Pier Pressure Day 8: All Quiet On The Southern Front

We always knew that today was going to be one of the quietest days of the tour; although we hadn’t planned it that way, it was nice to have a bit of respite before things start getting busier again tomorrow. Even yesterday’s jaunt to the Isle of Wight, relaxing as it was in many ways, still involved a very early start and two ferry crossings.

So today’s leg of the tour (which still included four piers, mind), gave a chance to catch some breath, and even have a bit of free time during the day – for the first time in a week! We didn’t have to go far for our first two piers of the day. We’d been staying in Portsmouth overnight at the flat of a friend, Oliver, and we’d enjoyed a pint in the Dolphin Inn and a fine Indian meal before having a much longer sleep than we’d experience the previous night. We left at 9am, had a quick breakfast, and went the short distance along to Southsea South Parade pier.

Unfortunately, this lovely old pier is currently closed and undergoing renovation (see picture above), meaning we couldn’t get properly on (or even under) it. However, the canopy at the shore end of the pier was open as usual, so we played one piece there to no-one in particular before remembering we’d not paid for our parking, so Jeremy ran back to sort the car out while James and Clare packed up and took some photos.

The next pier was Southsea Clarence pier – a short drive around the coast – so we got there in plenty of time. So much, in fact, that we had time for a coffee and to do something we’d been threatening to do all tour but hadn’t had time: get a big bag of 2p coins and play on the slot machines in the arcade! Of course they all went in a relatively short time, but that’s how it goes. When we did get round to playing, there wasn’t much choice about where to do it: the entire short length of Clarence pier is taken up by the amusement arcades & outdoor activities, so we played on the short bit of decking to the left of the main pier. Not much of an audience, but it did give us the chance to have a photo under the “Pier Pressure” sign: they’ve obviously had the same idea for their assault course name as we did for our tour name…

We then made the trip west to Southampton – a city that none of us knew well, and a pier we had only read about. The main part of the pier is derelict, with a great chunk of it having collapsed into the water; it’s completely inaccessible to the public. The only part of the pier to be open is a restaurant (or, more accurately, a pair of restaurants) at the shore end. Seeing that one of these, the Gatehouse Grill, serves fish and chips, we decided to have lunch there, and then asked to play out on the terrace, so we would actually get a chance to play on the pier itself. Fortunately the restaurant agreed, and indeed were very happy to take photos & videos of us playing! When we went out, however, we found a small audience of three people who had travelled to see us specifically (including the membership secretary of the National Piers Society), so we gave a longer performance in the public area just outside the end of the pier. Having the derelict pier in the background made this rather special (see picture below).

Our final pier of the day was Hythe – another that none of us knew much about, but we were delighted to find a sweet, mainly timber pier, going out to the landing stage for a small ferry going across the water to Southampton; a small train took people up the 600m length alongside the walkway (but of course we chose to walk it!). We played briefly at the far end, before coming back to the shore end and playing for about 20 minutes outside the station ticket office. It was still only about 3.30, so we decided to take a bit of time to have a look around Hythe (a delightful small town) and grab an ice cream and/or drink before heading off!

The 45 minute drive to our home for the night in Christchurch (another absent host – many thanks to Mr and Mrs Morris!) was lovely too, right across the heart of the New Forest. We’ve even got a nice blank evening ahead, so we’re thinking of going to see a film! This concludes a relatively restful day,

Tomorrow we’re doing Boscombe (9.00), Bournemouth (10.00), Swanage (12.30), Weymouth Bandstand (15.00) and Weymouth Pleasure (16.00). Note that the first two times are half an hour earlier than originally advertised, and that the Swanage performance is part of the Purbeck Pirate Festival, so is likely to be quite busy!

Weather report: A much stiller and more consistent day; largely overcast but with sunny spells. Today’s temperatures varied between 21.6 and 24.4 celsius, with humidity between 55.2% and 66.9%.

Quote of the day: “Ah, you’re obviously musicians!” Someone states the obvious as we unload the cellos from the car…

Pier of the day: Hythe