Less Hiking, more city walking – first published 6 February 2014

Guest photo from my friend Jill
Guest photo from my friend Jill

There wasn’t much interesting walking going on in early February 2014, no hiking through the woods wading through burst riverbanks. The guest photos above and below may give you a clue why. That’s not to say there was no walking or interesting things. There just weren’t any of those meandering walks where I stumble across plants, animals and pretty scenery whilst carrying emergency supplies in my rucksack. There wasn’t even any getting lost in the woods. This is mainly due to the fact that I’d been city walking.

Guest photo from my friend Jill
Guest photo from my friend Jill
Guest photo from my friend Jill
Guest photo from my friend Jill
Guest photo from my friend Jill
Guest photo from my friend Jill

6 February 2014

The river has taken over the land and the woods so I’ve been walking in the city instead. City walking is nowhere near as scenic as wandering in the woods. For a start there are a lot less trees. Wild animals are fairly few and far between too, unless you count the odd rat dashing through the undergrowth. Fields of sheep and cows, little babbling brooks and interesting trails are in short supply as well. Even so, sometimes walking in town is the only walking I can fit in. There are things to do, places to go, stuff to buy and all of those are in the city or the suburbs. This week has been a bit like that but it’s all exercise right? It all adds to the miles.

I like to think of it as city hiking, after all I’m still carrying my rucksack, even if half the normal walking stuff stays at home. On Monday I needed to visit the big new Sainsbury’s because our little village store has unaccountably stopped selling Green and Blacks cocoa powder. The staff member I asked about it said it was because it didn’t sell very well and they only have so much shelf space. Obviously the people in my village are philistines when it comes to cocoa.

The big new Sainsbury’s is only about one and a half miles away but it was a nice day, well it wasn’t actually raining, and I wanted a longer walk. A little bit of playing about on WalkJogrun and I’d worked out a route that looped through town and back over the New Bridge about six and a half miles in all. CJ was at a loose end so he said he’d join me. Maybe he was just after the coffee he knew I’d stop for in town but it was nice to have some company for a change.

We may have been in the city but there were flowers. In fact, before we’d even left the garden I spotted the first of the tiny violets that spring up all over my garden at this time of year. There were fungi too, although I’d have missed them if it wasn’t for CJ’s sharp eyes. “Look mum, fungus” he said in the unlikely setting of the train station car park. He was right too. I must have walked past them so many times on my way towards Riverside. There are some advantages to walking with my son. Pity he couldn’t tell me what fungi they were.

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Our hike took us towards Riverside then across Cobden Bridge. As we walked we talked. I told CJ how, years ago, I used to walk this route from my very first flat on the way to visit Mother. Once we left Sainsbury’s and my rucksack was full of Green and Blacks cocoa he suggested we have a look to see if the flat was still there or if it had been torn down for modern housing as so many old buildings have. We did and it was. Of course it’s been spruced up a little since I lived there. The old wooden sash windows in my ground floor bedroom could be pushed up from the outside back then, a bit of a security risk but good if you locked your keys inside. Now there are fancy UPVC ones. The front door was exactly the same though. For a moment it felt like I’d travelled back in time.

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The city hiking carried on towards town. CJ came in useful again when we passed a car parked on the pavement. All I saw was a badly parked car, he pointed out it was a very rare British made car, a Noble. Ok so I’d never even heard of it but my knowledge of cars extends about as far as the number of doors and the colour. As he seemed so excited to see it I took a photo. Apparently my photo wasn’t good enough though because he took my phone and took his own photo. Well, he did study photography and I, quite obviously, didn’t.

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After our coffee in Costa’s by the Bargate we made for the New Bridge. There was a quick stop to look at the progress on the demolition site where work seems to have started on the foundations, then we braved the windy bridge. Why is it that the wind is always blowing in my face? Somehow we made it across without being blown over the side.

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On the other side of the bridge we had one more look for the Spitfire plaque we missed last time. I knew it was there somewhere because I’d seen it before, I just couldn’t remember quite where. Turns out my bad memory was a blessing in disguise. As we walked around the flats that have been built on the site of the old Spitfire factory we came upon another plaque, one I didn’t even know existed. This one was in memory of all the workers killed or injured during enemy bombing in September 1940.

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One hundred and forty people died during the two direct hits and the factory was destroyed. Spitfire production didn’t stop though. The machinery survived and twenty eight small workshops in bus stations, laundries and ‘anywhere with a roof’ in Southampton and others all over Hampshire and the surrounding counties took over. What a story of determination against all the odds.

We did find the other plaque in the end. Typically it was very close to the place we’d looked last time. It’s actually more of a stone than a plaque and commemorates the place where the first Spitfires were built. I wonder if the people in the flats ever think about the history that happened right where they now live?

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So that was Monday’s  exercise. City hiking on Tuesday was confined to the one mile Big Hill Little Hill loop due to a hailstorm that waited until I was out to start. Hailstones hurt. On Wednesday there was no walking at all. Severe weather warnings, seventy mile an hour wind gusts and heavy rain kept me indoors. Today the wind has stooped but not the rain. There was a walk through Hum Hole and back down the Little Hill, just one and a half miles and mostly traffic spray and water bubbling up from drains. If this weather keeps up my February walking target could be in jeopardy. Now if only I could think of some way to motivate myself to do some really long walks…

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Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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