An imitation Arthurian Round Table hangs in the Great Hall. The table was originally constructed in the 13th century, and repainted in its present form for Henry VIII; around the edge of the table are the names of King Arthur's knights.
Behind the Great Hall is a re-creation of a medieval garden called Queen Eleanor's Garden. We walked through the small but pretty garden and out the back gate where we saw signs for the Military Museums. Neither of us knew these existed, so we went to have a look.
Winchester, once capital of ancient England, has had strong links to the military since Roman times. Peninsula Barracks houses museums of five of the British Army’s famous regiments.
The Westgate Museum is housed in one of the remaining medieval fortified gateways, in the care of the Winchester Museums Service, with portcullis slot and early gunports. A debtors’ prison for 150 years, with walls covered in prisoners’ graffiti. Children’s quizzes, childsize replica armour, hands-on activities and brass rubbing.
The five museums are:
- HorsePower, the Regimental Museum of The King’s Royal Hussars
- The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum
- The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum
- The Gurkha Museum
- The Guardroom Museum, the Museum of the Adjutant-General’s Corps
Each museum is separately run but there is an opportunity to visit all of them and enjoy an interesting ‘day out’.
Additionally, there is a WMM Visitor’s Centre. There is also an information display in the same building as The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum about The Rifles, the largest infantry regiment in the British Army, formed in 2007 from a merger of The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, The Light Infantry and The Royal Green Jackets.
Three of the museums – Horsepower, The Royal Green Jackets and Gurkha museums – charge for admission. The other two are free entry. Having said that, we managed free entry into them all because of 'research' purposes and we wanted to see if it would be worth while to bring a group here and because we're good at blagging it!
We left Winchester at 3pm and had a very pretty scenic drive back to our hotel on one of my 'B' road specials through the Hampshire countryside, which looked gorgeous in the sunshine.
We had a pleasant though uneventful evening, until towards the end of dinner when a couple came into the restaurant. The 'lady' (I use the term loosely!) was so drunk that she had to be held upright by her partner and placed in her chair at the table. The hotel staff were embarrassed by the state of them and everyone was commenting how disgraceful it was to behave in such a manner in a 'classy' 4* hotel! We retired to the lounge and so luckily, didn't have to suffer their bad manners and dirty mouths for too long. There was a couple at a table across from us with their back to me who were moving together for a photo. I could see the camera lens between them and so I was obviously in the shot although in the background. I couldn't help myself. They got photo bombed! I'd stuck my tongue out for their picture! It wasn't long after that I disappeared to my room where I was planning to get back my hour I had lost this morning!
I had got the time right this morning so I did have a leisurely start. We left the hotel at 10am for our visit to the Jane Austin House Museum in the little village of Chawton, not far from Alton.
In 1809, Mrs Austen, Cassandra, Jane and Martha Lloyd moved to Chawton. Here they lived in the former bailiff's house on the Chawton estate. The estate had been left to Jane's brother Edward, who had been adopted by a wealthy childless cousin of their father's.
It was Jane's last home, where she lived with her mother and sister Cassandra from 1809 until 1817. The rooms on show include the drawing room, and the parlour where Jane wrote on the small round table. Upstairs is her bedroom with the patchwork quilt she made with her mother and sister.There are four other rooms, one of which has memorabilia of her two brothers, Frank and Charles, who both had distinguished careers in the Royal Navy. Another room houses a period costume display.
The Jane Austin House Museum is housed in the charming red-brick 17th century house, listed in the National Archives as a building of historic interest Chawton House Library.
We spent an hour and a half here, moved on to a local garden centre to grab some lunch, then headed for Alton Railway Station where we were booked for a return journey on the Mid Hants Railway 'Watercress Line'.
The No. 925 Cheltenham, retired in 1962, was famous for being the most powerful steam train of its type to run in the UK and carried around 700 people a journey as a passenger train.
After an extensive 18-month restoration project, the magnificent engine was the first Schools Class train to steam in half a century at Eastleigh Rail Works.
The 67-ton monster that has capacity for six tonnes of coal, came home to Eastleigh, near Southampton after being built their in 1934.
With its malachite green bodywork buffed and pistons polished, Britain's rarest steam train has been chugging back on to the rails since 2012 after 50 years.
Our round trip lasted 1 3/4hrs. We got back on the coach and had another B road special, scenic drive home through the countryside.
This morning we had a slightly earlier start, leaving the hotel at 9:30am. Our first visit today was to the Basingstoke Canal where we were booked for a 2hr canal boat trip, which in such beautiful weather will be lovely.
