Lost walks part two

Almost three years ago malicious code was working it’s evil on my old blog, sending thousands of spam emails from my email address. Perhaps if I’d been more tech savvy I’d have questioned the handful of strange non delivery notices in my inbox for emails I hadn’t sent. As it was I put them down to someone spamming me and deleted them unopened. The storm clouds were gathering but the storm was yet to break as I planned a little morning walk to make the most of the blue skies in the real world. This is the last walk I took before the tempest washed away two years of my work. The last lost walk. For three years the photos have sat on my computer waiting for me to put words to them. Now I have.

7 October 2014

For the second day running I woke to blue skies and sunshine. These two things are not to be wasted in early October. Every bright day could be the last of the year. Over breakfast I scanned Google Maps, trying to come up with a plan for a walk to make the most of it. Back in March I stumbled upon a trail behind Riverside Park called River Walk. Today I thought I’d try to walk it in reverse, starting in Cutbush Lane and heading for the river. As plans go it was fairly vague but it was the best I had.

The beginning of the walk was the route I used to take to the White Swan pub, back when Commando and I were just two friends in a large group who drank there. It’s odd how my feet have a memory of these long forgotten walks and follow the course without me telling them to. My head was filled with memories of those days, calling in for Ali along the way and walking together, the half forgotten faces of all those old friends still in their teens, like ghosts waiting at the pub for me.

It’s a wonder I didn’t carry on along Cutbush Lane all the way to the pub, where my feet wanted to take me. Of course none of them would be there and, even if they were, I wouldn’t recognise them a lifetime later. Somehow, half way along the bottom of the lane, I came to my senses and stopped by the playing field. On the other side was the beginning of the River Walk. Feeling confident I strode across the damp and empty field.

The strange thing about walking a trail backwards is that nothing looks the same.  When I reached the far side of the field I couldn’t see any sign of the trail, just trees and rough grass. There was a fair bit of disappointed walking up and down and a few thoughts of giving up and walking down Gaters Hill to the river instead. Luckily there was no one on the field to see me.

In desperation I clambered across the wet grass towards the trees where I knew there was a trail hidden somewhere. If I didn’t find it in five minutes, I’d give up. My reward, after a yard or two, was a flattened track through the long grass. A little further this turned into a narrow trail through the bracken into the trees.

After the bright sunshine it seemed dark at first and I had to slow right down and watch my footing. Before long I came to the broken fence. If I went through I knew I’d be trespassing but, despite the man I met last time telling me there was another, longer way around, I couldn’t see anything trail like, just a steep drop. With a quick look around and a pounding heart, I walked through the gap in the fence and onto the Gregg School land. There was no guarantee the corresponding piece of fence on the other side hadn’t been mended. If it had, I’d have to turn back. A trespasser I may be but I’m not a vandal.

It was with some relief I passed through the second piece of broken fence and back onto a real trail. Now I could relax and look around me properly. There were fallen pine branches everywhere and one random maple leaf, a beautiful mixture of green and gold, amongst the pine needles. Many of the pine branches were large and quite a few were bearing huge cones. These I remembered from my last walk.

The next landmark was the giant tree stump near the fence. The top of the huge pine was snapped by the gales and someone had sawn it down, probably to stop it fallling on anyone or to protect the nearby houses. When I’d first seen it from the other side I’d thought I might not be able to get past. The cut edge of the trunk was almost as tall as me so there was no chance of climbing over. There was a gap big enough to walk through though and a chance to marvel at the beauty of the wood.

Today the end of the tree was no longer freshly sawn and a ring of white, possibly sap, encircled it. From the top edge large drips running down made it look as if someone had painted it. Perhaps they had, although, I’m not sure why? It reminded me a little of the pine we had cut down in our front garden. It had grown far bigger than I’d expected and its branches hanging over the pavement were causing an obstruction. The sap turned the stump white, just like this. As if the tree was bleeding.

There is something very sad about such a magestic old tree meeting its end this way. For a long time I stood looking at it thinking about the tiny seed it grew from and all the years it had stood before the gales and a chainsaw finished it off.

