Having spent so long listing Easter events and activities on the main Mumsnet Local Portsmouth and Hampshire sites, I thought it was about time I ventured out into the fresh air and actually went to see what was happening out and about. I decided to take the children to Fort Nelson just outside of Fareham to see what Defend the Fort! involved.
On arrival you have a choice of two carparks, one to your right which is across a busy road and further on, just past the Fort there is another on your left. If you need disabled access or you have a pushchair you should definitely try and park in the carpark to the left as parking in the right one means crossing a busy road with children in hand and pushing a pushchair over pot holes and avoiding large puddles, followed by some awkward steps to get up to the path to the Fort.
Entrance to the Fort is through the visitor centre which has a help desk, Café 1871, and a souvenir shop. Here, you will also find lockers, toilets and baby changing facilities, and you can find more half way through the galleries.
The day we visited the Fort, there were special activities on for the Easter Holiday which involved participating in a practice gun drill for £3 per child. We watched as the new recruits were put through their paces on the parade ground by a very enthusiastic drill sergeant. Everyone was given a uniform to wear and a wooden rifle to practise with. Having been taught to salute, stand to attention and fire (by shouting Bang! very loudly) the recruits were then led to a cannon and all had a chance to practice loading. All looked to be having a great time, especially the drill sergeant.
We explored the ramparts as well as we could with the pushchair and an unco-operative 1 year old. There is a grassy ramp making these accessible and negotiated our way around the many families taking the opportunity to have a picnic overlooking the parade ground.
The Parade Ground and galleries contain a large collection of guns and artillery ranging from a section of barrel from the Supergun commissioned by Saddam Hussein to highly decorative Burmese Bronze cannons. The museum is highly interactive and includes the Voice of the Guns gallery and leads through to horrible history style exhibits where you can dress up as Victorian figures, practice semaphore, or learn how to pack up your kit or even find out what gangrene smells like. We finished up our tour by exploring some underground tunnels and looking at some preserved graffiti.
We had lunch in Café 1871 which is lovely and clean, had plenty of highchairs and the sandwiches are freshly made to order. Sandwiches and drinks for two plus a cake came to around £12 which was pretty good really. The souvenir shop had plenty of little pocket money friendly bits and so we now have some more brightly coloured plastic to adorn the house.
All in all, this is a child’s dream of a place to visit with plenty to see and do, lots to explore and the space to just run around with the added bonus of it being entirely free.