Woods, hovercraft, ice cream cones and gateposts

5 April 2017

As our little jaunt to Eling had been a success as far as my poor old knee was concerned I thought I’d try a longer walk today.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue, more or less, so it seemed like the perfect day for a walk down to the shore. The breeze from the sea would take the edge off if it got too hot and there are plenty of places to sit if need be. 

On the woodland path behind the green the flowers on the ribes were just beginning to open and the edges of the trail were filled with clumps of bluebells. A butterfly flittered along the path in front of us, stopping now and then on a plant but moving on before I could capture a photo. It’s a game I’m sure they like to play and one I rarely win.

Near the church the butterfly landed on some purple honesty. I raised my camera and took a shot but all I got was flowers. The butterfly waited until the last moment and flew. It was too quick for me.

Across the green I could see blossom in the churchyard. When all the leaves are out you will hardly see the church or the graves at all from the road. Near the end of the quiet little path we found more honesty, white this time, and a veritable wildflower garden on the corner.

On we went, under the bridge and through Woolston and soon we’d reached the edge of the shore, near the singing masts of Woolston Sailing Club. Those masts were quiet today, or maybe they were drowned out by the sound of hovercraft dancing over the water. CJ was certainly enchanted by them and we stood for a while watching as they sped back and forth across the calm sea.

The hovercraft are built a little way along the waterside at Merlin Quay, near the place the Spitfires were once manufactured. The company building them, Griffon Hoverwork, is owned by the same huge Gibraltar based corporation I once worked for, albeit indirectly. Unlike Dream Factory (the tour operator that broke my heart and not its real name), they have survived and prospered, moving from Hythe to Woolston in 2011 when more space was needed.

Eventually I dragged CJ away from the hovercraft and we carried on along the shore with the sound of them slowly receding. The tide was a long way out leaving a vast expanse of sticky mud between us and the silver ribbon of the sea. In the far distance we could see the tower of the chapel peeking over the trees at Victoria Country Park and the long dark line of the Hamble Oil Terminal jetty on the horizon. A few bright marigolds, escaped from the pretty beds in the car park, were growing amongst the brambles and ivy of the pitch and putt fence.

Two tiny dots moving about in the mud at the tideline turned out to be a couple of men, digging for bait by the look of it. We watched them as we headed towards the car park. When we came to the tower blocks we stopped for a moment, trying to decide which best matched the sky. On balance we agreed it was not quite as deep a blue as Harvre Towers and deeper than Copenhagen Towers, therefore it must be an Oslo Towers day.

Oslo Towers days are just the right kind for ice cream so, when we reached the ice cream van in the car park, we treated ourselves to a small cone each. Then we walked along to the benches by the shore path and sat to enjoy them.
“Ice cream cones must be the most environmentally friendly packaging in the world,” CJ commented, licking at a drip of ice cream running down his cone.
“They certainly save on litter,” I agreed. “In fact you’d think they could adapt them to more kinds of takeaway food.”
“If they made them savoury they’d work really well for chip cones,” CJ suggested.
Try as we might we couldn’t come up with any other foods that would go well in cones so we looked out to sea for a while.

Across the water the spires and towers of Fawley Refinery and Power Station gave us something else to talk about while we finished off our ice creams. The power station closed in 2013 after failing to meet modern environmental standards and there are huge plans for the site. There is talk of luxury homes and a marina, although I’m not sure how popular either would be right next to the massive refinery. The latest scheme includes turning the tall chimney into a restaurant and viewing platform. We looked across at the chimney, the furthest spire left from our vantage point, and tired to imagine it as a restaurant. We failed.

Usually my shore walks carry on along the shore path at this point but, today, I had something else in mind. Two years ago I heard about an icehouse on the edge of West Wood. When I went to have a look for myself I was certain the strange domed brick structure wasn’t an icehouse at all but, despite lots of theories, I never found out what it actually was. Today I thought I’d show it to CJ and see if he could work it out. this meant back tracking a little from our bench at the beginning of the shore path and heading along the road up Abbey Hill.

There is a reason I don’t normally walk this way. The pavement here is narrow and very uneven. The road itself is filled with potholes and, at certain times of the year, it floods. Today we knew it wouldn’t be flooded but the lumpy pavement makes for uncomfortable walking. A little way up the hill, just before the bend at West Lodge and the boundary stone on the shore path, Southampton turns into Eastleigh. There are two signs, one for Eastleigh and one for Southampton and, between them, is a strip of nomansland, maybe six feet wide. We laughed about proclaiming ourselves king and queen of this tiny kingdom and building a miniature castle there. CJ stopped to take a picture.

At this point I wasn’t quite sure where the non-icehouse was exactly so, with a huge pang of house envy, we passed West Lodge and continued on, peering into the woods as we went.
“Look out for old brick gateposts,” I told CJ. “The whateveritis is a little way behind them.”
There are several entrances into the woods along this stretch of road and, after we’d passed a couple I began to think we might have gone too far and missed the gateposts. Perhaps they and the whateveritis had been removed and there was nothing left to see any more?

Right when I was thinking we were on a wild goose chase and we might as well turn back, CJ stopped and pointed into the woods.
“Is that the gate post?” he asked.
Sure enough there was a brick gatepost laying on its side in several pieces right ahead.

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

6 thoughts on “Woods, hovercraft, ice cream cones and gateposts”

    1. The woods are stunning at the moment. The gatepost has been like that for a few years now. I’m surprised we found it at all.

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