Titanic tales from St Denys part two

10 April 2019

Many years ago I lived in Portswood in a little flat a minute’s walk or so from St Denys Station. In 1989, the Portswood bypass was built and cut a swathe through the area I knew so well. The new road was named Thomas Lewis Way after Tommy Lewis, a St Mary’s lad and son of a dock labourer, who became a prominent trade unionist, local councillor and, in 1929, Southampton’s first Labour MP. The streets I knew so well were soon unrecognisable and many houses disappeared. The last five St Denys crew members all lived on Dukes Road, one of those swallowed up. We might not have been able to find their houses but we could still find what little is left of Dukes Road and tell their stories.


The walk from Priory Road to the remains of Dukes Road was once part of my walk to work but, even in the short time since my Bus Mine days, things have changed. One of the highlights of my walks used to be the path behind the Millennium Flats where boats were tied to little jetties and swans and ducks made me smile each day. The path led to some steep steps and Horseshoe Bridge. The gate at the top of the steps is now locked. The people living in the flats don’t like unsavoury characters like me walking near their nice homes, even though there is a steep bank and a high metal fence between the path and their property.

So we walked the long way round. Both of us feeling quite miffed. A train going under Horseshoe Bridge did cheer us up a little and I was even more cheered knowing I didn’t have to go inside the bus depot and spend ten hours being moaned at by angry passengers.

Almost opposite the bus depot, squashed between the big metal units of the industrial estate and the new road, is a tiny stretch of service road. This was once Dukes Road. In fact it’s still called Dukes Road even though there is no longer a single house on it. Still, we went to what was left of it and took some photos of the road sign.

The first of the Dukes Road Titanic crew was John Bertie Ellis, born in Southampton in 1883. His father, also called John, was a naval seaman from Manchester and his mother, Emma, was from Cornwall. John and Emma had nine children and moved to Southampton just before John was born. John began his working life as a cellarman. In 1905 he married Ethel Amelia Brooks. Ethel was also born in Southampton but was of exotic heritage. Her father, Addison Taylor Brooks, was born in Washington DC, of mixed African-American and European heritage. He’d seen service in the US Military before moving to England. John and Ethel had three children, Mabel Ethel, Bertie Alec and Frank.

When John joined Titanic as a vegetable cook the family were living at 30 Dukes Road. He’d previously been working on Oceanic as assistant vegetable cook so the job on Titanic was something of a promotion and his wages of £5 a month were probably very welcome. John escaped the sinking ship in emergency lifeboat 2, the seventh boat loaded from the port side. Fourth Officer Boxhall was in charge of the boat and took Steward James Johnstone, able seaman Frank Osman and John to assist with rowing. The boat had only eighteen or so people in it, mostly women and children. It was lowered, half empty, to A Deck to pick up more passengers but found nobody there. It was the first boat to reach Carpathia. 

John was not called upon to give evidence at any of the Titanic inquiries and returned to Southampton. In October 1912, his fourth child, Archie, was born. John went back to sea but, a few months later, jumped ship in America and was never heard of by his English family again. Ethel and the children carried on as best they could. Mabel became a cook and live in domestic to a sales executive in Enfield, Middlesex. She never married. Bertie married Annie Maria Corbishley and settled in Staffordshire to raise a family. He served as a Royal Artillery gunner in WWII and was killed in 1945 in Burma. Frank moved to Biloela, Queensland and died in 1991. Archie served in the Merchant Marine and Royal Navy Reserve as a quartermaster. He married Robbia Stewart and moved to Staffordshire to raise a family. He died in 1964. Poor deserted Ethel, with her family scattered, remained in Hampshire where she died in 1931. She never heard from John again. 

Having left his family in England, seemingly without a second thought, John he moved to New South Wales and began a new life. He bigamously married Isabella Towers in 1914. The couple had two sons, John and William and set up home in Sidney. It is unlikely that Isabella ever knew of John’s previous life. In 1916, John enlisted with the Australian 19th Infantary Battalion. He ended his days in Sidney as a war pensioner. He died in Sidney in 1932 and is buried in the Randwick Cemetery.

Dukes Road today

Charles Augustus Coombs was born in Wimborne Dorset in 1867. He was the second of two sons born to Mary Jane and George Edwin, a master butcher. Charles, better known as Augustus, was brought up in Wimborne and when or why he ended up in Southampton is a mystery but it’s probable he moved to get work at sea. He was certainly living in Southampton when he married Annie Amelia West in 1891. They had three children, Elsie Annie, Gladys Kathleen and Norah Georgina. On the 1901 census Augustus was working as a ship’s baker and living with his family, including his father, George, at 9 Ivy Road, Itchen.

George died in 1902 and at some time after this, the family moved to 78 Dukes Road. By 1911, Augustus was working as a cook for the White Star Line. He left Olympic to join Titanic as assistant cook, earning £4 10s a month. 

It was not the good career move he’d hoped for though. Augustus died when Titanic sank and his body was never recovered. What became of Annie isn’t clear but neither Elsie or Norah ever married and both died in 1970. Gladys married Robert Dyer and continued to live in Southampton until her death in 1976.

Titanic cooks from Pintrest

John Henry Jackopson was born in Liverpool in 1881. His father, Charles Ludwig Jackopson was probably Norwegian, although this is not certain. His mother, Sarah Ann, was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland. The couple married in Liverpool and had five children. Very little is known about John’s early life, mainly because his surname was frequently misspelled so records are hard to identify with any certainty. 

When John’s father died, in 1896, his mother went to live with her married daughter, Mary Thalia Gibson in Kirkdale, Lancashire. John probably also lived with her but, by this time, he was already working at sea so doesn’t show on any census. In 1903, John married Catherine McCabe in Liverpool and, in 1907, moved to Southampton. They had four children, the first two, Charles and Thomas, born in Liverpool and Cornelia and Catherine born in Southampton. Tragically, Catherine died within a few weeks of her birth. 

The move to Southampton was most likely prompted by John’s work as a ship’s fireman. His last ship before joining Titanic was the merchant steamer Highland Brae, a far smaller ship than Titanic, carrying around sixty or so passengers. When John signed onto Titanic the family were living at 97 Dukes Road. His wages would have been £6 a month.


