Meet the Welshman who has holidayed in Southsea every year for 50 years
Choosing a holiday destination can be a dilemma – but not for Welshman Richard Hart, who has had his summer holidays in Southsea every year since 1969 – and now he lives there. STEVE DEEKS reports.
RICHARD Hart, born and bred in The Valleys of South Wales in 1963, has finally seen a life-long ambition come true after 50 years.The 56-year-old is celebrating going on holiday to Southsea every year for half a century.
In fact, the Welshman loves Southsea so much he has now realised a dream after moving to the place he fell in love with as a child after first visiting in 1969.
Ever since that first captivating moment, he has been mesmerised by the place where he has gone on to make countless memories as man and child, while witnessing the changing landscape of the area along the way.
From splashing around in the sea and playing on the arcades as a child to getting up to mischief drinking in bars as a teenager to proposing to his fiance on his 50th anniversary of visiting the destination, as well as making new fond memories with his grandchildren, Southsea has been a beacon of light in Richie’s colourful life.
‘I love south Wales and am very proud to be Welsh but my heart will always be in Southsea,’ he said. ‘It’s where I’m happiest and have my best memories. I’ve been coming to Southsea every year since 1969 for my holidays...it’s like a marriage as I fell in love with the place the moment I first came here.
‘It’s a special year for me to be celebrating 50 years of coming to Southsea and now fulfilling a dream of living here.’
The love affair started on July 26, 1969, when Richie pulled into Fratton station with his mum before going to stay with a ‘charming’ woman called Vi Skinner at 28 Lords Court, Fratton, along with her daughter. Richie has been trying to track down one of her three granddaughter’s, Jennifer Tudor. They enjoyed their stay so much with Vi they returned there for the next decade.
After exploring Southsea, Richie recalled being awestruck by the scenery and enormous array of things to do. ‘As a kid I thought this place was amazing with its wide open spaces, the flower gardens, the sea with so many ships and the stunning seafront.
‘You also had South Parade Pier and Clarence Pier with the penny arcades and amusements in the golden horseshoe and gift shops, the boating lake with its rowing boats, trampolines built into the beach and the Southsea rock gardens.
‘I remember going on HMS Victory in 1969 and wanting to join the navy.
‘Travelling on the hovercraft to the Isle of Wight in the same year and seeing Portsmouth play for the first time at Fratton Park all give me such fond memories. There was so much for a child to venture and enjoy. They were the happiest days of my childhood, I couldn’t wait for the following year.’
As a teenager Richie started to venture out and about around Portsmouth and Southsea where he would drink in pubs and bars including The Coastguard Tavern, The Strand, The Florence Arms, The Mary Rose, Mother Shipton and night clubs Neros and Joannas – until it burnt down in 2011. Richie is also trying to track down Ken and Edna who ran the Coastguard Taven.
Richie’s interests unsurprisingly changed when he had children. ‘I used to take the kids into my favourite bar – a lovely bar that was converted from a lifeguard station into the Blue Oasis that overlooked the Solent,’ he said.
‘There was more to do for the kids as new places opened including Brewers Fayre but there was still the piers with all the rides, arcades and amusements and the arrival of new rides, the boating lake and the skateboarding park.
‘Then into the millennium we had the arrival of Gunwharf Quays and Spinnaker Tower with its great shops and great view.’
The family’s love of Southsea had by now spread through the generations. ‘The arrival of my grandchildren from 2000 meant there were five generations of us who would visit,’ Richie says.
Richie has since celebrated his 50th birthday in Southsea and has now fulfilled a life-long dream by moving there.
Despite losing his life savings after being stung by unscrupulous individuals when running a bar in Spain, Richie and his wife are still determined to make a go of living in Southsea despite being struggling to make ends meet.
‘Look where we are,’ he says. ‘No amount of money can buy that. We still enjoy ourselves and go out walking and enjoy the views and going to our favourite places. Here’s to the next 50 years.’