Finally my 2014 ambition to visit Eling Tide Mill had been fulfilled. With one last look back along the causeway at the little boats in the marina I left the mill behind and made for the road. There were some interesting looking apartments overlooking the small harbour and I have to admit to a pang of envy. Imagine looking out of your window at the old mill and the ever changing view as boats come and go.
24 August 2014
I lingered for a while wondering what it must be like to own a yacht and spend weekends sailing about. The Anchor Inn a little further on advertised Sunday roast and, from the smell drifting out onto the street it must have tasted wonderful.
Here the road curved round but I took a slight detour along a grassy area with a slipway, thinking I might sit for a little while and look in my bag for the granola bar I knew was in there. In the distance I could see the containers in Southampton docks. Even though there was an empty bench there were too many cars and people for my liking so I made my way back to the road. With one final look back towards the mill I set off.
When I’d been planning this walk, poring over the satellite maps, I thought I’d found a way back to Southampton without crossing the busy road bridge across the Test. Of course the trail I thought I’d seen might turn out to be a very long and pointless diversion but I was willing to risk it. Before I started worrying about that I had to actually find it and, despite all my plans, I wasn’t exactly confident.
Eling seems to be quite an olde worlde kind of place so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see the kind of sweet shop that was all the rage when I was a little girl. The window was filled with jars of every kind of sweet you could imagine but, luckily for my teeth and my waistline, the shop was shut.
I was pretty sure, if I kept going straight, I would find what I was looking for. Not long after I’d walked under the Totton bypass I came to a level crossing, just as I’d seen on the map. Feeling rather nervous, I crossed and, before long, I came to a main road and modern shops including a Costa Coffee. I was tempted to stop but, mindful of the coffe I’d had at the start of my journey and the probable lack of toilet facilities, I gave it a miss.
When I finally saw a sign that said Testwood Lane I knew I was on the right track and, tempting as the pretty park I saw was, I passed it by. Looking at the map after the event I see I could have walked through the park and cut out a lot of the boring street walking but I guess I will know next time. Finally, where Testwood lane turns sharply left, I came to the trail I was looking for. Beside it was a pretty little cottage and another case of house envy for me.
As it happened the potential for getting lost wasn’t over because there were several choices of trail. This is the Lower Test Nature reserve and, as well as a circular walk, part of the trail leads to the forty seven mile Test Way which ends at Inkpen Beacon. What I really didn’t want to do was accidentally end up on that. The plan was to find the Test Way, walk the first part of the circular walk and then break off at the Test Boardwalk which should, in theory, lead me back to Southampton. Thankfully, after a little looking around, I found a gate with a sign telling me I was on the right track, probably…
It wasn’t long before I realised I wasn’t on the path I thought I was on. This was a narrow trail through a grassy, bramble filled area rather than a real trail. I briefly considered turning back but a quick look at WalkJogRun told me I could meet the trail further on so I kept going forwards. There seemed to be huge pylons everywhere I looked and I’d seen pylons on the satellite map so I knew I couldn’t be too far adrift.
What a relief when I found another gate and, on the other side, there was a real Tarmac path winding through the trees. It was a pleasant walk and it wasn’t very long before I saw water and knew I’d reached the River Test. Even here the pylons and power lines were relentlessly present spoiling what would otherwise have been a lovely view. Soon I came to the bridge I’d been looking for and finally I was certain I was going the right way.
From the middle I took the customary photo in each direction, the view to the right was mostly pylon but to the left I found a peaceful river scene. The next stretch of the walk took me along the test through trees and the tall Himalayan balsam that seems to have sprung up everywhere this year. Towering over everything were the ever present pylons.
Another gate and a sign came soon after. This told me that, across the next bridge, the Test Way continued towards Inkpen Beacon. This was a direction I didn’t want to take by accident so I stopped to double check on WalkJogRun before I carried on. Across the fields in the distance I could see the tower blocks of Millbrook in Southampton. Whether I’d actually be able to get to them remained to be seen.
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