The firemen on Titanic had a relentless job. The ship had twenty-four double-ended boilers and five single-ended boilers. They consumed around eight hundred and fifty tons of coal every day and all this coal had to be shovelled from the coal bunkers into the boilers. Every two minutes the boilers needed a ton of coal to keep working. Each boiler had a team of ten firemen and four trimmers, working in four hours shifts. Four hours was the maximum time a man could deal with the exertion and the incredible heat. Even while the ship was sinking, the men on duty kept shovelling coal to keep the pumps working and the lights shining. Of the 176 firemen on board just 48 survived.

For the firemen, survival was a matter of luck. Those on duty stood no chance. As soon as the ship began to list they would have been trapped in the boiler room, unable to climb the steep ladder out. Those off duty lived or died depending on whether or not they were ordered to man the lifeboats and use their muscles to row passengers to safety. John was not one of the lucky ones. His body was never identified. 

Catherine must have been devastated by the news. She was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a son, named John after his father, just a few weeks after the sinking. Baby John only lived a few months, adding to the tragedy. In late 1913, Catherine married Charles George Hatcher and went on to have two more children. She lived in Southampton until her death in 1951. John’s children also remained in Southampton. Thomas married Florence Spencer in 1946 but had no children. He died in 1974. Charles married Doris Glasspool Plummer and had five children. He died in 1942. Cornelia married Robert Fuller and had four children. She died in 1991. 

Dukes Road today

Robert Frederick William Couper was one of eight children born to engraver Robert and his wife Stirling in Southampton in 1883. The family lived in Kingsfield Road, All Saints. Robert was just ten when his mother died and, by the time he was eighteen, he and his younger brother Leopald were boarding in a house in York Street, St Mary’s working as boilermakers. What became of the rest of the family is unclear.

In 1910 Robert married Emily Alice Westbury and the couple soon moved to 101 Dukes Road with Emily’s mother, Alice. At some time in 1911 they had a child but it died soon after birth and there is no record of a name or even if it was a boy or a girl. As Robert was almost certainly working at sea aboard Olympic by this time, it must have been a difficult time for poor Emily. They would have no more children. 

Robert Frederick William Couper From Encyclopedia Titanica

Robert signed onto Titanic as a fireman. When Titanic sank luck was on his side, unlike so many of his colleagues, he survived. Few exact details are known but he was almost certainly in lifeboat 3, the third to be lowered on the starboard side. Officer Murdoch directed the procedure and when all the passengers had boarded and there were still empty seats, he directed nearby crew members into the boat. There were several other firemen aboard the little lifeboat and their muscles were undoubtedly welcomed when it came to rowing. Lifeboat 3 was the fifth or sixth to reach Carpathia. 

Despite his experience, Robert continued to work at sea. He died on 31 December 1941 at Southampton Docks. Exactly how isn’t clear but it may well have been during a bombing raid. He was buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Emily survived him and continued to live in Southampton. She died in 1963.

Dukes Road today

Sidney Humphries was born in Wimborne, Dorset in 1859 to William, a publican, and Elizabeth. He had one sister, born the year before him. By 1861 the small family had moved to French Street, Southampton and William was working as a ship’s steward. 

Sidney followed in his father’s footsteps and went to sea at an early age then, in 1874, he joined the Royal Navy. His first ship was the St Vincent. He went on to serve on Excellent, Rover, Euphrates and Duke of Wellington but was invalided out of the service in 1882. For the next ten years it isn’t clear what he did but it’s probable that he joined the merchant service. In 1892, he rejoined the navy, serving as an able seaman on Trincomalee. 

Sidney left the navy and married Annie Rosetta Snead in 1895. They already had two children, Catherine born in 1892 and Frederick, born in 1894, and went on to have six more, Sidney, Horace, Leslie, Hetty, Arthur and Joan. They lived at various addresses in Shirley and Sidney is described on the 1901 and 1911 census as being a seaman so it is likely he’d rejoined the merchant service. 

In 1886 Sidney witnessed a young woman, Minnie Whitehorn, throwing herself into Shirley Pond. Poor Minnie, a domestic servant, was trying to kill herself but Sidney intervened. Without a thought for himself, he dived in and saved her. His efforts were recognised by a medal from the Royal Humane Society. 

Dukes Road today

Annie had just given birth to their youngest daughter when Sidney signed onto Titanic as Quartermaster. He and his family were living at 113 Dukes Road. His previous ship had been Olympic. Titanic had six quartermasters, each acting as helmsman, in charge of navigating the ship, when on duty.

Stanley wasn’t on duty when the ship hit the iceberg. Whether he’d have done anything differently if he had been is anyone’s guess. He was on A deck though, helping to load the lifeboats. He watched the youngest crew members, the bellboys, being taken to their posts in the main cabin entry by their captain, a steward. The fifty lads, some as young as fourteen, were told to stay in the cabin and not get in the way. It’s hard to imagine what the poor boys must have been thinking but they all sat quietly on their benches and did as they were told. When it was clear the ship really was going to sink and the order was given that every man was free to save himself so long as he kept away from the lifeboats, these lads scattered to all parts of the ship. Sidney saw several of them standing around smoking cigarettes and joking with the passengers, as if they didn’t have a care in the world. In fact they seemed quite gleeful to be breaking the rule against smoking while on duty. Not one of them tried to get in a lifeboat and not one was saved. 

Sidney Humphries from Association Francaise du Titanic

Sidney took command of lifeboat 11, the sixth to be lowered from the starboard side. Several stewards were ordered into the boat to help the passengers over the railing. It was one of the most heavily loaded lifeboats, with between sixty and eighty people aboard, mostly women and children. Miss Edith Rosenbaum brought a toy, a musical pig with her and entertained the frightened children with it. Several people later said a baby was thrown in at the last moment without its mother.  

