Blue sky, floods and the Job Centre – first published 8 February 2014

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With all the wind and rain we had in early February 2014 I got a bit behind with the February miles so I was hoping to fit a few in on my Job Centre jaunt. There was even a plan. After the Job Centre I thought I’d walk a winding route through the parks and wooded areas of the city centre and back home over Cobden Bridge with a little look at Riverside on the way. Another night of heavy rain plus morning news full of floods and weather warnings told me that might not be the best of plans. It was looking like my walking one hundred miles a month challenge might be doomed for February.

8 February 2014

When I left home for my Job Centre appointment I was surprised by a blue sky overhead. I’d almost forgotten what that looked like. CJ and I met with some rather large puddles along the river path. A small lake had formed at the bottom of the steps from the railway bridge and the grass beside the houses was sodden, with trees reflected in standing water. At least we got past with dry feet. In town we had a muddy walk around the edges of a flooded Hoglands park. At this rate we will need a boat to get into town before much longer especially with more rain on the way.

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On the way along the Back Of The Walls we stopped to look at the Old Bond Store, originally a bonded warehouse build in the mid eighteen hundreds. Once upon a time the little back lanes would have been filled with buildings like this. Personally I find them much easier on the eye than the rectangular metal boxes that serve as warehouses today. The arches of the windows and doors make me smile and I’d love to see what lies behind the heavy wooden doors with their metal studs and decorative hinges.

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My Job Centre visit was quite quick today. I was given a rather unnecessary demonstration on how to search for a job online. Wonder how they think I’ve been doing it until now? As the park walk was off the agenda because of the floods CJ and I decided to have a little wander around the old walls before we headed home. After all it was too nice a day not to take advantage. It would all be miles to add to my February walking challenge too of course.

We walked down Western Esplanade, stopping to snap a quick picture of another door. This one is not the kind you see every day. It’s actually the Watergate of the castle that once stood in the medieval city of Southampton. Built in the late fourteenth century to limit access to the castle from the quay. Now that same quay is all reclaimed land, filled with offices and shops. It’s odd to think the sea came right up to this gate once.

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We walked through the arch towards Simnel Street and then doubled back behind the old walls for a while, just exploring. On a wall in Hamtun Street we found a rather impressive frieze commemorating the history of the city. The street was too narrow to take the best of photos but CJ did the best he could, taking a panoramic shot. It seems a pity that something so interesting should be hidden away in a little side street but I was glad we found it.

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Back we went down Bugle Street towards the water. In a little alley between the registry office and the Woolhouse we spotted a cheerful robin. If ever I wished I had a telephoto lens it was then. He sat and posed quite nicely for us but I knew he’d be nothing more than a blur in my photo. If you look really closely you can just see him.

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At Town Quay we turned along Porters Lane for a look at Canute’s Place. The ruined tenth century building with two floors and upstairs windows was undoubtedly the home of a very rich merchant. Despite the name though the Norse king died long before it was built. Canute was actually crowned in Southampton in 1016 and it was on this sea front he stood and ordered the waves to turn back. Seems the land reclamation in the 1830’s did what King Canute couldn’t.

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From there we strolled along Winkle Street and turned along the Back Of The Walls past Friars Gate where I often sat on the bench for a sunny lunchtime break. The old stones here are surprisingly devoid of lichen but I did manage to find one tiny circle. Maybe the tall buildings on either side block out too much light.

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Back in East Street we stumbled upon a strange sight. At first I wondered if I was seeing things but, when CJ said he saw it too, I knew it must be true. Maybe there was a sudden crime wave going on in Southampton on Friday morning because Spider-Man and Superman were walking down the street. Either that or someone put something in the Costa coffee we had.

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The final part of our mission was Holyrood, the ruins of a church built in 1320, and destroyed by enemy bombing during the blitz in November 1940. Now it is a memorial to sailors of the Merchant Navy. Unfortunately, with the ugly Job Centre building behind, it’s hard to get a decent photo but I did my best. I love the wobbly wrought iron gates dotted with seagulls and the huge anchor sitting on the flagstones. We wandered around looking at the various plaques on the walls.

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Looking at the holes rent by the bombs, stones ripped away, arches ending in mid air we marvelled that any of the church at all survived. In the corner, behind a wrought iron fence, the Titanic fountain stands. The fountain seems to be the one place in the city where water isn’t flowing at the moment but I like the carving of the ship. We spent a while drinking in the peace and quiet of the place and all those years of history. Then it was time to turn for home.

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Our walk was seven and a half miles in total, just about giving me my twenty five miles this week. After a spot of lunch at home I had a little more walking, a dash up the Big Hill for supplies. This turned out to be slightly more walking than I’d anticipated because, after filling my basket, I realised I’d left my purse at home in my other handbag. Two trips up and down the hill added another two miles to my daily total but having an extra few miles in the walking challenge bag is no bad thing I suppose.

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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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