Land’s End to John O’Groats 2016

Dear all my readers on WordPress. We have had an amazing few years travelling, and seen so much, and now we would like to try and give something back. In 2013 my Mum passed away after a brave battle with Cancer, so to mark her birthday this year, on the 18th October 2016 we shall drive from Land’s End in Cornwall, to John O’Groats in the Scottish Highlands. This 837 mile trip is a¬†symbolic route across Britain, and perhaps the ultimate British roadtrip.

We are looking for people to sponsor us, or donate via the JustGiving page I shall set up sometime in June. All proceeds from the drive will go to Cancer Research UK, to make the day Cancer becomes a thing of the past, that much closer!

Charity Drive


So it’s that time already, and the donation link is now liveūüėÄ for anyone who wants to follow our epic journey in October. You can donate by clicking this link

Daniel & Gemma


Cornwall & The South: Pt 37 ‚Äď Sailing to the Isle of Wight

After travelling around the New Forest National Park the previous day, the next morning we set off on a new adventure, boarding a Red Funnel Ferry in Southampton, bound for the Isle of Wight…

Leaving Southampton, we were given a stunning view of the City Centre Skyline (although I can’t help but wonder if the apartment block at the back spoils it slightly!). Over to the left is the Clock Tower of Southampton Civic Centre, a vast complex which consists of four separate Wings joined together, all designed by H Austen-Hall. Building work commenced in 1930, and the whole building was completed in 1939.

In front of the apartment block is the tall spire of the Church of St Michael, notable as the only Medieval Church left in the city centre. The oldest section is the base of the main tower, dated to 1070, whilst the rest of the building has been rebuilt many times over the following centuries.

Finally, over to the right is the Dome/Clock sat atop the roof of the old Harbour Board Offices Building. Southampton has always been a major port, and a vast new series of docks were completed during the 1840’s. The new Harbour Offices were built in 1910, and the building stands at the entrance to the quay where the Red Funnel Ferries for the Isle of Wight depart from. Just around the Corner is one of the Ocean Cruise Terminals, backing onto another section of the docks. Today the building is in use as a Gentlemans Club…

Leaving Southampton behind us, we headed down the Southampton Water, and crossed paths with another of the Red Funnel Ferries. There are two services to the Island, a High Speed Passenger Ferry, which we were using, as well as a larger, slower ferry for transporting goods and vehicles, which you can see above.

En route, we spotted the “Netley Hospital Chapel”, the last remnant of the former Netley Hospital, an enormous site¬†on the banks of the River.

Suggested by Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901), a new hospital to care for injured soldiers was built here in Netley, due to the terrible conditions experienced abroad, particularly during the Crimean War. Opening in 1863, the building was magnificent, the longest building in the world at the time (0.25 miles long), and the largest hospital in the country. It even had its own Pier out into the water where patients could relax. It saw a lot of use during both World Wars with casualties from Europe being transferred here. It was largely unused thereafter, whilst a fire in the 1960’s sealed its ultimate fate, and the building was demolished.

The only part of the Hospital Site to be saved was the old Hospital Chapel, which is itself a Visitor Centre, surrounded by the Royal Victoria Country Park, which opened in 1970.

On the far side of the River, we drew level with Fawley Power Station, an Oil Fired station which opened in 1971. Oil was an expensive commodity to use to generate power, so Fawley was mainly a backup station, and was used when electricity was in high demand. The cooling pumps in the station, although now decommissioned, were the largest in the UK, and the overall station could output 2000 megawatts of power, spread across four generators.

New EU directives caused the plant to be decommissioned, and it closed down for good in 2013, with demolition plans underway. The Chimney, a famous landmark along the river, will most likely have been taken down within the next few years.

Just up the river from Fawley is Calshot Castle, the squat round building you can see above, to the left. It sits on Calshot Spit, a mile long shingle beach which stretches out into the water.

It was built in 1540 by King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547), and marks the point where the Southampton Water empties out into the Solent, the large body of water which separates the mainland from the Isle of Wight. It was built to protect against invasion, and held up to 36 guns ready to fire, along with a garrison. It remained in use through the Civil War and up to Victorian Times, whilst during World War I the area around the Castle was used as a base for Seaplanes attacking German Submarines. What became RAF Calshot closed down after World War II, and the Castle is now open to the public.

To the right of the Castle is the NCI (National Coastwatch Institution) Calshot Tower, dating back to 1973 when it was part of a chain of Radar Stations. The large building behind the Tower, which was originally the Air Base is now an Activities Centre, and has sat alongside RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Calshot since 1970.

We were fully aware on the day we sailed that it was Cowes Week on the island, a famous Regatta held every year since 1826, with thousands of boats attending.

At first we glimpsed just a few…

Then we spotted the rest, hundreds of boats filling the Solent, of all shapes and sizes. One of the more notable parts of the Regatta is the race around the Island itself.

The island comes to life at this time of year, and it was a magnificent spectacle to behold.

Now far out into the Solent, we could see further along the British Coast to the city of Portsmouth, which sits on Portsea Island.