There was some difficulty when the boat was launched as the crew were unable to release her from the falls, the ropes and blocks used with davits for lowering the boats. When the boat finally reached the water it was discovered there was no lamp aboard and a sailor lit a piece of rope to use as a signal. The boat was so heavily loaded those manning the oars had difficulty actually rowing. Even so, lifeboat 11 was the sixth or eighth to reach Carpathia. 

Sidney returned to England and was not called to give evidence at either the American or British inquiries into the sinking. He carried on working at sea, even throughout World War I. Later, as his health began to fail with age and he developed a heart condition, he worked as a stevedore in Southampton Docks. He died in 1919, aged 60, and was buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Annie died in 1936. 

We might not have found a single house still standing on the second half our our St Denys search but we had at least accounted for all the St Denys crew members. Now we had a descision to make. We were more or less in Bevois Valley and I’d brought the list of Bevois Valley crew and their addresses with me just in case. Time was getting on though. It was almost midday and we were both getting a bit hungry and thirsty. Should we cut our losses and head for home or carry on searching?

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Titanic tales from St Denys

Titanic Lifeboats in New York

10 April 2019

As today was the anniversary of the sailing of Titanic it seemed a good day to continue our search for Titanic crew houses. Our objectives were the houses in St Denys and, as we walked across Cobden Bridge, it looked as if it was going to be a beautiful, if chilly morning. Being pretty familiar with the streets of St Denys, I was well aware several of the houses were no longer standing but I had high hopes of finding most of them.

The first house on our list was on the north side of Priory Road, not too far from the remains of the old priory that gives the area its name. Today, all that’s left is an archway, overgrown with ivy in a back garden. Even so, we stopped to take a quick photo as we passed.

A few doors along we found 270 Priory Road still standing. At least we think it was still there. A huge overgrown tree in the front garden almost hid it from view and it took us a few moments to work out this was actually the house Jack Butterworth gave as his address when he signed on to Titanic as a Saloon Steward to earn just £3 15s a month.

270 Priory Road

Jack was born in Manchester in around 1889. Little is known about his early life and when he came to Southampton isn’t clear but it was almost certainly connected with his seafaring career. Before he joined Titanic he’d been working on the New York, which sailed the same route as Titanic would have. In fact, New York was berthed beside Oceanic when Titanic set sail and the suction of her passing caused the three inch steel hawsers securing the smaller ship to be torn from their moorings. There would have been a collision if Captain Smith hadn’t ordered Titanic’s port propeller to be reversed and turned the gigantic liner. Meanwhile a tugboat towed the New York in the opposite direction. Had the two ships collided, history may have been very different. 

Jack was obviously settled in Southampton. He’d recently got engaged to a local girl, May Hinton of Woolston. When the ship was in Queenstown he sent her a letter describing the near collision. 

RMS Titanic. Queenstown. 12th April 1912

My Darling Girl,

We have been having a very fierce time in this steamer. I suppose you heard of the accident that occurred to the New York as we sailed this ship carried so much water between the Oceanic and New York that the York broke all her ropes and sailed all on her own, you could have tossed a penny from our ship to her she was so close, it was a good job she did not hit us as it would have been another case of the Hawke collision.

Well, dearest how do you feel? pretty lonely I guess after me being home for so long, but still we cannot grumble my dear as we have had a real good and happy time and I am so happy to think everything is all right. Well there is one consolation about it I shall soon be with you again all being well.

We do really enjoy ourselves when I am home, well I do not see why we should not anyhow, and again I think it does us both good for me to go away for a little stretch don’t you dear? There are quite a lot of American Line men here so it is a little better for us to see a few old faces.

Our shore steward was aboard yesterday before we sailed and he saw me, so he said ”hello have you signed here?” so I said ”yes!” and then he said ”see you come back in time for your own ship”, so of course I thanked him and said ”yes”, which I may do if things do not turn out good here.

Will now close sweetheart take care of yourself dear, love to all at home and fondest love to yourself dearest.

Yours always – Jack
PS Don’t forget to get me a Plymouth football paper.

Tragically, the letter reached poor May on her twenty first birthday, 20 April, the same day she learned he would not be returning. Jack’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennet and numbered 116. He was described as having red hair and was wearing dark clothes, a white stewards jacket and black boots. In his pocket was a cigarette case. He was buried at sea. 

Jack Butterworth, photograph from Findagrave.com

Our next house, 64 St Denys Road, was also still standing. The little end of terrace house close to the railway bridge looks to have been renovated fairly recently and has now been divided into two flats. It was once the home of George William Feltham, born in 1870 in Bermondsey, Surrey.

64 St Denys Road

George was the son of George, a warehouseman and Elizabeth, both Wiltshire Natives. He was the middle child of three, with an elder sister and younger brother. In the first few years of his life his family moved from Bermondsey to Bromley, London and his father became a seed warehouseman. George began his working life as a baker and confectioner, lodging at various addresses in London and Middlesex. By 1901 he was lodging in London with a Mrs Francis Emma Mayley and her six children. In around 1907 George, along with Francis and three of her children, had moved to Southampton and were living at 64 St Denys Road. George was now working aboard Majestic as a confectioner. What became of Francis’ bricklayer husband, Alfred, isn’t clear but, in 1908 George and Francis had married, despite her being fourteen years his senior. 

George left Majestic to join Oceanic and then signed on to Titanic as a Vienna Baker, earning £4 10s a month. He did not survive the sinking and his body was never recovered. Poor Francis never remarried but stayed in Southampton. She died in 1939. 

Our next houses were in the warren of narrow streets crowded around the railway line and the river. We crossed St Denys Road near the church and set off in search of 37 North Road, where Edward Castleman once lived.

Edward was one of Henry and Elizabeth Castleman’s seven children, born in 1874 in Littleton, Hampshire. His early life was spent living at Harestock Farm, where his father was an agricultural labourer and his mother a dairywoman. When Edward left school he became a farm servant but, after his father’s death, his mother moved to Shirley Southampton to live with her married daughter, Martha Dabell. It’s probable that Edward joined her when she moved but he is not listed on the 1901 census and was most likely already working at sea. 

