Well. In February of 2011 Strong Island held it’s very first annual Home Brew Competition at Little Johnny Russells on Albert Road. The number of entrants was low, the quality on the other hand was extremely high. If we’re honest when we set up this little competition we didn’t quite know what to expect from it. Would it be a shambles and nobody turn up or even enter? Would it be out of control and way to busy for it’s own good? No, in fact it was an extremely pleasant middle point of the two. With 2 competition winners so far and both having their recipes brewed by Irving & Co. Brewers, Strong Island ales have hit the pumps in a number of local pubs and along the way sold hundreds of barrels. This is an event that we at Strong Island hope is to grow and grow over the next few years and see some more excellent ales and beers being produced. Remember it’s open to anyone and everyone so next time get involved!
In our first competition there were 5 entries in total, 2 from the same team and one entered completely last minute by Jim who had a brew at home and kind of stumbled over the comp by a planned accident, but let us tell you the quality was high. Lining up alongside Malcolm Irving (all round brewing guru and boss of Irving & Co. Brewery) and Stuart Ainsworth (Landlord of the Leoplold Tavern and all round beer expert) was Ben Mills (Little Johnny Russells, The Belle Isle & Strong Island) who felt a little bit of a novice on the panel, however he does have 8 years experience in the industry so he’s not too much of an amateur.
First up was a Porter brewed up by a first timer. Lovely taste, great dark colouring and a most excellently presented bottle and label. Clarity was hard to judge with it being a Porter however a nice chocolate aroma as well as coffee hit you as soon as the lid was removed. This entry finished 3rd however he can feel desperately unlucky as it was a great effort and in my opinion the best presented entry. Next up were the 2 entries from the Bad Manners Brewers from Southsea. First off was BPA, a lovely light golden colour with a potent fruity aroma. This was followed by Island Hopper, a slighty darker colouring than the BPA but again with a very fruity aroma this was a wonderfully smooth ale and for me was the best all round. The only entrant into the Specified Brew category was Cannon Barrel and was also the effort of a first time brewer. Clarity wasn’t all together up to scratch but taste was good and he brought it all in with a fantastic label design. It was a real eye catcher. The last was the Jolly Jaunt Ginger Beer. WOW! What an explosive taste this drop had! A little heavy on the ginger for me personally but let’s not take anything away from it. A nice kick thanks to the green chillis involved in this brew, an impressive and refreshing taste. It was so good I caught Paul on more than one occasion dashing for a refill! In my opinion and also that of the other judges, it was better than other commercially available ginger beers (not naming names). Again desperately unlucky not to have claimed a prize. Well done to the Bad Manners boys who produced 2 top notch ales but equally so to all the other entrants who made the 1st Annual event one to remember.
In the second year we saw three times the amount of entries with the top prize being claimed by Lee Immins with his ‘Dry Dock No.1′ pale ale. He saw off stiff competition from last years winners and runners up to claim the main prize and see his recipe brewed by Irving & Co. The name and concept was designed by Lee and his brother who wanted something famous about Portsmouth that maybe people weren’t aware of and the world’s first modern dry dock seemed to fit. He was exploring American-style IPA’s at the time so he decided to use American hops. He also made it as light as possible in colour for the summer. Lee said “It was great to see it scaled up by Irving and even though some of the hops were different Malcolm got the fruit hop nose of the original matched brilliantly”.
The Milton collective claimed the first prize in the cider category with their Milton selected apples and another notable entry was Chris Bulman who claimed 2nd place in the ‘Other’ category with his ‘Tucker B’s Rosemary Lager’. A first time brewer and a fantastic entry enjoyed by most.
The third years Strong Island homebrew competition was won by Tyler Griffin from Ohio currently working over here in Hampshire.
Brewer Malcolm Irving said “The beer is a highly complex blend of subtle malt flavours from a combination of Malted Oats, Wheat and rare Special B and Aromatic Belgian Malt. These subtle malt flavours underpin the heady intense fruity hop flavours from American Citra and Amarillo hop varieties. This should prove to be a very exciting beer and well worth seeking out in pubs round the city and beyond”
It sold extremely well and featured as one of the best sellers in most of the top real ale selling pubs around the city.
We normally start the ball rolling around October each year so keep posted for news on our next Strong Island Annual Home Brew Competition!
