Lost walks part two

Almost three years ago malicious code was working it’s evil on my old blog, sending thousands of spam emails from my email address. Perhaps if I’d been more tech savvy I’d have questioned the handful of strange non delivery notices in my inbox for emails I hadn’t sent. As it was I put them down to someone spamming me and deleted them unopened. The storm clouds were gathering but the storm was yet to break as I planned a little morning walk to make the most of the blue skies in the real world. This is the last walk I took before the tempest washed away two years of my work. The last lost walk. For three years the photos have sat on my computer waiting for me to put words to them. Now I have.

7 October 2014

For the second day running I woke to blue skies and sunshine. These two things are not to be wasted in early October. Every bright day could be the last of the year. Over breakfast I scanned Google Maps, trying to come up with a plan for a walk to make the most of it. Back in March I stumbled upon a trail behind Riverside Park called River Walk. Today I thought I’d try to walk it in reverse, starting in Cutbush Lane and heading for the river. As plans go it was fairly vague but it was the best I had.

The beginning of the walk was the route I used to take to the White Swan pub, back when Commando and I were just two friends in a large group who drank there. It’s odd how my feet have a memory of these long forgotten walks and follow the course without me telling them to. My head was filled with memories of those days, calling in for Ali along the way and walking together, the half forgotten faces of all those old friends still in their teens, like ghosts waiting at the pub for me.

It’s a wonder I didn’t carry on along Cutbush Lane all the way to the pub, where my feet wanted to take me. Of course none of them would be there and, even if they were, I wouldn’t recognise them a lifetime later. Somehow, half way along the bottom of the lane, I came to my senses and stopped by the playing field. On the other side was the beginning of the River Walk. Feeling confident I strode across the damp and empty field.

The strange thing about walking a trail backwards is that nothing looks the same.  When I reached the far side of the field I couldn’t see any sign of the trail, just trees and rough grass. There was a fair bit of disappointed walking up and down and a few thoughts of giving up and walking down Gaters Hill to the river instead. Luckily there was no one on the field to see me.

In desperation I clambered across the wet grass towards the trees where I knew there was a trail hidden somewhere. If I didn’t find it in five minutes, I’d give up. My reward, after a yard or two, was a flattened track through the long grass. A little further this turned into a narrow trail through the bracken into the trees.

After the bright sunshine it seemed dark at first and I had to slow right down and watch my footing. Before long I came to the broken fence. If I went through I knew I’d be trespassing but, despite the man I met last time telling me there was another, longer way around, I couldn’t see anything trail like, just a steep drop. With a quick look around and a pounding heart, I walked through the gap in the fence and onto the Gregg School land. There was no guarantee the corresponding piece of fence on the other side hadn’t been mended. If it had, I’d have to turn back. A trespasser I may be but I’m not a vandal.

It was with some relief I passed through the second piece of broken fence and back onto a real trail. Now I could relax and look around me properly. There were fallen pine branches everywhere and one random maple leaf, a beautiful mixture of green and gold, amongst the pine needles. Many of the pine branches were large and quite a few were bearing huge cones. These I remembered from my last walk.

The next landmark was the giant tree stump near the fence. The top of the huge pine was snapped by the gales and someone had sawn it down, probably to stop it fallling on anyone or to protect the nearby houses. When I’d first seen it from the other side I’d thought I might not be able to get past. The cut edge of the trunk was almost as tall as me so there was no chance of climbing over. There was a gap big enough to walk through though and a chance to marvel at the beauty of the wood.

Today the end of the tree was no longer freshly sawn and a ring of white, possibly sap, encircled it. From the top edge large drips running down made it look as if someone had painted it. Perhaps they had, although, I’m not sure why? It reminded me a little of the pine we had cut down in our front garden. It had grown far bigger than I’d expected and its branches hanging over the pavement were causing an obstruction. The sap turned the stump white, just like this. As if the tree was bleeding.

There is something very sad about such a magestic old tree meeting its end this way. For a long time I stood looking at it thinking about the tiny seed it grew from and all the years it had stood before the gales and a chainsaw finished it off.

