Right now the weather feels like there’s been a return to winter so my next post from the FGS archives feels quite fitting. Ok, so it’s not actually snowing now but there’s a definite winter chill to the air and a lot of grey skies, wind and rain. Back at the end of January 2013 though the snow had finally stopped falling but had hung around long enough for me to go out walking in it.
21 January 2013
Last night was a restless one. Maybe it was the cold but I didn’t sleep very well at all. Tired or not I decided I’d better have attempt number three at the Moonwalk training seven miler today or it was never going to happen. Not that I’d really attempted it properly so far but still, third time lucky? Given the cold (remembering my hands yesterday) and the added difficulty of walking on the snow (even with the wonderful Yak Trax) I was not entirely convinced I was going to make it but at least it wasn’t snowing. After a bit of a rethink on the route and another cup of warming cocoa (ok, I admit it had a dash of rum too and I was procrastinating like mad), I wrapped up as warmly as I could and set off into the cold.
I decided to try the route I planned out on Thursday night but backwards. Not walking backwards of course, just round the other way so the new bit was at the beginning and the little hill by Millers Pond was a downwards slope instead of upwards. Despite the fact that the snow had turned to hard ice, it was warmer than yesterday which was a good start. The odd patch of blue sky and the sun trying hard to come out added to the feel good factor. Wearing my mittens over my iPod friendly gloves helped a bit in that department too. It was my hands that caused all the problems yesterday after all.
In the end I decided to risk the Little Hill, better going up it than down it for sure. The Yak Trax did their job and I reached the top safely. From there I went through the village, cutting through the churchyard and then down towards the college. It was about then that I noticed a second thing, I’d filled my water bottle up and grabbed some snacks but, somehow, I’d left them at home. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. It was too late to do anything but carry on so that’s exactly what I did, although there was a fair bit of under breath cursing going on. Good job no one was about or they have thought I was a nutter.
It didn’t seem to take long before I was apoproaching Millers Pond but a quick glance at the WalkJogRun told me my time was ridiculously slow. This was most definitely not going to be a record breaking walk, unless it was the record for the longest time ever taken to walk seven miles. At Millers Pond the going got even slower. For one there was an elderly lady walking her dog and, as the path is pretty narrow and I didn’t want to risk sending her flying, all I could do was go at her pace. There were a few boggy patches to skirt too but not too many as I was keeping mainly to the paved route. At first sight the pond looked completely frozen but, as I turned the first bend in the path, I could see that the middle looked clear in places. At least the ducks had somewhere to paddle.
A little further and I spotted some ducks sitting on the ice. The unfrozen part of the pond was like glass, except for the odd ripple as chunks of snow fell off the overhanging branches into the water. It reflected the weak sun trying to break through the clouds. When I reached the first viewing platform it was all ice again littered with tiny snowballs fallen from the trees. Right in the centre an area of ice was actually covered with a snowy blanket.
The path I’d taken through the trees was ice free, even if it was a bit muddy in parts, which is probably why the dog walker chose it. The other path, leading through more open ground, was a sheet of ice, I walked a little way to investigate, even though I was actually going in the other direction. When I came back past the pond the ducks all began to skitter across the ice towards me. Maybe they thought I had bread. I didn’t.
A little further on I came to the entrance to Mayfield Park. I was tempted to explore the woodland paths I remember from my teens. They lead almost all the way down to the shore and actually come out close to the road I was heading for. In the end I decided to stick to my plan for fear the woodland paths would be too boggy after the recent rain and now the melting ice. Regretfully I left the park behind, promising myself I’d come back again in the drier weather.
The next part of the route was one I’ve never walked before so I spent a lot of time checking my screen shots and the map to make sure I was going in the right direction. Keeping the houses bordering the woods to my left I followed the road until it came to the point to turn off back to more familiar ground. For once I didn’t get lost and fairly soon all the map checking stopped and I could move a bit faster. Before long I had an unimpeded view of the woods and a welcome glimpse of blue sky, as long as I closed one eye and ignored all the grey anyway.
