life. With every room you discover and every object you hold, you immerse yourself in a time gone by. Whether you meet a gunner getting ready for battle or a Victorian tourist who’s wowed by the ship’s beauty, history is brought to life like never before. Her story is also told through characters that lived, breathed and worked during the Tour of Britain thanks to the Dockyard Alive team.

What’s New: New spaces including the captain’s cabin and galley have been reinterpreted to reflect how it was 156-years ago. Authentic set dressing you can touch transports you to another time when the grandeur of Queen Victoria’s favourite ship ruled the waves.

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
First stop was HMS Warrior

My Verdict: A fascinating experience, not dissimilar to the HMS Victory one, and worth including on your Dockyard museum itinerary, but if you want to visit it’s one to prioritise as it closes for the winter season at the end of October.

Visit: https://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/site-attractions/attractions/hms-warrior-1860

Harbour Tour, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum

Harbour Tour

What to Expect: On the 45-minute Harbour Tour you can expect to see many of the fortifications that were built to protect Portsmouth over the centuries, in particular the Round Tower at the harbour entrance and the Solent forts which formed the centre of a string of fortifications along the coast during the Napoleonic Wars. This wide natural inlet in the coastline is a flooded river valley protected by a deep narrow entrance on two sides of the dockyard, here and at Gosport, which makes an ideal harbour.

Harbour Tours, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, museum
Interesting Naval history made up a major part of the Harbour Tour commentary.

My Verdict: Fascinating insight whether or not you’re a maritime or naval enthusiast. There’s lots to learn and even more to see, including unrivalled views of modern frigates, destroyers and helicopter carriers, as well as historic buildings and the dramatic skyline. We’re appreciating this city from its most unique and beautiful vantage point – and there’s even the opportunity to alight at Gunwharf Quays for designer shopping and entertainment. (Also a must-visit on any trip to Portsmouth.) Worth making time for ships AND shops!

NB: The Harbour Tours operate hourly throughout the summer but are weather-dependant so it’s important to keep a check on their up-to-date timetable.

Visit: Harbour Tours (historicdockyard.co.uk)

Read second part of my Portsmouth Review here

Circolombia: Buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride (Review)

Circolombia: Buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride (Review)


Circolombia, Coventry City of Culture, Festival Garden

In case it had escaped your notice (where have you been?!) there’s a lot going on as part of City of Culture in Coventry these days.

And, for the large part, the focus is on the city’s Festival Garden currently dominated by the world’s largest spiegeltent, where a host of exciting entertainment is unfolding daily.

As you approach the stunning double-decker Queen of Flanders (the flagship venue, supported by the pint-sized Piccolo spiegeltent and the Treehouse performance space) it’s instantly apparent you’re in for a treat.

This is the epicentre of a scintillating programme of shows throughout the summer, including comedy, circus, cabaret, music and more. And it’s here that last night we were introduced to the phenomena that is. . . Circolombia.

Jaw-dropping has never a more apt description. Indeed two members of this high-energy modern circus troupe can, in one act, quite literally be seen to be hanging by their teeth!

Transporting us to the streets of Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, this hour-long emotional rollercoaster will leave you feeling exhausted – in a good way. Whether it’s marvelling at the acrobat who is balancing a huge metal ring on his forehead while a gymnast coils herself into geometric shapes around it – or watching in awe the man hoisted by just a rope tied across the back of his neck as another performer clings to his legs – you’ll find yourself spellbound throughout.

What makes this show extra special is the intimacy of this beautiful venue. Bag yourself a front row seat if you can to really feel like part of the action. – Although, at times, one can’t help but find themselves tensing in readiness for the arrival of an errant acrobat on your lap!

Columbian carnival beats help the show to keep skipping along at high-octane pace, with some stunning vocals to enjoy into the bargain.

But it’s undoubtedly Circolombia’s nerve-jangling and mind-blowing stunts that have us mesmerized.

If you’re still carefully planning your return to the live entertainment scene post-lockdown, there couldn’t be a better place to start than this talented troupe of acrobats and contortionists who will blast those cobwebs away.


Welcome to Circolombia and Coventry City of Culture. Grab a front row seat, buckle in and enjoy the ride. . .

Tickets cost from £15 and are available from: https://coventry2021.co.uk/what-s-on/circolombia/

Review The Choir of Man here

Gentle pedals. . . big steps!

Gentle pedals. . . big steps!

IT’S been three weeks since I brought home my first electric bike, courtesy of the new Electric Bike Shop at Hatton Adventure World.

The bad news is, I’ve struggled to find the time to get out on it as often as I’d hoped.

The good news is, my relationship with e-bikes is such already that I know the situation will improve  – I’m eager for it to do so.

Amanda Chalmers

You see, this has been somewhat of a mini revelation for me, to the extent where I’m afraid to say three’s now a crowd. And I think it’s time for my traditional road bike and I to part ways.

Purchased as a birthday gift around 10 years ago, the intention was genuine – to hit the road every weekend and transform my deteriorating fitness levels back to something approaching at least average for my age. Genuine or not, I don’t think it left the garage more than a couple of times, but putting the brakes on my cycling days was like admitting defeat to the ageing process.

