Heading for home

12 September 2019

With a longing look at the cafe where we’d sheltered from the rain last time we came this way, we crossed the road and got straight back onto the Navigation trail. The sky over the Shawford cottages was dark and brooding but, so far, there’d been no rain. At least if it fell now we’d be sheltered by the trees. Besides, we had our waterproof coats, even if they were currently tied around our waists.

We walked through a tunnel of green past Malms Farm. There were pigs under one of the trees beside us. We could hear them grubbing about and just about see them under the shady branches but I couldn’t get a decent photo.

Further on we came across the farmer, or at least his car. He was hidden behind it doing something to some brown cows in a pen. Quite how he got them into the pen is a mystery but we didn’t stay around to see what happened next in case he decided to let them out onto the path. Seeing the farmer’s water bottle plonked on a fence post, did remind me to get my own out of my bag though. It was coming up to mid day and, now the sky was clouding again, it was beginning to feel a touch muggy.

A little while later we passed the farmer’s back garden. With sun loungers set out, a lovely little summer house and a jetty, it looked a fabulous place to relax. If the price of this luxury was dealing with cows on a daily basis though, I think I’d rather do without.

The next field was full of sheep. Those I could probably cope with. Think of all the things I could knit! On the other side of the canal horses were grazing. On this small stretch of canal it seemed as if we’d seen more animals than the whole of the rest of our walk.

Soon enough we were in Otterbourne. We crossed College Mead Lock and, quite reluctantly, passed the rustic benches where I usually stop for lunch. There were swans on the water beside the waterworks there. When we got closer I realised the pen had two cygnets with her.

Apart from the farmer and the dog walkers at Compton, we’d barely seen a soul all morning. Not long after we passed the swans though, we came across an elderly man. He was shirtless and wet. It looked as if he’d just been for a swim. He was also very, very thin and frail looking. He said good morning as we passed and we said it back. Perhaps the man lives nearby and this is his daily ritual? He looked so very vulnerable though, the thought of him swimming in the river, all alone, was quite disturbing.

Not long after this strange encounter we crossed Kiln Lane. The sky seemed to be clearing again and it was beginning to get warmer. It was just after midday. We’d been walking for four hours, longer than many people take to run a whole marathon. We were coming up to mile fourteen and bang on target with our pace. Neither of us had blisters and my watch was still going strong. Things were looking good.

We smiled at the Hensting alpacas as we passed. Kim said she might take her granddaughters to visit them one day. We squinted at the sheep with horns hiding in the shade at Highbridge, then wondered if they were really fat goats? Home was getting closer and closer.

We had to stand aside to let a group of giggling women pass at Allbrook Lock. When we got to the pavement we saw something that looked a little like a birthday card next to the wall. Perhaps the women had dropped it? They were too far off now to call out to, so we left it where it was in case they realised and came back looking for it.

On the other side of the road there were more swans. Then we saw a red rosette tied to a tree. It seemed a very incongruous thing to find here. We walked on, wondering if it had some meaning or was just something someone had dropped and someone else had tied to the tree in case they came back looking for it?

After this we kept seeing odd things in trees. Between the rosette and Ham Farm we found a white sign with red writing saying ‘do not remove until full’ hanging from a branch by a yellow plastic loop, and something that looked like an advertising collar from a milk bottle. They all seemed to have been put there deliberately. It was very strange.

We set off towards Withymead puzzling over the odd litter, looking for more and wondering what was going on. We decided it must be some kind of bizarre treasure trail. Perhaps the birthday card was also part of it, along with the giggling women? There were no more odd things hanging from trees after Ham Farm, at least none we saw, so we contented ourselves with the usual house envy.

Once we’d crossed the bridge at Withymead we knew we were just over a mile from the Swan Centre at Eastleigh. A quick look at my watch told me we’d walked more than fifteen miles. This was a bit of a worry as I knew it was five miles from Eastleigh to home, maybe a little less if we went along Wessex Lane instead of through Mansbridge. Obviously my route planning wasn’t quite as good as I’d thought and our twenty miles was going to be longer than expected. I kept this snippet of information from Kim, just in case she decided to throw me in the river.

As we approached the field where we’d encountered the scary cow there was a strong smell of burning. Soon smoke was drifting across the trail. There were large bonfires in the field, burning all the trees that have been cut down. This seemed like a terrible waste of wood and a rather environmentally unfriendly thing to do. Once again, we were pleased to get to the next field with the horses. Then, all too soon, we came to Bishopstoke Road and our time on the Navigation trail was over.

Walking back towards the centre of Eastleigh the miles began to take their toll, at least on me. With no trees to shelter us it was clear the day was far warmer than we’d thought. The cars whizzing past felt intrusive after the peace of the trails. There was also a niggling worry about distance.

