15 February 2018
It was the most beautiful day, bright, crisp and cold with a definite promise of spring in the air. As I was in town anyway I thought I’d take a wander through the parks to see if there were any signs that this long, cold winter was drawing to a close. My tour began with a stroll through the enchanted park. With the beautiful golden light and the trees reflected in the puddles there certainly seemed to be a touch of magic in the air.
Of all the city’s central parks this is my favourite and I strolled slowly through enjoying the bare trees, the different textures of bark and the tattered lace of the dried out hydrangea flowers.
The winding path took me behind Lord Palmerston’s statue where catkins were dangling from the corkscrew hazel. The first blowsy camellia flowers made splashes of colour here and there and the first of the squills were beginning to open.
The park is small so, even dawdling, I’d soon emerged on New Road. Here I noticed strappy leaves that will soon be daffodils scattered here and there on the grass. All these little hints of spring made me feel much better about my chilly ears and fingers.
Across the road in Andrews Park the bare branches of the trees made dramatic shadows on the path. It won’t be long before there is a fuzz of green on the tips of those branches and the sweet scent of roses wafting from the nearby rose garden. Despite the blue sky and sunshine though, there were no signs of spring in this part of the park.
On I went, past the Civic Centre and up through the bare pergola. This is another place that will be filled with the heady scent of flowers soon enough. When the wisteria is in flower there is no nicer place in the city centre and the anticipation of it was enough to make me smile.
It was bare trees all the way up to the cenotaph, although some had interesting bark to make up for the lack of greenery. Right at the top of the park I found one lonely clump of purple crocus, a solitary harbinger of spring in a winter park.
There was no real plan to my walking, other to enjoy the bright weather while it lasted. Leaving the parks I continued along London Road towards The Avenue, thinking I might head home through Highfield and St Denys. At the beginning of the last century the town library and art gallery were here. This is also where the Ordnance Survey Office used to be. Today I didn’t quite make it that far though. As I dilly dallied my way towards The Avenue an interesting looking building to my right dragged me off my chosen route onto Ordnance Road. The pale brickwork caught my eye and the inscription above the arched doorway piqued my interest. This, it seemed, was a Friends Meeting House, belonging to the Society of Friends, or Quakers.
Two years ago, almost to the day, I stumbled upon the Quakers’ Burial Ground at the bottom end of the Avenue, so I knew there must be a meeting house nearby, just not exactly where. Now, without meaning to, I’d stumbled upon it in much the same way. The first community of Quakers were established in the town in 1660. At the time most meetings were held in the home of George Embree, a soap boiler and carrier who lived in All Saints parish north of the Bargate. Throughout most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Quakers met inside the old town walls in Castle Lane, St Michaels Square and Castle Square. During that time they built two meeting houses in the area but, in 1884, they moved to this purpose built meeting house on Ordnance Road.
Leaving the meeting house behind, I decided to head along Onslow Road and take the Horseshoe Bridge route home. This took me past another interesting religious building, the Gurdwara Nanaksar. This beautiful Sikh temple was built in the 1970’s and today the golden domes of the roof looked beautiful against the deep blue sky.
The glow of those domes kept me smiling all the way to Horseshoe Bridge. Then the swans took over. Since I learned there was an outbreak of bird flu in southern England I’ve been a little worried about the swans on the Itchen so it was good to see several along the river here looking pretty healthy.
The swans kept me smiling all the way to Northam Bridge, then the ships took over. The mass of little masts clustered around Kemps Quay and Chessel Bay looked so jolly in the sunshine they almost made me forget how cold I was. There were boats scattered along the edge of the embankment too, whether abandoned or in use I couldn’t tell.
Eventually I had to leave the river and the ships behind and head towards the village. There was one more thing to put a smile on my face as I crossed the little railway bridge. A colourful plastic duck was sitting on the parapet of the bridge looking along the railway line. Where he came from is a mystery but he certainly brightened my day.
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