Saturday, 28 August 2010

Scenic Saturday - Hampshire

From the army bases at Aldershot in the north to the great naval base at Portsmouth, from the town of Farnborough (also in the north of the country), famous for its international air show, to the docks of Southampton from where the trans-Atlantic liners sail. This is Hampshire.

However, before we look any closer, here are a couple of nuggets of useless information. The county's original name was Southamptonshire but that was contracted somewhere along the line. And the abbreviated name for the county is Hants, not as one might expect, Hamps. Then, as this is the first county we have entered with a shire in its name, let's get the pronunciation right. ‘Shire' is a word which is approximately synonymous with ‘county' and is pronounced as it is spelt, to rhyme with ‘hire'. But when a county name ends with ‘shire' it is pronounced ‘shear', to rhyme with ‘hear'.

And so on to Hampshire. The county town is Winchester, still called the county town even though it is a city. There was a time, back in the days of Alfred the Great, when Winchester was the capital of England, or what passed in those days for England. Winchester College is believed to be the oldest continuously running school in the country, founded in 1382.

Perhaps the chief tourist attraction at Portsmouth is Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, HMS Victory. But an even older ship on view is the Mary Rose, built 500 years ago and discovered some 40 years ago sunk in the Solent, the stretch of water separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland.

In the south-west corner of the county is the New Forest, a large tract of heathland famous for its wild ponies and a popular area for holidays, particularly for campers and caravanners. The New Forest was the site of the death in 1100 of King William II, William Rufus, while on a hunting expedition. The Rufus Stone marks the spot where he was allegedly killed.

The Isle of Wight lies to the south of Portsmouth, looking on the map for all the world as if it has just drifted away from the mainland. It was a favourite spot of Queen Victoria, who spent a lot of time at Osborne House. The town of Cowes, situated at the northern point, is known to yachtsmen across the world for its regatta known as Cowes Week. Although small in size, the island has some magnificent scenery. My brother and I spent some time at school on the island so I have selected a picture from there rather than the mainland. This is the village of Godshill.

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