It has a distinctive skyline, not least because of the Spinnaker Tower, designed to look like a giant sail, shown centre. Opened in 2005, the 560 ft tower features a large observation deck, with views out across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Sussex. You can also brave the Glass Floor at its centre, with a long drop down to the Quays below!

We soon docked in the town of Cowes, and set out to explore…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 36 – Beaulieu

One of the most picturesque places to stop in the New Forest is the village of Beaulieu…


Status: New Forest District, Hampshire, Village, England

Date: 12/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Mill Dam, Beaulieu River, Beaulieu Castle, National Motoring Museum, New Forest Horses, Georgian High Street, Montagu Arms Hotel etc

Beaulieu is a charming little village, and much like in the rest of the New Forest National Park which surrounds it, you can see the local Horses happily walking wild amongst the locals, in this case grazing by the side of the road.

We had parked up in a Car Park just opposite the pool known as the “Mill Dam”, which I shall explain about later. On the far side of the Dam is the magnificent “Palace House”.

The building dates back centuries, and was originally built as the Gatehouse for Beaulieu Abbey,  at the start of the 13th century. The Abbey flourished here until Henry VIII instigated the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, and the Abbey was abandoned.

Not long after, the Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley (1505 – 1550) was granted the Abbey Estates by the King, and chose the Gatehouse in which to establish a grand Mansion. The old Abbey Church is now the local Parish Church, and various other areas of the site such as the Chapter House can still be seen, albeit ruinous.

Another important part of the estate is the National Motor Museum, opened in 1952 by Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu (1926 – 2015). His father, John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott Montagu (1866 – 1929) was a notable motoring enthusiast, and not only did he introduce the then King Edward VII (1841 – 1910) to Motoring, but he was also the first person to ever drive a car into the Houses of Parliament’s main yard. Today it contains a variety of attractions, and is one of the New Forest’s Premier Attractions. You can find out more on their official website here.

The village centre of Beaulieu has been completely untouched by modern developments, and retains its own unique charm.

This is a shot looking up the High Street. It contains a large array of Georgian Shops and Houses, as well as the “Montagu Arms hotel” the mock Tudor building to the left.

The main building itself is Georgian, and it superceded a previous Inn from the 16th Century called “The Ship”. What you see today¬†is largely Victorian, as the Inn was rebuilt in 1888. It was completed¬†in the Mock Tudor Style by W H Mitchell (who also made significant contributions to the nearby city of Southampton), and was later extended in 1926.

It’s a stunning building, and gives you a good idea of the architecture which is prevalent throughout Beaulieu, alongside the Georgian Cottages.

Following Palace Lane away from the High Street towards the main gate into Beaulieu Palace, we arrived outside the former “Mill House”.

Completed in the 16th Century, it sits at the Eastern End of the Mill Dam, where a Dam (now used as a road) was created over the Beaulieu River to provide power for the Mill. The River flows underneath it heading East towards the Solent and then the English Channel. The Mill itself was founded by the Abbey Monks, and after centuries of repair it contains stonework from various ages.

On the far side of the Dam is the Gatehouse into the Beaulieu Palace Estate, which is part of the old wall into the Abbey Complex, and the original Outer Gatehouse.

We finished off our trip with a stroll along the Beaulieu River, which as I said earlier flows downstream into the Solent.

Its only obstacle is of course the Mill Dam, constructed out of Stone and Brick, visible over to the right underneath the road.

As the sun began to set, it made for a lovely atmospheric picture…

Along with a final shot out across the Mill Dam Pool which was created when the Dam was completed, and the river backed up, and would have been a vital source of power for the Monks.

Beaulieu was a great place to end the day, it’s out of the way, quiet and very peaceful. Don’t let that put you off though, as there are a number of local roads which lead from Southampton, Lymington etc to help you on your journey.

The following day, we changed tack a bit, and set sail for the Isle of Wight…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 35 – New Forest National Park

We crossed the border from Christchurch into the New Forest National Park, a vast area of Rural Hampshire, which has a few secrets to reveal…

New Forest National Park:

Status: National Park

Founded: 2005

Area: 219 square kilometres

The New Forest is one of England’s newest National Parks, behind only the likes of the South Downs. Founded in 2005, it covers the whole of the “New Forest” which gave the park it’s name.

The New Forest is certainly one of contrasts, as different areas of the Park have different terrains. Entering from the area around Christchurch, we arrived in a sprawling gorsey moorland, untamed and wild, which extended for miles. It’s a beautiful landscape, but not far away towards Burley, the landscape changed…

The gorsey heaths give way to large forests and grassy open fields, as you enter the New Forest proper, small country roads lined with trees, and one other famous resident of the Park…

Much like in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon, which has wild ponies at every turn, the New Forest is home to the famous Horses. They are privately owned by local landowners, however they are allowed out onto the moors and fields under centuries old laws.

These laws date back to the Forest Laws established by William the Conqueror in Norman Times, to protect the New Forest and keep it safe for hunting, and livestock. The”Commoners” who lived in the forest were allowed to let their animals¬†roam free, and whilst this was mostly Horses, it also included Cattle.

After exploring the Park for a while, we came across the small village of Burley, shown above. It’s a picturesque little place, with a few notable landmarks in the village centre.

