Some of my walks are planned with meticulous attention to detail, lots of map looking and even lists of instructions to follow. Not many though. Most are hastily cobbled together wanderings with no proper aim. Quite a few end up with me lost and wondering what on earth I was thinking. At the end of November 2013, with my redundancy letter sitting on the coffee table I went for one of the latter.
24 November 2013
This morning I got up nice and early, planning to go for a walk. Unfortunately I hadn’t planned quite well enough. Last night I neglected to get any clothes out and Commando was still asleep. Normally there would be something amongst the pile of clean washing waiting to be put away but I’d been far too enthusiastic about tidying up yesterday and all the clean clothes were already neatly folded and hung upstairs in the bedroom. Doh!
When Commando got up he suggested I leave the walk until he went to work at half past eleven so I spent the rest of the morning cleaning the kitchen and thinking about where I’d go. What I didn’t do was think about lunch. It wasn’t until Commando went out the door with his bag of sandwiches that it occurred to me I hadn’t eaten and I didn’t really want to waste good walking time making food. In the end I quickly snaffled a bag of mini rice cakes and set off. This was not a good plan.
Along the gravel path at the side of the house I was surprised to see one little fuchsia flower, petals dried out and papery, clinging to a stem. This was when I realised I’d left my phone behind. Thank heavens for that little flower, without it I might not have discovered the lack of phone until I was miles into my walk. After I’d gone back and got the phone, I took a photo of the fuchsia and the little nemesia beside it that is still producing the odd flower. One more shot of the bright yellow mahonia flowers and I was on my way.
There was no real plan as such. I thought I’d walk down towards the shore and just see how I felt. It’s been a while since I did a long walk so I didn’t want to overdo it, especially on a Sunday when I have work the next day. Perhaps I’d go as far as Netley Castle or even Victoria Country Park, but then again, perhaps not. Rather than walk up the Little Hill, I decided to take the back streets and the little woodland path behind the green. It would be interesting to see if there was still any sign of the fire.
Along the way I spotted a hydrangea just beginning to skeletonise and get that tattered lace look I love so much. If it hadn’t been for the fuchsia this would have been the point where I noticed I’d forgotten my phone. Shortly after that there was a decision to be made, take the steep steps or keep going and face a much longer route with a steep hill. I plumped for the steps, although I’m not sure my quads are going to thank me for it later. Usually when I come this way I’m walking towards home and coming down those steps, going up they seem to go on forever, especially as they twist around a bend so you can’t see the top from the bottom.
The woodland path was crowded with dog walkers. I had to stand for quite a while waiting for a chance to take a photo with no one in it but the colours of the autumn leaves were so lovely it was worth the wait. The grass has done a wonderful job of hiding the evidence of the fire, apart from the blackened gorse you’d never know there ever was a fire. When I spotted flowers amongst all the withered blackberries I could hardly believe my eyes.
With one last look back over the green, marvelling at the ability of Mother Nature to regenerate, I set off towards the river. Down past the site of the old Spitfire Factory then under the Itchen Bridge, I stopped for a moment to look up at the underside of the structure I usually see from above as I walk across. Right in the shadow of the bridge there are new houses, I’m not sure I’d want to live with that towering above me. The steps I climb on my walks to work look a lot steeper from the car park. Maybe I’m not as unfit as I thought.
Now I’d reached Woolston. I used to live there many, many years ago and I still have a fondness for it. There was another quick stop to take a photograph of the huge feather sculpture in the Millennium Garden, then I carried on down the High Street towards the shore. Since the Vosper Thorneycroft shipyard closed down it’s become quite run down. The little greasy spoon cafe that stood just outside the gates of the yard has been closed for a long time but I was surprised to see it’s actually in the process of being demolished. A little further along the Ship Inn still seems to be doing business but I wonder for how long.
