A Tour de Force


A last minute invitation to join a party of US Navy retirees touring English naval bases and sea ports was far too good to miss.  Brian Lavery’s Maritime Tours in late summer had two places suddenly available as two of the American enthusiasts dropped out owing to ill health – lucky us!!

Judy and I have been part of similar Friends of the NMM visits to Holland, Germany and the USA through the years, including a tour of Scottish maritime attractions at which Brian had been the maritime expert – a renowned author of numerous historical books and a professor emeritus of the NMM.

The tour explored the naval bases at Portsmouth and Chatham, also the historic ports of Southampton and Bristol, travelling by mini bus and staying at landmark hotels with evening briefings and lectures.  It was aimed at the American nautical enthusiasts who were astonished at the depth of excellence of Brian’s presentations.  I will certainly treasure his illustrated notes for future reference.

It was indeed worth celebrating the recent arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth alongside HMS Victory and, guided by one of the original divers, the ‘Mary Rose’; also the 1860 Thames-built ‘Warrior’ at close by at Canning Town.  Dining in the newly-opened Spitbank Fort Restaurant perched on Portsmouth Point was enhanced by the passage of outward bound shipping.  The next evening we sailed past on board the Thames sailing barge ‘Alice’ to view the Solent and the buoy marking where ‘Mary Rose’ lay for so many years before resettling alongside HMS Nelson in a brilliant, purpose-built gallery, which we had visited earlier that very day.

A ‘Titanic’ visit to Southampton, then on to Bristol where we stayed in a hotel overlooking Brunel’s fantastic bridge spanning the landmark gorge.  A tour of ‘SS Great Britain’, and then a ferry up and down the Floating Harbour up to the very end and River Avon locks.  On board a glass covered launch (in the Dutch Amsterdam style), then dining overlooking the Avon Gorge.  The journey back to the Greenwich base took in Eton Riverside and a devious route through South London, then a meeting with the Director of the NMM received as well.  The last day of the tour took us into the Chatham Dockyard with its upgraded galleries and ships to view.  Locals from SE London should certainly revisit their excellent collection of ship models in their new home.  Spacious car parking and a new ‘Hearts of Oak’ exhibition uses the latest high-tech presentation skills to create a family favourite – it’s a great place for children!

Upon return to Greenwich we had a Deck party here in Crane Street prior to dining in great style at the Trafalgar Tavern with oarsome views over the tideway.  A wonderful holiday helped by use of a wheel chair propelled by volunteers press-ganged to get Kent around the extensive points of interest. The pieces of literature prepared by the Laverys are a triumph!

(By the way, I took my sketch book to inspire projects for the oncoming winter.)




(By the way, I took my sketch book to inspire projects for the oncoming winter.)

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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