The Poulets’ departure from England coincided with my birthday. So we found ourselves in the city of my birth when it was time to deliver them to their ferry. During their short stay, we had tried to give them a variety of outings and visual treats at a time of the year when many attractions are closed and gardens are still in winter mode.
We did visit Corfe and scrambled up to the castle where we had good, if slightly misty, views of surrounding Dorset countryside. It was a bitingly cold day so we did not linger long, and as we were leaving we heard a sound reminiscent of an old creaking door. Looking up we saw ravens sitting on their large twiggy nest in one of the highest recesses in the battlements.
We were not overly impressed with lunch at the Bankes Arms in the village. We took a circuitous route back to Winterborne K. At some point I shut my eyes for a while and when I woke we were driving into the car park at Kingston Lacy. Why had we come here? Francois had left his credit card on the first day, apparently, and although it crossed my mind that I was sure he had used it subsequently, I let that thought go. Only on my birthday morning did it become clear that subterfuge had been employed in order that Anne and Francois could return to the National Trust shop there to buy me the beautiful pottery bowl with the peacock feather pattern.
It was a happy birthday morning with cards, thoughtful gifts and a bouquet which was delivered as we were leaving the house to drive to Portsmouth.
Nick took us through the New Forest where we stopped to walk a while, enjoying the forest ponies and sightings of roe deer which Francois successfully photographed. Then on to Portsmouth where we parked at Gunwharf Quays with easy access to the Spinnaker Tower.
The tower soars 170 metres above Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent; it is taller than the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Big Ben and has already established itself as a national icon for Britain. Situated on the waterfront at Gunwharf Quays, it offers amazing 350º panoramic views of Portsmouth Harbour, the South coast and the Isle of Wight, with views stretching out for up to 23 miles.
View Deck 1 boasts Europe’s largest glass floor, where visitors of all ages can dare to ‘walk on air’! This was a very weird experience but I managed it and took a photo too. View Deck 2 has self-contained multimedia ‘Time Telescope’ stations showing the history of the harbour and View Deck 3 – The Crow’s Nest – is open to the elements, enabling visitors to feel the wind in their hair.
We took all of that in and lingered in the cafe over a coffee. Anne and Francois had hoped to see over the Victory but you needed to buy a ticket for all that the Old Dockyard has to offer, and with barely an hour to spare the expense was not worthwhile. We walked round the old ship and it was then time to take our visitors to the terminal.
Returning home we made a much needed cuppa, cut ourselves slabs of bread and toppings. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Early evening found us in the Rajpoot in Dorchester, enjoying their delicious Indian food, and tricks performed by a very talented young magician who we might book for the family party in May.