In the foreground is the Burley Clock Tower, erected for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Behind it, in the centre of the village green stands the War Memorial, originally constructed at the end of World War I in memory of all those in the town who lost their lives. It was later updated with an inscription after World War II.

The rest of the village is made up of charming, rustic buildings which probably date back centuries, a scene replicated all over the park.

At the other end of the New Forest is the town of Lyndhurst, which we passed through on the way towards Beaulieu. It’s most famous landmark is the stunning “Church of St Michael & All Angels”, designed by William White (1825 – 1900, English Architect) and built between 1858-1868. The Clock/Spire towers over the rest of the town, and is a striking landmark.

The New Forest is a beautiful place, and although we only saw a small part of the overall Park, it was still a fantastic adventure. There are lots of charming towns and villages throughout the Park, local wildlife, and fantastic scenery.

Whilst we explored the National Park, our final stop was Beaulieu, a beautiful little unspoilt village, which was certainly worthy of it’s own post, which is up next…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 34 – Christchurch

Our next stop was the town of Christchurch, famous for the¬†Priory¬†at it’s heart, which also offers some stunning views of the town…


Status: Christchurch Unitary Authority, Dorset (historically Hampshire), Town, England

Date: 11/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions:¬†Christchurch Priory, Christchurch Castle Ruins, Mayor’s Parlour, Saxon Square, Ye Olde George Inn, Ship Inn, Town Bridge, River Avon, The Constable’s House, United Reform Church, River Stour, Cobbled Church Street etc

Christchurch High Street’s most impressive building has to be¬†Christchurch Town Hall, also known as the “Mayor’s Parlour”. Completed in 1746 as the local Market Hall the building originally stood at the other end of the road, where it meets Castle Street and Church Street, site of the original market, and was only moved here in 1859, when it was also extended. From then it was taken over by the local council and the Mayor for use as the Town Hall, hence the new name of the Mayor’s Parlour.

It now sits at the entrance to “Saxon Square” behind it. The name comes from the original Saxon origin of Christchurch, the street layout of which has been retained in some areas. A large Saxon Cross also sits in the centre of the square.

Today the Market is held regularly up the length of the High Street, which is then closed to traffic.

Christchurch High Street is home to a number of interesting buildings, including the “Ye Olde George Inn”. The exact year of the buildings construction isn’t known, but the earliest recorded mentioned of it is in 1630, and it is officially the towns oldest surviving Inn. It functioned as a Coaching Inn, as the Coach which ran from the city of Winchester (once the capital of England) through Christchurch to Poole would stop here to change horses.

It is in what was once a prominent location in the town, across the road from the end of Church Street leading to the Priory, as well as what was once the towns Market Square, where Castle Street & Church Street meet. Indeed records show that the towns first ever market was held here in 1149. The area was also the former home of the Town Hall, from 1746 until 1859, and it was accompanied by a Market Cross.

The building to the right of the George Inn is also Listed, as “Number 4 Castle Street”. It was built sometime around 1685, and originally consisted of three individual wooden buildings, now encased within a brick frame added in the late 19th century by the Victorians.

Heading over the road from the George Inn we walked up the cobbled end of Church Street, which leads you to the famous Christchurch Priory.

Nearly all of the buildings on this street are Listed, which includes “Numbers 14 – 16 Church Street”. They are shown on the left as the single storey, painted yellowish building. These were once terraced houses from the 18th century, and now contain shops.

Christchurch Priory is an incredible building, and not only is it historic, but it is noteworthy as the longest Parish Church in England, and is longer than over twenty English Cathedrals.

The sites history goes back to Saxon times, when a small Saxon Priory once stood here. Construction of a new Norman Church began in 1094 under Ranulf Flambard (1060 – 1128, Bishop of Durham, and Minister to King William II). By 1150 the main requirements for a Church were complete, including a Central Tower.

The build up of the Church we now see today took many centuries, with various additions between 1150 and the 16th century, including:

1350:  A spire was added to the Central Tower, and the main roof over the Nave was raised considerably.

1415: The Central Tower/Spire collapses, destroying the original Norman Choir, which was later rebuilt and extended, to meet the new Lady Chapel.

1480: A new Tower is completed at the Western end of the Church, and still stands today.

1529:¬†The final additions to the Priory were the Salisbury & Draper Chantry’s.

1539: King Henry VIII (1491 Р1547) instigates the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the Priory ceases to function. It later became the local Parish Church and has been largely unchanged ever since.

A famous legend associated with the Church is that in the 12th century a beam being placed in the roof was found to have been cut too short. Supposedly the next day, after a mysterious carpenter had been seen around the Church, the same beam was found fitted in place, but the correct size. Some say the mysterious Carpenter was Jesus, hence the new name of the town, Christchurch.

Guided tours of the Priory Tower are available upon request, and aside from offering a fascinating insight into the history of the building, as well as a few of its famous features, you are treated to a full 360 degree panoramic view of the town, and out into the English Channel.

The vast expanse of the Churchyard was laid out in front of us, with perfectly mowed lawns, lush flower beds and the scattered grave stones. You can see where the Churchyard meets Church Street, and heads off towards the town centre.

