When Keats wrote to his brother and sister in law of his daily Winchester walks he ended at ‘the most beautifully clear river,’ the Itchen, probably where it crosses Five Bridges Road. In his letter he said, ‘now this is only one mile of my walk I will spare you the other two till after supper when they would do you more good,‘ but he never mentioned it again. Even so, it stood to reason he hadn’t just turned around and walked back the way he came and I had a good idea of the route he would have taken. The clues were all there in the final verse of his ode To Autumn. Continue reading Where are the songs of spring?
The final day of November was cloudy and cold but, as it wasn’t actually raining, I thought I’d try to fit one more walk in to bolster my woefully inadequate November miles. The forecast was for rain later and I didn’t want to stray too far from home so a quick circuit of the river seemed like a good idea. Of course I might just bump into some black swans but I tried to put that thought from my mind. So far this year cygnet hunts seem to have been doomed to failure. If I didn’t think about them they might appear. Continue reading Close encounters of the swan kind
This month a morning with no rain seems like a remarkable thing so, when it wasn’t tipping down this morning I figured I’d best get outside and make the most of it. A few days ago I’d been telling CJ about the Bofors gun on the shore at Hamble so I thought it might be fun to take him down there to see it. Maybe we could have a little wander on Hamble Common too if it wasn’t too muddy. Continue reading Big guns and pillboxes
For all my plans to walk down to the river every day until I spotted the black swan cygnets I hadn’t been back once since the beginning of the month. This was mostly down to terrible weather so, when I looked outside this morning and saw blue skies I knew it was time to have another look for them. Maybe this time I’d have more luck. Those sky and the unseasonable warmth made it feel quite springlike, a feeling compounded when I spotted blossom on a tree near Monks Walk. For a moment I thought I’d entered some kind of time warp and it was actually May, then I remembered seeing this same tree flowering last December too. Either it’s a magical tree or it’s totally confused by the weather. Continue reading Some you win, some you lose, black swans and boundary stones
Driving from Twyford to Shawford really was new territory as I’ve never even walked this way before. The road is narrow and winding with lots of parked cars and there were a few moments when I wondered if I’d lost my mind to even think of such a thing. From the maps I knew there was a small car park hidden amongst the trees a little way after the railway bridge. Thankfully I found it easily and it wasn’t full. I felt CJ should have been more impressed than he seemed by my amazing driving and parking skills. Surely I deserved a round of applause or at least a “well done,” but all I got was “are we having coffee now?” Continue reading Shawford, dung fungi and a tragic bridge
This morning there was a break in the rain and a hint of sun between the dark clouds. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss so I grabbed the car keys and my walking boots. CJ who doesn’t like to miss an opportunity to get out, especially if it might mean conning me out of a coffee, tagged along for the ride. Over breakfast I’d worked out a route and even found a couple of likely parking places and somewhere to stop for that coffee. It all looked suspiciously like a plan. Continue reading Footpaths, stained glass and a thousand year old tree
As if running a marathon in Toronto in October wasn’t quite enough, Commando had also signed up for the Gosport Half Marathon in mid November. Yesterday, in the wind and rain we went to collect his race pack. We parked up behind the lifeboat station and, with the wind at our backs, we walked the half mile to the scout hall where Commando confidently reeled off his race number. The ladies behind the desk looked at him a little strangely.
“Are you sure?” one said, “only that number belongs to Jane Smith and you don’t look like a Jane to me.”
For once, Commando, who usually remembers every number, from his National Insurance number to his bank account, had got it wrong. Maybe the rain had got into his brain. There was some laughter, some checking on his phone and, eventually, we left with the right race pack. Continue reading Gosport half marathon, disappointment and surprises
After my first, unsuccessful, hunt for black cygnets I was determined to go out every single morning and trawl the riverbank until I found them. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. The rain that began as my walk ended continued unrelenting over the next week. Once or twice I got my boots and coat on but was beaten back at the door. There was some struggling up the hill to the shops getting soaked and some driving up the hill to avoid getting soaked. On Saturday I foolishly went with Commando to watch the Parkrun. The Common was all giant puddles and soggy leaves and I somehow got volunteered as a marshal. Wet and cold don’t even cover it. Continue reading Rain, rain go away
This morning I was looking through some of the posts I’d missed on the Southampton Heritage Facebook page and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a picture of the black swans on the Itchen with five little cygnets. This is more unusual than you might think. The black swan, Cygnus atratus, is actually a native of Australia and New Zealand, not England. The first black swan arrived in 1791 as an ornamental bird and they became quite popular in zoological gardens and private bird collections. Over time a few escaped and wild birds, like the ones on the Itchen, all have their origins in captivity. With so few in the wild, breeding pairs have always been a rarity and until 2005 just twenty pairs were reported to be breeding throughout the whole of the UK. At the last count, in 2011, this number had risen to twenty eight. Continue reading A whole new cygnet hunt
Today I was going to post about Commando’s marathon finish in Toronto. Instead, I’ve been watching events unfold in Paris, a city I love, with horror. It’s unimaginable that the streets I walked not so very long ago were running with blood and echoing with gunfire on Friday night. My heart goes out to the people of France and, while the Eiffel Tower remains in darkness, it’s good to see the rest of the world is alight with support and love. Continue reading liberté, égalité, fraternité