3 March 2016
Today I decided to attempt the ill fated boundary stone hunt again. It wasn’t actually raining, although the sky was overcast and very slightly threatening. For extra luck I dragged CJ along. He has keener eyes for boundary stones. To be honest it didn’t take much dragging but I didn’t actually tell him how long the walk was going to be or it might have been a different story.
This time I thought I’d try the route in reverse, starting with the river. CJ likes the walk through Riverside Park. There were no black swans by the jetty so we marched on hoping the odd drop of rain falling from the grey sky didn’t amount to anything. Near the river bend a dog frolicking in the shallows, suddenly dived down and came up with a huge fish in his mouth. The fish didn’t seem to be flapping so we guessed it was already dead but we could have been wrong, we were still some distance away. The owner had carried on and was already rounding the bend when his dog, minus the fish, dashed up the bank and chased after him. As we passed the spot we could see the fish lying on the mud.
“His master will never know what a clever dog he has,” CJ said. “He could have had fish for his dinner.”
The sun made a brief appearance and the reeds seemed to glow. Behind them the bare trees on the far bank looked almost as bright as they had in autumn. Maybe the sap is rising or there are leaf buds preparing to open?
On the way through Woodmill and onwards across the railway bridge I told CJ about the pillbox and what I’d discovered about anti-tank islands. He was eager to have a look but I wanted to take a slightly different route.
“It’s too muddy to explore now,” I told him, “but I promise we’ll come back when it dries up.”
Soon we were on Bluebell Road heading for Daisy Dip.
Long before there were houses here this was wood and heathland known as Bassett Wood and North Stoneham Common. An unnamed stream ran through a deep wooded valley to Monks Brook. When the new estate was built this central valley was left as a natural wood although much of the stream was culverted. At the eastern end it has become the park land known locally as Daisy Dip, bisected by Lobelia Road where Commando’s maternal grandmother lived.
Although Big Nannie lived in the nearby Basset Green prefabs I don’t recall the dip but I assume the decorative green arches on either side of Lobelia Road are new. The furthest from us had two huge white and yellow daisies above it so we went for a closer look.
“Apparently archeologists discovered what they think is the site of a prehistoric burnt mound in this valley,” I told CJ.
The path wound off to the west. It was tempting to explore but we needed to get to the other side and we had a lot of walking ahead so we turned back to the other entrance where we’d seen a path running straight across. The sun had come out and everything looked sparkling and fresh.
We came out on Bassett Green Road opposite the Stoneham Arms. This was where we held the wake for my late mother in law and CJ and I were both dismayed to see it had closed. The pub opened in 1933, around the time the Flower Roads were built, now, like so many others, it’s become a convenience store. I suppose this is a sign of the times.
As we walked on I wondered exactly where the post war prefabs had been.
“I was only four when Big Nannie died,” I told CJ. “She never had any money so, by the weekend she had a choice between a bottle of stout and a packet of fags or dinner. Mother knew very well what she’d choose so she came to us for Sunday dinner every week. I remember Sunday trips in the car to pick her up and drop her off but I don’t remember much about where except it was Bassett Green. Sometimes Mother and I would come on the bus to visit her. I can still picture her funny little prefab and waiting for the bus near some trees along here somewhere.”
There were trees beside us now and ahead I could see a bus stop, perhaps it was the same one? On the corner was a red telephone box, CJ commented on what a rarity they are these days.
“Everyone has a mobile phone. I guess there’s not as much call for them any more,” I said.
The sign ahead said Bassett Green Village and, as we passed, we saw a lovely little green surrounded by pretty houses. The central house was a long, low thatched cottage. These, I discovered later, were the first houses in the area. From the eighteenth century, or maybe before, this had been the hamlet of Bassett that gave the area its name. The grass is the village green. Behind the cottages dark clouds were gathering. We were a long way from home now so they weren’t a welcome sight.
With the brooding clouds in mind we picked up our pace and were soon at the Chilworth Roundabout. This was where the first of our two boundary stones was supposed to be. The information I had said there was a stone ‘at the north end of the Avenue site in open space accessed via Chilworth Road layby.’ There’d been a lot of looking at maps before we left home and I thought this must mean somewhere near the petrol station where there were several green areas. Now we were there. We spent a lot of time walking up and down, poking in undergrowth but we found nothing.