On a hill behind the buildings on the right hand side of Church Street lie the ruins of Christchurch Castle, the original portions of which were built in 1160 by the Normans. It prospered over the following centuries, with a large Keep (still visible) added in the early 12th Century. Its final hour was during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651), when it was held by the Parliamentarians. The Royalists led by Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) failed to capture the Castle, so Cromwell ordered it to be destroyed, leaving it ruinous.

The Castle ruins are located to the North West of the Priory Tower. Looking to the North East, behind the Castle Mound are the ruins of the “Constable’s House”.

It was part of the Castle Complex, and is thought to have been built by Richard de Redvers (1066 – 1107, 1st Baron of Plymouth), who is also credited with building the rest of the Castle at the same time in 1160.

The Constable’s House was basically a Norman house, and the ruins are quite extensive, even including a Chimney in the centre. This is notable as it is one of only five Norman Chimneys to survive in the UK.

Just behind the House flows the River Avon, crossed by the “Town Bridge”, built in the 15th Century.

Looking past the Castle, towards the High Street you can spot the Town Hall in Saxon Square in the back left of the picture.

Not far to the right of¬†it is the “United Reform Church”, a grand building from 1867 designed in the Gothic Style. The Spire is the Priory’s only rival for the towns skyline, and a sign hanging up outside the building states it is now the Christchurch Christian Centre.

Looking South from the Priory Tower you can see the River Stour snaking its way through the marshes towards the English Channel. The Avon can be seen flowing into it behind the cluster of buildings to the left.

It’s a fantastic view, and you can even make out the edge of the Isle of Wight in the distance.

After our fascinating trip around the Priory, and the stunning views of Christchurch, we took a wander down towards an open park space known as the “Quomps” on the banks of the Stour.

One famous inhabitant of the Quomps is the late 19th Century Bandstand.

The riverside is lined with local pleasure boats, recreational parkland and of course the local wildlife. It was a lovely place to end our tour of the town.

Christchurch itself is well connected to the rest of Britain, with numerous main A-Roads catching the edge of the town on the way into Bournemouth/Poole, which the town is contiguous with. Ferries from Poole, Southampton and Portsmouth can take you to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight, whilst the local train station lies on the mainline between Weymouth and London Waterloo via Southampton.

Christchurch is a stunning town, but it was time to leave, so we pressed on, and entered the New Forest National Park…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 33 – Highcliffe-on-Sea

On our way towards the New Forest National Park, we took the long way round, stopping first in the small town of Highcliffe-on-Sea…


Status: Christchurch Unitary Authority, Dorset (historically Hampshire), Town, England

Date: 11/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Highcliffe Castle, Isle of Wight Views etc

Arriving in Highcliffe, we pulled up at a Car Park on top of a cliff, overlooking the beach below, as well as the Solent, the large body of water which separates mainland Hampshire/Dorset from the Isle of Wight.

It also offered us a fantastic view of the aforementioned Isle, in particular the “Needles” at its westernmost tip.

The Needles are a set of three large chalk cliffs which rise out of the sea. They are part of a long chalk ridge which runs through the Island, underneath the Solent, and reemerges on the mainland at Lulworth Cove in Dorset.

The Isle of Wight itself was of course once joined to Great Britain, with the River Solent running around it. It is this River that eventually widened, and cut through the rock around it to make the new island. The Needles themselves show the last vestige of this connection, with the area between them and the mainland gradually being washed away by the river.

Up until 1764, there were actually four Needles, however the centre cliff, known as “Lot’s Wife”, collapsed that year, leaving a gaping hole.

Attached to the outermost needle is the “Needles Lighthouse”, completed in 1859 to designs by James Walker (1781 – 1862, Scottish Engineer from Falkirk). The Solent has always been a dangerous place for shipping, with strong currents and deep waters, and the Needles themselves were also a hazard.

In 1786, a previous light had been installed, on top of the Cliff overlooking the innermost of the Needles. It soon proved inadequate, and needed replacing. The whole Lighthouse has been automated since 1994, a few years after a new Helipad was added to the top of the structure.

Less than a mile further into the town, lies Highcliffe’s most famous landmark, Highcliffe Castle.

This stunning Castle/Manor House was built from 1831 Р1835 for the 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay, Sir Charles Stuart (1779 Р1845, British Diplomat assigned to various countries including Portugal, France, Russia and Brazil). After retirement, Sir Charles had enough wealth to begin work on his new family home.

This site had once belonged to his family, but this family had sold it off. Sir Charles bought back the land, and with the help of an Architect named William Donthorne (1799 – 1859, Joint founder of the RIBA, Royal Institute of British Architects), he built Highcliffe Castle.

Since then, the Castle has passed through a number of owners, until the great fire of 1967 badly damaged the property. This prompted the local council to buy the building, and it is now open as a Tourist Attraction.

At the rear of the Castle is a small garden, and the whole estate sits on top of the cliffs which gave the town its name, looking out towards the Solent. You can find out more about visiting the Castle on their official website here.

