Today was a rare day when the girl’s Dad has an inspired thought for a day out. In fact, it’s more than rare, it’s pretty close to a miracle. I had been thinking about a trip to see The Poppy Wave at Fort Nelson since I heard about it, just never got around to planning it. We saw the poppy display at the Tower of London and loved it, so this seemed like such a lovely idea for somewhere outside of London.
The journey for us is not far, and fairly simple, as it is just off the M27 between Portsmouth and Southampton. We chose a sunny, but not too hot day and for once, it didn’t rain on us. They were obviously expecting extra visitors to the Fort because of the poppies, as they had laid on quite a few members of staff to help with parking. When we arrived about 11.00 ish, there were plenty of spaces; even though it was grassy, the ground was not muddy or water logged, despite some pretty heavy rain the night before.
Fort Nelson is free entry, with a small parking charge of £3.00, which is amazing value for money, despite that though, some people were parked on grass verges to get a completely free day. We were given a ticket on arrival for parking, which we had to take to the reception desk, this was a result, as it meant not having to give up valuable change, as we could pay by card.
Simple journey, kids not too moany on arrival, easy parking and good weather; we were all set to see poppies. This is going to be my only moan; the queues. We queued for a bag search for at least 15 minutes, but the girls were easily entertained with climbing the fence and running around, making friends, so the queuing was not an issue for them. After the bag search, we then queued again for another 5 minutes or so, to pay for the parking. Apparently, without the parking ticket, we could have skipped that bit and gone straight into the museum at that point. But, we had to pay so we paid and managed to steer the children past the gift shop, to then join another queue, which led into another queue to get up to see the poppies. All in all, I would say that we queued for around 40 minutes. But it was all very British and polite; to be completely honest the queuing system paid off, as when we finally made it to the wave, there were not crowds of people blocking the view and there were plenty of photo opportunities, without including random strangers in the back ground.
The poppy wave is open to view until June 2018; it is really cleverly done and I believe, worth a trip to see, as it is something so different. It is not huge, it only takes 5 or 10 minutes to walk around, pose for photos and generally take in, but after that there are plenty of other things to see. We were given a free activity sheet for the children, but it was a little advanced for a 6 and 8-year-old, they entered into it though, as kids love a piece of paper and a pencil.
Now, I wouldn’t say that we are interested in military or naval history, but we found that we enjoyed the time at the rest of the museum far more than we expected, in fact, we had even planned to move on to Porchester Castle afterwards but ended up running out of time. There are walls to walk around, tunnels to explore, indoor machinery, tanks and guns to look around, as well as an indoor museum with lots of history to see. There were guns that had been turned into a sort of computer game, which you had to pay £1 for, but proved very popular. There were things to touch and play with; the girls tried their hands at semaphore.
There is a café in a marquee, so I am not completely sure that is always there or just there for the poppy display, but it was spacious and clean. The food was the usual high price, but good quality. The obligatory sandwich box for the kids and even a gluten free sandwich option for us difficult to feed people. Outside was an ice cream stand that looked like it was permanent, but we managed to steer them away from that, having already bought snacks in the café. There are plenty of picnic benches and places to eat, so a café trip is not necessary, which could make this a really cheap day out.
Loads of toilets; extras had been brought in, which were the portacabin type with the blue water, which the girls thought was hysterical.
Access is a bit up and down, but there are lifts and flat areas, buggies are no problem, but I couldn’t’ say how easy it would be with a wheelchair, I saw some people carrying a wheelchair down the stairs but did wonder why they hadn’t used the lift.
No dogs allowed, which could be an issue for some, but for us, it was a dream as my two are both terrified of them.
As with every museum, there is a gift shop, which can be a torturous process. But there was a selection of reasonably priced kid’s items, divided into boy’s and girl’s items, which I thought was quite funny, but needless to say, my two followed the gender divide as intended. We left with a couple of pens and a keyring for just over £5.00, as there was a £1.00 discount if you had paid for parking.
All in all, it was a relaxed and simple family day out. We could have stayed longer in the museum, or let the children run around on the grass areas more than we did, so it could easily have covered a whole day. Even though, much of it is indoors, I would recommend a dry day for it as the running around part seemed to be the highlight for my two.