A footpath, a shrine and yet more disappointment

26 July 2019

The heatwave, complete with stupidly high humidity, is continuing and I have to admit it’s getting a bit wearing now. Every walk is a battle to defeat legs that feel like lead, a brain that feels like it’s filled with cotton wool and skin that seems to be leaking at an alarming rate. It’s not just me that’s suffering either, flowers and leaves everywhere are desiccated and sorry for themselves. More or less how I’ve been feeling.

Despite everything I’ve managed to keep on top of the Million Steps challenge though, almost hitting the 300k mark at the end of my third week. In fact I’m getting quite inventive to fit in extra steps, finding longer routes for trips to the shops and jumping on any chance for an extra walk I can get. This afternoon was a case in point. Commando had an appointment at the running school and, while he was being put through his paces, I went off for another look at the building work on the fields behind the church of St Nicholas.

The plan was to see exactly what had happened to the public footpath that used to run across the land. The builders were given planning permission on the proviso that they kept the footpath open but when I last walked this way I couldn’t find it. In anticipation of today’s walk I’d had a long look at the satellite maps and re read my blog about walking the footpath so I thought I knew where it should be.

On the walk from the church along the first part of the Lane I could almost pretend nothing had changed. Well, as long as I kept looking left towards the farmhouse anyway. This was once the stable block and coach house for Sir Thomas Fleming’s house, Stoneham Park House. There were even pretty growing through the fence when I reached the bend.

Until very recently this land had remained almost unchanged since was given to the inn Alfred by King Athelstan in AD932. The land changed hand several times, passing to the New Minster at Winchester, later Hyde Abbey, and used as a deer park. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries it passed the Henry Wriothesley, second Earl of Southampton. It was 1599, before Thomas Fleming, who was then MP for Hampshire, built anything on it. If he could see what’s become of it today he’d turn in his grave.

What was once beautiful parkland landscaped by Capability Brown, is now a noisy, dirty building site. Just past the bend I found the slightly incongruous looking gate and style I’d missed last time. Beyond it there used to be fields filled with grazing cows and a muddy track leading to a beautiful avenue of trees.

With great difficulty, I clambered over the style. It wobbled and moved most alarmingly, no longer having the benefit of a sturdy fence to anchor it. On the other side was a gravel path, rather than the muddy trail I slid along last time I walked here. The gravel is the only improvement. After a few yards the path isn’t bisected by an access road. Then there are the new houses.

Past the first few completed houses the path is hemmed in on either side by ugly metal fences. Where once there were cows and fields there is now a building site. The walk felt very claustrophobic with the crashing, hammering and beeping of the houses being built and clouds of dust wafting across. It seemed to go on and on.

At one stage there was a seemingly pointless red gate affair to pass through. Beyond it the horrible fenced in path and all the noise continued. To my right, through the fence there were fields of wildflowers and a small stream that looked to be man made rather than natural. What the point of the fencing on this side was is anyone’s guess but it certainly spoiled the view.

It was a relief to finally leave the fencing behind, even if the noise followed me. Now things began to look more familiar. Over a more normal wooden fence I could see the lake and a little way along a arrow trail I came to the kissing gate leading to Avenue Park. There was a sign telling me cow may be grazing in the field. I hoped I wouldn’t meet them.

Now, apart from the noise of the building going on behind me, things were much as they had been before. When I came to he place where the trail decided I knew I needed to take the right fork. It led me upwards and before very long I could see the shire at the top of the hill.

The hill I climbed is called Cricketer’s Hill and the shire is the Stoneham War Shrine, dedicated to the thirty six local me. Killed in World War I. It was built between 1917 and 1918 for John Willis Fleming and designed by Christopher Hatton Turnor. Wills Fleming’s own son, Richard, was one of those lost men. Apparently there is an identical shrine on the Isle of Wight, where the Fleming family originated.

The lovely little shrine, with its tiled roof and ornate gates, was restored in 2011. Once it was a peaceful spot for contemplation, in splendid isolation. Sadly, today, the noise of the building work disturbs the silence and the shrine on the hill is within sight of the new development.

The noise and the views of houses rapidly growing was so disappointing I didn’t stay long. Frankly, it made me want to cry. It felt like a desecration. The thought of walking back through the claustrophobic fencing didn’t appeal much either so I headed down the hill in the opposite direction, hoping to find a way onto the trails I walked last time I wandered here.

The trail I followed took me to a gate leading onto Chestnut Avenue though. With more time I might have been able to find a way back to the other trail but today I had no choice but to turn back.

The walk back through the building site was no nicer in the other direction. Even without the fencing and with the houses complete, I can’t see it being a very pleasant walk. The land on the Eastleigh side of the path looks as if it isn’t being landscaped, probably for the benefit of the rich people who buy the houses. They seem to be laying twisting gravel trails, perhaps to make it interesting. It all feels like a sanitised version of what was there before though and I can’t imagine wanting to walk there.