We pressed on, and our final stop before entering the New Forest National Park was the beautiful town of Christchurch…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 32 – Lymington

Moving away from Sussex, we turned our attention West towards Hampshire, and the charming historic town of Lymington…


Status: New Forest District, Hampshire, Town, England

Date: 11/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Isle of Wight Ferries, Historic High Street, Cobbled Quayside Shops, Quayside, River Lym, Gold Post Box, Quay Hill, St Thomas the Apostle Church, War Memorial, Bellevue House, The Angel Inn etc

Lymington has an extensive quayside, full of local pleasure boats moored by the floating pontoons. The town lies on the Lym River, which flows out into the Solent just a few miles further downstream. The boats you can see here are just a fraction of the true number, as a large marina and boatyard can be found on the other side of town.

Crossing the river between the East bank at Walhampton, and the West bank for the town centre is a small railway bridge, which effectively cuts off access to the river upstream of Lymington for taller boats. It carries the Lymington Branch Line, which has a station called “Lymington Town” just before it crosses the river, whilst the final stop is “Lymington Pier” on the other side, where you can catch a ferry out to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. It is served by two trains a day, which head back towards the South Western Main Line, between London Waterloo and Weymouth in Dorset.

Between the Quayside and the main town centre lies a small warren of historic cobbled streets, which hide a variety of interesting buildings:

Picture 1:¬†At the back of the picture, where it says “Restaurant”, lies the old Quay Stores. They are listed as having an 18th century facade, so the building itself is probably even older. They would probably have been used as warehouses, whilst today the building is now¬†inhabited by a restaurant called “The Elderflower”.

Picture 2:¬†The building on the far right is the “Old Customs House”, which would have been used to check cargo coming into, and out of Lymington Quay for contraband, as well as to collect taxes and customs duty. It is one of the older buildings on the quay, from the¬†16th century.

Picture 3: Looking to the left hand side of the picture, there is a charming trio of buildings, made up of Numbers:

6 Quay Hill (Old Men Rule)

5 Quay Hill (Local House)

4 Quay Hill (Sophie’s)

They were all built in the 18th century, and each is individually designed and painted, to create one of Lymingtons most charming streets. Quay Hill itself leads up to meet the High Street, where the rest of the towns most important buildings can be found.

Lym 6

At the lower end of the High Street stands a typical British Police Box, but with one difference. In 2012 it was repainted Gold by Royal Mail, and a plaque was attached to the rear:

“This post box has been painted gold by Royal Mail to celebrate¬†Ben Ainslie, Gold Medal Winner London 2012 Olympic Games. Sailing: Finn – Men’s Heavyweight Dinghy”.

All athletes from the UK who won gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics had a postbox in their hometown painted gold, and Ben’s was here in Lymington.

I could spend hours talking about Lymington High Street, as every building is Listed as being of special historic importance. I have picked out a few in particular that stand out, with the help of the “Lymington Rotary Club” who have put a number of helpful plaques to show the history of different¬†buildings.

I’ll start with the old Catholic Presbytery at the lower, Northern side of the High Street. It is dated as early 18th century, and it looks as though the pavement around it has been raised over the years, as what could have been basement windows are now bricked up.

Connecting it to the building to its immediate right is an Iron Arch from the 19th century, which leads through to the Red Brick Catholic Church to the rear, built in Victorian Times. It is well hidden from the rest of the street, but a great addition to our timeline.

Lym 9

Heading West along the Southern side of the street, away from the Post Box, you have this stunning, raised collection of shops.

They are a motley collection of buildings, and almost alternate between the 18th, and 19th centuries. The different styles compliment each other well, whilst still making each shop unique.

Lym 10

Next up, is the oldest house in Lymington, which is thought to have originally been constructed out of timber frames in the 15th century.

The timber building is now encased within an 18th century Georgian Brick Facade. You would never know that 300 years before another structure resided here.

Lym 11

Directly opposite “Osborne’s” is another building whose history can be traced back through the centuries. The “Angel & Blue Pig Inn” was built in the 1600’s, although it wouldn’t be given the name “The Angel” until 1756. It¬†would have predated most of the other buildings on the street, as it was founded as a Coaching Inn for travellers, most likely on the road¬†towards Christchurch.

It was a very important place in Georgian Lymington, as it was used as a meeting place for the local Church Wardens, and the Courts. The old Coaching Inn stables were also utilised, being used to house the Horses which pulled the Fire Brigade vehicles.

You can still see the archway which led underneath the first floor of the Hotel into the rear Courtyard and Stables, at the far right of the picture.

Lym 12

Further up the road we came across “Bellevue House”, a stunning Georgian House from 1765, which was built by the St. Barbe Family. Charles Barbe was an influential man in the town, and held the post of mayor of Lymington¬†for five terms.

It is certainly one of the grandest buildings on the High Street, and what would have been one of the most stunning houses in the town back then, is still impressive today.

The top of the High Street is marked by the Parish Church of St Thomas the Apostle, sections of which can be traced back to various centuries across the last 1000 years.

The most prominent section of the Church is the Tower of 1670, although parts of the roof have been dated to around 1500. Evidence found around the Church also suggests the original Church was constructed in the 13th century, making it Norman in origin. It was later restored in the 1910’s, which was common for Churches from this period.