In 1905 Edward married Kate Amy Marchant in South Stoneham. When he joined Titanic the couple were living at 37 North Road and had no children. He signed on as a greaser, earning £6 10s a month. His brother in law, Martha’s second husband Walter Alexander Bishop, was also working aboard as a bedroom steward. Both men were lost in the sinking and their bodies were never identified.

37 North Road

A death notice was posted in The Echo on 30 April 1912. 

Castleman–April 15th 1912 at sea, through the foundering of the S.S. Titanic, Edward Castleman, aged 37, the devoted husband of Kate Amy Castleman, of 37 North Road, St Denys, Southampton.  “In the midst of life, we are in death.”

Two years later Kate married Frederick Stevens. She remained in Southampton and died in 1948.

Now we had to cross the railway line that runs along one side of North Road. There were two choices, the bridge on Priory Road or the level crossing on Adelaide Road. Past experience told me to avoid the latter so we decided to head for Eastfield Road. We found the house of John Davis close to the corner of South Road.

John was the son of retired Royal Marine Corporal turned publican, George Davis and his wife Rebecca. He was born in Gosport in 1884 and had nine siblings. His first years appear to have been spent living at the George Inn, Melcombe Regis, Weymouth. Around the turn of the century the family moved to Landport, Hampshire. In 1902 John turned eighteen and left the Third Hampshire Regiment Militia to join the Army Service Corps. He was just five foot two, had blue eyes, brown hair, decayed lower molars and a burn scar under his right arm. The last two things may have been connected with his previous job as a baker. 

John served as a driver for the regiment in both Aldershot and Chatham but his conduct was not good. He was thrown in the cells for falling asleep at his sentry post, and reprimanded for other minor offences. Eventually, after failing to report for duty twice, he was dismissed in 1908. He then found work at sea as a baker. Two years later he married Eliza Blanch Hunt, known as Lily and moved in with her parents at 19 Eastfield Road, St Denys . A year later their son John Samuel was born. 

19 Eastfield Road

John was on Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast. He’d left Olympic to join the ship as extra second baker earning £5 a month. His elder brother Stephen James Davis was also aboard as an able seaman. Neither brother survived the sinking but John’s body was recovered by the Mackay Bennett and he was buried at sea on 24 April 1912. He was wearing white trousers, a blue coat and apron marked JD and a white outer coat. In his pockets were a Post Office savings account book, 3s 6d, keys and union books, suggesting he’d had time to collect his important belongings before the ship sank. Perhaps he believed he would be saved, or maybe he picked up the books because he knew they’d help identify his body?

A death notice was posted in the Hampshire Independent. 

DAVIS–April 15th 1912, at sea, on s.s. Titanic, John Davis, aged 27, the beloved husband of Eliza Davis, of 19 Eastfield road, St Denys, Southampton. Deeply mourned by his sorrowing wife and child. “God be with you till we meet again.

Poor Eliza seemed to be unlucky in love. She married Harry Atkinson in 1915 but was widowed again two years later. In 1918 she married for the third time but her husband, Albert E Young, died in 1927. Her final marriage, to Frank Ernest Colverson in 1928, was her last. She died in Southampton in 1973, Frank survived her and died three years later. 

Adelaide Road was the furthest west we had to go so, now we’re were safely on the right side of the tracks, we made it our next target. When we got there the train gates were down, as they so often are. Had we walked the other way earlier we’d have been in for a long wait. This was something Arthur Peckham Burroughs would have been all too familiar with. He lived at 73 Adelaide Road, between the level crossing and the entrance to St Denys Station. 

Arthur was born in Lewisham, London in 1877 to Mary Jane Agnes Peckham from Lymington and Arthur Burroughs, a draughtsman from Lewisham. His parents never married, which must have caused quite a scandal at the time. Later that year Mary married Tom Rickman, a carpenter from Lymington. Mary and Tom married in Southampton and set up home in Bullar Street. They had two more children in quick succession. The little family lived at various addresses around St Mary’s and Northam during Arthur’s childhood and, by 1901, Arthur appears to have found work at sea, probably as a fireman. Two years later he married Harriett Jane Howells, a Lymington girl like his mother. The couple married in St Denys, perhaps in the church we passed earlier, and soon moved into 73 Adelaide Road. Over the next seven years they had three children, Arthur John, Harry and Gwendoline Agnes. 

73 Adelaide Road

Arthur left the Philadelphia to join the firemen on Titanic. He would have earned £6 a month for the hard, hot and dirty work of shovelling coal into the ship’s boilers. Like the majority of the firemen on board, Arthur was lost when the ship sank. It’s likely he was still down in the boiler room trying to keep the pumps and lights working so more passengers would have the chance to escape. His body was never identified but he is remembered on a family headstone in the Old Cemetery, one I have found and photographed on one of my Saturday morning wanderings there. 

Harriet remarried in 1915. She and Albert Edward Mullins, a dock policeman, had two children, Edward Ernest and Edna. She died in Southampton in 1949. All of Arthur’s children remained in Southampton, married and had families. 

As we retraced our steps along South Road towards our next house the train finally rattled across the crossing. This would have been a familiar sound for Walter Thomas Boothby who lodged in Ivy Road. Walter was born in Docking, Norfolk in 1874, the eldest of Norfolk natives John Aubin and Charlotte Boothby’s eleven children. Walter’s early life was quite unsettled as his father changed careers with monotonous regularity and each job brought a change of address. When Walter was born John was a crew member on a lifeboat in Hunstanton, he then became a grocer’s Assistant in Docking, a gamekeeper in Alconbury, Huntingdonshire and a domestic gardener for Mr Fenwick of Luffenham Hall, Rutlandshire. 

This disjointed childhood may have influenced Walter’s later choices. His first job was as a butler and valet to a Captain Shipley but, by 1897, he’d gone to sea, working for the Orient Line, presumably as a steward, and was based in Australia. He then moved to the Union Castle Line and with them visited South Africa at the height of the Boer War.

