This Saturday was Southampton Parkrun’s seventh birthday. As there was a music event going on on the flats where parkrun usually starts and finishes, the run was moved to the alternative course, beginning and ending close to the Cowherd’s Pub. Of course, this meant a bit of a longer walk for us to the start but, as that also meant more steps in the bag for me, I wasn’t complaining.
Because the fair has been on the Common for the last couple of weeks the parkrun start, finish and route has had to temporarily change. Last week, in an early Saturday morning haze, we totally forgot and ended up walking through the eerily deserted fairground.
Our mistake made for some interesting photographs of what would have normally been the finish funnel being set up. This week we remembered and took a more scenic walk to avoid disturbing the fairground workers sleep with our chatter.
This involved a longer walk than normal on the diagonal path from Bellemoor Corner towards the crossroads. It wasn’t what I’d call a hardship, especially crossing the little bridge and looking over the side at the Rollsbrook stream. Almost all the little streams hidden on the Common are tributaries of the Rollsbrook stream. It rises just south of Cuthorn Mound and runs under the Avenue then roughly south west across the Common to the southern side of the cemetery. One of these days I might try to follow its path to the Rollesbrook Valley Greenway and have another attempt at finding Conduit Head. Today was not that day though.
Today there were a thousand or so people gathered near the Cowherds Pub waiting for parkrun to start. Obviously my plans didn’t involve any running. Instead, as soon as the runners had set off I headed back towards the crossroads, keeping to the grass to avoid getting caught up in the run. About halfway between the finish funnel and the crossroads there’s a grassy trail running off into the trees. As soon as I reached it I turned away from the stream of runners.
Within moments the noise of the parkrun had faded away and I was alone. Birds were singing, the sky above was mostly blue and the bright spring green of the new leaves all around made me smile. I dawdled along the trail, stopping to watch a robin who didn’t want his picture taken, admiring the shapes of dead branches and enjoying the peace.
The trail crosses a makeshift wooden bridge and emerges from the trees just east of the artesian well. A little further west, at the crossroads, I could hear the marshal cheering the runners on. Turning west, I left the well and the runners behind and headed towards the faint hum of traffic on the Avenue.
When you’re in the middle of the Common it’s easy to forget you’re also in the middle of a city. With trees, trails, lakes and nature all around the hustle and bustle and busy roads seem like another world. The traffic is never too far away though. The Avenue cuts through the Common, dividing the west side, with the parkrun, Cowherds pub and Old Cemetery, from the smaller east side where Cutthorn Mound is hidden. It isn’t easy to cross the road here, it’s one of the main routes in and out of Southampton and almost always busy. There is an alternative though, the subway otherwise known as the Beyond Graffiti tunnel. This was where I was heading.
Beyond Graffiti began in the late 1980’s as a youth project run by youth workers Mike Banks and Jacquie Lee, to help and inspire young artists, musicians, poets, writers and the like get together, harness their talents and express themselves. The Beyond Graffiti tunnel grew out of this project when, in 2004, graphic designers Corbin Adler and Michael Flibb were asked to spruce up the old paddling pool kiosk and got local youngsters involved. The murals were so poplar the council agreed to set up a permanent art project in the underpass, somewhere young graffiti artists could paint and be creative without getting into trouble. Walking down the slope towards the tunnel always give me a little tingle of anticipation. The artwork is ever changing so you never quite know what you’re going to find.
Good graffiti in the right place is a joy to behold, at least in my opinion. I’m not talking about mindless tagging, names scribbled on street furniture and private walls. To me that is just territory marking, like so many dogs cocking their legs to say they were there, the signature without the actual artwork. There’s been a lot of that about lately, especially from a complete moron calling himself cams wasp, who thinks it’s clever to paint his name everywhere, even over the real artwork on the painted shops in Northam.
The artwork in the Beyond Graffiti Tunnel is constantly evolving though. Of course there are scribbled tags but they don’t last long and some of the real artwork is stunningly beautiful, thought provoking or amusing. There were a few that caught my eye today and I stopped to capture them before they disappeared.
