We pulled into sunny Southampton to pick up some more passengers, taking our place nearby where both the Mayflower and the Titanic loaded guests to cross the Atlantic many years ago. Thankfully, this was not the start of a crossing for us but rather the beginning of our long trek to Indonesia. I received a tour to get outside of town a bit. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect.
Beaulieu is a unique estate just outside of Southampton. It includes one of the ten Treasure Houses of England, Beaulieu Palace, the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu Abbey and museum, a Secret Army Exhibition, and ‘The World of Top Gear.’
Like I said it’s very unique and definitely eclectic. Mixed together is the Montagu house, showcasing centuries of family relics and art next door to the remains of a monastic abbey founded over three hundred years ago, while just down the path one can view the famous flying car from Harry Potter.
The current Lord Montagu has grown up with quite a fondness for cars, owning and displaying over 250 examples that reflect the history and era of the automobile, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Perhaps it was that interest, paired with extra land that inspired ‘The World of Top Gear, ’ a sort of cemetery of past automobile experiments created on the famous British television show. Many of their cars are on display there, as well as a short behind the scenes look at the show in the ‘Enormodrome.’ I am sure any die-hard fan of this show would be stoked to see all the remains from past vehicular experiments.
We had a lot of time to roam around the grounds on our own and I did enjoy the weather and fresh air as well as the scenery, but overall my interest was peaked more by the history of New Forest, an area of 375 square kilometers established in 1079 by King William the Conqueror, that still exists as a forest today! Originally created as the king’s royal deer-hunting grounds, he evicted the villagers that resided there but allowed them Forest Rights, which are still honored today, stating that their cattle and horses could graze freely. As we drove through the protected land, we could see many horses and ponies, wandering about, taking advantage of the rights bestowed upon their owners’ ancestors a whole millennium ago. Pretty cool that that whole area still remains free of buildings.
And a few for the Top Gear lovers: