On the Bank Holiday Monday (Aug 26th), we decided to surprise our son and take him to London. He loves going out for the day with both of us, and is always asking to go back to London.
Hubby wanted to go to Greenwich, so we planned our day to leave early and get there by 11AM. We went down by train. First Capital Connect have Super-saver Day Return tickets on Bank Holiday weekends – they are £10.55 from Cambridge to London Terminals with a Gold Card Discount/Network Railcard. That’s another 1/3 off the off-peak day return of £15.20 with a railcard. Full price off-peak day return is £23.00.
When we got to London, we checked our Oyster Cards and jumped on the Northern Line to Bank, then got on the DLR to Cutty Sark. When son saw the Curry Sark, he desperately wanted to go in, so we decided we would although we hadn’t planned to. There was a short queue of about 10 minutes and then we bought our tickets. They can be up to £20 each for a multi-exhibit ticket, or £10.90 (no gift aid) to just see the Cutty Sark. To pre-book and avoid the queue use the Museums Greenwich website. We got our tickets (children under 5 go free) and then started the tour. The hull is covered in copper, nailed together with thousands of nails. We walked through an opening in the hull and into the lower hold, which smelled of tea (some olfactory magic was going on here!)
There was a short film about her sailing life and lots of interactive displays for kids to try (tophat, anyone?). We climbed up a staircase to the upper hold and had to watch our heads – she is framed in iron, and they are only 6′ or so above the floor! There was a giant globe which caught son’s eye – he loves maps and globes – that showed routes to and from London to Shanghai and Australia. There was a large table with 4 flat screens set into it with a ships’ wheel that you could use to try to steer the ship from Australia to London and try to beat Cutty Sark’s fastest time – 88 days I think it was.
It was fascinating to find out about the Cutty Sark – I had heard of her, especially when she had been set on fire during the last restoration, but didn’t know anything about her.
She carried tea from China 8 times, then started to take cargo from London to Australia – beer, whiskey, cloth, nails, wine, hundreds of other things needed in Australia and brought wool and tallow back to London. She was the fastest clipper for many years until steam ships took over. Then she was sold to a Portuguese company in 1895. In 1922 she came back back to England to Cornwall, then used to train cadets alongside RMS Worcester. Eventually she moved to to Greenwich, dry-docked and became a museum. She is one of only 3 iron-framed clippers left – one is in Australia being renovated and the other is a shipwrecked skeleton.
There was really so much to see! On the upper decks you could see where the crew slept and where the officers and cook worked and slept – the cast-iron stove had a rail around the top to keep the pots on while at sea. The berths were tiny – narrow and short and had a very thin, small mattress. The fire buckets were surprisingly heavy – filled with water they must have weighed a ton!
The officers’ mess was quite grand and spacious, with a sofa along one wall. The masts and rigging was very impressive as was the wooden carved man on 1 mast! It was well worth the price of admission – below the ship was a cafe, the toilets, and a gallery of ship’s masts – the Cutty Sark’s was there along with others that were donated to the Royal Museums Greenwich. The Cutty Sark has been lifted up 3M so there isn’t any weight on her keel and she doesn’t bend and get misshapen, after all, she is supposed to float on water, not balance on her keel in a dry dock.
There are lots of interactive touch screen computers that even a 2 year old can use – though they may not be interested in the information! My son loved the one by the ships’ figurehead’s display – he picked his favourite one and then clicked on its photo to see the information about it.
After that we decided to have lunch…. which is another blog post!