So I slowly walked the length of the tunnel, taking a photo here and there. Then I turned round and walked back, thinking about other dull areas of the city that could benefit from this kind of sprucing up.
Soon enough it was time to leave the vibrant colours of the tunnel and head back through the bright spring greens of the Common to the equally colourful sea of Lycra at the parkrun finish. Most Saturday mornings I’m on the opposite side of the Common, wandering around the Old Cemetery looking at graves and wild flowers. Today, thanks to the fair, I had a far more colourful morning walk.
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The River Itchen meanders through the centre of Southampton dividing it roughly into two halves, west and east of the river. Almost all my life I’ve lived on the east side, so much of the west side of town is something of a mystery to me. Today CJ and I thought we’d explore a small part of it. There was a plan, albeit a fairly vague one, centred around an unusual church we’d seen from a bus some time ago.
On a normal Saturday morning I can usually be found hanging around on the Common while Commando runs parkrun. Sometimes I volunteer, sometimes I just go for a quiet wander. For three weeks in a row though I’ve been conspicuous in my absence and it’s all down to Commando’s friend Rob and a harebrained scheme to run fifty miles and raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Continue reading Fifty miles
With all the decorating going on there have been no proper walks lately. Life has been one long round of cleaning, sanding, painting and organising things like new blinds for the windows and furniture renovations. Although all this has given me plenty of exercise I’ve missed being out with my camera walking so, today, while Commando was running round parkrun, I took a short wander on The Common. Continue reading Beyond Graffiti
In early September 2014 I’d revisited my past and had a pleasant walk through the parks. Now I was on my way to the Common. As I was passing the old Mad House building a van passed me with its stereo blaring. I often wonder about the hearing of people who play their music so loudly in their vehicles but this time they were playing one of my favourite songs, Kevin Lyttle’s Turn Me On. This was one of those tunes we’d put on the CD player when the marketing team were in the penthouse at Dream Factory. Sometimes we’d even get up and dance around a bit. Hearing this reminded me I had my iPod in my pocket. Once upon a time I almost always had my iPod on when I was walking but lately I’ve hardly used it. I got it out, found the song and set it to shuffle. Continue reading A small disaster on the Common and some graffiti – first published 5 September 2014
Last week Commando made a park run comeback. This week it was the turn of our friend, Sarah, to return to running, this time after major surgery had kept her on the sidelines for some time, marshalling, token collecting and generally cheering everyone else on. Of course Commando would be running again too so I went along to cheer them both on. Continue reading Another Saturday, another Parkrun
Parkrun is becoming a bit of a regular Saturday morning event for me these days, although, obviously, I don’t run. Sometimes I help out, doing things like marshalling, sometimes I just watch or have a wander on the Common, other times I walk it. What I’ve never, ever been asked to do before though, is blow up balloons. This was a very special parkrun though. Continue reading A very special parkrun
One of the bloodiest battles in human history began on 1 July 1916. It raged, in mud and trenches on the banks of the River Somme, for one hundred and forty one days. To most people this is ancient history, too far in the past to connect with. The image of all those young soldiers resonates with me though. Pappy was one of them. It seemed fitting that my walk today should take me to a First World War memorial and I knew just the place to go. In fact I’d been meaning to visit Hollybrook Cemetery for some time and the eve of the hundredth anniversary of Battle of the Somme seemed like a good day. Of course CJ wanted to come along. Continue reading Remembering the Somme at Hollybrook
Hundreds of people turn out for parkrun at Southampton Common every Saturday morning. They run their 5k and they go home feeling virtuous, quite rightly so. It takes a lot to get out of bed early at the weekend and run around an often cold, wet, muddy common after all. Most probably don’t realise all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make their run possible though. This week Commando was volunteering to help set up. For him this is a regular thing, he does it a few times a year. Some amazing people do it every week though. They are the real parkrun heroes! Continue reading Parkrun behind the scenes