Feeling slightly melancholy now, I carried on along the trail. When I came this way before there were fallen trees everywhere, although none quite as large or impressive as that first pine. When I set out I’d hoped to see some interesting fungi amongst all the sawn logs and fallen branches. Although the log piles were still there along with a few of the fallen trees, there were none. Perhaps they needed more time to rot or maybe it was just too early in the season?

The trail was shorter than I remembered and soon I was nearing the end. The land here slopes steeply downwards into the trees on the edge of Riverside Park. The dip is boggy at the best of times but today it was filled with stagnant water covered with a thick film of bright green algae. This soupy swamp seemed such an unnatural colour and had such an eerie feel about it I stopped and took several photos. If a green and ghoulish swamp monster had suddenly risen from the depths I’d hardly have been surprised.

Now I’d reached the end of the trail and was back on the street. Last time I came this way the verge was filled with daffodils. Now it was all drifts of fallen leaves. As I crunched my way along more leaves tumbled from the trees and fluttered down around me although the canonpy above seemed disappointingly green when I’d been hoping for gold.

On the corner I stopped to admire the little drinking fountain. It was donated to the city by Sir Samuel Montagu and was originally near Woodmill as far as I can tell. It was moved to this out of the way spot in 1961 because it was in the way of traffic. It is generally unnoticed and forgotten as most people either drive past or are walking on the other side of the road where there are proper pavements. Sadly, the only people who seem to pay it any attention are the vandals. In 1964 the cupola and crown on the top of the copper roof were badly damaged. It was eventually restored in 1992 but has since been vanadalised again.

Because of the lack of pavements I crossed Woodmill Lane at this point and, as I headed towards the mill I wondered exactly why vandals do what they do? It all seems so senseless, destroying lovely things just for the sake of it. The trees along the edge of the park were beginning to show their autumn colours, unlike most I’d seen so far on my walk. The ground was littered with fallen leaves in various hues and I bent to take a photograph.

On I went towards the mill, wondering why autumn seemed so late in arriving this year and why some trees had realised the season had changed while others still thought it was summer? The mill was my turning point. The last part of my walk would be along the river through Riverside Park towards home. For once I didn’t take a picture of the mill, at least not from close up. Maybe I felt I had already taken more than enough or perhaps I got distracted by something?

The next photograph I took appears to be of hops. From the time stamp on the photo and it’s place between the trees on Woodmill Lane and the willows just past Woodmill, it must have been taken close to the mill, although I don’t remember taking it at all. It is certainly an odd place to see hops growing. Perhaps this explains the lack of pictures of the mill itself?

Now all I had to do was cross the park and walk the mile through the streets to home. For the first part of the walk the river was hidden behind the trees but, once I turned the corner by the reedbeds I had the clear water beside me reflecting the blue sky and fluffy clouds. The trees on the far bank had a hint of autumn about them, but not as much as I’d expected.

A single black swan was swimming amongst the mute swans near the jetty. There were a couple of cygnets too, almost full grown. As I stood, wondering where the other black swan was a woman came and stood beside me. She fished around in her bag and pulled out a bag of bread which she began to throw to the birds.
“I’ve never seen a black swan before,” she remarked. “Is it a mutation or a different breed?”
“Its a different breed,” I told her, “the black swans are originally from Australia. They were brought here as ornamental birds for rich people’s ponds but some escaped. There are three on the river here. I keep wondering if they will breed. I’d love to see a black swan cygnet.”

My walk was almost over but I lingered by the river, chatting to the woman and watching the gulls grab as much bread as they could before it made it to the water. When the bread ran out the woman bade farewell and I turned to walk the last mile home. Little did I know what was waiting for me there or that it would be almost three years before I wrote about this walk.

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures.

