Plotting routes for long training walks isn’t always easy, especially if you want to keep things interesting. An out and back route is the easiest but it means covering the same ground twice and I much prefer a circular walk. After a lot of messing about with maps I thought I had a fairly interesting eighteen mile route planned but there was one fly in the ointment. Avoiding walking along Wide Lane twice meant taking the trail across Monks Brook Meadows and, with all the building work going on there, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get through. Luckily, Commando had a session at the Running School this afternoon so I thought I’d check out the footpath while he was being tortured.
This Saturday was Southampton Parkrun’s seventh birthday. As there was a music event going on on the flats where parkrun usually starts and finishes, the run was moved to the alternative course, beginning and ending close to the Cowherd’s Pub. Of course, this meant a bit of a longer walk for us to the start but, as that also meant more steps in the bag for me, I wasn’t complaining.
Annoyingly, my plan to walk to town and meet a friend for coffee was scuppered by torrential rain. The walk went by the wayside and I caught a bus. Despite the rain though, I couldn’t resist a quick dash through the enchanted park where the magnolias were in bloom. The heavy rain had left puddles of petals on the ground, like a mirror image of the blooming branches.
There were a couple of other things I wanted to see before I met my friend. The first was the progress on the new Bargate Quarter. On a different day I might have walked the perimeter, peering through fences and over walls. Today was seriously wet, windy and cold though, so I contented myself with a peek through the Perspex viewing window. Frankly, I couldn’t see much progress. In fact I couldn’t see much of anything. If the archaeologists were still working, they had taken a break, along with the builders. Not that I blame them.
The other thing I wanted to see was a little easier to find. The Bargate is the most famous building in Southampton and a symbol of the city. Standing on the north side of the medieval gate you are actually outside the old town of Southampton. Once there would have been a moat, otherwise known as the town ditch, and a stone bridge to cross to get to the barred gate. The entrance was guarded by sentries but they weren’t the only thing guarding the gate. On the north side of the bridge there were two lions made of wood.
These lions represented an important part of the legend of Sir Bevois, who is said to have founded the town of Southampton. Bevois was the son of Guy, the count of Hampton, and his unwilling wife, Murdina, a Scottish princess. Murdina, along with her lover, Doon, murdered Guy and sold poor Bevois to slave merchants. He ended up in Armenia. It was here that he fell in love with the beautiful princess Josian. One of the many heroic deeds he performed was to rescue Josian from two lions who had killed his friend Sir Boniface and trapped her in a cave. Bevois killed the lions and later returned to England to found the town.
Wood does not weather very well and, in around 1743, the two Tudor lions were replaced with lead sculptures, probably made by John Cheere of London. Shortly afterwards the ditch come moat was filled in and the new lions were moved closer to the gate. The Bargate lions are the oldest statues in the city but, sadly, nothing lasts forever.
Towards the end of September last year a council worker discovered the tail of one of the lions had fallen off and was laying on the ground. This was not, as some people have suggested, an act of vandalism. The tail was taken off to be examined and corrosion of the internal iron structure was found to be the problem. Two hundred and seventy odd years of standing guard in all weathers had taken their toll. In fact, the same lion has a rather alarming looking crack across his back.
Of course, simply sticking the tail back on isn’t going to solve the problem. The council are currently consulting experts on the best way to preserve and repair the poor old lion. Hopefully they’ll find a way and the lion and his tail will soon be reunited.
By now the rain was beginning to seep through the hood of my thin coat and I was feeling quite cold. My friend was due to arrive in a few minutes so I took shelter under the Bargate Arch, walking through one of the little side gates next to the lions. Standing beneath the Bargate arch I’m always aware of the history around me, the number of feet that have walked this way over the centuries.
The city is changing rapidly right now. The new Watermark development has been a great success and I hold out a great deal of hope for the Bargate Quarter when it is finished. The one thing that never really changes is the gate itself, even if the poor lions have seen better days. Long may this continue.
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Originally my plans for the morning were to walk to the military cemetery at Netley with CJ. The weather forecast was not good though and, after getting soaked through yesterday, it didn’t seem worth the risk. Despite the distinct possibility of rain Commando was going out for a run with the fast boys. He suggested we get the train to Hamble and walk from there. Once he got back from his run he’d pick us up in the car. He might even get there before the silence at eleven o’clock. It sounded like a plan so, after a swift check of the relevant train times and prices, we set off for Bitterne Station.
When everyone around you is going down with colds and flu it feels like it’s only a matter of time before your turn comes. When I got up this morning there was a definite feeling of lurgie going on but I told myself I was probably imagining it. Besides, I had a package to deliver to a friend who lives close to the Millennium Flats so, ignoring a slight soreness of throat and muzzy head, my feet retraced footsteps from many previous walks. The route may have been all too familiar but the scenery has changed somewhat since I last came this way.
As you have probably worked out by now, walking and writing are my passions and I’m quite fond of a bit of history. Walking is my main form of exercise and it is also my thinking time, a form of meditation if you like. Writing is, at times, quite hard work. Sometimes my brain hurts from thinking and my eyes are sore from hours of research. The problem is, I’m not very good at sitting and doing nothing. This almost certainly stems from my childhood. Continue reading The joy of making things
There was no parkrun on the Common this morning because the Pretty Muddy Race For Life 10k was going on. This meant it was time for some parkrun tourism. With so many parkruns within a few miles of home we were spoilt for choice but, when Teresa and Gerry said they were going to Lakeside in Portsmouth, we decided to tag along too as we haven’t been to the parkrun there before. Continue reading Parkrun tourism, Lakeside
With all the decorating going on there have been no proper walks lately. Life has been one long round of cleaning, sanding, painting and organising things like new blinds for the windows and furniture renovations. Although all this has given me plenty of exercise I’ve missed being out with my camera walking so, today, while Commando was running round parkrun, I took a short wander on The Common. Continue reading Beyond Graffiti
After a day spent painting my living room ceiling while the rain teemed down outside I can’t say I was much looking forward to the RR10 at Itchen valley Country Park tonight. For one, I was tired. Painting ceilings is surprisingly hard work and this one looked as if it might still need another coat. On top of this I’d been struggling with a trapped nerve in my leg. Apparently this is due to my stupidly high arches, at least according to my GP it is. Who’d have thought having high arches could cause so much pain all of a sudden? There was a great temptation to stay at home, take some painkillers and go to bed, especially as it was still raining. Continue reading The rain continues at Itchen Valley
Tonight’s RR10 adventure was at Janesmoor Pond in the New Forest, although there was some slight confusion, at least on my part because I thought it was across the road at Stoney Cross. Luckily Commando knew where we were going and we managed to pull into the correct car park . The first job was erecting the tent. This proved slightly more difficult than expected. Continue reading Janesmoor Pond, more ups than downs
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