13 September 2018
Today CJ and I were on a mission. In August the renovations on the Royal Victoria Country Park chapel were finally completed. Although we were both itching to go and visit, we both agreed it was best to wait until the school summer holidays were over and the initial burst of visitors had subsided before checking it out. This was not something we wanted to rush around in a crowd. So, we set off bright and fairly early for what would be the longest walk I’ve taken since my back troubles began.
The day was hot and sultry so we took it very slowly on the way to the shore. My little rucksack was filled with drinks and snacks but our first stop was for ice cream at the far end of the promenade. We’d walked a good four miles by this time so our ice cream was well earned.
We sat on my favourite bench, demolished our ice creams before they melted and had a cool drink. At the water’s edge someone was throwing bread and the birds filled the sky, each trying to grab their share. In front of us the hulk of the dead tree that once featured in so many of my photographs was prostrate on the shingle. It made a sad sight.
Rested, we carried on along the shore path. So far my leg and back were holding up, probably thanks to all I’d learned at the Running School. There was a brief pause to look at the boundary stone that began our epic stone hunting mission a couple of years back. It looked as if someone had cleared away the undergrowth around it fairly recently. Perhaps someone else is also hunting for the stones?
We walked on reminiscing about all the other boundary stones we’d found and the two that escaped us. Soon we’d reached the sailing club. Usually we’d walk along the shingle here towards Netley Castle but today we decided to take the path across the grass instead in a vain hope of shade. The trees here, bent and twisted from the wind constantly blowing off the water, cast precious little though. In no time at all we were back on the shore and the shingle path behind the sea wall.
On we went, past the place where the wall and path were washed away by the winter storms of 2014. Both have been repaired now but, having witnessed just how flimsy the path proved to be, neither of us have ever felt completely safe walking on it since.
Once we’d safely negotiated the path we had a choice to make. Our normal route would take us out into the road and through Netley village. There are pretty houses to see here and shops with cool drinks and snacks. With plenty of snacks and drinks still in my rucksack we had no need of shops though and I quite fancied carrying on along the shore.
This is not a route I take often. The shingle is loose and hard to walk on and high tide can easily cut walkers off if they aren’t paying attention. Today the tide was out though and CJ said he didn’t mind walking along the shingle if there was no danger of getting cut off. Some new, rather modern looking houses are being built on the corner of the road that leads away from the shore. We paused for a moment to have a look at them. We both agreed they weren’t really our style but the views from the large windows and the balcony will be something to envy.
One of the reasons I wanted to walk this way was to show CJ the cliffs of Netley. Truthfully they are hardly high enough to deserve the name cliffs but, if you half close your eyes you can imagine they are taller and the striations in them are an interesting demonstration of geology. The cliffs are, as far as I can see, in a kind of half way state between sandy soil and sandstone rock, too hard to be the former and a little too soft to be the latter.
These cliffs also demonstrate the way the tide is slowly eroding away the land. Broken fences at the top show where paths once were and the remains of steps, marooned on the shingle, tell the tale of lost land. Living at the top may afford beautiful sea views but these go hand in hand with the danger of losing everything to a land slip. A little further along a massive wall of chicken wire cages filled with large rocks has been built in an effort to hold back the tide. The sea is relentless though.
As we walked on CJ spotted a large flat rock that looked almost like molten iron or some of the larva formations we saw in Lanzarote. Of course he had to have a closer look. It really was the most peculiar rock and seemed completely out of place on the shingle, but neither of us are geologists and we weren’t even sure if it was really a rock at all, or the remains of some man made metal structure, eaten away by time and the tide.
A little further on we found another similar rock. This one looked even more molten than the last and I wondered if they had their origins in local industry or perhaps were something left over from the war? Soon we realised the whole of this stretch of beach was littered with these odd rocks and I wondered why I’d never noticed them before? Of course the answer was I’d never had CJ with me before so I’d probably just stepped over them without paying them any attention.
It does seem strange that there are so many of them in just one spot. It’s almost as if a giant animal had walked along here leaving molten metal droppings, or they’d fallen from the sky. CJ, who knows more about these things than I, assured me they are not meteorites. Whatever they are and wherever they came from I imagine there is an explanation, even though we don’t know what it is.
Still puzzling over the trail of odd rocks we walked on. Now we were getting close to the slipway near the gates to the country park and passing more abandoned sets of steps. The last of these is still in use and leads to The Towers, a large house overlooking the shore. The bottom step has the house name set in pebbles into the concrete but the whole structure looks a little precarious to say the least and there are several signs warning that this is private property.
The walk along the shingle had been tough on our legs so the slipway just ahead was a welcome sight. It was even more of a relief to get to the top without slipping on the accumulated algae and to be on smooth, solid ground once more.
My original plan had been to sit on one of the benches just outside the gates to the country park and have another drink and a snack. When we reached them though, we discovered the benches have been replaced with some beautiful new ones commemorating those who gave their lives in two world wars. They seemed too beautiful to sit on so, once we’d admired and photographed them, we headed for the gates.
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