If I’m honest, we’d never have chosen Southsea as a holiday destination. Although it’s on the coast, it’s the heavily populated south coast of England and there isn’t even any surf; which is just plain frustrating. There’s no climbing nearby either. But last week wasn’t supposed to be a holiday, it was all about spending time with Granma. So Southsea bound we were.
Paradoxically, having this clear, single purpose for the week was to help convert it into a truly great family holiday. Instead of doing our usual-style UK trip, haring around all over the country trying to visit as many friends and family as possible whilst also fitting in some work and probably some climbing too, this time we stayed put and enjoyed where we were. Of course the glorious weather didn’t hurt either!
It was weather to be outdoors in and outdoors we were – all day every day, apart from the couple of hours in the middle when Jack would have his much-needed siesta. And I discovered that your classic English seaside town has a lot to offer in the way of family entertainment and outdoors play. (So I guess I’m only a few centuries behind the curve on that!)
Most days we walked through the town greens, past the castle and along the front until we reached Canoe Park. We could have spent the entire week in this one place without getting bored. Firstly, it had the Splashpad for water play (see photo for an indication of just how much Jack enjoyed it here.)
Behind the splashpad is the zipline. Another photo to tell you more than my mere words ever could.
From there you walk past (or let’s be realistic you dawdle a goodly while in) the playpark to reach the eponymous lake. We took a large, green, duck-shaped pedalo out for a paddle. While we pedaled, Jack steered; with just a little parental assistance from time to time to avoid imminent danger of crashing.
The model boat enthusiasts showed up while we were on the water and launched their radio-controlled masterpieces to zip around us. From naval tank carriers, to speedboats to old-fashioned pirate ships, they had authentic, seaworthy recreations of them all. Fascinating (the boats and their eccentric owners both!)
To my surprise, the sides of the lake were also lined with lots of families fishing very successfully for crabs. It turns out the lake is linked via an underwater channel to the sea and is positively teeming with crabs. We duly bought ourselves a bucket, net, line and bait in the park cafe and set to catching (and later releasing) some crabs. Great fun!
And when that got a little tired, Jack decided to convert the net to use on the pigeons! (Unsuccessfully, I might add.)
Just 50 metres from Canoe Park is the Portsmouth Natural History Museum, with some interesting wildlife exhibits and, most excitingly, a butterfly room. We were a little early in the season and only nine of them had actually hatched so it wasn’t the experience that Richie remembered from previous visits but we did get to see all the chrysallises lined up and waiting. I guess we’ll just have to make sure we return another time when the air will be filled with flapping butterfly wings.
In the late afternoons, post-siesta, we mostly visited Hot Walls – a rocky beach 5 minutes from Granma’s – perfect for throwing rocks into the water and watching ships sailing into the nearby port. Add to that an excellent Italian ice cream van stationed there and you have another slice of perfection.
And to top it all off, mum and dad even got a Saturday night out on their own, at Jamie’s Italian on Gunwharf. What more could you ask for?