27 September 2019
With just over a week to go to the big day there was time to fit in one more, fairly short training walk before the Clarendon Marathon. At this late stage we didn’t want to tax our legs too much or risk any last minute injuries so we decided on a gentle, and most importantly, fairly flat, eight mile route to Lakeside and back.
The weather wasn’t the best, lots of dark clouds threatening rain and a rather strong, gusty wind. With so much rain over the last week there was standing water everywhere. As I walked across Riverside Park to meet Kim I wondered at the wisdom of the off road route I’d chosen. Mud might become a real issue, especially through Monks Brook.
Kim was waiting at Woodmill for me and we set off along Wessex Lane discussing the possibility of mud ahead. When I suggested taking the road route to Lakeside to avoid the mud Kim said we could meet with plenty of mud on the Clarendon route, especially if t kept on raining, so we might as well get used to it.
As it happened, the greenway and Monks Brook Meadows weren’t nearly as muddy as I’d expected. There was a little mud along the greenway but it was easily skirted and the meadows were pretty firm underfoot. We found the worst of the mud in the underpass between the meadows and the last stretch of footpath. It was thick, gloopy and very slippery but we picked our way across.
Sadly the weather didn’t get any brighter, although, apart from a few drizzly showers, it didn’t really rain. We made use of the Lakeside loos, circumnavigated the muddy trail around the main lake and were soon on our return journey.
We’d been chatting away all morning and, as we reached the horribly muddy underpass, I realised I’d hardly taken any photos. Despite the mud, I stopped in the tunnel and documented just how muddy it was. It looked as if the soil had been washed from the meadows during the recent heavy rain and, with no sun to dry it out, had stayed there.
It was drizzling and the wind was gusting so we skirted the outside of the meadow where a narrow, slightly overgrown, trail runs between the trees lining the road and the shrubs of the meadow. In spring this trail is a mass of blackthorn flowers. Now it was a mass of sloes.
We walked back across the greenway still chatting. It was disappointing to see the Himalayan balsam has really taken hold here. Pretty as the pink flowers are, the plants crowd out the native wild plants and, when they die back in winter, allow the banks to erode.
Pretty soon we were back at the bottom of Wide Lane. We crossed the road and, without really thinking about it, went through the gate and onto the trail. We’d reached the blue bridge before we remembered the almost fallen tree and the likelihood of a very muddy trail right beside the brook. As we didn’t want to be hit on the head by the tree if the strong wind dislodged it or slip in the mud and fall into the brook, we crossed the bridge and continued our journey along Wessex Lane.
We parted company on the corner of Woodmill Lane with some sadness. This would be the last of these weekly walks after all. All alone be now, I walked through the mill towards the park.
The wind buffeted me and showers of leaves fluttered down around me as I followed the winding path along the river. Once I got away from the shelter of the trees I had the wind in my face and had to fight against it. It was energy sapping, every step an effort. Fearful of being blown into the river, I took to the grass.
A man in a long coat was walking a black Labrador. The dog was off the lead and was chasing the swans, dashing up and down the bank barking. The man seemed to find it funny but I’m pretty sure the swans didn’t. I was glad to overtake them both and quite hoped either the dog or the man would end up getting a nasty pecking.