From Basingstoke, the canal passes through or near Greywell, North Warnborough, Odiham, Dogmersfield, Fleet, Farnborough Airfield,Aldershot, Mytchett, Brookwood, Knaphill and Woking. Its eastern end is at Byfleet, where it connects to the Wey Navigation. This, in turn, leads to the River Thames at Weybridge. Its intended purpose was to allow boats to travel from the docks in East London to Basingstoke.
It was never a commercial success and, from 1950, lack of maintenance allowed the canal to become increasingly derelict. After many years of neglect, restoration commenced in 1977 and on 10 May 1991 the canal was reopened as a fully navigable waterway from the River Wey to almost as far as the Greywell Tunnel. However its usage is currently still limited by low water supply and conservation issues.
Today, we were joining the boat at Odiham and we were going on a round trip to Odiham Castle.
Odiham Castle (also known locally as King John's Castle) is a ruined castle situated near Odiham. It is one of only three fortresses built by King John during his reign. In 1215 it was from either Odiham or Windsor that King John rode out to Runnymede where he met the barons and signed the Magna Carta. A year later Odiham Castle was captured by the French after a two-week siege during the First Barons' War in 1216. The garrison of just 13 surrendered on July 9 1216. At some point over the next 9 years the keep was completely rebuilt possibly due to the damage done to it by the French forces. At the same time the mound on which the keep sat was raised by 5 meters and an inner moat surrounding the keep was added to the defenses.
Odiham Castle might have become one of the most important strongholds in England. In 1238 Simon de Montfort married King John's daughter Eleanor just two years after she had been granted Odiham by her brother,King Henry III. In the following year a kitchen was added on a bridge over the inner moat and a new hall was added on the outside of the keep. During the same period a second building was constructed over the moat this time on the south eastern side of the keep to provide extra living space.
In 1263 De Monfort rebelled against Henry and died at the Battle of Evesham in 1265 and Eleanor was exiled. Odiham Castle was again retained by the Crown.
During the fourteenth century Odiham hosted Parliament. Scottish King David II, after his capture at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346, was also imprisoned here for 11 years. However he was held under light guard and was allowed to keep a household. Using the castle as a prison seems to have been common practice during the 13th and 14th centuries with the nearby Manor of Greywell required to provide guards one night in three.
By the 15th century Odiham was used only as a hunting-lodge. In 1605 the former royal castle was described as a ruin.
In 1792 the Basingstoke Canal was built through the southern corner of the bailey.
Our next visit today was to Milestones Museum. It is made up of a network of streets that have been recreated on those found in Victorian and 1930s Hampshire.
There is also a large collection of road vehicles, notably by Thornycroft and Taskers of Andover.
Personally, I think the best of this museum was outside where, today, there was a vintage MG Y-Type Salloons rally. I didn't find the museum very interesting at all but all the locals we'd spoken to had said how good it is. I spent the time sat on the grass in the sun, topping up the tan!
We arrived back at the hotel at 3:30pm where I spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool,
I had all good intentions for this morning. I was going to go for a swim before breakfast but decided on having the extra half an hour in bed instead. It was another beautiful day and was forecast to be hotter here than Ibiza.
I loaded the luggage and we left at 10am. We had a pretty drive to Windsor where we were staying for several hours. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family. It is immediately south of the River Thames, which forms its boundary with Eton. The village of Old Windsor, just over 2 miles (3 km) to the south, predates what is now called Windsor by around 300 years; in the past Windsor was formally referred to as New Windsor to distinguish the two. The early history of the site is unknown, although the site may have been settled many years before the medieval castle was built as there is ample evidence of Anglo Saxon settlement in the area.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and the Official Residence of Her Majesty The Queen. Its rich history spans almost 1000 years.
The Castle covers an area of about 5 hectares (13 acres) and contains
• Magnificent State Apartments furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection
• St George's Chapel (one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England and the burial place of 10 monarchs)
• Queen Mary's Dolls House, a masterpiece in miniature
• The Drawings Gallery featuring an exhibition (see below for current display).
During the winter months an additional five rooms, known collectively as the Semi-State Rooms, are included in the visitor route.
The Queen was in residence today with the Royal Standard flying.
Many of our passengers went on a short 40min boat trip on the Thames, some went on the city sightseeing bus and others had a leisurely lunch and a walk around Eton and along the river.
We left Windsor at 2:30pm, homeward bound. Everyone has said how much they have enjoyed the whole trip. It's been a very relaxing few days. Another good job done! 😊