It was disappointing but there was still another stone to find. This one was supposed to be at the Sports Centre ‘adjoining the public footpath that runs northwards from Golf Course Road to Hadrian Way.’ From the map I knew Roman Road, right behind the roundabout, would eventually lead us to the beginning of Hadrian Way. It was a pleasant road that started off paved with a few large houses beside it and soon became more and more unkempt, in places a little muddy.
We came to a crossroads. Ahead Roman Road dipped down looking muddier than ever. The sign ahead said Heatherlands Road so I thought we needed to carry on. Luckily, once we’d passed it, I looked back and saw that the other side of the sign said Hadrian Way. If I hadn’t goodness knows where we’d have ended up.
The first part of Hadrian Way was lined with large, impressive looking houses and paved on both sides. We were in boundary stone hunting mode again though and spent more time looking at the ground than anything else. The roar of the motorway was getting closer so it was no surprise when we came to a bridge with cars zooming below us.
“I’m not sure I’d like to live here,” I said. “All you’d be able to hear is the motorway day and night.”
Slowly the motorway roar receded. The houses got further and further apart and soon the pavement on one side disappeared to be replaced by trees. Then we came to a small shrubby island. It looked at first like a dead end but behind it was a narrow footpath. In places it was so muddy we had to pick our way slowly over. Even so we kept looking about for the boundary stone.
Pretty soon we could see grass through the fence to our left and I spotted an old green plough beside the scrubby trees.
“It’s the golf course,” CJ said.
Not long after this we found a golf ball on the path.
“Remember when I was little and we were in Devon?” CJ asked. I knew exactly the story he was going to tell. “We were driving along a country road and I said ‘what would you do if we came round the corner and there was a golf ball in the road?’ And when we went round the next corner there was.”
“I remember,” I smiled. “I was still saying, ‘don’t be silly, why would there be a golf ball in the road?’ Dad stopped the car and we got out and picked up that golf ball. We thought you had weird powers. You were always doing things like that. In the Middle Ages they’d have burnt you as a witch.”
The path carried on, muddy as ever, until we came out by the entrance to what looked like a driving range. A few minutes later we saw the golf course. In front of us was the Golf Club and a large plaque telling us the Sports Centre was opened in 1938, the idea of Alderman Sir Sidney Kimber of Kimber’s Chimney fame. Here Golf Course road makes a right angle turn. To the east it leads to Bassett Avenue and to the south it winds around to the top of Hill Lane. We hadn’t found the stone and we couldn’t go both ways, it was decision time.
Slowly we walked around the Golf Club looking for the boundary stone. All around people were playing golf.
“I can understand why they want to walk on the golf courses,” I said, “but I don’t get the hitting balls into a little hole part.”
Originally I’d planned to turn eastwards and walk back along Basset Avenue to the Common then home through Highfield. When I’d been planning I was sure we’d have found the stone by then but we hadn’t. We walked along the road to the south until we could see quite a long way ahead. There was nothing that looked even vaguely like a boundary stone. In the end we turned back and stuck to my original plan.
“It might be somewhere along here,” I said, looking along the narrow road and not feeling very hopeful. “If it isn’t, at least we have discounted it and we can come back another day and check out the other way.”
We passed a thatched cottage and saw a robin hiding in a tree. We didn’t find a stone.
So that was that, two boundary stones to be found, none discovered. Maybe they’re not even there. All was not lost though. We had a lovely walk. We passed St Michael and All Angels Church on Bassett Avenue and it reminded me I must visit it one of these days. We stopped to double check the stone that wasn’t really a stone on Lovers Walk, just in case CJ’s young eyes saw something I didn’t. Finally, we stopped off in Costa’s on the University campus and grabbed a take away latte to sustain us on the long walk home. Oh, and CJ coped admirably with the eleven miles I didn’t tell him about at the start although, towards the end, he said his shoulders hurt.