Portsmouth Harbour

I combined two hobbies in one today, travelling to a new railway station and gagging a Marilyn.  The later may require a bit of explanation for some readers.  A Marilyn is a group of British hills, the definition being that there is a 150 meter drop (nearly 500 feet) between it and the next Marilyn i.e. they are based on prominence rather than pure height.  I’ve been climbing Marilyns since about 2004. There are over 300 in England and Wales and I had just one left to climb south of Manchester and it was Brighstone Down on the Isle Of Wight.  It hardly seemed worth the cost of transporting a car over to the Isle of Wight and paying for accommodation just to bag this one hill so I explored whether it would be possible to do it by train in a day from Cardiff.  Well, the answer was yes, just about.  The advantage here being that there is a direct train from Cardiff to Portsmouth Harbour.

It was an early alarm for me and a quick walk into town to catch my train and then I could relax as it was a 3hr 25min journey to Portsmouth Harbour.  I dithered a bit in the panning process about the need to book a place as a foot passenger on the ferry but ended up doing so.  I had a fine day for the trip and a great crossing over to the island.  I took a seat up on deck pointing backwards and admired the 170 meter tall Spinnaker Tower as we slipped out of the harbour and waved to some passing yachts.

We landed at Ryde and love the old London underground train that greets passengers.  I’ve visited once before, in 2012.  On that occasion I’d parked the car at Southsea, cycled to Portsmouth Harbour, caught the boat over than then the train down to Sandown and then cycled/walked to St Boniface Down, the Iow’s other Marilyn. 

Today, it was a bus journey, first to Newport and then onwards to Calbourne.  Everything was working out well so far.  All the homework I had done on bus routes and times seemed to be working out.   After the last leg of the journey which was a bus from Newport to Calbourne I walked up to Brighstone Down, initially along the road (a little busy) then through the fields (lovely) then in the wood (less interesting). The summit of the hill is in a wood and crowned with a trig point.  It was somewhat disappointing to have travelled all this way and not to be greeted with a fine view.  Not to worry, at least I had made it, Marilyn summit, a trig point and even a geocache on the way back down – a baggers delight. 

Now would I make all the connections to get back I wondered?  The bus arrived and took me to Newport.  I remembered having a family holiday here about 20 years ago and having to take our son to A&E after he ran into a corner kitchen unit in the caravan and cut his head open.  A bit of superglue soon sorted that out. 

On the return ferry I had a good view of one of the Solent Forts, which were built in response to the threat of a French invasion under Napoleon and were commissioned by Lord Henry Palmerston, Prime Minister of the day, to protect Portsmouth Harbour from attack.  It was all go in the Solent today.  We were also passed by one of the hovercrafts.  And no it wasn’t full of eels before you ask.

On docking I went and got a better view across the water of HMS Warrior, built in 1860 and  the world’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship.  I had worked up quite and appetite by this stage so it was time to grab a take-away, find a nice bench with a view to eat it on and then nip into a pub for a quiet pint before boarding the train back to Cardiff.  Apart from an unexpected change of trains in Bristol Temple Meads it went according to plan and the final leg of the journey was a walk home. Now that’s what I call a long and exciting day!

Date of trip: 24 May 2019

See progress to date: A-Z of Railway Stations