The lost walks, part one

As I finally cleared away the debris of my old blog I came across two walks from that last October weekend. Walks taken when I was blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. There were no words, I never got as far as writing about them, just photographs and hazy memories. My hand was paused over the delete button but, the more I looked at those photographs, the more I remembered of those lost walks. It seemed a terrible shame for them to stay lost so I am going to do my best to recreate them now. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of what follows, it was almost three years ago after all and sometimes I struggle to remember what happened last week. Still, with a little poetic licence, here goes. This is the first of the lost walks… Continue reading The lost walks, part one

You thought it was all over

A few days ago I shared the last of the posts published on my hacked blog. It was written when I had no idea what was about to happen. It wasn’t quite the last ever post though. There was one more post waiting in the wings to be published that never saw the light of day. It was filled with all the little triumphs and disasters that would seem so unimportant later, when it seemed all was lost. While it may not be the most exiting of posts, in the interests of being thorough, I’m sharing it now, almost three years late.  Continue reading You thought it was all over

October’s coastal walking miles

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So October is over and it’s time to look back and tot up the miles for the month. How did I do? Did the wet and chilly weather, the hacked blog episode and extra hours at work scupper the hundred miles a month for the first time this year or did I scrape through by the skin of my teeth again? Am I still virtually in Yorkshire or have I crossed the border into Durham? Continue reading October’s coastal walking miles

Soaking wet with a chance of sun

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29 October – 1 November 2014

The beautiful weather of Monday was a happy fluke, laid on, it seemed, for the scattering of Commando Senior’s ashes. Not that I’d have had it any other way. Tuesday was dismal and my normal walk was cancelled due to the need to go to the Apple Shop to get my Fuelband replaced. On Monday evening the button suddenly stopped working and a bit of judicial Googling told me this was a common problem. Thankfully the wonderful Apple people replaced it without question. Hopefully it won’t happen again but it does mean I’m not entirely sure of my miles for Tuesday. Continue reading Soaking wet with a chance of sun

Commando Senior’s last flight

Micheldever, the Bermuda Triangle of Hampshire - from Geograph.org by Colin Smith
Micheldever, the Bermuda Triangle of Hampshire – from Geograph.org by Colin Smith

27 October 2014

On Monday morning instead of my normal driving lesson we were taking a trip to Micheldever, the Bermuda Triangle of Hampshire. This little village on the northern outskirts of Winchester is the most difficult place on earth to actually find. The number of hours I’ve driven around in circles not finding it doesn’t bear thinking about. Continue reading Commando Senior’s last flight

Southampton’s medieval walls, Western Esplanade to Friars Gate

Part two
Part two

26 October 2014

On a whim I decided to descend the Forty Steps to Western Esplande, leaving the medieval town. At street level the height of The walls and towers can be truly appreciated. Behind, the tower of WestQuay echoes them. Looking up, I see the machicolations where stones or boiling oil could be dropped on would be invaders and ivy leaved toadflax has made a home between the stones. Continue reading Southampton’s medieval walls, Western Esplanade to Friars Gate

Walking the Southampton walls

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26 October 2014

For my Sunday walk I decided to revisit an old friend, the medieval Southampton walls. They’re a backdrop to the city centre and one most of the people of Southampton walk past every day without really noticing them. I’ve been guilty of the same myself in my time. When I was working in the city centre I often spent my lunch hour wandering around them but it’s been a while. I’ve missed them. Continue reading Walking the Southampton walls

Handbags and glad rags

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22 – 25 October 2014

There was a definite chill in the air when I set off on Wednesday morning. Not quite a frost but a hairs breadth from it. The sky was bright and clear though so I didn’t mind the walk to work. Vivid autumn leaves were using the blue as a backdrop, something to make me smile as I plodded along. Peering over Cobden Bridge the boatyard was perfectly reflected in the still water making a pretty picture. Continue reading Handbags and glad rags

A testing day

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21 October 2014

It was an inauspicious start to Tuesday. Hurricane Gonzalo was creating havoc outside when I got up, wind, rain, leaves blowing about the garden and lots of noise. Unfortunately I had my driving theory test booked so, much as I wanted to, I couldn’t just sit in my pyjamas drinking cocoa all morning. As ever, I left with plenty of time to spare but, when I got out on the road, it looked like a car park. Normally I’d have walked but, with the weather, that didn’t seem like much of a plan unless I wanted to be blown off the Big Bridge so I waited for the bus. And waited…. Continue reading A testing day