Plenty of fun for children at Fort Nelson next week

Parents urged to buy Halloween costumes from reputable retailers

Despite wintry weather and building works, Fort Nelson in Fareham is offering families some fantastic days out for the remainder of the festive season.

During the traditional lull between Christmas and New Year, the Victorian fort on Portsdown Hill is holding two fun-packed events.

On Tuesday, December 28, the Fort is home to Commando Kids day and, on Thursday, December 30, it's all about Roundheads and Cavaliers.

Both events (which are regular features on the Fort's family events calendar) will be going ahead amid the 3.5m revamp that the attraction is undergoing.

Operations manager, Mark Selwood, says: 'It's all subject to the weather, of course. But we try not to close whenever possible.

'As long as the road up to Portsdown Hill is clear and safe to drive, we will be welcoming people to Fort Nelson.'

Once they've completed their mission to get to the fort on Tuesday, Commando Kids can join the army to enjoy a fun junior assault course, a foam dart firing range with knock-down targets and radio-controlled tank driving.

Mark says: 'Although the radio- controlled tanks are models, they are 2ft long, so they are still quite big and the driving course includes bombed-out buildings and bunkers.'

After getting to grips with the toy tanks, visitors can then see the real thing. A 26-tonne Sexton from the Second World War will be clanking and clattering around the fort and firing at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

'It's not technically a tank, but actually a self-propelled gun,' explains Mark.

'We'll be inviting people to climb up the ladder and have a look around inside this real World War Two vehicle.

'It will be an exciting day out, but wrap up warm because it could well turn into Arctic warfare.'

Then, on Thursday, children can learn about the time of the Roundheads and Cavaliers in the Civil War, when Parliament fought the king. Activities include learning how to swing a sword, when children will be spilt into groups for a mock battle with rubber swords, and dressing-up sessions, in which they can try on replica leather and metal armour, helmets, breast plates and back plates.

And visitors should look out for the gruesome surgeon with his bone saws and bloodsucking leeches. He'll be dressed in costume, displaying a range of implements (including those leeches) and teaching visitors about how battle field surgeons 'looked after' the wounded.

'They were rudimentary surgery techniques,' grimaces Mark, who says that both events next week are ideal for kids to let off steam after being cooped-up at Christmas with fun and educational activities both inside and out.

'The weather might put some people off,' he admits.

'But, from up here on Portsdown Hill, you get magnificent views of Portsmouth Harbour to the south and the Meon Valley to the north. It looks spectacular under a blanket of snow and the slopes are great for sledging and tobogganing too.'

The Fort, which houses the Royal Armouries, is open from Monday as normal, from 10.30am to 4pm (except Wednesdays when it opens at 11.30am). The events on Tuesday and Thursday go on all day and visitors can drop in at any time.

Admission is free of charge, but participation in the special events costs 2.50 for children over five, 1 for adults and a family ticket (two adults and up to five children) costs 5.

For further information, call 01329 233 734 or visit royalarmouries.org