After my visit to the newly reopened White Swan pub in late May 2014 I was in a nostalgic mood thinking of all good times we had there and the water that’s passed under the bridge since then. Back then I had my whole life in front of me and now…well let’s just say I was feeling old. Nothing like revisiting your youth to remind you just how long ago it was.
25 May 2014
It’s difficult to stay in a melancholy mood walking along the river. As I stood on Mansbridge looking over the Itchen and remembering the night we all carried Les from the pub on our shoulders pretending we were going to throw him in, I noticed something on the path below that had me smiling. There was a horse on the path. Not just any old horse but a beautiful grey, wearing a stylish checked coat. When I stopped to speak to his owner and ask if she minded having her photo taken, I remembered some other horses I’d seen on the river, these ones wearing sunglasses.
So, as my new friends walked off towards the pub and I made my way home, I thought of some of the other strange sights I’ve seen on this riverbank. For a start there was the man on the penny farthing I met at the end of a long Moonwalk training walk. For a moment I thought I was hallucinating but he was real, he even honked his horn at me as he passed.
Then there was the woman struggling with her new roller blades. It was not long after Christmas 2012 and I think they must have been a present. She was unstable to say the least and I half expected her to end up in the water. Luckily she didn’t but it seemed like touch and go.
Odd forms of transport seem to be popular at Riverside Park but at least the lad I saw on a unicycle was a little more stable. In fact he was quite skilful. It did make me wonder where you would get a unicycle and how you’d ever get started though.
The scary woman on the mobility scooter is hardly a strange sight, I see her around the village often enough, but I didn’t expect to stand and watch her take her life in her hands riding through a bank breach back in February. You couldn’t even see where the path ended and the river began but she didn’t seem to care.
The swan family at the river bend brought me back to the present and I had one more try to get a decent photo of them. Daddy swan didn’t much like me pointing my phone at his babies though and started flapping his wings about madly. For a moment I thought he was going to take off. As I’d already seen one flying swan on my walk to the pub and I wasn’t exactly sure he wasn’t going to fly at me I was pretty pleased when he settled down again.
All this had me thinking about some of the wonders of nature I’ve witnessed on my Riverside walks. Of course there have been lots of plants and fungi and even a little white poodle drinking from a puddle that had me laughing one wet day. There have been lots of swans, ducks and geese and I’ve watched cygnets grow to adulthood but probably the most unusual and beautiful thing I’ve seen has to be the lone black swan. I don’t know where he came from or where he goes to and I suppose he’ll never find a mate but he sure is a handsome devil.
When I got back to Woodmill a big circus tent had appeared, yet another thing to add to my list of weird and wonderful things I’ve seen along here. Actually I’ve Googled it and there was a circus there on Bank Holiday Monday with acrobats, jugglers and tightrope walkers. It was in aid of Naomi House children’s hospice but, by the time I found out about it, it had already been and gone.
There was one more odd thing before I left the park on Sunday, although I’d call it more interesting than odd. The model railway enthusiasts who manage the little steam trains they run around this end of the park were out in the sun working on the engines. I’ve never really looked at them before but they don’t look big enough to pull carriages full of children and their parents all round that track to me.
When I’d climbed the slope back to Cobden Bridge I turned to look back at the park. It’s always been one of my favourite walks and maybe that’s because there’s never a dull moment. If you’re ever passing this way and you see the clock tower at the Triangle, look across the road towards the Triangle sign and go down the slope into the park, you never know what you might see.
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