On the pavement outside stands the Lymington War Memorial, originally dedicated to World War I upon completion in 1921. It was later updated after World War II in 1945, as well as the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990’s.

Our last stop was, according to the blue plaque outside, “Lymingtons First National School”, called St Barbe’s. Presumably funded by the aforementioned St Barbe family who owned Bellevue House, it opened in 1836, and remained in use as a school for the next 150 years, before it was converted into the towns Museum & Art Gallery in 1999.

Lymington is a stunning little town, with a wealth of history to discover, made all the easier thanks to the efforts of the Lymington Rotary Club and their series of Blue Plaques. It is a great place to act as a base for exploring the local area, with trains available towards Weymouth in Dorset, and Ferries out to the Isle of Wight.

The town also sits on the Southern edge of the New Forest National Park, which is full of its own wonders to discover, and was also where we were headed next…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 31 – Brighton

One of the English South East Coast’s most famous spots is the city of Brighton, noted¬†for its fun, frivolity and happiness…


Status: City of Brighton & Hove Unitary Authority, East Sussex, City, England

Date: 10/08/2016

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Brighton Beach, Brighton Pavilion, Pavilion Gardens, Brighton Dome, Clock Tower, Derelict Pier, Theatre Royal, National Westminster Bank Building, Grand Hotel, Steine Gardens, Brighton County Court House, Brighton & Hove Herald Building, The Chapel Royal, Royal Insurance Company Building, Pavilion Buildings, Max Miller Statue, South Africa War Memorial, Norfolk Hotel, i360 Tower etc

Brighton 1

Brighton is a city that is full of famous landmarks that people who haven’t even been will be able to recite. One of these is Brighton Pier, the 8th longest pier in the country, at 1,719 ft long.

It is officially titled the “Brighton Marine Palace & Pier”, and¬†opened to the public in 1899. Despite being the more famous of Brighton’s piers, it was actually the third and final to be built.

It replaced the old “Royal Suspension Chain Pier” of 1823 which lay to the East, and was destroyed by storms in 1896. The wooden piles which supported it are still visible at low tide on the beach. The other Pier was the “West Pier” but more on that in a moment.

Brighton 3

A few years after the Pier opened, a large Concert Hall was built at the seaward end, and eventually became a Theatre. Unfortunately a storm in 1973 ploughed a barge into the supports beneath the Theatre, and it was eventually demolished.

It would be replaced by an arcade in the 1980’s, which still operates today.

Looking out across the Beach to the West of Brighton Pier you will see the “West Pier” which I mentioned earlier.

Historically it was the second pier to be built, in 1866. It contained a Concert Hall at the seaward end, like the Palace Pier would later build. Sadly the Pier closed due to lack of funds in 1975, and it slowly became derelict. Its final fate was sealed in 2003 when the Pier caught fire, leaving just the burnt out shell of the Concert Hall alone amongst the waves.

There have been many suggestions on ways to renovate the Pier, with the most promising being the construction of the “British Airways i360 Observation Tower” which will be able to rise up and down. It will sit on the promenade directly opposite the old Pier, and it is hoped that should it be a success, the Pier will be rebuilt and they can form a joint attraction. The Tower is due to open in Summer 2016.

You also get a great view back at the promenade, with the Brighton Wheel another new landmark. If you look to the left towards the old West Pier, you can see a large tower rising up into the clouds on the promenade. This is the aforementioned i360 observation tower.

Even though the weather wasn’t brilliant, the water still manages to look quite an attractive aquamarine colour.

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Just across from the Palace Pier is the Brighton Sea Life Centre, a famous landmark which opened back in 1872, to designs by Eugenius Birch (1818 Р1884, English Architect). These dates are quite important, as it allows the Aquarium to claim the title of the Oldest Aquarium in the World that is still in Operation.

The main body of the Aquarium has changed little since the 1870’s, however the exterior facade was redesigned by David Edwards in the 1920’s, giving it a classic feel.

It remains one of Brighton’s most popular attractions, and you can find out more on their official website here.

Being from the North, Brighton evokes a strong familiarity from my trips to Blackpool, which also has multiple piers, a long promenade and its own Sea Life Centre. Brighton will even soon have its own famous tower. Indeed, Blackpool is known as the Brighton of the North, but on a smaller scale.

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Away from the Shingle, and the Waves lapping around the supports of Brighton Pier, the town centre contains hundreds of different landmarks, gardens and architecturally significant buildings.

Just round the corner from the Brighton Sea Life Centre, we entered “Steine Gardens”,¬†at the centre of which sits the “Victoria Fountain”. Designed by Amon Henry Wilds (1784 – 1857, English Architect) in 1846, the main body of the fountain is propped up by the spiralling tails of three ornately sculpted giant dolphins.

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The Northern boundary of Steine Gardens is St James’s Street, which separates it from another, smaller set of gardens, which contains the Brighton War Memorial, shown above.

Completed in 1922, it was designed by John W Simpson in memory of all the soldiers from Brighton who fell in WWI, and of course later WWII. Clad in Portland Stone from Dorset, the Monument is one of the more intricate memorials we have seen on our travels.