His seafaring career was beset with disasters. He was on the Dunottar Castle when a navigational error saw the ship missing for quite some time. In April 1908, while he was working for the Hamburg-America Line aboard the St Paul, she collided with the Gladiator during a snowstorm off the Isle of Wight. St Paul struck Gladiator a glancing blow just aft of her engine room ripping open both ships. Gladiator sank but St Paul remained afloat and launched lifeboats to rescue those in the water. Twenty seven sailors were lost. Walter was also aboard Olympic in September 1911 when HMS Hawke collided with her in the Solent. Hawke’s bow rammed Olympic’s starboard side near the stern and tore two large holes in the hull. Two of her watertight compartments flooded but she managed to limp back to Southampton with no loss of life. Although Walter didn’t know it at the time, his brother, Alfred, was aboard Hawke. 

Walter Thomas Boothby from Encyclopedia Titanica

Had all these disasters put Walter off going to sea, his story might have been very different but, in 1912, he signed on to Titanic as a bedroom steward. By this time he had been married to Caroline Annie Tunnicliffe, a lady’s maid from Rutland, for eight years but the couple had no children. When he joined Titanic he was lodging with a Mr and Mrs William Philpott at 50 Ivy Road but it isn’t clear if Caroline was also living there or if she had remained in Rutland where the couple married.

50 Ivy Road

Walter’s in law, John Puzey, of Manor Road, Itchen, was also a steward on Titanic. For Walter, the collision must have felt like a very familiar story, but, having survived so many disasters, he probably didn’t believe the ship would sink. Both men were lost and only Walter’s body was recovered by the Mackay Bennett on 24 April. His body, numbered 107, was described as having fair hair and prominent teeth. He was wearing a uniform jacket and vest, a White Star belt and pyjamas, suggesting he had been asleep when the ship hit the iceberg. In his pocket he had a pouch, pipe, knife, key, 2s 3 1/2d and 1 French franc.  He was buried at sea. 

A memorial was posted in the Portsmouth Evening News on 14 April 1913. 

BOOTHBY AND PUZEY–In loving memory of our dear brothers, Walter and Jack, who was drowned in the terrible Titanic disaster, April 14th, 1912. Sadly missed by Ada and Will.

Caroline never remarried and settled in Edmonton, London. She worked as a school nurse and health visitor and died in 1953. 

As we walked down Ivy Road towards our next house on Priory Road, we stopped to look at the curious little church building that seems to straddle the two roads. This church was originally built in 1866 on Priory Road to house the Methodist congregation who’d been meeting in an upstairs room of a Priory Road house. Methodism was obviously popular in the area because the church was soon extended into Ivy Road. By 1969 though, that popularity had waned and the church closed down. These days it is the New Testament Church of God. Whether Harold Charles William Phillimore ever worshiped here or not remains to be seen but he undoubtedly knew the building well. 

Harold was born in Shirley Southampton, in 1883. He was one of eight children born to mariner Henry Charles Phillimore from Shirley and his wife Caroline who originated from Corfe Castle in Dorset. Harold was brought up in Shirley and Portswood. He began his working life as a grocer in London Road in the city centre but, at the age of twenty, he followed in his father’s footsteps and went to sea on the Majestic. He later served aboard Adriatic and Olympic. At some point in the first decade of the twentieth century the Phillimore family moved to 73 Priory Road and this was where Harold was living when he joined Titanic as a first class saloon steward. 

73 Priory Road

When Titanic sank Harold was still aboard. Somehow he managed to clamber onto some flotsam from the ship and cling there. Another man was with him but the freezing water overcame him and he died. Harold kept clinging on. If it hadn’t been for lifeboat 14 he would have surely perished too. Fifth Officer Harold Lowe was in command of the only lifeboat to go back to the place where Titanic had been and attempt to pull survivors from the water. He distributed the passengers aboard his lifeboat into other boats and, along with his crew, rowed back into the sea of floating bodies. Sadly he found very few alive. Harold saw the lifeboat approaching and managed to call out. When the little boat reached him someone held out an oar for him to grasp but he was so frozen by this time he couldn’t hold on. Eventually though, he was hauled into the boat, the last person to be rescued from the water. Of the four people Lowe managed to rescue from the water, only two survived, Harold was one of them. 

Harold Charles William Phillimore From Encyclopedia Titanica

After such a narrow escape, most people would give up on going to sea but Harold was made of sterner stuff. He married Mabel Podesta in 1913 and carried on working as a steward. During World War I he even volunteered to work on the transport ship SS Royal George and was awarded the General Service and Mercantile Marine War Medals for his efforts. When the war ended he went back to working as a bedroom steward on ships such as the Queen Mary and Berengaria. This work saw him rub shoulders with many of the rich and famous, including the Duke of Windsor (later Edward VIII) and music hall star Marie Lloyd. 

Harold and Mabel had no children and, sadly, Mabel died in 1933. Two years later, Harold married Annie Carver. He was, by this time, in his early fifties and the couple did not have children. Harold finally retired, aged 68, in 1956 and settled into a life on land at his home in Nutbeam Road, Eastleigh. He died on 26 April 1967, aged 79 and was buried in South Stoneham Cemetery. Annie survived him. 

Harold in later life from Encyclopedia Titanica

We were now at the far end of Priory Road, heading towards Horseshoe Bridge. Our next St Denys houses were all on the far side of the bridge on the edge of Bevois Valley and Mount Pleasant. Unlike Harold, I was pretty sure none of them had survived…

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Parkrun tourism Southsea

6 April 2019

This week we decided to go for another spot of parkrun tourism. There are eighteen different parkrun venues in Hampshire to choose from but our rather random choice for this week was Southsea, around twenty miles down the motorway.

Obviously, it was an earlier than usual start and a rather crowded car, as we picked up Rob, John and Ian on the way but we arrived in good time, parked up in the Pyramids car park and quickly found the start on the far side of the Rock Gardens. Although the Southsea course, along the seafront to Eastney and back, was pretty familiar, being part of the Great South and Portsmouth Coastal routes, only John had actually run the Southsea parkrun before. It was also the first spot of parkrun tourism for Rob and Commando’s new running group, the Hamwic Harriers. Commando was even wearing his shiny new Hamwic Harriers shirt!