By now I was regretting the mug of cocoa because I needed the loo. There were dog walkers in the park so I thought I’d cut through and take one of the little woodland paths until I found somewhere a bit private. I can’t say I was looking forward to exposing my bum to the cold air but needs must. So I traipsed off down a horribly muddy trail until I was out of sight, did what had to be done as quickly as possible so I didn’t have to explain why I had a frost bitten arse then doubled back until I found the steps leading up to the road. Little did I know this little detour was going to cause me problems later on.
Soon I passed the place where the old seaweed hut used to stand. The hut used to be a landmark in the area when I was a small child although I’m not sure if I actually remember it or just think I do because I’ve seen so many photos. It was ancient, literally, and was mentioned in Admiralty charts as far back as 1783. A ramshackle structure of old timber with a roof of seaweed it was apparently used by local fishermen to store tackle and shelter from bad weather. Rumor has it, it was also connected with smuggling. In 1967 it was demolished but there used to be a pub close by called the Seaweed, I went there once with Commando. Even the pub is gone now, replaced by a new housing estate. It seems kind of sad that there’s nothing but a street name left and a little piece of history has been lost.
Now the shore was in sight but sadly not the sun. A lone gull sat in the little stream that runs down to the sea, almost lost amongst the snowy landscape. The snow on the foreshore was liberally sprinkled with footprints, the clumps of dry grasses standing out against the stark whiteness. I crunched across the frozen grass and snow topped pebbles, adding my Yak Trax prints to the already pock marked snow and trudged along the sea front towards Netley.
Walking on snow and ice is a bit like walking on sand, slow going and a great deal more effort than normal walking, especially when the ground under the snow consists of nothing but pebbles. It was hard work. Walking along the path of the promenade would probably have been easier but I wanted a closer look at the grasses and to see how far the snow encroached towards the salty sea.
On closer inspection the grasses and dried flower heads proved to be quite stunning. Normally they’re lost in the browns, greys and golds of the pebbles and the vivid greens of the living grass. Today, against the white backdrop, they took on a whole new beauty. One looked like a delicate starburst, another a spiny pompom. The snow stopped at the tide line where clumps of lace like melting ice mingled with tangles of colourful seaweed, pebbles, shells and driftwood.
Sometimes in life we rush about never stopping to notice the details around us. Today I stopped for a while to marvel at them. I took a few pictures too so I could remember to appreciate the little things. I think it was Winnie The Pooh who said, “sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” I think he was talking about Hunny but he was right. It’s the little things and the little moments that add together to create happiness.
A hovercraft zoomed past as I came to the end of the shore and started on my way towards home and warmth. As I approached Peartree Green I glanced at WalkJogRun to check on my progress. I’d walked just over five miles, quite a bit less than expected. Even with all the wandering about in the woods and on the shore apprieciating little things, a detour into the Co-op to pick up a newspaper for Commando (ok, I confess, I also picked up a bag of Maltesers to replace the snacks I’d left at home and a chocolate milkshake to drink when I got there but, in my defence, Maltesers was the best choice on offer) I was going to be way short of seven miles by the time I got back.
Stopping for a moment to examine the map and the red line showing my progress, I scratched my head and wondered how I could possibly be so far out on a route I’d so carefully planned. When I got as far back as the toilet stop all became obvious. The little meander through the trees had actually cut off quite a large corner. Oops, and there was me thinking I was probably adding distance.
There was nothing for it, tempting as it was just to march straight home, I wanted to nail the seven miles once and for all so I started looking around for ways to add some distance. First I took the road running behind the church but it was obvious it wasn’t going to be enough. I carried on for a bit along another road that I could see came out back on Peartree Avenue. Still not enough. I cut behind the common and down a little road I remembered from my driving lessons then looped back onto Spring Road. Better, but still not enough. In the end I had to walk all the way down towards the very beginning of the Big Hill and back up to make up the distance. Just as the cold was seeping into my bones, my legs hurt with the effort of stomping over the ice and I was whining to myself that I should have been content to come straight home and who would have known if I’d done six or seven miles, I saw a trio of jolly snowmen peering over a wall at me. It put the smile back on my face as I marched the final stretch and just made it past the seven mile mark. Phew, that was close!
This was possibly the slowest seven miles I’ve ever done but I’m pleased I finally managed to get it out of the way. Hopefully, next weekend the snow and ice will be gone and I can get back to some kind of normality for the fourteen miles, if not I could be some time!