Portsmouth as a city possesses a high number of bicycle enthusiasts. Whether you are using your bike to commute to work, racing or just getting from A to B. Sadly bicycle theft is a relatively easy crime to commit. With their increased usage over the summer months we need to do as much as we can to deter criminals and assist the Police in recovering the bike if the worst is to happen and your bike is stolen.
In partnership with Hampshire Constabulary we are going to be hosting a free Cycle Marking event at Strong Island HQ on Saturday 11th July between 10am-midday.
Whatever type of bike you ride get yourself and your bike down to the store, you will find local Neighbourhood Policing Teams will be on hand to offer cycle security advice as well well as FREE cycle marking which can help identify your bike as yours if the worst were to happen and it was stolen.
Please share this event with friends, family and anyone you think would be interested. You can find out more information in the build up to the event on Facebook – www.facebook.com/events/703740506418243/.
Yet again we were overwhelmed with the interest and success of our 2015 Calendar. I hope that you are all enjoying them and it is inspiring you to get involved and submitting your photo’s for inclusion for next years calendar.
We are excited to announce that we are taking submissions for our 2016 calendar. If you’ve taken a photo that you’d like to submit then you can email your submission via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve taken a photo on Instagram that you’d like to submit for consideration you just need add the hashtag #SIC2016.
There are no limits to how many you submit, the only rule is that the image must be relevant to Portsmouth. We would love to see more submissions from all over Portsmouth not just our favourite Southsea landmarks so please share this with friends who you think might be interested in getting involved.
Along with Instagram we also recommend you check out the Faded App. I’ve had a play with this App and you can create images that surpass anything that Instagram can produce. I especially love the overlay function.
We have a couple of our 2015 Calendars left but if you are interested then get in quick as these are likely to go within the next week or so! You can get your copies from the Strong Island shop HERE.
For the third year running Portsmouth Festivities and a small army of artists took over some of the best historic buildings in Old Portsmouth for the Spice Island Art Trail 2015. Each year sees more and more talented artists from different fields be selected to exhibit and this year saw some incredible work on display to the public for free as well as a great local schools exhibition showing their GCSE, BTEC and AS level art student’s summer work. As for the last two years judges from Aspex Gallery, Ast Space Portsmouth, Portsmouth Guildhall and Strong Island wandered around the different venues seeing the work on show, meeting the artists and finally choosing the winners.
This year’s winners, who will be exhibiting their work at Portsmouth Guildhall are:
1st – Kim Whitby
2nd – Alison Lawley
3rd – John Townsend & Margaret Marks (joint third place)
4th – Peter Nicholson
Commended – Michael Wright and Chris Wood.
1st – Brandon CHoi (Portsmouth Grammar School)
2nd – Yana Trebska (Ryde School)
3rd – Laura Pullem (Highbury College)
4th – Megan Gray (Chichester High School for Girls)
The first venue I visited at 11 when the doors opened to the public for the Arts Trail was the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club. This imposing, historic building overlooks the sports fields and the Royal Garrison Church before wide panoramic views of the Solent. The artists work on display was itself surrounded by an incredible collection of treasured objects & paintings owned by the club, with groups of work on show in different rooms from the ballroom downstairs up to the library. The first artwork that caught my eye were the sketchbooks of Trudy Barber, with different figures of musicians caught in the moments of musical reverie with their musical instruments.
Sketchbook by Trudy Barber.
Working to the back of the building, past a wall of portraits for each of the clubs’ many members to receive a Victoria Cross plus cabinets of trophies for sailing, I checked out the work on display in the large ballroom space. First up was the paintings by Jacquie Woodfield, with a great mix of detail and colour. I really liked the deckchairs painting in particular.
Paintings by Jacquie Woodfield.
Painting by Jacquie Woodfield.
Also sharing the space was Chris Wood with a collection of different work but front and centre were some band new linocut prints inspired by Ben Ainslie Racing yachts and Southsea. We predicted well over a year ago that BAR, their distinctive yachts and the new HQ would permeate through to photographers & artists as a striking new local inspiration and Chris’ new work is really rather special. These prints are available to buy framed and unframed.
Linoprint by Chris Wood.
Linoprint by Chris Wood.