It was a touch on the chilly side on the seafront and, even in my warm coat, I was shivering. The runners in their shorts and thin shirts looked positively frozen. As it happened, we weren’t the only ones trying out the relatively flat, fast Southsea course. While we were waiting for the start, we bumped into Gerry.

The first ever Southsea parkrun was held on 5 October 2013, with 276 people taking part. These days it averages around theee hundred runners each week, a touch smaller than Southampton, but then almost every UK parkrun is. Weather plays an important role in the number of PB’s here. The course may be more or less flat but a windy day can make running one half a little tricky. Luckily today was relatively calm, if cold, but then, as all of our group were in the final stages of marathon training, none of them was planning on going flat out. Well, that’s what they told me anyway!

Frankly, it was quite a relief when everyone set off along the Esplanade and I could finally warm up with a little walk. As I’ve spent quite a lot of time wandering around Southsea while Commando has been running various events, my main plan for the morning was to dash to grab a coffee and dash back. Unlike most of the other races, parkrun doesn’t really leave much time for wandering anyway, even on a slow day Commando was likely to finish in twenty five minutes or less.

Although there are coffee shops on the seafront, past experience made me wary of trying any of them. The last time I tried that the coffe was so bad I threw it in a nearby bin after just two sips. There is only one Costa in Southsea and I reckoned, if I walked fast, I’d be able to get there, get a coffee and get back before any of the runners crossed the line. As plans go it was fairly unambitious. The most direct route is just over a mile there and back. Of course, I was starting off from a slightly different place than normal and, in typical fashion, managed to take a wrong turn which added a few extra minutes but did show me a rather interesting piece of graffiti I’d not encountered before.

For a moment I thought I’d stumbled upon a crowd of strangely dressed locals queueing outside a building. Closer inspection told me they and the building windows were all painted, along with a map of Southsea. Given that I was now technically lost, the map was quite handy.

The mural, near the roundabout between Clarendon Road and Granada Road, is the work of The Lodge Arts Centre, overseen by Mark Lewis. It’s constantly being updated with new characters so I may return another time for a closer look.

In the end, my coffee was not to be. I made it to Costa but found a rather long queue. There was no time to wait so I simply turned around and headed back towards the parkrun finish line. As walks go it wasn’t one of my most interesting and there wasn’t much time for photographs, although I did snap the slowly rising sun over Southsea Common.

My timing was impeccable. As I walked towards the finish line I could see the first finishers approaching. Moments after I reached the end of the funnel I spotted Commando, Rob and John heading along the Esplanade together. They’d obviously stayed true to their word and had a fairly gentle run. Ian, however, was nowhere to be seen. This was puzzling, as he is the fastest of the group.

Just as I began to worry that something had happened to poor Ian, someone tapped me in the shoulder. When I turned around, there was Ian grinning like a Cheshire Cat and holding up his finish token. He’d actually crossed the line first!

None of the Hamwic Harriers got a PB today and there are no prizes for being first finisher at parkrun but, all in all, I’d say our parkrun tourism adventure to Southsea was a success. The only downside was the distinct lack of coffee. Next time I think I’ll take a flask!

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The east wind

3 April 2019

When the weatherman said the first half of April was going to be cold and wet, with maybe a little snow, I should have listened. Ok, I did find my yaktrax just in case but, this morning, when I looked outside there was beautiful blue sky and sunshine. This was handy as I had an errand to run involving a fourish mile walk.

Anticipating the cold, I did put my arctic coat on and grab a hat as I headed for the door. Outside it looked like perfect walking weather but, as I put my key in the lock to open the door, something began to fall out of the sky. In fact lots of somethings. Little balls of ice about the size of a pea, not quite hailstones, not quite snow were hitting the decking in ever growing numbers. Some landed with a splat and disintegrated, others bounced and rolled. From past experience, I believe they are called graupel.

Outside I stopped to take a few photos and a video, sure the graupel would be short lived. It kept on falling though, getting heavier and heavier. My errand wouldn’t wait though, so, hood up and head down, I set off up the hill with the icy balls bouncing off my hood and sleeves.

East wind

At the top of the hill I stopped to catch my breath and look at the pretty primroses surrounded by icy little balls. The heat of the climb didn’t last long. The wind was bitingly cold, even with my warm coat. My face hurt. If anything, the falling ice was getting harder, more splat than bounce now.

Two miles on it was still falling. The catkins at Millers Pond looked sad and droopy, crystals of ice weighing them down. The icy drops were teaming into the pond creating a million little ripples around the lily pads. There were no ducks to be seen. No doubt they were all sheltering somewhere under the trees.

Beyond the Railway arch I thought I saw a tiny patch of blue sky but the sleety, haily, rain was still falling hard. My errand took me to the top of Portsmouth Road. My original plan had been to visit St Mary’s Extra Cemetery but the weather changed my mind. Instead, one my mission was accomplished, I just turned around and headed back towards the pond.

As I made my way along the trail towards Middle Road, the blossom on the hawthorn seemed to be mocking me. It’s supposed to be a sure sign of good weather after all. By now the worst of the ice and rain had stopped but I was wet and very cold. It felt more like January than April although the bluebells told a different story.

Typically, the sun did come out when I was half way home. It did little to warm me but the slightly uphill walk helped a little. If the hawthorn is to be believed spring is here, just not today with the east wind blowing.

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A lion’s tail

2 April 2019

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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Strolling, rushing and history bubbles

30 March 2019

Most Saturday mornings I can be found at Southampton parkrun. Usually I’m clutching a takeaway coffee and wandering around the Old Cemetery while everyone runs. Right now though Commando is at the long run stage of his training for the Southampton Marathon and today he decided he’d incorporate parkrun into his twenty mile run. This meant setting off at silly o’clock, parking near the Common, running seventeen miles then running parkrun.

Obviously I didn’t much fancy getting up before dawn then hanging about for several hours on the Common. Much as I love a wander, even I would find it hard to stay interested in old graves for quite that long. The temptation was to have a lie in and stay at home but, in the end, I descided to have a leisurely walk to parkrun and meet Commando after the run. Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be quite as leisurely as I’d have liked.

