11 August 2015
Saturday was the day of the annual Big Beach Clean Up on Weston Shore. Of course, I was working so, much as I’d have liked to, I couldn’t be there. The Friends of Weston Shore do a fantastic job organising these events and keeping the shore clean although I always think it’s a shame they have to. If everyone took their rubbish home there’d be no need and these dedicated folks could spend their time enjoying the beach. Unfortunately, people just discarding litter wherever they like, even right next to a bin, seems to be a sign of the times.
On Sunday I was too busy spending time with Commanndo on his birthday to go and inspect their work. Still we had a pleasant day and a walk to The Rockstone for a lovely meal so I’m not complaining. A good time was had by all and we strolled home to work off all the food so I did still get a walk of sorts. It was Tuesday before I had a chance to wander to the shore. Sadly, the weather wasn’t exactly cooperative, grey cloud where I’d hoped for blue sky. On Peartree Green the little round pears on the pear tree that gives the place its name more than made up for any lack of sun. The tree was positively weighed down by them. The original tree, was said to have stood for several hundred years and had been almost split in two by lightning but, legend has it, still bore plentiful fruit for the local people. This tree was planted in 1951 by Southampton Mayor Councillor Mrs Cutler to replace the original. Perhaps I’ll come back in a month or two when they’re ripe.
Thinking of juicy pears I carried on to Woolston where I stopped for a moment at the feather sculpture in the Millennium Garden. On a sunny day the light shines through the slim coloured glass panels between the vanes of the feather, sadly this was not a sunny day so I didn’t linger long. Pretty soon I’d reached the bottom of Victoria Road where work is underway to rebuild the water treatment plant. The road has been closed off for some time but, they’ve left a narrow passageway for pedestrians.
Now I got my first sight of Southampton Water from the top of the crumbling foreshore cliff. The cliff is only a couple of metres high but since the terrible storms and flooding in the winter of 2014 when huge chunks of this low cliff fell, it’s been fenced off. Across the water the towers of fawley dominated the grey skyline. Fennel is growing all along the bank, fine, needle like leaves and tiny yellow studs of flowers in a yellow hazy cloud.
The smell of cut grass drew my eye to the grass behind the wave benches. A man on a giant mower was hard at work and the gulls risked being squashed and shredded to gobble up the worms he’d disturbed. There’d be no kite skateboarders to watch this time. In my bag I had chocolate milk and I’d thought to sit on one of the wave benches to drink it but decided it was a little too noisy with the mower going round and round so carried on to the promenade.
The place was deserted, probably the lack of sun and the threat of rain keeping people indoors, so I had the shore to myself. It looked as if the litter packers had done a good job on Saturday, not a single piece of rubbish anywhere in sight. If only it would stay that way. When I came to the first of the beach shelters I though about stopping there for my chocolate milk but decided to keep going to the end of the promenade and sit on my favourite bench instead.
Close to the next shelter there were mallow flowers and a lovely dark pink dog rose, more hip than flower now. The summer really is coming to an end, which is a shame seeing as we hardly seem to have had one this year. Still, I’m ever hopeful of a heatwave in September and a nice Indian Summer leading up to a late autumn. A girl can wish…
When I reached my bench it was already occupied. The elderly man looked to be settled in for the duration with a flask and a newspaper so I walked further along to the bench just before the bridge. The chocolate milk, a new brand whose claims of lower fat and high protein had caught my eye, was a disappointment. It proved to be super sweet but it was all I had so I drank it. Next time I’ll buy my normal brand. The views over the stream and the sea more than made up for any chocolate milk shortfall and I sat for a while enjoying them.
On my way back towards the promenade I came upon a man with a very strange contraption, a cross between one of the walkers elderly people use and a folded in half bike. It was loaded down with bags filled with rubbish and the man had a long handled litter picker. As I approached he scrambled down the bank to the stream where he’d spotted a plastic bottle. I’m pretty sure this was Richard, a member of Friends of Weston Shore who regularly patrols the beach picking up litter. Now that is what you call a local hero!
Walking back along the promenade I looked at the tower blocks on International Way thinking how much better they look now they’ve been painted blue. Each one is a different shade, starting with Hampton Towers, the deep blue of a clear summer sky and moving through the various shades of sky, with Harvre, Oslo and Copenhagen Towers to Rotterdam Towers, the pale blue of a winter morning. Smiling to myself I imagined the locals saying, “The sky’s looking a bit Copenhagen, verging on the Rotterdam today, best stay indoors,” or “What a beautiful Harvre sky.” The tallest block, Canberra Towers, a little further along the shore, never did get painted. Keeping with the theme they should have gone for battleship grey, it would have been perfect for Tuesday’s sky.
Huge drifts of ragwort on the foreshore beside one of the beach shelters brightened things a little. They looked the perfect place for cinnabar moth caterpillars but I couldn’t see any. Perhaps they don’t like the sea air. Still smiling about the flats and making up imaginary conversations about the flat names and the weather, I was soon approaching the cafe by the pitch and putt. For a brief moment I thought about stopping to test their coffee making skills but there were spots of rain in the air so I thought it was probably a bad idea.
While I was still having an internal argument about coffee stops I heard the unmistakeable sound of hooves on Tarmac and looked up to see a pony and trap coming round the bend. It’s not every day you see that. The horse, who looked to be a shire horse, although my knowledge of horses is limited, was galloping along at a fair old lick and looked to be enjoying himself. He was also wearing cow pyjamas.
Despite the threat of rain I did stop for a quick look at the bright California poppies and calendula flowers near the cafe but I didn’t stop for coffee. If I’d known about the horrible sweetness of the chocolate milk I might have stopped there on my way out but I suppose my taste test will have to wait for another day.
Not to wanting to leave the water behind any sooner than I had to I took a detour behind the new houses they’re still building on the old Vosper Thorneycroft site and walked along the shoreline under the Itchen Bridge. Across the water I could see the spire of St Mary’s and the stadium nestled on the shore and I thought of the ferrymen who used to row across this stretch of water and the floating bridges going back and forth. The sky may not have been blue and there were still spots of rain but it had been an interesting walk all the same.