Rediscover the south coast
Tue 16 February 2010, 9:31 am
As the euro becomes more costly and plane travel loses its appeal, British travellers are rediscovering the holiday locations on their doorsteps – and the big surprise is how much some of these locations have changed.
Historically, Portsmouth and Medway on the coast have quite a lot in common. They both grew up around the docks which equipped the Royal Navy, but Britannia no longer rules the waves and now these huge quays have been transformed.
Grand old naval buildings have been converted into museums and galleries, and these tourist attractions have attracted all sorts of other leisure outlets. Wharves where warships used to dock have become leafy promenades.
In Portsmouth and Medway, the navy was always a bit of a mixed blessing. It provided lots of employment, but it shut off the city from the water. Now these docks are open to the public, local businesses are beginning to realise the vast potential of the waterfront. Bars and cafes are springing up in once inaccessible sites. The riviera is no longer out of bounds.
Another thing that Portsmouth and Medway have in common is Charles Dickens, and anyone with any interest in his work will relish a visit to the streets that shaped his writing.
Dickens was born in Portsmouth, and his birthplace is still standing – a charming little house, decorated in the style of his day. He moved to Medway as a boy, and it was here that he was happiest, roaming around the towns of Chatham, Gillingham and Rochester, gathering inspiration for his novels.
The reason Dickens lived on the Solent and then Medway was because his father worked for the Royal Navy in both of these historic dockyards, and in spite of all the changes, he'd still find his way around. It's this close connection with the past that makes Portsmouth and Medway so appealing, not just for a family outing, but for a romantic getaway for couples.
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