Portsmouth University student Eleanor O’Donnell believes Gosport gets a rough deal from locals and visitors alike. Here, she makes a passionate argument for giving our sister town across the water a second look.
Now that the summer is upon us, the majority of people are starting to come out of hibernation, rubbing their eyes and stretching, as they start to plan this summer’s activities. When planning fun summer days out lots of people – locals and tourists alike – write Gosport off as a place that is just not worth their time, but the town desperately needs a second chance with its disbelievers.
When contacted, the Gosport Tourist Board did wish to comment on the awful reputation of the town but a lot of locals blame the council and claim that they do not do anything to help the situation. Many people believe that Gosport is boring, with nothing to do, and is an eyesore full of degenerate people when this is not actually the case. As one local writer for iLiveHere UK put it:
Many residents blame a group of Tories who sit in an office and wear blue cable knit jumpers and sometimes close down museums, or as they prefer to be known – the local council.
Despite the negative press, there’s a lot more to do in Gosport than anyone realises – family activities, water sports, and an enormous amount of heritage attractions, and that’s just the beginning. Here’s just a few suggestions to help you add Gosport to this summer’s calendar.
The Gosport and Haslar Marinas and Hill Head Kiters Beach offer a wide range of beach and sea-related activities including jet-skiing, sailing tuition, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, boat/yacht hire, and fishing trips.
Gosport marina has berths for 524 boats and excellent facilities in the form of showers and toilets, as well as the Boathouse Cafe – a waterside restaurant that offers stunning views of Portsmouth harbour and the historic dockyard that you can set your eyes on whilst enjoying a sunset-lit dinner. For their dedicated berth-holders, operators Premier Marinas have just spent £30,000 on the refurbishment of the facilities and now also offer wi-fi in various hot spots around the marina as well as a launderette.
Haslar marina has berths for 685 boats. There is a free car park for day-trippers and electricity to all berths for those who are coming from ashore. The marina is dog-friendly, offers free WiFi, and has two on-site restaurants, Hardy’s and Trinity’s At The Lightship, located onboard Mary Mouse, a big green lightship.
There’s so much to do for the outdoors type or water-sports fan, from newbies to old hands. Not only can you go jet-skiing and kayaking but there are opportunities to learn how to sail, hire a boat or a yacht, or go on a fishing trip. Train on your own yacht, and take part in heavy weather training or race training if standard sailing isn’t enough to keep you occupied. Depending on your budget and your sailing skills, Solent Yacht Charter provides two different types of yacht hire – Skippered Charter Motor and Sail and Bareboat Sailing. Skippered Charter Motor includes a Skipper and crew who sail the boat, provide bedding and cook for you.
Potentially the most exciting choice is a fishing trip with Ray McLaren Fishing Charter who picks you up from Gosport Ferry Terminal and takes you out to sea for the day. Even though wreck and reef is Ray’s specialty, the trip caters for any type of fishing as long as the team are given some notice. As well as a day fishing with a highly experienced skipper and his crew, a complimentary cup of tea and bacon or sausage sandwich is also included.
For those who prefer to stay inland on dry feet, there is even more to fill the day with than those at sea.
In terms of family fun, there’s something for everyone: TeamSport Go Karting Gosport, and Gosport BMX track for the adrenaline-junkies of the family; Planet Ice rink, the leisure park, and Monkey Bizness soft play for the younger ones; and Alver Valley wildlife haven and Wild Grounds nature reserve for a well-rounded day out that each family member will enjoy.
Gosport also offers some very interesting heritage attractions, and not just museums.
There’s the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower that are linked by the Waterfront Trail, running for two miles and taking in the Falkland Gardens and the ‘Timespace’ sundial. The Hovercraft Museum, Museum of Diving, Gosport Discovery Centre, and its Museum on the Mezzanine all also offer a history lesson for all. If standard museums are not interesting enough, there’s always SEARCH to visit – the town’s very hands-on centre for history and natural sciences.
However, if museums bring back unpleasant memories of school days, get your fix of living history in Gosport too.
The Holy Trinity Church was built in 1696 if you want to see a slice of the past today, or visit the 1642 Little Woodham Living History Village and immerse yourself in recreations of the past. Little Woodham offers visitors the chance to walk around a historic village and watch ‘villagers’ dressed in periodic costumes.
Don’t let the bland red walls of the outside of the Holy Trinity Church put you off a trip there – walk inside and the dynamic completely changes. The magnificent white walls and barrel-arch ceiling are breathtaking. Dragging your eyes to the corner like a magnet is Handel’s famous organ, second only to the stunning fourteen columns that cover the oak trees supporting the Church’s roof. Take a visit to not only see the magnificent architecture for yourself but to learn about the loyal following of the church – since it was built in 1696 there have only been sixteen priests.
Walking through Little Woodham is like walking back in time – you can listen to the villagers as they gossip about the year’s events by the side of the road, taste the food of the 17th Century in the Ale House, watch the hands of the weavers and spinners transform fleece to beautiful cloth, or feast your eyes on the only working replica 17th Century kiln in the world as you learn how pots were made and designed in that era.
Gosport has a bad reputation for traffic in the summer that might put you off trying some of these great days out. Due to Portsmouth and the surrounding area being a popular place for tourists, there is a huge amount of traffic moving through the area which often turns people away from Gosport. FirstGroup is aiming to change this by running the Eclipse bus.
The Eclipse network links key towns and destinations in south east Hampshire, providing a viable alternative to car travel.
Travel is quicker as bus services use traffic-free busways for part of the journey, avoiding the most congested part of the A32 to improve journey time and reliability.
The Eclipse bus runs between Fareham Town Centre and Gosport Town Centre so is perfect as Fareham is easier to get to – all you’ll have to do is park up in Fareham and jump on the next bus through town. For anyone further away who would rather not drive, the train into Portsmouth Harbour will drop passengers onto a station that is linked with the ferry terminal that will take them straight to Gosport on a short ferry ride.
If you need a longer stress-free break by the sea, let Gosport be your next holiday.
With a cheap, wide range of accommodation, the town can provide lodgings for anyone. With hotels starting from £69 per night, B&Bs starting from £49 per night, self-catered lodgings starting from £350 per week and camping starting from £25 per week, it’s a no-brainer.
Gosport is a place that everyone needs to see and explore, so this summer, make it your priority to give the town a second look, whether you’re a first time visitor, or a local resident.