27 March 2016
With one last tearful look at the old workhouse come hospital I turned for home. I still wasn’t sure whether I was glad or sorry to see it go*. It was certainly an interesting and historic building but there seemed to be too much sadness attached to it for anyone to think of it fondly. I imagined the wrecking ball coming down and thousands of ghosts escaping into the air. There wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on it though. The rain was falling and the sky to the north was an alarming shade of black that even the cheery daffodils on the verge couldn’t brighten. Luckily I was heading south but I’d have to hurry if I was going to outrun the storm.
Rather than go back the way I’d come I turned up Telegraph Road, it probably wasn’t any quicker and it certainly wasn’t any less steep but there was something I wanted to check out. My reward for not taking the easy route was some pretry blossom and an interesting cottage on the corner. The cottage garden was filled with daffodils but it was the inscription on the wall that interested me most. It was dated 1851 and appeared to be called Ghuznee Cottage, perhaps referring to the British storming of the Afghan fortress of the same name in 1839. Despite googling later that was all I could find out.
In hindsight the photo stop was probably a mistake, even though it only took a few seconds. As I climbed Telegraph Road the rain got harder. Ten minutes later, not long after I’d rounded a sweeping bend I found what I’d been looking for, an entrance to the woods. It wasn’t a moment too soon either because, just then, the storm caught up with me. The rain came teaming down, so hard I could hardly see, then the hailstones started. Pulling up a hood already filled with the tiny icy balls, I dashed across the road into the shelter of the trees. Hail trickled down the back of my neck.
By the time I got through the gate water was dripping off my hood and my face stung from the hailstones. Ignoring the trail, I headed off into the trees. They provided shelter of a sort but some rain and hail still got through. It was falling so hard the trees just a few yards off were almost hidden in the haze of it.
These woods have been on my list of places to explore for a long time. All along I’d thought there must be an entrance somewhere on Telegraph Road but now I’d found it I knew I couldn’t afford to walk the enticing trails. The hail eased off but the rain kept falling. Obviously I couldn’t stand there under the trees all day and every moment I did the storm gained ground on me. Reluctantly, I retraced my steps and, with a longing look along the wet trail, I made my way back to the road.
Away from the shelter of the trees the rain seemed to have lessened, although the that may have been wishful thinking on my part. At least without the hail it was manageable and I put my head down and marched as fast as I could up hill. A car hammered around the corner sending a plume of spray from the roadside puddles to soak me. I turned and made a rude gesture although I couldn’t have got much wetter if I’d tried. Then I spotted another entrance to the woods a little further on. I took a blurry photo so I’d remember it later and pushed on.
Within a few minutes I’d made it to Moorhill Road. While I waited to cross I took a photo of the green cottage in front of me, more to take my mind off the rain and to remind me where to turn when I came back than anything. Finally I got across and turned into Harefield. Now I was back in Southampton but still a long way from home.
On I struggled, the wind and rain buffeting me and my glasses so wet I was almost walking blind. Unbelievably, four hundred yards later the rain eased off. There was blue sky ahead and it looked like I really might have outrun the storm after all. I stopped long enough to take my rain spattered glasses off and fish around in my pocket for a tissue to wipe them. First I took a photo through them just to show what it’s like to try to walk through the pouring rain in glasses. Ahead the road curved round towards home.
By rights there should have been a rainbow somewhere but I couldn’t see it. It was still raining but in a much gentler way and the fact I was heading towards the blue sky cheered me even though the water still dripped off my hood and my coat sleeves and my legs were decidedly wet. By the time I reached the top of Chalk Hill and my second Welcome to Southampton sign it might have been a different day altogether. The sky was brilliant blue and the rain was gone.
As I strolled towards the village, certain now the storm was well behind me, I wondered if someone was trying to tell me I should stay within the city limits at all times? Pretty soon I was home in the village, if not dry. There was witty and familiar graffiti to make me smile and I took this as a sign I should take a picture of it before someone cleaned it off.
Around the corner the church was bathed in sunshine and Sainsubury’s wet car park was emptier than I’ve ever seen it. Of course, being Easter Sunday, the shop was shut. The sky, both behind me and in front, looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth.
On the corner I happened to look down and there, on the edge of the car park, was a bright blue forget me not glimmering with rain, a May flower in March. My legs were still decidedly damp, my coat still dripping and the memory of Moorgreen hung heavy but that little out of season flower made me smile.
* I’ve since found out that Moorgreen isn’t actually going to be demolished. They’re going to convert it into flats instead. I’m even less sure how I feel about that. One thing I am sure of is that I wouldn’t want to live there.
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