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Heading North along Pavilion Parade, and round to Church Street from the Memorial, we entered perhaps the most famous area of Brighton. The architecture here is incredible, and puts us in mind of a beautiful city on the Indian Sub-Continent, rather than the sunny beaches of England.

The man behind Brighton’s architectural gems was non other than the then Prince of Wales, Future King George IV (1762 – 1830), who employed an architect named John Nash (1752 – 1835) to complete his¬†grand Pavilion to act as a Royal Residence in the city. A statue of the King has stood¬†at the corner of the Pavilion Gardens since 1828, and behind him sits the Pavilion’s North Gate of 1832, topped with a distinctive Copper Dome.

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Despite the temptation to run straight round to the Pavilion itself, we decided to put off the big reveal for a little longer, as a few other buildings were also of interest.

The Pavilion Gardens are also home to the stunning “Brighton Dome”, which backs onto Church Street directly behind the North Gate. It was built in 1808 as a large Riding School with attached Stables by William Porden (1755 – 1822). The Riding School itself was housed under a large dome, which eventually became barracks for mounted cavalry. By 1867 it had been converted into a Theatre, whilst the following year the West Wing of the School became a Corn Exchange.

The section of the Dome you can see above was the Stables, built in 1808 during construction of the main Dome, and the Pavilion itself. The building has been extended numerous times, and in 1873 it was converted into an exhibition space. Today it houses a Museum, Art Gallery and Library.

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Sat opposite the old Stable Block is one historic building in particular, the stunning, two storey Former County Court Building from 1869. In 1865, the two parts of Sussex, (West & East) were made separate for the purposes of the courts, and administratively by 1888, requiring a new East Sussex County Court.

Designed in an old Gothic Style by an architect named Sorby, it was in use until 1967. A small extension exists to the rear of the building, as the Church Street entrance was mainly for the use of the Judge. Although no longer in use, the building is available to hire, and you can use the old Courtroom etc.

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This really is the heart of Brighton, and there is just landmark after landmark around the edge of the Pavilion Gardens.

Next up was a statue of Max Miller (1894 – 1963, born Thomas Henry Sargent, famous English Comedian from Brighton). A plaque can be found at 160 Marine Parade, also in Brighton, where Max lived for ten years during World War II.

The statue of Max was created by Peter Webster in 2005, and it has stood here outside the Pavilion since 2007.

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Opposite Max’s statue sits the “Theatre Royal” which was built concurrently with the Pavilion, starting in 1806 with the permission of King George IV.

The original building was completed in 1807, and a grand auditorium was added in 1866 by Charles J. Phipps (1835 – 1897) in an effort to make the Theatre more popular, and boost ticket sales. It was a hit, and became another Brighton landmark. The exterior facade of the Theatre was rebuilt in 1894, resulting in the typically Victorian red brick which adorns it.

We had by now walked pretty much full circle around the edge of the Pavilion Gardens, and it was time to explore inside…

We had finally arrived at the Brighton Pavilion, which was by far the building I was most looking forwards to seeing. Whilst the West facade is visible from the road running past the War Memorial, it was here we could get up close and personal, and get some great photo’s of the exterior detail.

As I said earlier, it was the future George IV who decided to build a new holiday residence in Brighton. He purchased a small Farmhouse which already occupied the site, facing out towards Steine Gardens.¬†Various architects then helped him realise his dream between 1787 and the early 1800’s. By now the original house was a grand Pavilion with various Dining Rooms, a Conservatory and a Library. In 1815 John Nash was then employed by the future King to complete the whole design, and it was he who brought it all together in the familiar incredible design we are all familiar with.

The adjacent Riding School was built on a plot of land George purchased during construction of the Pavilion, with building work starting in 1803, and being completed in 1808.

Both King George IV, and King William IV (1765 – 1837) made regular use of the Pavilion, however the next Monarch, Victoria (1819 – 1901), was no fan of Brighton, and instead built her own retreat, Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight. To help fund this, she sold the Pavilion to the City of Brighton.

During World War I the Pavilion became a large Military Hospital, and befitting the Pavilions Indian Architecture, it mainly catered to patients from the British Indian Army. Nearly 2,500 servicemen would be treated here, and after the War the Pavilion became a large Museum. Visitors can explore the old rooms that King George would have lived in, and discover 200 years of history.

Along with the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery in the Brighton Dome, the Pavilion Gardens contain the finest attractions in Brighton.

We exited the Pavilion Gardens through the “South Gate”, shown above. It is much newer than the other gates into the garden, having been completed in 1921.

It brings you out into a small square, home to a row of buildings on either side known as the “Pavilion Buildings”. Numbers 2 & 3 are now occupied by a British Bar Chain, however originally it was built for the¬†“Brighton & Hove Herald” as their new head offices in 1934. The Paper had begun printing in 1806, and moved into its new offices here, until it became part of the Brighton & Hove Gazette in the 1970’s.

This whole street is actually relatively new, as when King William IV was in residence at the¬†Pavilion, he had special Guest Rooms and Servants Quarters built on this site in 1831. Just 20 years later they were demolished, and the Pavilion Buildings were erected, although Numbers 2 & 3 wouldn’t join them for another 80 years.