Feeling slightly melancholy now, I carried on along the trail. When I came this way before there were fallen trees everywhere, although none quite as large or impressive as that first pine. When I set out I’d hoped to see some interesting fungi amongst all the sawn logs and fallen branches. Although the log piles were still there along with a few of the fallen trees, there were none. Perhaps they needed more time to rot or maybe it was just too early in the season?

The trail was shorter than I remembered and soon I was nearing the end. The land here slopes steeply downwards into the trees on the edge of Riverside Park. The dip is boggy at the best of times but today it was filled with stagnant water covered with a thick film of bright green algae. This soupy swamp seemed such an unnatural colour and had such an eerie feel about it I stopped and took several photos. If a green and ghoulish swamp monster had suddenly risen from the depths I’d hardly have been surprised.

Now I’d reached the end of the trail and was back on the street. Last time I came this way the verge was filled with daffodils. Now it was all drifts of fallen leaves. As I crunched my way along more leaves tumbled from the trees and fluttered down around me although the canonpy above seemed disappointingly green when I’d been hoping for gold.

On the corner I stopped to admire the little drinking fountain. It was donated to the city by Sir Samuel Montagu and was originally near Woodmill as far as I can tell. It was moved to this out of the way spot in 1961 because it was in the way of traffic. It is generally unnoticed and forgotten as most people either drive past or are walking on the other side of the road where there are proper pavements. Sadly, the only people who seem to pay it any attention are the vandals. In 1964 the cupola and crown on the top of the copper roof were badly damaged. It was eventually restored in 1992 but has since been vanadalised again.

Because of the lack of pavements I crossed Woodmill Lane at this point and, as I headed towards the mill I wondered exactly why vandals do what they do? It all seems so senseless, destroying lovely things just for the sake of it. The trees along the edge of the park were beginning to show their autumn colours, unlike most I’d seen so far on my walk. The ground was littered with fallen leaves in various hues and I bent to take a photograph.

On I went towards the mill, wondering why autumn seemed so late in arriving this year and why some trees had realised the season had changed while others still thought it was summer? The mill was my turning point. The last part of my walk would be along the river through Riverside Park towards home. For once I didn’t take a picture of the mill, at least not from close up. Maybe I felt I had already taken more than enough or perhaps I got distracted by something?

The next photograph I took appears to be of hops. From the time stamp on the photo and it’s place between the trees on Woodmill Lane and the willows just past Woodmill, it must have been taken close to the mill, although I don’t remember taking it at all. It is certainly an odd place to see hops growing. Perhaps this explains the lack of pictures of the mill itself?

Now all I had to do was cross the park and walk the mile through the streets to home. For the first part of the walk the river was hidden behind the trees but, once I turned the corner by the reedbeds I had the clear water beside me reflecting the blue sky and fluffy clouds. The trees on the far bank had a hint of autumn about them, but not as much as I’d expected.

A single black swan was swimming amongst the mute swans near the jetty. There were a couple of cygnets too, almost full grown. As I stood, wondering where the other black swan was a woman came and stood beside me. She fished around in her bag and pulled out a bag of bread which she began to throw to the birds.
“I’ve never seen a black swan before,” she remarked. “Is it a mutation or a different breed?”
“Its a different breed,” I told her, “the black swans are originally from Australia. They were brought here as ornamental birds for rich people’s ponds but some escaped. There are three on the river here. I keep wondering if they will breed. I’d love to see a black swan cygnet.”

My walk was almost over but I lingered by the river, chatting to the woman and watching the gulls grab as much bread as they could before it made it to the water. When the bread ran out the woman bade farewell and I turned to walk the last mile home. Little did I know what was waiting for me there or that it would be almost three years before I wrote about this walk.

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures.

Wet, muddy and probably hallucinating

23 July 2017

The rain just kept on falling. There were a few slight lulls when Commando prepared for his first night lap. Each time he pinned on his race number, checked out his head torch and pulled on his trainers it pelted down again though. Rob went out with Kim on her evening lap because he was so worried about the conditions and two torches are better than one. The gloom, the rain and most of all the mud meant it took a ridiculously long time. The woods were especially bad, tree roots hidden under water and slippery mud. After a conflab everyone agreed it was just too dangerous, not worth the risk of a broken ankle or worse.  Continue reading Wet, muddy and probably hallucinating

