From Millers Pond to Bursledon Windmill – first published 29 June 2014

At the end of June 2014, I started working four long days each week, which meant having three days off. My first three day weekend began with a walk, obviously. Being the last weekend of the month and being a little shy on the hundred miles I’d promised to walk it probably should have been longer  but a very bright humid day had me revising my plans before I set out. There was only so much water I could carry in my rucksack and only so much sun a fair skinned girl could take. The new plan was to revisit the Bursledon Windmill and see what, if any, progress had been made since my last visit in early September 2013.

29 June 2014

Rather than take the most direct, three mile, route to the windmill, which is all along busy roads, I decided on a slightly more scenic and far longer one. This also had the added advantage of taking me past Millers Pond and along Shoreburs Greenway, the narrow ribbon of woodland from Sholing to Thornhill. As a bonus,  the woods would keep me out of the sun.

Sadly, Millers Pond wasn’t quite as peaceful as I’d hoped. The first thing I saw when I left Spring Road was a woman and a young boy wielding shears. For a moment I thought I’d wandered into a horror movie and was about to be attacked. When I spotted a small army of other people with sacks and litter pickers I realised I was safe. This was obviously some kind of park clean up. Amongst the crowds there were also fishermen and several families throwing bread to the ducks. Still, I did manage to get a picture of the ducklings and their parents dashing about after a snack.

For a moment I wondered if I’d be better off going under the big railway arches and walking along Portsmouth Road to avoid the crowds. It would be quieter than the main roads I’d come this way to avoid but just as hot though so I braved the crowds and went back to the pond. Despite all the people I did manage to find one viewing platform with no one on it and spent a few moments taking pictures of the sky reflected in the pond and the yellow lily flowers dotted about amongst the lily pads. They make the place look far more peaceful and serene than it actually was.

A bee was enjoying the Queen Anne’s Lace at the edge of the pond, then again it could have been hemlock, so many tall white flowers, so hard to tell them apart. Things quietened down as I made my way along the edge of the meadow where the various grasses are coming into flower. As I walked I thought how common old grass is actually a multitude of different species and how I should maybe write a post about it one day. Before long I was crossing Botany Bay Road.

The trail on the other side was narrow and crowded with ferns and wild flowers. Much of it towered above my head and, at times, I felt I was walking through a tunnel, a veritable garden of nettles, blackberries and tall spikes of loosestrife. A little further on there was a real tunnel to walk through. A fallen tree had created a beautiful green archway that wouldn’t look out of place in a cottage garden with the addition of a little honeysuckle.

Hidden somewhere behind all the greenery I knew the stream was flowing but I couldn’t see it at all. The nettles kept me on my toes. They flopped over the path and, at times, it was difficult to avoid brushing against them. Idly I wondered if I should pack a pair of secateurs in my rucksack for these woodland walks and, if I did, could I be arrested for carrying a dangerous weapon? The tallest bracken ferns arched up into the sky and I wondered how tall they were? These are the things that go through my mind when I’m walking.

A little further on a strange wooden sculpture brought me out of my reverie. It was a kind of short pole with what looked like stylised wood lice climbing it. There was a small, arched niche filled with an arrangement of twigs, whether these were part of the sculpture or placed there by someone passing by I couldn’t tell. Where did this come from? Had someone carved it from one of the trees felled by the gales last winter or had it been there all along and I’d somehow missed it before? I stopped and examined it from all angles, trying to gauge how old it was. This was an impossible task.

While I was circling the pole scratching my head I noticed more wooden sculptures at the bottom of the steep slope down to the stream. Of course I had to go down for a closer look. There were two of them, one on either side of the trail, a cross between giant wood lice and a cluster of fungi. One was slightly broken which added to the fungi illusion. Where they came from is anyone’s guess, Googgle didn’t tell me, but I love things like this.

Now I was right beside the stream, more of a trickle at the moment and so shallow I could almost count the pebbles under the water. There was a little mud, but nothing I couldn’t get past. Up the next slope and through another tree tunnel I was on the final stretch. From fungi sculptures to the real thing in the space of a few hundred yards. One fallen tree was smothered in more hoof fungi than I have ever seen in one place. Fomes fomentarius, also known as the tinder fungus, is shaped like a horse’s hoof, hence the name. Ancient men collected them to use as tinder to start their fires. This tree would have been quite a find for a prehistoric man.

The path was coming to an end but, before I returned to the road, there was one more tree related thing to make me smile. A heart shaped wound on a trunk had me thinking of Commando so I had to stop and take a picture. Maybe I can make it into a valentines card for him? The road, when I got to it, was crowded with people leaving the big car boot sale, so this part of my walk was more trial than pleasure as I dodged them all. Note to self, this is not a good Sunday morning walking route!

Eventually I wove my way against the tide of people carrying various pieces of tat they’d bought and made it to Windmill Lane. There was a feeling of anticipation. Something about a windmill, especially on a blue sky day,  makes my heart sing. Straight away I could see nothing much had changed since my last visit. This was faintly disappointing because I thought the restoration work might have begun. The work to replace the wind shaft is due to start in August, or so the volunteer in the barn told me, it should be finished by November in time to have the sails turning again for the mill’s two hundredth anniversary. Even without sails and slightly raggedy around the edges the mill is an impressive sight.

Of course, the windmill isn’t the only thing to see. There are the outbuildings, the Chineham Barn and the Hiltingbury Granary and, even though the mill isn’t working, it’s still possible to have a tour inside. As I took the tour on my last visit I gave it a miss this time. In my previous posts I told you all about the history of the windmill and the ghost, I even went inside and showed you the cogs and the views. I won’t bore you with that again now but if you want to learn more you can check out the posts.

For me the millpond and the plants are as much a draw as the buildings. Close to the mill, cheery red hypericum berries caught my eye, glistening in the bright sun. A tall teasel stood guard over the barn, along with vibrant thistles. The pond itself was alive with dragonflies but I knew the futility of capturing one with my phone so stuck to taking random shots in the hope one might sneak in. Sadly that didn’t happen but there were lily flowers and such tranquil views of the mill I didn’t really mind.

Sadly I said goodbye to the mill wondering what will have changed by the time I next come this way. Will the struts be supporting sails? Will the November sun be shining on me? We shall see.

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

2 thoughts on “From Millers Pond to Bursledon Windmill – first published 29 June 2014”

    1. Thank you. It was a lovely day despite the crowds. I love all these little sculptures dotted about, it’s a joy to stumble upon them.

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