Summer wandering

12 June 2019

Spring was a reluctant visitor this year. May, usually all sunshine and spring flowers, was wet and chilly. All coats and jumpers rather than ever decreasing layers and sun cream. Summer, so far, is much the same. With so much rain the bright spring greens seemed somehow brighter and greener this year and have lasted well into June, so I guess it’s not all bad.

There haven’t been many sunny days but, when they come I try to take advantage of them. Right at the end of May there was a lovely walk along a verdant and overgrown part of the Itchen Navigation with Rachel. We chatted so much I barley took any photos but we both enjoyed being out and not getting wet.

Like so many days of late, this morning began dull and overcast but at least it wasn’t raining. With no guarantee the rain wasn’t waiting for me to go outside, I didn’t want to go too far so I opted for a short walk along the river. The skies may have been leaden but the river was as flat as a millpond and, on the first stretch some black swans made me smile. A little further on a pair of mute swans were guarding a clutch of four fluffy grey cygnets. They were too far from the bank for decent photos but my smile turned into a grin at the sight of them. Last year I didn’t see a single mute swan cygnet on the river here so it’s good to know they’re breeding again.

By the reed beds there were dozens more mute swans but no more cygnets. I stopped for a while to watch them, wondering if there were nests hidden amongst the reeds. If there were, I saw no sign of them though so I walked on.

Around the bend the path was covered with fluffy willow seeds. It almost looked like snow at first glance. With the temperatures we’ve been having lately snow wouldn’t really have surprised me too much.

My plan was to walk to Woodmill and then turn and walk back. It isn’t a huge distance but anything further felt like tempting fate. It seemed more rain was coming at some point and I didn’t much want to be out in it when it came.

A mass of daisies near the mill took me slightly off course. They seemed so bright and joyous against the backdrop of brooding clouds I wanted to take a picture. Then I noticed that the grass mowers had left a wide strip of grass along the edge of Woodmill Lane to grow wild. It was filled with wildflowers and looked so beautiful I just kept on walking.

Before I knew it, I’d reached the far corner of the sports fields, where Manor Farm Road meets Woodmill Lane. On a whim I decided to walk back along this side of the park rather than go back to the river and retrace my steps. As I usually stick to the river like glue it gave me a different perspective on the park. The field looked far larger from this angle and the distant line of trees hid the river so well you’d hardly know it was there. Of course I have walked this way before, it’s where the junior parkrun takes place and I’ve circled it in the past trying to make up miles.

Soon I was passing the backs of the houses on Manor Farm Road, feeling slightly jealous of their gardens backing onto the park. Now I was accompanied by the sweet smell of roses and the buzzing of busy bees instead of swans and burbling water.

It wasn’t until I’d passed the back of the school, almost opposite the reed beds where I saw the cygnets, that the river finally reappeared. I thought about heading back to it and seeing if the cygnets were any closer to the bank now but the buzzing of bees on the blackberry flowers distracted me. Then I noticed the men were working on the little steam trains that run here in the summer so I stuck to the path I was on.

The little railway loop has been here since 1962 and is run by model railway enthusiasts. So many generations of Southampton children will have fond memories of trips in the little trains, my nephews and my own boys included. There were no trains running today but the men were busy checking the tracks and repairing the engines.

Pretty soon I was crossing the grass towards Cobden Bridge. The rain hadn’t come but, as I climbed the slope out of the park and headed towards home I realised the clouds were slowly burning off and the temperature was rising. In fact it was feeling decidedly muggy.

My early morning cygnet surprise at Riverside Park wasn’t the last swan encounter of the day. This evening Commando and I headed off to the Common for the usual Wednesday Hamwic Harriers session. Tonight the session was loops of the boating lake and I was there to take photos and cheer.

The clouds and the slight edge of chill were back but at least it wasn’t raining. The runners all set off on a warmup lap of the Common while I took a more direct route to the boating lake. When I arrived I found two beautiful mute swans serenely floating. The serenity didn’t last long.

What the swans thought of all the runners going round and round their lake is a mystery but they seemed surprisingly unperturbed by it. City swans, like these and the ones in Riverside Park are a hardy bunch and must be used to just about anything?

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