Down by the jetty at the very beginning of the shore, windsurfers were out on the water. Rather them than me, it was cold enough on the path it must have been freezing on the water. I pulled my hat down over my ears. Even the fishermen seemed to have abandoned their posts to find somewhere warmer. The problem with the shore is it’s windy and, at this time of year, that means cold. It was also becoming obvious that a bag of mini rice cakes does not constitute lunch. I was beginning to feel hungry and tired. Maybe it was time to turn back.
Then again, just three miles into my walk, wasn’t it a little early to turn back? Perhaps I should carry on just a bit further, maybe to Netley Castle, but the further I walked the further I would have to come back and with no lunch, no walking snacks and no chocolate milk was that a good idea? There was a great temptation to turn back there and then. Somehow a walk of just six miles didn’t really seem enough though so I thought I’d press on for just a little bit longer, maybe to the end of the promenade, maybe a little further.
As I carried on the wind was really gusting off the water, making my ears painfully cold even with my wooly hat. Some dried out burdock on the foreshore looked like it might make a good photo with the grey sea and sky as a backdrop but it was wafting about a little too much for me to get it in focus try as I might. Instead I turned my back to the wind and faced the row of flats overlooking the sea. Last time I came this way they were still painting the last of them, now they’re all finished, each one a different shade of blue, fading from summer day to mid winter grey. The colour of the furthest flat almost exactly matched the sky behind it, I’d far rather the sky was the colour of the first one.
There was yet another abandoned fishing rod close to the shipwreck playground. This one had a green directors chair next to it. I began to wonder where all the fishermen had gone, had aliens beamed them all up or had they got so fed up with sitting in the cold they’d thrown themselves into the sea in despair?
The water opposite Fawley power station was dotted with little sailing boats. Now I’d reached the end of the promenade I thought I might as well go on just a little further. Netley Castle, about half a mile along the path, would be my turning point, nine miles or so was more than enough for a cold windy Sunday afternoon.
Along this stretch the path runs behind the trees so, for a while, there was a little respite from the chilly sea breeze. To my left the road to Netley was just visible through the rustic looking fence and on the other side of the road I could see West Wood. Briefly I considered leaving the shore and having a little wander in the woods but the paths are meandering and confusing. Last time I walked through there I took a wrong turn and lost my bearings.
The shelter of the trees soon came to an end and my sea view was back, along with the unrelenting wind. I stopped for a moment to take a photo of a fluffy seed head on a reed by the little stream and another of a lone teasel standing out against the grey sky. From this point a low stone wall protects the path from the incoming tide but the going was tough as the path is deep shingle.
As I crunched along there was a bit of an argument going on in my head. “Turn back, it’s way too cold and windy to go any further and you’re running out of energy because you didn’t eat properly before you left,” said the little devil who always wants to give up. “Don’t be such a wimp,” said the little angel, the one who walks marathons in the rain. When the castle came into view the little devil was winning. The castle, half hidden behind the trees, reminded me of Mother and for a moment I felt sad. Mother lived there for a while after her cancer had been diagnosed as terminal. The last walk I ever took with her was along this very stretch of shore. I caught myself looking up at the windows wondering which, if any, was her bedroom.
The castle is quite an historic building, I wrote a post about it when I was doing my Moonwalk training. Just past the castle the shore path runs out, that day it was my turning point. The choice is to walk up towards the road and through Netley or crunch along the shingle hoping the tide doesn’t come in and cut you off. I decided this was as far as I would go today too. My energy levels were very low and the walk back seemed a long long way. Maybe I’d pop into the little Co-op in Woolston on the way back and get a chocolate milk or something to boost me for the uphill walk home.
Then my phone rang. It was Commando asking where I was and how far I’d walked. “I’m at Netley Castle,” I told him, “right at the end of the shore path.”
“Make sure you have a good long walk then, I know how much you’ve been missing it,” he said. “Why don’t you walk through to Hamble, you could come and see me.”
Oh poo. Just when I was going to turn back there was Commando telling me to keep going. Now should I listen to my little devil and turn back anyway, even if Commando would be disappointed with me, or should I keep going? That’s another story.
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