My mum’s birthday included a party on Spitbank Fort. This is one of Palmerston’s follies built out in the Solent not far from Portsmouth. The place has been restored in a great way and retains a lot of the character you would expect of a Victorian fort out on the water but with modern comforts as befits a hotel. I will spare you the family photos but here are a few shots to show you just what it is like out there. The service is great so, if you feel like spoiling yourself, check them out.
As our day exploring was running down, we made one diversion from the center of Hampton to Fort Monroe. Up until last year, this was apparently still an active military facility. Now it has been vacated by the military and is open to access. The feeling of the place is still very clearly that of a military base, even if the large number of troops are no longer there. It is also plainly very old.
At the center of the Fort is an old Victorian style structure with massive stone walls and a moat. There are a few entrances you can drive through and inside is the heart of the fort. It appears that the housing has been turned over to people now so, while it is quiet, it isn’t deserted. I have no idea who the housing now belongs to but it is certainly interesting to drive around.
Outside the main fortifications are plenty of other buildings. These include gun emplacements as well as some very nice high end housing. As you drive around you come to some nice houses that you assume must be for the senior officers. Only as you come around the next corner and see even bigger houses do you realize that the really senior officers must have been there. Indeed, as we walked along looking at the buildings, one of the residents came out and said hello. She told us that this was Generals’ Row while the other houses were Colonels’ Row. I am guessing the enlisted guys did not see much of this area.
The access to the shore means that plenty of people come to the piers to fish or to walk along the beach. I have no idea what the future holds for this place but it certainly is worth a diversion if you are in the area to see something that is a bit frozen in time – at least for now.
Hayman and I had a day free ahead of ISAP so decided to go exploring the areas around Norfolk. There is not a shortage of aerospace related museums in the area. With the military presence and NASA, plenty has happened nearby and so having enough to fill museum collections does not seem to be a problem!
One place we decided to check out was the museum of Army Transportation at Fort Eustis. The museum is located just inside the main gate and they are happy to have the visitors and make you feel most welcome. The museum obviously has more than just aircraft so you can see watercraft as well including some very large amphibious vehicles. There is also a rail section although that was being renovated while we were there and was closed off.
Since it is Army material in the museum, there are a lot of helicopters in the collection. Some fixed wing aircraft are also included but the really unusual things are the concept vehicles that never got off the ground – so to speak! Hover cars and research aircraft into vertical flight are included in the collection and make for an interesting sight.
One downside to the location is that the aircraft are housed under cover but with open sides. This is fine for the visitor unless they like to take photographs. If that is what you want, you will be fighting some harsh external lighting with subdues under cover lighting. However, them’s the breaks! The aircraft are in various states of restoration. Some have been recently repainted while others are awaiting the funds to have their turn. It is great to know that someone is taking care to make sure they are preserved.