Royal Victoria Country Park was once the site of a military hospital! In fact it was Britain’s first army hospital with the foundation laid by Queen Victoria in 1856. It was fully functional by March 1863 with 138 wards and 1000 beds! It was the longest building at the time and Florence Nightingale was one of the devoted staff here for many years. You can imagine how distressed this place must have been filled with soldiers carrying horrific memories of war from all over the world during the time of British Empire, and also during World War I and II. Post World War II, the hospital was abandoned and later on destroyed by a fire in 1963. It was decided by the Army officials to demolish the entire building except the Hospital Chapel which you can see till today. The site was opened as a park for public in 1980. The foundation stone for the hospital laid by Queen Victoria is still protected. You can take a walk to the hospital cemetery located to the east of the park, which hold the war graves of over 700 fallen heroes! The graves are protected by Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Address: Royal Victoria Country Park, Southampton, SO31 5GA
Opening times:Royal Victoria Country Park is open all year but during winter months (Nov-Feb) vehicular access is limited to 8am-5pm. Extended period of opening till 9pm during summer.
Entry: Access is free but you have to pay for parking.
Things to remember:
- Unlike many other parks, this 200 acre park is composed of woodland and seashore. So you can really enjoy the green fields and blue waters at the same time!
- Royal Victoria Country Park is ideal for family/large group picnic. There are lots of play areas for kids to run around and go wild. There is also BBQ hire facilities, various trails, woodland walks, duck ponds, bird watching etc.
- The park is overlooking the Southampton waters hence it is lovely to take a walk through the sea shore or sit at the bench to relax, you may spot one or two cruise liners sometimes!
- The Chapel/Heritage Centre/viewing tower (see the photo below) is not open until late 2018 due to on-going refurbishment. Hence Tower tours which offer spectacular views over the Park and Southampton waters are also not available until late summer 2017.
- There is a 1 mile miniature steam and diesel railway through the scenic routes of the park which will entertain kids and adults alike.
- Dogs are allowed; keep them in the lead if you think they behave naughty as there are a lot of dog walkers around. They have vast spaces to run, fetch and even they can take a little dip in the water to cool down during hot summer days.
- There is a lovely café (Park Café) which serves hot food, salads, soups and cakes throughout the day (close at 5pm)
- For more information, visit Hampshire city council’s website.
Attractions nearby: Netley Abbey