23 June 2016
The Storm finally broke late last night. The rain hammered down, lashing against the windows, thunder clapped, lightening flashed. At one point the flash and the bang arrived at the same time, the storm was directly overhead. Sleep was hard to come by with the weather gods at battle outside. When I woke this morning Commando was getting into bed grumbling about floods, a ten mile detour to get home from work and the boiler not working. It wasn’t the best start to the day but at least the rain had stopped.
There wasn’t much I could do about the boiler so I thought a walk was in order, to see if there was any storm damage. At first I thought about going to Millers Pond and the shore, part of Commando’s journey from work. There was more rain forecast later though and I didn’t want to go too far from home. In the end I decided on a slightly convoluted circular route starting with Chessel Bay and my old walk to work. If there was flooding along the shore there would probably be flooding along the river too. The camera bag I’d ordered hadn’t yet arrived so the threat of rain meant I’d have to leave my fancy pants camera at home.
When I set out I was expecting to see the river spilling over the path but, when I got to Chessel Bay the tide was out. There was a huge puddle in the road but nothing more than I’d seen many times and the path was clear. Instead of floods there were acres of mud and algae. The skeleton ship was as high and dry as I’ve seen it for a long time and the river looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth. I wondered if Commando had imagined the floods or if I’d dreamed him coming in grumbling.
With all the rain in the night I guessed the river path beside the old TV studios would be impassable so I crossed the road heading for the desolate park. A look over the side of the bridge showed I was right, the path below was nothing but puddles and mud. The tide might be out now but it looked as if it had been on the path recently. The building site beyond was awash and the workmen were standing about looking gloomy. Foundations must be hard to dig when the ground is flooded.
The swans were gathered by the big stones looking none the worse for the stormy night. Behind them the river was still and calm, reflecting the brooding storm clouds overhead, but a slick of churned mud swirled at the tide line. Below the boardwalk the hippie ship looked much as it had the last time I came this way, half sunk in the mud and filled with seaweed.
On my walks to work the boardwalk always held interesting wildflower surprises and today was no different. The knapweed was flowering behind the hippie ship and, on the boardwalk, I found St. John’s wort, still sodden from the storm. Further on, near the slope, the mallow was dancing and dripping on the bank.
Beside the train line there were masses of toadflax, most deep purple, but the strange pink one I’d discovered last year was still there and thriving. A bee was buzzing from flower to waterlogged flower sipping nectar.
As I climbed the slope towards Horseshoe Bridge the trees dripped on me. Everything was wet. Even the air felt thick with moisture. Two miles into my walk and I was flagging, weighed down by the humidity. The thunder storm had done little to clear the air and my plan to walk along The back streets to Wessex Lane and back along the river felt over ambitious.
Behind the Millennium Flats the grassy bank was bright with hawkweed flowers. The path was still damp from the rain or the river, I couldn’t tell which, and I dawdled along it arguing with myself. There were miles to be made up and I told myself I should push through my tiredness and walk the route I planned. Another part of me said, it’s too far, it too muggy, just go home.
On Priory Road I was still dithering so I veered off towards the little park I discovered on my Roam Arts Trail walk a few weeks ago. The diversion would give me thinking time. Slowly I walked along the river bank, looking at the weed covered mud, the serene looking river and the dark clouds in the sky. This is a new view of the river for me and I stood for a while enjoying this different perspective on familiar landmarks. There were the Clausentum Quay flats, Bitterne Manor House, the railway bridge and the little houses along the river on Vespatian Road. I wondered what the new camera would make of it all?
When I got to St Denys Road I still hadn’t made up my mind what to do. Wavering, I crossed the road and stood looking down the second half of Priory Road trying to talk myself into walking down it. The longer I stood there the less I liked the idea. The route is mostly road with little of interest and it felt like a very long way right then. In the end I decided to cross Cobden Bridge and check out Riverside Park. If it looked flooded I’d walk along to the White Swan, if not, I’d go home.
Peering over the parapet on the St Denys side of the bridge I could see at once that the river was low. The houseboats and all the little tenders were barely floating. On the other side of the bridge I looked down into the park. There were the usual big puddles but no real flooding.
Perhaps things were different at Mansbridge but, with dark clouds swirling overhead and the thick heavy air weighing me down, I didn’t have the energy to find out. Feeling in part relieved and in part cross with myself, I turned away from the park and headed for home.
Despite Commando’s tales of floods my quest to find the evidence had been fruitless. Yes, there’d been some big puddles and, when I got there, Monks Walk was more river than path, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. My decision to turn for home proved to be the right one though. The rain began just as I walked down the path.
A look at the local news told me I should have gone with my first plan and walked to Millers Pond. If I had I’d almost certainly have been in for a shock. Spring Road had turned into a river and, when Commando got there in the early hours of the morning, it was several feet deep of tumbling white water. In fact, as Commando found out when he tried alternative routes, the whole of the Shoreburs Greenway area was flooded, as far as Bursledon Road. Obviously summer has arrived.
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