I now realise, as an e-biker (probably haven’t quite earned the right to call myself that yet, but let’s go with it. . .) that the journey back to increased fitness doesn’t have to be an arduous and painful one.  

The logic is simple – if you’re using your e-bike to do something that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, it carries great long term mental and physical health benefits. E-bikes can get older or less fit folk cycling again – and that’s what I feel it is doing for me. Without it I can either keep living the lie that my road bike will ever see any traction again in the coming years – or throw my (not insubstantial) weight behind a new biking chapter. . . a chapter that makes cycling enjoyable again, while gradually and gently rebuilding my fitness levels.

Well, you have to start somewhere!

The sunny Easter holidays enticed me out and, in a short time, my confidence in handling the bike and ability to get the best out of it, is improving. I’m keeping distances short at the moment but plan to build on that, especially as the summer months break through.

And thanks to advances in technology e-bikes now last longer between charges (some modern models can last for up to 110 miles on a single charge) so there is nothing to be nervous about when I do decide to tackle the further flung destinations.

And when you do need to charge your bike – what better excuse for a well-earned refreshment stop while the friendly pub’s plug socket does its thing.

The popularity of e-bikes is massively on the rise and it’s widely predicted they will outsell road bikes within five years. – They already do in The Netherlands!

If you’re older, unfit, recovering from an injury or illness or simply lacking in cycling confidence, the arguments for investing in an e-bike are cumulative.

That’s all very well, you say. “Sounds perfect. But they don’t come cheap!”

E-bike prices tend to start at around £1,000 (and up to several thousands) which is undoubtedly heavier on the pocket than a traditional bike. But in the long run they can actually be the most cost-effective option. That’s because an e-bike is more convenient so you’re likely to use it more often.

Cycling instead of driving – even for short commutes – brings big savings on the costs of running a car, including fuel, parking and depreciation caused by wear and tear.

It’s also worth noting that the Government’s Cycle to Work Scheme allows you to save up to 42% off your e-bike. Click here for more information.

Included in part 3 of my blog COMING SOON are the subjects of security and maintenance.

Read Part 1 of my blog here

Read about the new Electric Bike Shop in Hatton plus an interview with Karl Haden here


Inspired by their thirst for success

Inspired by their thirst for success

THERE are few people we come across in our lives who genuinely inspire us.

Moores of Warwick
Martin and Lorraine Moore

I have been lucky enough to meet two this week by the names of Martin and Lorraine Moore, a married couple from Warwick who are celebrating the long-awaited launch of their new business.

And that in itself is reason enough to earn my respect. Building a business from scratch and making it a success are challenges enough for anyone. But when you are also staring down the barrel of a proverbial gun while you’re doing it – in the form of a cancer diagnosis – it takes entrepreneurial commitment and achievement to a whole new level.

Where I think it’s fair to say, most of us would mothball our business ambitions for the future to concentrate on our present health battles, Martin Moore took the opposite view. In fact, receiving the news that he had just months to live proved no barrier to his ambitions!

Trial immunotherapy treatment has stunted the growth of his tumour such that he’s been spurred on to follow his dream – and this month marked a magical moment for the husband and wife team as they celebrated the doors opening on Moores of Warwick Gin Distillery and Gin School.

Martin Moore

In 2011, after spotting a mole on his back, Martin, 59, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.

Despite six months of surgery, four years later the couple received the news they had dreaded – the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.

Unable to treat the condition with chemotherapy, Martin was signed up for an immunotherapy drugs trial.

But the diagnosis marked a significant turning point for the couple who decided to take the leap – together.

Believed to be Warwick’s first gin distillery, Moores of Warwick makes small-batch hand-crafted gin using a selection of 12 botanicals, including honeysuckle, the flower emblem of Warwickshire and known as Shakespeare’s Woodbine.

It was around 12 years ago when Lorraine was first introduced to the drink by Weightwatchers as a lower-calorie alternative to wine. She soon converted Martin and the couple’s love affair with gin began.

But passion soon turned to ambition and today they operate out of a unit at Hatton Shopping Village where their gin school is also already proving popular.

Groups are invited to hear a short presentation on the history of gin before concocting their own unique recipe using the mini stills, then bottle it and add a personalised label, all while enjoying some G and Ts. Records of each unique blend are also kept so re-orders can be made.

What a wonderful idea – and one I know will be well received around here!

You don’t necessarily have to be an ardent gin drinker to appreciate their efforts. Lorraine told me she finds nothing more rewarding than passing on her passion – and knowledge – of the brand to customers who love concocting their own recipes and taking them away at the end. What’s not to love?!

Far from slowing down, Martin already has his sights firmly set on growing the business and there are – rather exciting – plans afoot for a Moores Vodka and a Moores Rum as well. Watch this space for more on that!

Moores of Warwick Gin Distillery
Martin and Lorraine Moore next to their main 100-litre still, Nellie – named after the elephant in the room (Martin’s cancer.)

Meeting the couple – and hearing all about their story – it’s easy to see where their motivation lies. And their infectious enthusiasm for their product will, I have no doubt, inspire theirs – and others’ – success.

To book a place on the Moores Gin School visit: https://mooresofwarwick.com/bookavisit-2/

 Photos by www.davidfawbertphotography.co.uk