Ten miles, cygnets and coffee

7 July 2019

The route for our ten mile Clarendon Marathon training walk was an obvious one, at least to me. The midpoint between my house and Kim’s is Woodmill so we arranged to meet there at eight o’clock this morning. Eight might seem a little early on a Sunday morning for most people but, given the heatwave we’ve been experiencing, starting early, before it got too hot, seemed the sensible thing to do. Besides, Rob and Commando had gone out at silly o’clock for a run so we were both awake anyway.

As I headed down towards the river it was certainly much cooler. Whether this was because it was still so early, or because the heatwave was over, I couldn’t tell. Just in case I’d worn my light mac anyway. Although I’d left in plenty of time I marched along, not wanting to be late. Just before I got to the reed beds though, I stopped in my tracks. The mute swans and their fluffy grey cygnets were there on the mud of the low tide. The cygnets were sound asleep, watched over by their parents. It was such a beautiful sight I forgot all about time and the miles ahead.

Smiling to myself I carried on towards Woodmill. As I rounded the last bend Kim was there, walking towards me. Together now, we carried on towards Mansbridge, talking about the sleeping cygnets. Last time we came this way we’d taken the road route through Mansbridge to Wide Lane because there’d been lots of rain and we were worried the trail through Monks Brook would be muddy. Now, after a few days of heat and sun, we decided to risk the trail.

Walking with someone else made the trail seem far shorter than it does when I’m alone. We zipped through, finding barely a trace of mud. Kim was enchanted by the mushroom chainsaw sculpture made from a fallen tree but we were chatting so much I didn’t take any pictures at all. In fact the next time I took my phone out of my pocket was by the airport roundabout. The grass verge was a mass of poppies and I couldn’t resist them.

We marched up Wide Lane, past the entrance to Lakeside where we’d turned off last week, looking forward to a toilet and coffee stop in the Swan Centre. The thought of a takeaway coffee from the Swan Centre has kept me going on many a long walk in the past. When we got there though, the doors were closed. We hadn’t factored in the fact it was Sunday and our very early start meant it hadn’t opened yet. This was quite a blow.

For a moment or two we stood looking at each other wondering what to do. We both wanted coffee but, more importantly, we both needed the loo before we headed back towards Southampton. We walked up towards MacDonalds, not really relishing the idea of their coffee but thinking we might use their toilets. Then I remembered there was a Costa up one of the side streets.

For the uninitiated, Eastleigh is a maze of grid like streets that can all tend to look much the same if you’re not paying attention. We turned up what I thought was the street with a Costa about half way along. It wasn’t there though and we reached the end feeling more than a little disappointed. We were now right by the Railwayman statue on the edge of Eastleigh Park. Nothing was open and there was no one about. It felt like a ghost town.

Fairly aimlessly we turned right, in the general direction of the main road and the train station. Just as I remembered there was a Costa in the airport that was bound to be open, Kim spotted a little coffee shop on the corner of the next street. It was called Cooffe #1 and it was open. Gratefully we went inside, ordered takeaway coffee and made use of the facilities.

As we walked back towards the still closed Swan Centre sipping our delicious coffee, I spotted Costa to our right. Suddenly I realised what had happened. When we left the Swan Centre we were further up the road than we’d thought because we’d walked along to MacDonalds. Instead of walking up Market Street, which was where the Costa was, we’d walked up the next street along, High Street.

The little detour had added about half a mile to our walk but at least we’d got our coffee and found a toilet. The whole thing reminded me of the last long walk of my very first Moonwalk training. The plans had been to walk the whole twenty six miles, just to prove to myself I could do it. Walking back along Twyford Road towards Eastleigh all I could think about was the toilets in the Swan Centre, when I got there though they were closed for refurbishment or some such thing. Feeling rather desperate I’d walked up and down the streets looking for somewhere else to go. Eventually I’d ended up in MacDonalds but I’d added another mile to my already stupidly long walk in the process. At that stage the five miles home seemed an impossible task but, somehow, I made it.

Of course, our walk today was only ten miles, give or take. Both Kim and I have walked longer distances in the past so adding a little extra wasn’t really an issue. We retraced our steps back towards Mansbridge, sipping and talking the miles away. It was almost a surprise to find ourselves back at the little stone bridge over the Itchen again so soon.

The swan family were on the river near the bend and we paused for a little whale to watch them. The babies seem to have grown in the short time since our last walk this way. It won’t be long before they’re as big as their parents.

Kim and I parted company at Woodmill. Being suddenly alone, the last couple of miles really seemed to drag. It was a relief when Cobden Bridge finally came into view, along with some black swans. The steep climb out of the park was not such a welcome sight. As I trudged up the hill to my house I wondered how on Earth I’d managed to get through all those long lonely training walks of the past?

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