It started well. By my reckoning, if I left home at eight thirty, a good half hour after we normally set off, I could dawdle my way to the Common, stopping on the way to grab a coffee from the London Road Starbucks and still arrive before everyone headed off to the Bellemoor for the post run cool down. The last runners don’t usually finish until around ten o’clock and Commando usually mans the finish funnel after his run. There didn’t seem to be any hurry.

It was a beautiful, blue sky morning and the main road was surprisingly quiet. Before I crossed I stood for a moment admiring the outline of the remaining big tree between Juniper and Maple Road. On the other side of the road I strolled on, thinking about the way tree branches look like the bronchi and bronchioles of human lungs. As trees are the lungs of the world, this is hardly a coincidence.

On I dawdled, enjoying the weak spring sunshine. Normally I’d walk across Cobden Bridge and up through Highfield but today I’d decided on a different route, one that would take me past Starbucks. When I reached Northam Bridge I stopped and admired all the little boats in various states of decay on the gently rippled water. Where they come from is a mystery but I love the ever changing view.

As I reached the centre of the bridge a group of rowers from the rowing club passed beneath me and I stopped to watch them for a while, confident there was no rush. Saturday morning seems to be the time for exercise, whether it be rowing, running or just walking like me.

There was another stop to look over the bridge at the progress on the latest phase of development on the old television studios. A tall block of flats is currently going up. For some time I stood trying to imagine how it would look and wondering what I thought about it. We all live wrapped in our own little bubble of history, centred around the decades when we grew up. Change can sometimes be difficult to watch but our little bubble was once someone else’s change and this new change will be someone else’s bubble. Nothing stays the same forever.

On I went, past the new flats and houses, remembering walks to work when this was all overgrown wire fencing and rubble. There were berries and poppies to look at back then and a random gooseberry bush. Then someone shouted out ‘good morning ‘ and I turned just in time to see Luis zooming past on his bike. He must have been heading to parkrun too. He had around ten minutes to get there before the start but I was pretty sure he’d make it, more or less. Southampton parkrun rarely starts bang on nine o’clock anyway.

On foot it would take much longer but I had no need to be there for the start. At the level crossing I climbed the steps to the bridge, even though the gates were up. The views from the top are nice and I was in no hurry. A little clump of dandelions had taken root somehow near the top step. The bright flowers made me stop and smile.

There were no trains coming but I couldn’t resist a photograph looking along the tracks. The old gasometers and the struts of St Mary’s Stadium were just visible in the distance. At the top of the steps on the other side there was a view across Mount Pleasant towards Beovis Valley. The Old Farmhouse pub and the school tower stood out, landmarks in a sea of little terraced houses.

As I passed the school I looked at my watch. It was five to nine. I wouldn’t make the parkrun start but I’d never intended to. I had plenty of time to get a coffee and dawdle my way to the Common before the finish.

As I was walking up Rockstone Lane though, I suddenly remembered I had Commando’s barcode in the tiny pocket at the front of my bag. A quick check confirmed this. Usually I grab his token when he finishes and go off to get it and his barcode scanned while he helps with the finish funnel. His barcode stays in my bag so it never gets forgotten. Last night I meant to give it to him but I forgot and it was still in my bag. Without it he wouldn’t get a finish time.

All thoughts of getting a coffee and wandering on Asylum Green to look at the two monuments there dissolved. There was no more strolling. Now I puffed up the lane to the Avenue at top speed. Even the curious little house in the Rockstone Community Garden barely made me pause. Finding out about it would have to wait for another day.

The rest of the walk was a frantic march, racing against time. By the time I reached Cemetery Road I was hot and rather red in the face. It was quarter past nine. The first finisher would probably be passing Bellemoor corner about now. By the time I made the bag tree people were already on the finish straight. Finding a gap between runners, I dashed across the gravel and headed for the funnel.

Somehow I made it just in time to see Commando cross the line. Mission complete. Barcode and token collected and scanned. Now for a relaxing coffee in the Bellemoor. What a way to start the weekend.

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Pavement chalk, a chalk stream and reclaimed land

27 March 2019

My task for today was to get some pavement chalk. Commando and Rob were hosting a time trial on the Common and needed something eco friendly to mark the start and finish line. Pavement chalk seemed the obvious choice but it proved harder to find than you’d think. CJ was sure they’d have some in Hobbycraft. My feeling was he was angling for a river walk and a coffee but I had to admit it was worth a try. At least we’d get a nice walk.

It wasn’t the best of days weatherwise, but it wasn’t raining so we wrapped up and headed for Cutbush Lane. There were bluebells and celandine in the woods beside the trail to remind us spring had sprung, even if the temperature didn’t feel very springlike.

Most of the trees were still bare but there was a softening to the tips suggesting leaves soon to come. The edges of colourless winter had been brightened by patches of green here and there. Spring seems to be starting on the ground with the wildflowers and grasses but soon enough it will work it’s way up into the highest branches.

Cutbush Lane runs in a gully down through what was farmland before Townhill Park and Chartwell green were built. Although there are houses almost in touching distance, it’s easy to forget them and feel like you’re walking along a country lane. The gnarled old tree, clinging precariously to the bank here has probably been there longer than the modern houses and flats and, with a void large enough to sit in beneath its roots, it always surprises me when I see it still standing.

“I’d forgotten how long this lane is,” CJ said. “It seems to go on forever.”

“Don’t start with the ‘are we nearly there yet,’ too soon,” I laughed. “We’ve a way to go yet.”

Then I pointed out the cow feeder, high up on the bank and reminded him of how lost we got the day we went wandering in Chartwell Copse. We’d wound our way along so many lanes and cutaways we lost all sense of direction and when we looked down onto Cutbush Lane we thought we’d discovered a new footpath.

It’s been a long while since we last walked this way. So long in fact, that CJ almost missed the turn at the end of the downward stretch of the lane and began to walk the trail leading to Cutbush Hidden Pond. He was soon back on track though and it wasn’t long before we reached hobbycraft. We located the pavement chalk without too much trouble. Getting out of the place without spending a fortune was a little more difficult.