Another artist sharing the space was painter Mary Amos who had on display a series of landscapes of Portsmouth Harbour. Also on show were a collection of different watercolours, which I really quite liked. Something about watercolours, one of the first techniques learnt yet it takes so much skill and creativity to control the water, the mix of paint plus there is no room to fix any mistakes.
Paintings by Mary Amos.
Taking up one side of the room were the large canvases of Kim Whitby, depicting views out of HMS Victory. These and other work on show were created during a residency on the 250 year old ship which included drawing and painting at Nelson’s table. Victory also featured in some wonderful, loose monochrome work plus the ship and the Dockyard also filled the pages of Kim’s fantastic sketchbooks, which not only showed the creative processes behind some of the pieces on display but could have also been exhibited all by themselves.
Victory by Kim Whitby.
Victory by Kim Whitby.
Sketchook pages by Kim Whitby.
In another room in the club were another great mix of work, beginning with the playful, detailed pencil-work by Will Stevenson.
Artwork by Will Stevenson.
The diversity of medium and subject is one of the great things about the Art Trail, with neighbours in the exhibition often having significantly different work meaning there was something for everyone. Next to Will Stevenson were the small, impressionistic paintings by Michael Wright. Each of the three paintings drew the viewer in to a what felt like the middle of a dark fairytale, with the artwork keeping the details secret.
Painting by Michael Wright.
Painting by Michael Wright.
The Naval club building is Georgian so all of the rooms are high ceilinged and very open with large windows, so after climbing the stairs the view out over the Solent had to be photographed before viewing the work on display by different artists, including Lyndon Richards’ Old Portsmouth houses painted on bricks. Lyndon was the artists in residence painting during the art trail.
From here it was on to Portsmouth Cathedral to see the artwork on show in the Nave.
With the Sunday service completed the cathedral was busy with people now exploring the Nave and discovering the different photography, textiles, painting, ceramics and more on show. As I walked in the first work that caught my attention was the watercolour work on the pillars by Sue Colyer, a set of two colourful abstracts and a country scene.
Watercolour by Sue Colyer.
Watercolour by Sue Colyer.
Along to the corner of the cathedral where three large, striking and colourful photographs were on display by Peter Nicholson. The work is made with different coloured oils, waxes and more placed in suspension in a water tank and photographed throughout a lengthy process. These images were rich with detail and tones of colour that brought to mind Turner and the impressionist painters plus it reminded me of the large naval battle paintings in the Naval Club I had viewed earlier which had skies thick with cannon fire and the dense smoke of ships aflame.
Dark Trees by Peter Nicholson.
Also at the side of this historic building were paintings by Karl Rudziak. I’m a big fan of these detailed portrait paintings.
Painting by Karl Rudziak.
The far side of the nave was home to the intriguing & a little surreal ceramic figurework by artist John Townsend. It was great to chat with John and discover the ideas behind these wheel and then hand constructed ceramic forms, referencing back to the first photography that captured motion and movement.
Ceramic work by John Townsend.
Ceramic work by John Townsend.
Speaking of surreal, John’s artist neighbour was illustrator and painter Alison Lawley who had two incredible portrait paintings on display. The figure in both paintings was a hybrid of Alison’s friends and who was set in two different scenes relating to nature and wildlife, with surreal touches. The second painting had powerful eyes that would fix you in her gaze. Excellent work, looking forward to seeing more paintings from this new series by the artist.
Painting by Alison Lawley.
The schools artwork exhibition was in Beckett Hall, out the back of the cathedral, and was a collection of different student works from Ryde School, Highbury College and Chichester High School for Girls. Just like last year, you could spot a lot of talent on show in a wide variety of mediums, from printing to painting to 3D. This support of young artists from around the region through the Art Trail is a great way to see work normally not available to the public.
Once again the Art Trail was a great success in bringing dozens of artists and their many different works to Portsmouth and allowing the public free access to view the work, the wonderful buildings home to the exhibitions and creating an environment where you could speak to creatives from all walks of life involved in all different types of art. Looking forward to next year!
You can find out more about Portsmouth Festivities and the other great events happening throughout the rest of the month at:
If you have read the write up from our recent RSPB trip around Langstone Harbour you’ll know that even though we live in such a densely populated city we’re lucky to have lots of wildlife living in and around Portsmouth. For birds each season brings flocks of new birds to call the city and harbours home, if only for a short while before travelling (sometimes thousands of miles) onwards.
