Last summer Commando and a group of friends tried kayaking for the first time. They had a whale of a time and all agreed they should make kayaking trips a regular thing. Various pieces of equipment were purchased, including a wetsuit. There was even some talk about buying a kayak. Somehow though, getting everyone together at the same time when the weather and the tides were right proved impossible. Today Commando decided to grasp the last gasp of this summer and go alone.
The plan for today was to try to find at least some of the Titanic crew houses in Portswood. As there are a lot of them, covering a large area, and the weather was incredibly hot and humid, I was resigned to the fact that we might not be up to the job of finding all of them. When CJ and I set off the mood was hopeful and doubtful in equal parts. Originally I’d hoped to tick of the handful of houses in Highfield on this walk too but I already knew that was a step too far.
One of the great joys in my life is walking in the quiet places. I am a connoisseur of secluded little cut ways, hidden footpaths, trails and walkways. Finding a way to get from a to b that doesn’t involve walking along a road makes me smile, especially when it is beside a river. On my walks I’m always on the lookout for these hidden gems and the ones I know I use regularly, even if they add miles to my walks. Today I chose a route bursting at the seams with away from the road delights for my early morning walk. Unfortunately some of them are not as accessible as they should be though.
This week we decided to go for another spot of parkrun tourism. There are eighteen different parkrun venues in Hampshire to choose from but our rather random choice for this week was Southsea, around twenty miles down the motorway.
Obviously, it was an earlier than usual start and a rather crowded car, as we picked up Rob, John and Ian on the way but we arrived in good time, parked up in the Pyramids car park and quickly found the start on the far side of the Rock Gardens. Although the Southsea course, along the seafront to Eastney and back, was pretty familiar, being part of the Great South and Portsmouth Coastal routes, only John had actually run the Southsea parkrun before. It was also the first spot of parkrun tourism for Rob and Commando’s new running group, the Hamwic Harriers. Commando was even wearing his shiny new Hamwic Harriers shirt!
It was a touch on the chilly side on the seafront and, even in my warm coat, I was shivering. The runners in their shorts and thin shirts looked positively frozen. As it happened, we weren’t the only ones trying out the relatively flat, fast Southsea course. While we were waiting for the start, we bumped into Gerry.
The first ever Southsea parkrun was held on 5 October 2013, with 276 people taking part. These days it averages around theee hundred runners each week, a touch smaller than Southampton, but then almost every UK parkrun is. Weather plays an important role in the number of PB’s here. The course may be more or less flat but a windy day can make running one half a little tricky. Luckily today was relatively calm, if cold, but then, as all of our group were in the final stages of marathon training, none of them was planning on going flat out. Well, that’s what they told me anyway!
Frankly, it was quite a relief when everyone set off along the Esplanade and I could finally warm up with a little walk. As I’ve spent quite a lot of time wandering around Southsea while Commando has been running various events, my main plan for the morning was to dash to grab a coffee and dash back. Unlike most of the other races, parkrun doesn’t really leave much time for wandering anyway, even on a slow day Commando was likely to finish in twenty five minutes or less.
Although there are coffee shops on the seafront, past experience made me wary of trying any of them. The last time I tried that the coffe was so bad I threw it in a nearby bin after just two sips. There is only one Costa in Southsea and I reckoned, if I walked fast, I’d be able to get there, get a coffee and get back before any of the runners crossed the line. As plans go it was fairly unambitious. The most direct route is just over a mile there and back. Of course, I was starting off from a slightly different place than normal and, in typical fashion, managed to take a wrong turn which added a few extra minutes but did show me a rather interesting piece of graffiti I’d not encountered before.
For a moment I thought I’d stumbled upon a crowd of strangely dressed locals queueing outside a building. Closer inspection told me they and the building windows were all painted, along with a map of Southsea. Given that I was now technically lost, the map was quite handy.
The mural, near the roundabout between Clarendon Road and Granada Road, is the work of The Lodge Arts Centre, overseen by Mark Lewis. It’s constantly being updated with new characters so I may return another time for a closer look.
In the end, my coffee was not to be. I made it to Costa but found a rather long queue. There was no time to wait so I simply turned around and headed back towards the parkrun finish line. As walks go it wasn’t one of my most interesting and there wasn’t much time for photographs, although I did snap the slowly rising sun over Southsea Common.
My timing was impeccable. As I walked towards the finish line I could see the first finishers approaching. Moments after I reached the end of the funnel I spotted Commando, Rob and John heading along the Esplanade together. They’d obviously stayed true to their word and had a fairly gentle run. Ian, however, was nowhere to be seen. This was puzzling, as he is the fastest of the group.
Just as I began to worry that something had happened to poor Ian, someone tapped me in the shoulder. When I turned around, there was Ian grinning like a Cheshire Cat and holding up his finish token. He’d actually crossed the line first!
None of the Hamwic Harriers got a PB today and there are no prizes for being first finisher at parkrun but, all in all, I’d say our parkrun tourism adventure to Southsea was a success. The only downside was the distinct lack of coffee. Next time I think I’ll take a flask!
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Our stay in Paris was far too short and, sadly, our last morning in this beautiful city was as damp and cold as the previous day had been. We began the morning with breakfast in our hotel. The meal was served in an amazing cellar room that was even quirkier than our lovely little attic room. I could have kicked myself for leaving my phone behind. Luckily I found some pictures on Tripadvisor and have shamelessly stolen them.
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…
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.
Today was CJ’s birthday. It was also a beautiful, blue sky, late autumn day so what better way to celebrate than with a little walk and a nice lunch? As CJ is fond of both history and graffiti, I thought I had just the walk for him. As for the lunch, neither of us had a clue where to eat but, as our walk would end up in town, we’d be fairly spoilt for choice. Continue reading A birthday walk, graffiti, a legend some lunch
CJ and I left the Bargate Centre with mixed feelings. The new plans look exciting but the ghosts of old memories make the demolition of the building feel a little sad. We walked down East Street in silence, each remembering those far off days. Soon we’d come to another place of memories, the East Street Centre. Continue reading Underground, overground, making the best of things
With our coffee and cakes finished we bade a last sad farewell to the Costa in Portswood and walked on towards Highfield. Like most of the city, outside the centre, this was once a rural area and the name, at least according to old maps, originated from a bastardisation of Hayfield. That there were fields is in no doubt and, as the road rises up towards the Common, they were undoubtedly high fields too so the name is quite apt. Today Highfield is home to the main University Campus, built on an old brickfield. This was not what we’d come to see though. Continue reading Highfield church