29 June 2019
This week I have been getting my head around the enormity of the two challenges I’ve undertaken. The Million Steps Challenge doesn’t begin until 1 July but I’ve worked out I will need to walk around eleven thousand steps a day. Training for the Clarendon Marathon should more than take care of that.
When people learn you are walking a marathon, they often think it must be easy. This is especially true of runners, who usually say, “but you’re only walking it,” as if walking makes covering twenty six point two miles somehow easier than running it. The fact is, however you do it, it’s bloody hard. As a non runner, I can’t imagine running that distance and I have every admiration for anyone who can. Even so, I know from experience walking it is equally hard. You are on your feet twice as long for a start and, unlike running, where quite a bit of time is spent mid air (as anyone who’s seen my photographs of runners will notice), walkers always have at least one foot on the ground supporting their weight. It seems to me that the extra effort involved in running is cancelled out by the extra time and stress on the feet walkers suffer. Commando agrees, having run long distances and walked a few with me, he says running is actually easier over the same distance.
Anyhow, the upshot of taking on the Million Steps Challenge and the Clarendon Marathon is that I need to get walking. Getting the miles and steps in is going to be about lots of small steps rather than one big one. This week that has mostly been about tweaking my normal routine and changing my normal route to the village a little to add a few more steps. Some of these steps have been quite literal, like those leading from the bypass, others more figurative, like walking a longer loop instead of straight there and back.
A couple of appointments helped me fit in quite a few extra steps too. The first was in Woolston on Tuesday, giving me a nice four mile round trip. As usual, paranoia about being late meant I left with plenty of time and had a nice gentle stroll down Peartree Avenue past the little church on the green.
On Bridge Road I spotted a ghost sign on the front wall of a shop. Quite how I’ve missed it before is inexplicable given how often I’ve walked past over the years. It was badly faded but I could make out the words ‘manufacturers of fine..’ and ‘coke and briquettes.’ Perhaps it was a coal merchant at one time? Kelly’s Directories list it as William Barrett boot maker from 1925 to 1964, so maybe that is where the manufacturers part comes in?
On the corner of Lake Road there is another ghost sign. In fact it looks like several business have painted over it over the years. Sadly, this makes it almost impossible to decipher. I can just make out the words ‘sport,’ ‘engineers’ and ‘overhauls,’ though so I’m guessing it might have been a garage or bike shop at some point.
There was even time for a little wander around what used to be Vosper Thorneycroft. The sculpture outside Metricks is a favourite of mine and it was interesting to look down over the next phase of building work and wonder what it would eventually be like.
The meeting went much as I’d expected. I was left full of coffee with a list of things to do for a new copywriting and photography project. Walking home, the ghost signs were fresh in my mind and, as I walked, I couldn’t help looking out for more of them. Back on Bridge Road I noticed one on the side wall of the memorial mason’s shop. As the shop is still in the same hands though I’m not sure that really counts as a ghost sign.
A little further up the road I found more signs above the Co-op. Sadly, one was obscured by a satellite dish and both were so faded I couldn’t make anything out. Even so, I took a photo. These little mysteries always make me smile.
There was a bit more walking later in the day too. Commando was running the Lordshill Magic Mile on the Common and I was tasked with taking photos. Quite a large group of Hamwic Harriers turned up to run. Their bright red shirts made them nice and easy to spot.
On Wednesday night there was more walking on the Common when I went to take photos of the Hamwic session. This involved running laps of the boating lake so, while everyone went for a warm up run, I headed straight for the lake. It must have been my lucky night because, when I got there, I found two mute swans and two fluffy cygnets. When the runners arrived they couldn’t understand why I was so excited. Then again, I don’t think the swans understood why all the runners were going round and round their lake either.
On Thursday the weather suddenly got very warm. It was as if we’d gone from late winter to full summer overnight. After slathering on lots of sun cream I managed a long loop to the village but it felt like tough going. The bees on the roses by the bypass steps seemed to like it though.
Friday was also very hot and, following on from my Tuesday meeting, I had another appointment, A new preschool is opening close to Bitterne Manor and part of my job was to go down and take some photos to use on their website. The walk involved another slathering of suncream and lots of dodging from one patch of shade to the next. It also took me past the funny castle like house on the corner of Vespasian Road. Bitterne Manor is built on the site of the Roman fortress settlement of Clausentum and Vespasian Road is named after the Roman emperor of the time. The odd little house, built in the style of a Martello tower, is on the corner where the defensive ditch would have been. It is not a defensive tower though, or even of any great antiquity. It’s just a folly, built in the mid nineteenth century. Even so I love its quirkiness.
Somehow I made it to the new preschool without expiring from the heat. Luckily no one commented on my red face. After a bit of chat about what was expected and a few photos of the charming garden, complete with an old boat for the children to play in, I was given a tour. This was when things got very interesting.
When I was shown the small back garden, where the children will one day be growing vegetables, I spotted a section of ancient looking wall. This was very exciting. Clausentum was the forerunner of the town of Southampton. It was built in around AD 70 or so using the sharp bend in the river and ditches to enclose the settlement. Inside wooden huts and wharves were built. Later stone buildings replaced the huts and, in around AD 350, a bath house with four rooms was built and the whole area was enclosed by a stone wall. At the other end of the building I discovered another section of wall. Could these be part of the original wall?
Clausentum was abandoned about three hundred years before the Saxons settled in Hamwic on the other side of the river. The Manor House was built using some of the old Clausentum stones and masses of artefacts have been uncovered in the area. In fact there are restrictions on digging anywhere in the surrounding roads, even in gardens. The remains of the bath house wall are in the grounds of the Manor House but they aren’t accessible to the public.
The pieces of wall I found are certainly very old. Whether they are actually connected with Clausentum or not remains to be seen but it felt like an exciting discovery all the same.
Once I’d taken all the photographs I needed for my project I decided to have a wander along the shore before I headed home. There was a cooling breeze ruffling the long grass and the tide was low so I walked right down onto the slippery shingle. There’s an old iron boat abandoned down at the water’s edge. I’m told it is the remains of a Royal Navy Harbour Defence Launch. Whatever it is, I do love the dilapidated look of it.
Even with the breeze the heat was getting oppressive and I was wishing I’d brought a water bottle with me. It felt like time to head for home. Rather than go back the way I’d come, I decided to walk back through the woods beside the Manor House.
At first this seemed like quite a good plan. Then I reached the gate and had to leave the shade and walk along the road. It was not the most pleasant walk I’ve ever had. In fact I felt as if I was in serious danger of melting. Every step was a struggle but I did make it home eventually.
It was just as hot this morning when we went to parkrun. The cool of the Old Cemetery was very welcome. Commando had told me a bench, like the one in the village, had been installed near the chapel so I had a mission to keep me amused.
There are actually three chapels in the Old Cemetery. For some reason I’d been expecting to find the new bench outside the Church of England chapel, just inside the gate. It wasn’t there so I kept on walking.
This was no real hardship, even in the heat. There were wild sweet peas, clambering over the graves near the Non-Conformist chapel. When I straightened up from taking photographs I caught a glimpse of something bench like near the chapel door. Moments later my mission was complete. I’d found the bench.