We’re working with the local RSPB team to suggest three birds to keep your eye out for each season, beginning with summer. Summer attracts many birds to Portsmouth to nest and breed new generations of birds that will return year in year out. These first three birds are Langstone Harbour favourites and can be spotted fairly easily by the naked eye or with binoculars or a camera.
Speaking of cameras, we’re running a competition where we want all you budding wildlife photographers to send in your photos of the three birds for the season. Photo each one and send them in and the RSPB team will pick their favourites for each bird. The three winners will win some Strong Island and RSPB prizes. Obviously, goes without saying, that we recommend you photo the birds from a distance where you will not disturb their nests, chicks, etc.
Send in your bird photos via email to email@example.com and label the email RSPB and be sure to send them in by the end of AUGUST for a chance to win.
The three birds the RSPB suggest you keep an eye out for this summer are:
The oystercatcher is a large, stocky, black and white wading bird. It has a long, orange-red bill and reddish-pink legs. In flight, it shows a wide white wing-stripe, a black tail, and a white rump that extends as a ‘V’ between the wings. Because it eats cockles, the population is vulnerable if cockle beds are overexploited. They are commonly seen in the harbour, we know they breed here, though how successfully we don’t know.
The little egret is a small white heron with attractive white plumes on crest, back and chest, black legs and bill and yellow feet. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989 and first bred in Dorset in 1996. The RSPB was formed to counter the barbarous trade in plumes for women’s hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets and other species who’s plumes had become fashionable in the late Victorian era.
The Sandwich tern is a very white tern, with a black cap on its head, a long black bill with a yellow tip and short black legs. In flight it shows grey wedges on its wings tips and it has a short forked tail. The Sandwich tern is one of 3 species of tern that breed in Langstone Harbour and this year looks to be promising so far. In the UK many of the important colonies survive because they are on Nature Reserves.
On a grey yet thankfully dry Sunday morning if I had a Portsmouth bucket list, I had one of the items near the top ticked off with a boat trip with the RSPB. Personally, I’ve always loved Langstone Harbour. When I first moved to Portsmouth I lived at the Furze Lane Langstone campus of the University of Portsmouth and the harbour was on my door step and one of the first places I explored with my bike and camera. Throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to explore every yard of its edge plus the sandbank and the Phoenix Breakwater with my camera, from high tide to low, but I haven’t had a chance to explore the islands.
The thing, for me, that makes Langstone Harbour extra special is that it is a wild habitat right on the doorstep of the most densely populated city in the UK. Considering the close proximity to well over two hundred thousand people, the harbour is surprisingly biodiverse and a key nesting location for birds on the south coast. More surprising is that for birds, Langstone Harbour has way, way more calling it home through the seasons than its neighbour Chichester Harbour. So…all of this wildlife shares Portsmouth with us, and us with them. Particularly at this time of year: nesting season. So for the very, very novice twitcher side of me, a boat trip out to see the birds with the RSPB was a fantastic opportunity.
We set off from the slipway at Broadmarsh Costal Park south of Havant with Wez at the boat controls and Dawn to help both myself and Tristan find out more about the wildlife and what the RSPB do in regards to the harbour and the bird populations. It was a good start with lots of Mute Swans seeing us off from the quayside and even a low flying Heron passing overhead. We travelled south, in parallel with the shore of Long Island, one of many different islands in the harbour that have (since the late 1970s) become protected bird preserves of the RSPB. We passed the southern tip of the island, which is one of the few areas where the public can land (we saw kayakers taking a break on the small shingle beach) before moving south west to Round Nap Island.
I’ve always been intrigued by the harbour’s islands and as they are off limits to the public this was my first chance to see them up close. Round Nap Island is quite small and at high tide seemed like a very flat and precarious home to the nesting birds and visiting birds too. On the shingle we saw Black Headed Gulls with their brown, fuzzy and big chicks who will be very soon flying themselves. Also on the island we saw quiet Cormorants taking a rest from fishing and curious Oyster Catchers exploring the shingle and waterline for food.
Round Nap Island.
Cormorants on Round Nap Island.
The RSPB routinely (at times, daily) check the nesting islands to ensure the birds aren’t effected by the many different dangers to them, their nests and their young. At low tide some of these islands are accessible by the mudflats so some islands have electric fences to protect against foxes and other predators. Another serious danger to these birds are storms and surging tides. Recently a storm washed away nests and seriously effecting the breeding of some of the harbours most important visitors.
