28 July 2019
A while ago I told you about the saga of the locked gates on the river near the boardwalk. Some time ago I discovered the gates to the waterside walkway behind the Millennium Flats, once part of my daily walk to work, had been suddenly locked, apparently due to antisocial behaviour on the path. The residents of the flats then applied to the council for permission to lock the gates permanently. The case was heard on 16 July. Permission was denied. The residents were told the gates must be kept open, at least during daylight hours. Reason had, it seemed, prevailed. Today I thought I’d take a little walk to see if the locks had been removed.
It was yet another humid morning when I set off across Cobden Bridge. It was going to be a hot, slow walk and I wasn’t exactly hopeful of finding the gates unlocked if I’m honest. The residents had been very vocal about their wants and needs from the outset and steadfastly ignored any other opinions. The chances of a capitulation seemed slim.
When I reached the slipway I paused for a moment and looked at the still, calm water, just as I had so often on my way to work. Back then there were often swans on the slipway but there were none today, just a few little boats. When I looked towards the gate I could see the yellow sign was still in place but I walked over and tried the gate just in case. Just as I expected, it was still locked.
Feeling rather peeved I turned around and walked the long way around the outside of the fortress like flats. Unsurprisingly, the gate at the other side of the walkway was also still locked. I will admit I had some rather uncharitable thoughts about the flat dwellers at this point. The words ‘sore losers’ sprang to mind.
Crossly, I stomped on towards the boardwalk. It was too nice a day to feel angry though. This little stretch of waterside might still be denied to me but the views along the boardwalk were mine to enjoy. Down the slope, through the welcome shade of the overblown buddleia and trees, I caught scattered glimpses of the river. There was a little boat and someone on a paddle board who looked for a moment as if they were walking on water.
The tire tracks in the spilled paint were still there, still reminding me of an abstract painting. The heat seemed to radiate up from the boards and there wasn’t a breath of breeze. The silence was broken by a plane coming in to land, it seem to hang in the heavy air, defying gravity.
The tide was high, almost submerging the hippie ship on the corner. I’d expected to see swans here but there were none and I wondered where they’d all gone?
Plodding now and wishing I’d thought to bring water with me, I carried on towards the bridge. Past the thick wooden poles where the log pond used to be towards the building site. The path, once overshadowed by saplings, is now overgrown with wildflowers thriving against the blue fence. Bees were buzzing everywhere enjoying the midsummer bounty.
When I reached the bridge I paused and looked back the way I’d come, enjoying a little shade. The underside of the bridge has become an impromptu graffiti tunnel, bright, humorous pieces to make me smile.
Reluctantly I left the shade of the bridge and trudged up the steep steps to the road above. The new flats on the old television studio site look to have got as high as they’re going to. It’s feels as if they have sprung up very fast but there are still more to come. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like when it’s finished but I hope the residents are a little more accommodating to the footpath behind their building that the ones at the other end of the boardwalk.
The walk over the bridge felt like a walk through treacle. With no shade and no breeze it was so hot I could barely breathe. Looking down at the water I wondered if it was any cooler on the little boats bobbing there?
It was a relief to reach the gate and step down onto the embankment. It wasn’t any cooler there and there was still very little in the way of shade but at least I was away from the relentless flow of traffic.
For a little while I paused in the shadow of one of the whitebeam trees and looked over the old stone wall at the waves twinkling in the hot sun. This area seems to have become something of a graveyard for little boats. Beyond the wall several are slowly rotting away. Most are modern fibreglass affairs but my favourite, the skeleton ship, is wooden and has been decomposing here all my life. There is a lot less of it now than there was but its ancient wooden bones feel like an old friend.
Around the corner on the walkway behind yet more waterside flats, I stopped again to look along the line of the old bridge at the wrecks. A pair of swans with two sleeping cygnets were hiding there, the only swans I’d seen all morning.
Further along more rotting wood was once some kind of jetty as far as I can tell. These days it’s a convenient perch for a whole host of sea birds.
The last part of my walk took me past the industrial units of Kemps Quay and along Chessel Bay. There was shade along the bay so I slowed my steps and enjoyed it before I had to tackle the last uphill push, over the railway bridge and up the hill to home.