At the Swan Centre we made use of the facilities and waited rather longer than we’d have liked for our iced drinks to be made. This was not good news for our tired legs. When we left I looked at my watch and was dismayed to see we’d already walked seventeen miles. This was when planning the route based on prior knowledge of distances rather than actually mapping it looked like a bad plan. Our twenty mile walk was looking more like twenty two.

The hot, tired walk back towards Wessex Lane was brightened by the sight of a steam engine coming towards us near the old Ford factory. It’s not something you see every day.

The twenty miles ticked over as we came though Woodmill. At this stage the thought of the lonely walk home wasn’t very appealing. As luck would have it, Rob was waiting for Kim in the Woodmill Car Park and offered to drop me off too. Maybe those cygnets really were a good omen after all.

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Twenty Miles

12 September 2019

When I set out this morning to meet Kim it was perfect walking weather, dry, cool and slightly overcast. This was good news because we had a very long walk ahead of us. Marathon training plans suggest a longest run or walk of between twenty and twenty two miles, followed by a tapering period of around three weeks. As we have just over three weeks left before the big day, today woul be our last really long walk. The plan was to cover twenty miles.

Continue reading Twenty Miles

Power lines, fields, a lost station and a mill

9 March 2017

My last few walks have all been about postcards and familiar places so today I thought I’d go somewhere completely different and explore the marshes of the River Test. This is an area I do not know well so a great deal of planning and plotting was needed and, even with a map on my phone, getting lost was a distinct possibility. The weather forecast was for a dull, cloudy day and, we set out early, hoping it wouldn’t rain. Continue reading Power lines, fields, a lost station and a mill

The trails of Hedge End, gloopy mud and a bramble disaster

7 February 2017

According to the weatherman today was supposed to be the best day of the week, not that I entirely trust the weatherman of course. After days of rain, blue skies were a very welcome sight though and I decided to make hay while the sun was shining, or at least go out for a walk. Back in November, CJ and I went to Botley. Rain and a lack of time scuppered our plans and most of the route I’d plotted out went unwalked. Later I plotted a better one to the same destination and today was the day to walk it.  Continue reading The trails of Hedge End, gloopy mud and a bramble disaster

You see some funny things along the river – first published 25 May 2014

After my visit to the newly reopened White Swan pub in late May 2014 I was in a nostalgic mood thinking of all good times we had there and the water that’s passed under the bridge since then. Back then I had my whole life in front of me and now…well let’s just say I was feeling old. Nothing like revisiting your youth to remind you just how long ago it was. Continue reading You see some funny things along the river – first published 25 May 2014

Following frontiersmen’s footsteps

17 January 2017

Before Christmas CJ and I took a walk that inadvertently led us past the Swaythling Remount Depot and we recently walked through North Stoneham Park where one of the Remount camps was. Looking for more information about the Remount Depot, I stumbled upon some entertaining ‘campfire yarns’ on The Legion of Frontiersmen of the Commonwealth website. Three tales told of stampedes when frontiersmen were driving as many as six hundred horses through the city. Today, I thought CJ and I would retrace some of their footsteps, as far as we could, and share their stories. Continue reading Following frontiersmen’s footsteps

Stones, horses and angel wings

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1 November 2016

With our coffee finished and bearings confirmed, we left the church behind and set off through an old iron gate into the lane where I thought the ancient boundary stone should be. Research told me there was no boundary stone marked on the map here but the cryptic message and some Google Street View searching had turned up something that looked very much like one. Now all we had to do was find it. Continue reading Stones, horses and angel wings

Sholing wanderings, Spike Island and a hidden henge

28 June 2016

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Today, with blue sky overhead for a change, CJ and I decided to see if the flood that gave Commando such problems getting home from work last week had caused any lasting damage. There was also a cutway I’d spotted on the map that looked as if it could do with some exploration and might provide an alternative route home. Continue reading Sholing wanderings, Spike Island and a hidden henge

The Navigation with company – first published 11 September 2013

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On 11 September 2013 I went for a little walk. When I say little, I meant about fourteen and a half miles. For once I wasn’t walking alone, I had Sirona with me. In my defence, she did know what she was getting into. Continue reading The Navigation with company – first published 11 September 2013

Here there be dragons, crossing the breach – first published 16 July 2013

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So there I was at the bottom of Allbrook Hill on Higbridge Road, facing an array of confusing signs about ford keys and bank breaches not knowing whether to carry on or bail out. It looked like my Winchester or bust plan might be doomed to failure. In the end I  decided to risk carrying on along the Itchen Navigation and see what happened. Was this to be a decision I would regret? Only time would tell and all I could hope was, if it was totally impassable, I wasn’t too far along the path. Continue reading Here there be dragons, crossing the breach – first published 16 July 2013