Black Headed Gull.
From Round Nap Island we set off to the much larger South Binness Island, the most southerly of the islands in the harbour. As we travelled along the southern shore of the island we saw hundreds and hundreds of Black headed Gulls and their young plus the sharp edged Sandwich Terns, Common Terns and our first sighting of the beautiful Little Terns that visit the harbour each year. The Little Terns have struggled in recent years to raise young due to weather and tides and in 2013 this island was raised up with 500 tonnes of aggregate with the hope that their ‘scrapes’ would be better protected.
South Binness Island.
Oyster Catcher and Black Header Gulls on South Binness Island.
South Binness Island.
Black Headed Gull chicks on South Binness Island.
South Binness Island.
Little Terns are very special visitors to Portsmouth. Unknown to me until fairly recently, Portsmouth and Langstone Harbour is home to one of the largest colonies of these special birds, along with Blakeney Point and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Minsmere in Suffolk. You might find the birds in much smaller groups around the coast of the UK, including Scotland…but right here in Portsmouth is a key nesting site in the UK. Sadly these birds have difficulty in producing young as our weather has been bad in consecutive years but they will continue to try through the rest of the season. There are only 1,900 (approx.) breeding pairs in the UK so the work done locally by the RSPB to support and help these birds is vital. To put it in context, on South Binness Island alone in 2008 the island had 4,886 nesting pairs of Black Headed Gulls.
We travelled west past the island and out to a place I have wanted to visit for years, Oyster Island. Many years ago this small island was home to an oyster watchman’s house built in 1819. I had heard that you could still see the foundations and remains of the house (which was possibly washed away in a storm) still on this tiny island south of Farlington Marshes. As we approached you could clearly see on this tiny island the timber beams of the house plus bricks and more. Hard to believe that someone could live out here, right on the harbour.
From here we travelled to Baker’s Island with it’s northerly wild side. The RSPB obviously tries to not disturb the birds but there are occasions when it is necessary to land on one of the islands. Routinely the RSPB need to count the nests and check for any issues. Sometimes they have to fix fencing and maintain signs, etc, on this occasion Wez had to replace the electric fence battery so we grounded the boat on the beach for a few minutes. Obviously it is vital these islands are not visited by the public so this was an unexpected privilege to see this habitat up close for a minute or two.
Oyster Catcher on Baker’s Island.
Surrounding the boat at Baker’s Island.
We set off from here and travelled east across the harbour and midway saw a large commercial vessel leave the quay at the Lafarge Tarmac site and travel towards the harbour entrance. It was a good reminder that despite being a quiet harbour there is still commercial activity on a day to day basis. There are also fishing vessels that work within the harbour too.
Commercial vessel passing Round Nap Island.
The old oyster beds on Hayling Island’s north westerly edge (next to the ‘Billy’) have a long history, from farming huger amounts of oysters for consumption in London (ending due to pollution) to them being neglected until recent years when they were restored and made a protected RSPB area. These interlinking beds are now home to many different birds and access is prevented from Hayling Island as well as from boats. From here we saw a harbour favourite the Little Egret and also a solo Great Crested Grebe before it dived under the water and disappeared. On the way back to Broadmarsh we were lucky to see about a dozen Common Terns feeding, with them circling, hovering and then diving in to the harbour waters. We also saw some Little Terns too, who only feed around one kilometre from their nesting sites.
Little Egret at Hayling Island Oyster Beds.
Diving Common Tern.
In only a matter of two hours we had an incredible trip around the harbour and were introduced to not just the birds that call Portsmouth home but also the dedicated work by the RSPB, who with a very small team have to protect the habitats and birds. If you want to keep up to date with the work done by your local RSPB team be sure to follow their blog HERE. A huge thank you to Wez and Dawn for the trip!
Interested in seeing some of these birds yourself? It is actually pretty easy from the shoreline of the city of Portsmouth. We’re working with the RSPB on a series of articles starting tomorrow and we’ll be running a competition too. More details tomorrow.
All you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answers to the following question before midnight on Thursday 11th June. The winner be contact directly and announced on social media soon after.
1) What year did Strong Island favourite Laurel perform a the Road To Blissfields Portsmouth event?