Rain and the Thunder Run

22 July 2017

The rain didn’t stop. In fact it got worse and worse as the evening wore on. There was a brief interlude of almost dryness, just long enough for Pete the Meat to cook burgers and sausages on a couple of reluctant portable barbecues under the awning of Rob and Kim’s tent then it got so bad everyone retired to their respective shelters. We slept on our new air bed inside our new sleeping bags with the sound of rain pounding on canvas as a lullaby. It was a sleep broken by worries about floods washing us away. The name Trent is Celtic for strongly flooding and the river is renowned for it.  Continue reading Rain and the Thunder Run

A little camping adventure

21 July 2017

Way back before Vancouver, achilles tendon problems or RA, Commando entered a twenty four hour endurance race. For months Rob had been filling his head with talk of the Thunder Run and how much fun it was. Frankly, running a hundred kilometres or more in twenty four hours sounded anything but fun to me but, at the time, Commando was marathon training again and an endurance race sounded like an interesting challenge to him. He’d been talking about ultra marathon and endurance races for a while anyway so he didn’t need much persuasion.  Continue reading A little camping adventure

Happy 5th Birthday Southampton parkrun

8 July 2017

This morning it was quite bizarre to rock up at parkrun and find the Run Directors were actually the 118 twins complete with moustaches. Ok, so Rob has usually got some kind of facial hair going on but I’ve never seen Kim with a moustache before. Oddly, it kind of suited her. The reason for all this frivolity was a birthday. Southampton parkrun turned five years old this morning and everyone was in the mood to celebrate. The theme was heroes, obviously. Continue reading Happy 5th Birthday Southampton parkrun

Racing for the finish line – first published 18 September 2014

The cool of the September morning in 2014 when Commando was running the Cologne Marathon was rapidly turning into a sweltering day. Feeling thankful to be approaching the river I walked along Severinswall wondering how Commando was coping running in the heat. My jacket had long since been tied around my waist and I was still too hot. Hopefully there would be a cool breeze on the Rhine. The map told me this last stretch of wall was short and there were no more gates or mills to look out for. It was a surprise then, to come upon a large tower surrounded by a truly ancient circle of wall. Continue reading Racing for the finish line – first published 18 September 2014

The medieval walls of Koln – First published 18 September 2014

The medieval walls of Cologne were proving far more illusive than I’d expected. When I stumbled upon part of the marathon course I wondered if I should give up and just follow the marathon. In the end I decided to give it one more go. If I couldn’t find the next bit if the wall in the next ten minutes, I’d abandon my quest. Continue reading The medieval walls of Koln – First published 18 September 2014

A proper walk at last

6 July 2017

Since we got back from Vancouver there has been zero real walking. Ok, so there was the Itchen navigation with the Spitfires and there have been ups and downs of the Big Hill to the shops, along with some outings in the car, parkruns and races. What there hasn’t been is proper walking, me, my camera, a plan and CJ along for the ride. Today we finally put that right with a meander along the river.  Continue reading A proper walk at last

walking the medieval city walls – first published 18 September 2014

September 2014 and Commando had been lost somewhere amongst the crowd of runners at the start of the Cologne Marathon. Now I had around four hours to explore the city. Cologne is filled with tourist attractions, the cathedral, churches, museums, interesting buildings and river tours, almost too much choice for such a short stay. When I go sightseeing though I like to find more unusual places to explore and, given the lack of information available on the city walls, I thought this might be an interesting walk while Commando ran his marathon. The sun had come out and it was beginning to get warm, bad news for the runners. Just walking across the bridge had made me hot and thirsty. I was pretty sure I’d seen a Starbucks near the cathedral so I set off across the bridge to find it. Continue reading walking the medieval city walls – first published 18 September 2014

More parkrun tourism and a Bigfoot sighting at Moors Valley

1 July 2017

This Saturday the Pretty Muddy Race For Life 5k was taking place on The Common so, once again, parkrun was cancelled.  This time we decided to go to Moors Valley Country Park to check out the parkrun there. When the boys were young we used to take them there to enjoy all the colourful sculptures and climbing frames built from trees felled by the great storm of October 1987. When he first began running, Commando ran a 5k race there too. All in all I was pretty sure I’d find plenty to amuse me while he ran today.  Continue reading More parkrun tourism and a Bigfoot sighting at Moors Valley