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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We thought it was all over…

13 June 2018

We were approaching the final segment of the Itchen Navigation and had around six miles left to walk. Despite the trail being more overgrown than I’ve ever seen it, bank breaches where they have never been before and a far warmer day than the weather forecast had led us to believe, we had made fairly good time. We’d set off from Winchester Station at around ten o’clock and it was now ten to two. Ok, so four hours to walk around seven miles is positively tortoise like but, taking into account stops and the terrain, I thought we’d done pretty well.  Continue reading We thought it was all over…

Five run fifty at fifty – the hard miles

9 February 2018

Shortly after half past twelve we’d watched our intrepid runners and cyclists leave Southampton General Hospital. We had an hour before their next stop, outside Eastleigh College but we had things to do before then. This was Rob’s fiftieth birthday and Kim wanted to get some balloons to decorate the View Bar at the Sports Centre where the run would finish. This meant a trip to the Swan Centre and a chance to grab another coffee while the grabbing was good.  Continue reading Five run fifty at fifty – the hard miles

Tales from the photo archive Spring

The first of my spring photos come from a walk around the City Centre parks on 7 March. I was running errands so didn’t have too much time to look around. The trees were still bare but The crocuses were flowering, a sure sign spring was in the air. Continue reading Tales from the photo archive Spring

Late autumn rivers and lakes

16 November 2017

This year, with little in the way of wind to ruffle them, the trees seem to be holding onto their autum leaves. Today, as the weather was bright, if cold, I thought a nice long walk was in order to enjoy them while they were still there. CJ and I set off fairly early for the river. We had a plan to walk to Eastleigh and back with a quick stop off for coffee in the Swan Centre. Continue reading Late autumn rivers and lakes

Behind the scenes at the first CC6

17 September 2017

The barista in the Costa Coffee on Passfield Avenue looked a little bemused when a hoard of runners descended on his cafe just before eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. Mid September, people in brightly coloured running gear heading for a muddy field filled with flags could only mean one thing, the first CC6 of the season. We were some of the first Spitfires to arrive but soon the fields behind Fleming Park were brimming with Spitfire hoodies. Even so, there would be no Itchen Spitfires running today because they were the event organisers. Continue reading Behind the scenes at the first CC6

The last RR10

23 August 2017

The final RR10 of the season was organised by Eastleigh running club. The original plan had been to hold it at Marwell, just like last year, but there was an issue with the venue and it ended up being postponed. In the end tonight’s race was held at a completely new venue, the University Sports Ground on Wide Lane. This is a place I’ve walked past many, many times, on my way to Winchester, Eastleigh, or just Lakeside which is actually the next set of fields along the road. Because it’s not open to the public though, I’ve never been inside. Continue reading The last RR10

Casting clouts, nesting swans and a coffee disaster, almost…

12 April 2017

Reluctantly we’d left the cool green shade of Monks Brook. We crossed the road by the Swaythling railway arch and, for a moment or two, I dithered, torn between walking through Monks Brook Meadows or the less scenic but more direct route along Wide Lane. In the end I thought about my recovering knee and the distance we’d be covering and decided on short and less sweet. The first hawthorn flowers of spring spilling over a garden wall seemed to be a sign I’d made the right decision.  Continue reading Casting clouts, nesting swans and a coffee disaster, almost…

Stoneham Park, a shrine on a hill and a changing world

10 January 2017

This morning I thought I’d cheat a little and start my walk with a drive to Lakeside. The plan was to walk to North Stoneham Park and take the trail we bypassed last time we walked this way.  Then we got slightly lost. This time I’d spent some time looking at the map and thought I’d worked out a nice circular route to take us back through Eastleigh to Lakeside. Of course, getting lost was still a distinct possibility but, undeterred, CJ wanted to come along.  Continue reading Stoneham Park, a shrine on a hill and a changing world

Easter Bunny delivery – first published 18 April 2014

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Good Friday 2014 and, for my walk, I was in the guise of the Easter Bunny  delivering said treats to my granddaughters. It began with a little trip up the Big Hill. For one, there was meat to be bought at the butchers, but also I to buy the Easter treats before I could deliver them. From there it was back down the the river. Continue reading Easter Bunny delivery – first published 18 April 2014