Next door, in the Swan Garden Centre, we got some takeaway coffees. The place was crowded and noisy so we decided against sitting inside to enjoy our drinks. Instead we headed down Gaters Hill towards the river. Since we last came this way a huge new building has sprung up all squares of concrete and glass. It isn’t the most attractive of things and not really in keeping with the old mill buildings below it. Those mill buildings are a little more visible now though so I guess you win some, you lose some.

My original plan had been to drink our coffee on a bench by the old Mansbridge Bridge but, when we got to the bottom of the hill, I spotted a picnic bench close to the boundary stone. Maybe it’s been there all along but I’ve never noticed it before and it seemed like a good place to sit. It took us a while to get across the road and the cars whizzing past made it less peaceful than I’d have liked but the views across the river to the watermeadows made up for it.

The trees here had a definite hint of green about them and the grass was sprinkled with daisies. Usually there are cows in the meadows and fishermen on the bank but today there were none. Once our coffee was finished we made our way towards the White Swan. A sign on a lamppost explained the lack of fishermen. Apparently it’s closed season for fishing.

So we walked on, past the Swan, wondering why we hadn’t thought to have our coffee there and deciding, maybe next time? As we headed for the bridge I kept on the lookout for signs of nesting swans. In the past I’ve seen the remains of nests along the bank here but, today, there were none. Last year we didn’t see a single mute swan cygnet on this stretch of the river although the black swans seem to be multiplying. Whether these two things are connected isn’t clear but the lack of cygnets is a worry.

The old Mansbridge Bridge acts as the halfway point of this circular walk. It may not be exactly half way in distance but it’s the point where we begin to head back towards home. Even on a dull, overcast day like today, there is something about seeing the arch of that old stone bridge that makes me smile.


This is also the point most likely to be flooded and, over the last year or so, there’s been a pump here continually working to pump excess water from the marshy land behind the trees. How successful this was I can’t say but the pump has now gone and the land is still waterlogged. When I was much younger I used to walk this way to the pub sometimes. Back then I don’t remember it ever being flooded, now it’s a veritable pond. Still, the willows seem to like it, if the bright, acid green of their new leaves is anything to go by.

We saw our first swans of the day just after we passed the bridge. A cob and pen were swimming up river, close to our bank so we stopped briefly to say hello. This produced a hiss from the cob and we walked on smiling. Whenever I see swans on this part of the river I wonder if they are the cygnets orphaned at a young age back in 2014?

Although there was no flooding on the path, the river was very high today. We stopped for a moment or two to watch it tumbling off towards the fish ponds of the Woodmill Activity Centre. A little further on a very large tree had fallen, thankfully away from the river. Its huge rootball stuck up from the bank exposing river mud and a tangle of branches and roots. Last summer was so dry I’m not surprised trees are falling.

Some trees seem to have coped better with the stress than others. There was blossom on the trees beside River Walk and bright forsythia flowers by the car park on Woodmill Lane. Soon enough everything will be green and winter will seem like a cold dream.

The greylags on the riverbank here are another sign that spring is coming. They’ve left their winter homes in warmer climes and come to the river to breed. Something about the area around Woodmill seems to appeal to them as they gather here in large numbers and are quite unafraid of people. Today there were just a handful, sitting on the bank looking haughty as we passed. They may be only spring and summer visitors but there’s no doubt they feel they own the place and we are the interlopers.

Once we passed the mill we’d left the freshwater behind. The river from here is tidal, the water salty like the sea. The sluices here control the river’s flow, although they are old and in a poor state of repair. There has been talk of removing them altogether because the cost of replacing or repairing them is high. What this would mean for the river as a whole is hard to say.

As we carried on it was disappointing to see a mass of litter strewn around one of the bins not far from the mill. Sadly, this is becoming more and more common of late. Picking up the rubbish wasn’t an option as the bin was so full there would have been nowhere to put it and we had not come equipped with bin bags or gloves. I’m beginning to think we should carry both on all our walks. The litter seemed to be the remains of some kind of picnic party, all empty food wrappers and plastic cups. This kind of thing makes me extremely angry. If someone can carry bags full of food and drink to the river for a party, why can’t they pick up their rubbish and carry it home again? I’m sure they wouldn’t just drop their rubbish on the carpet at home. There really is no excuse for such filthy, lazy behaviour.

Rounding the bend by the reedbeds always feels like the final leg of our journey. The old oak on the bend with its beautifully contorted branches, is a particular favourite of mine. It’s quite possible the tree is actually older than the park. Back in the 1930’s this was marshland, known locally as Cobden Meadows. Cows grazed on the land but it often flooded and water sometimes came up to the backs of the houses on Manor Farm Road. The council had grand plans for the area though and, over the next decade or so, land was reclaimed and a retaining wall built along the riverbank.

By 1949 work had begun to create a new park alongside the River Itchen, where people could enjoy the fresh air and walk beside the water all the way to Mansbridge if they wished. This walk along the river is one I often take advantage of. For all the grumbles there are about the council, creating this lovely park seems to me to be one of their better decisions.

Now we’d almost reached the jetty where the swans gather. Earlier I’d been thinking about the lack of mute swan cygnets last year and worrying a little that the prolific breeding of the black swans was responsible. Just before we reached the jetty though, we spotted a swan still sporting brownish grey feathers. Obviously this was a cygnet from last year. Further on there were several more. So much for my worrying. We may not have seen any cygnets but these birds were proof there were some. Maybe they’d been hiding from us or perhaps we just weren’t looking hard enough?

The swans put on quite a show for us in the last few yards of our walk. A loud flapping and splashing alerted us to two mute swans taking flight. Seeing these gigantic birds take to the air is a rare treat and these two seemed to be heading up towards the reedbeds. A few moments later two of the black swans tried to show off their flying skills. Their flight was much shorter but it did give us a great view of their white flight feathers.

We were now just yards from Cobden Bridge and, with just over a mile to walk home, our little adventure was almost over. Six or more miles might seem like a long way to walk to buy some chalk but there really is nothing quite as nice as a spring walk along the river.

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