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Coming away from the Pavilion Buildings, we turned out onto North Street, which was once the very heart of Brighton itself. During the 18th century it was the main road between Brighton and London.

Many important buildings were constructed on the street, including “The Chapel Royal”, the original version of which was completed in 1975 by Thomas Saunders for the Vicar of Brighton, Rev Thomas Hudson.

The main body of the Church was extensively remodelled in the late 19th century by Arthur Blomfield, giving the building its more modern Victorian design.

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Heading West away from the Chapel Royal we passed “Number 163, North Street” which backs directly onto the Royal, out of shot behind it.

It’s another good example of one of the large imposing buildings which lined this important thoroughfare at the turn of the 20th century. Built out of stunning Pink Granite in 1904 for a local Insurance Company, it is widely regarded as one of the finest buildings in Brighton.

The designers were a firm called Clayton & Black (Founded in 1876 in Brighton by Charles Edward Clayton, and Ernest Black). They are well known around the city, and in neighbouring Hove for their work.

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Clayton & Black were also responsible for another impressive structure, just a few doors further up the street. “Numbers 155 – 158, North Street” was completed in 1923 and was home to a new branch of the National Westminster Bank until the 1990’s. It was then sold off and converted into a bar, as another branch of the same Bank was located nearby.

Today it is a JD Wetherspoons Pub called the “Post & Telegraph”. Before the new Bank building was constructed, one of the buildings on the site was occupied by a local paper called the “Brighton Gazette, Hove Post & Sussex Telegraph”, hence the name of the pub. The paper moved elsewhere, and continued publishing until 1981.

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At the Western end of North Street, where it meets Queen Square, Dyke Road and Western Road stands the Iconic Brighton Clock Tower.

Built in 1888 from the same Pink Granite as was used in Number 163, it commemorates Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.

On the four faces of the tower sit four round portraits:

North: Queen Victoria

East: The Prince of Wales (The future Edward VII)

South: Prince Albert

West: The Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark, wife of Edward VII)

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We cut down West Street from the Clock Tower and came back out onto the promenade, and took some time to enjoy the vast shingle Beach that separates the city from the waves. Brighton Pier loomed ahead of us, the seagulls called, and the sea air was all around us.

Brighton is a great place to visit, and was certainly one of the highlights of our few days in Sussex.

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Heading West up the promenade on the way out of Brighton we passed the cities most famous Hotel, which was the scene of a tragedy on October 12th, 1984.

Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013, British Prime Minister) came to power in 1979 as head of a Conservative Government. In 1984 she held her party conference here at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. It’s a fabulous building, designed by John Whichcord Jr (1823 – 1885, English Architect) and completed in 1864.

Sadly there was another visitor to the Grand Hotel that weekend, as members of the¬†IRA (Irish Republican Army) had also arrived. They had been involved in a violent campaign to try and get the British out of Northern Ireland, with little success. Led by Patrick Magee, they planted a bomb in Room 629, and set a time delay so it would detonate when he was clear. When the blast occurred, it didn’t reach as far as the Prime Minister’s Bedroom in an adjacent room, leaving Margaret and Dennis Thatcher unharmed. It did however sadly claim five lives, and over 30 other people were injured.

The Hotel was rebuilt, and Thatcher herself attended the reopening ceremony in 1986.

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A few blocks further West along the promenade from the Grand Hotel stands the “South African War Memorial”. It refers to the Second Boer War, fought by the British in what would become South Africa between 1899 – 1902.

Dedicated sometime around 1905, the Memorial pays tribute to the soldiers of the “Royal Sussex Regiment” who were killed fighting in the war. Serenading their fight is a tall, bronze figure of a Regimental Trumpeter, atop the Memorial.

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Our final stop in Brighton was further again up the Promenade, where we stopped outside the Mercure Hotel, which opened as the Norfolk Hotel in 1866. Designed by Horatio Nelson Goulty (1832 – 1869, English Architect) it is another in a long line of impressive Victorian hotels which line Brighton’s sea front, showcasing the grandeur of the era.

Brighton is an incredible City, and has more landmarks than we could possibly hope to see in one trip. There are almost three parts of the city, the first being the Promenade, with the Pier’s, the Beach and the exotic Hotels. The second is the Pavilion Gardens and the many stunning buildings that inhabit, and border it. The third is then the shopping streets, the commercial heart of a city which is one of the major centres in the South East of England.

It has fantastic transport links, with direct trains all the way into Central London, as well as West towards Southampton, with branch lines off to Portsmouth, Littlehampton, and Bognor Regis. The other routes by rail into the city go as far as Worcester and Bedford towards the Midlands.

Gatwick Airport, the second largest airport in the UK, is only half an hour away by road, and also accessible via direct trains. The A27 runs past the City, towards the M27/Southampton in the West, and Eastbourne in the East. When you reach Gatwick at Crawley you can also join the M23 for access to the London Orbital Motorway, the M25, with the other major routes around the country radiating off from there.

The rest of our holiday would mainly focus on Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Kent, however we had seen some beautiful places across East & West Sussex, and Brighton was no exception.