To avoid the rickety stile I took a detour along the service road where freshly planted wildflower verges were being watered by a big yellow hose. All the pretend nature in the world can’t replace the real nature that used to be here. It may look pretty enough when it’s finished but it will still be a Disney version of the real thing.

Passing the church, I headed back along the still unfinished pavement towards the Running School feeling incredibly sad. The pavement is an improvement but everything else feels like destruction. The history and the beauty is gone and it can never be replaced.

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North Stoneham Disappointment

14 June 2019

This afternoon Commando had an appointment to be tortured at The Running School, so I thought I’d go and take a look at the new housing development on North Stoneham Park. From the outset I knew it was going to be another kind of torture. When CJ and I walked this way, back in January 2017, we knew it would most likely be our last chance to see the unspoilt park. When I came this way a year later, work had already begun and the area was unrecognisable. It wasn’t certain what I’d find today but I knew it wouldn’t be gorgeous green fields and footpaths.

Continue reading North Stoneham Disappointment

Gilets jaunes

15 December 2018

With thoughts of a nice warming coffee and maybe a cake in the Jardin du Luxembourg cafe evaporating, we peered through the locked gates and wondered what to do next. It was one o’clock and both of us were cold, damp and feeling rather hungry. Our early breakfast seemed like a lifetime ago and we’d been walking more or less the whole time since then. The little cafe we’d stopped at before on Boulevard Saint Michel sprang to mind so we headed towards it.

Continue reading Gilets jaunes

Changes afoot

27 September 2018

When everyone around you is going down with colds and flu it feels like it’s only a matter of time before your turn comes. When I got up this morning there was a definite feeling of lurgie going on but I told myself I was probably imagining it. Besides, I had a package to deliver to a friend who lives close to the Millennium Flats so, ignoring a slight soreness of throat and muzzy head, my feet retraced footsteps from many previous walks. The route may have been all too familiar but the scenery has changed somewhat since I last came this way.

Continue reading Changes afoot

Below Bar deckchairs

31 July 2018

CJ and I had spent the morning walking in large circles up and down town from the precinct to Bedford Place looking for giant deckchairs. So far, with quite a lot of doubling back and grumbling from CJ, we’d found all the chairs at the top end of town. Now we had a proper map, rather than a badly cropped photo on my phone, the Below Bar chairs should be a little easier to find. In fact, I’d already seen the next three on the list on a shopping trip with Commando at the weekend.  Continue reading Below Bar deckchairs

Show me the way to go home

12 October 2017

We’d left to Road that thought it was a trail and were back on a real road again, with houses and even a sign for a railway station off to our left. One of the houses had an interesting gateway, a little like a lych gate. For a second I thought it might be the church where I was planning to stop and have a break. It wasn’t but the gate wasn’t so interesting I was about to take a photo when my phone rang. It was Commando, calling on his lunch break for a chat. If we’d walked a little quicker we could have made a detour and gone to see him. Once he’d gone I took my photograph of the gate. It was worth the wait, especially the sign that said Beware of the Gnomes. That really made me smile.  Continue reading Show me the way to go home

The sea and the sky

20 September 2017

When I woke up to blue sky I knew exactly where I wanted to go today. Blue sky and sea go together like chocolate and orange. Ok, so it was only a tiny little bit of blue sky amongst quite a lot of cloud but still, beggars can’t be choosers in late September.  Continue reading The sea and the sky

Postcards from Winchester Cathedral

3 September 2017

It was time to leave the little secret garden and head back towards the car park. As it was still a little early for Commando to be back from his Half Marathon run I figured I had time to get a coffee in Costa on the way and maybe dry out my damp old bones. As I hadn’t had breakfast before we left home and the milky hot chocolate I’d had at six thirty seemed a long way off, I might even treat myself to a croissant too. Thinking about it made my tummy rumble. Continue reading Postcards from Winchester Cathedral

Hahne Farm Trail

11 May 2017

“How about a little walk on the trail up the road?” Commando said. “The one with the big stone inukshuk.”
“The Hahne Farm Trail,”  obviously I didn’t need asking twice.
We’d been sitting on our balcony watching the Canada geese and goslings on the lake below, drinking coffee and resting from our morning adventure in Huntsville.  I was pretty sure Commando had only asked because he knew I was secretly disappointed by the lack of trail walking we’d done so far rather than any real desire to go walking on his part. Still, it was a short trail, around the same distance as a parkrun, and less than a mile from our chalet. If it proved too much for Commando’s leg we could easily turn back. Continue reading Hahne Farm Trail

The Vancouver Marathon and five seconds of fame

7 May 2017

Last night Commando went out for a run, his first in a month. He came back within ten minutes. The marathon was off. The pain in his Achilles tendon kicked in almost at once. There was no way he could run a parkrun, never mind a marathon. After all the miles and miles of training and lots of ups and downs when the pain came and went for no apparent reason, the last glimmer of hope died. It was a sad evening.  Continue reading The Vancouver Marathon and five seconds of fame