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.

When I reached Northam Bridge I stopped for a while, leaned on the railings and looked at the calm clear water and the proliferation of boats in various stages of decomposition. In part this was because I quite like looking at the boats but also because my legs were feeling a little wobbly and my head more than a touch on the fuzzy side.   

Eventually I got moving again, albeit rather slowly. On the far side of the bridge it was clear a lot of building work has gone on while I’ve been walking elsewhere. There are new, rather swanky looking, flats on the old TV studio site and the ground is being cleared for even more. 

The flats look quite nice, especially the ones with balconies looking out over the water, although I can’t help wondering if the views will be obstructed by the next phase of the building work. Something else I wonder about is the blue painted fence along the river path. It seems a terrible shame to offer river views but not provide any access to the path. Hopefully, when the work is finished the fence will be removed.

Work is going on to build a play area and a small garden area. Trees are in the process of being planted and it looks as if it will be a nice place for the flat owners to sit. Hopefully the desolate park will also get a bit of a makeover once all the building work is complete. It could certainly do with it.

Summers Street has changed beyond all recognition. Once it was a street with just one house and now there are rows of new front doors and parking spaces. As I walked past the new buildings it was hard to remember the chain fence I used to pass each day with its overgrown shrubs laden with flowers or berries depending on the season and the little gooseberry bush that had always seemed so incongruous.

Around the corner the rubble and poppies have been replaced by yet more front doors and something that looks like shops to let. Hopefully they won’t end up being painted shops like the ones across the road.

Once I’d turned the next corner things began to look much more familiar. The industrial estate hasn’t changed a bit and the swans were still by the big rocks, just where they always used to be. They gave me an accusing look as I passed by. Whether this was because I didn’t have any food for them or because they wondered where I’d been I couldn’t tell. There were just two swans today and no cygnets at all. This has been a year sadly lacking in both swans and cygnets.

Beside the boardwalk the hippie ship was almost submerged. The shore around it seemed far more littered than I remember it. Someone had even dumped an old shopping trolley. It reminded me of the tin can sculpture I used to see every day when I worked on the industrial estate. The sculpture, a life sized woman made from hundreds of tin cans pushing a shopping trolley, was in the water close to the bridge. It was obviously not an official piece of artwork and, even though it was made of junk, it always made me smile. Sadly, in those days, I never had a mobile phone or a camera so I never managed to take a photo of her. This shopping trolley was definitely not a sculpture and I rather wished it wasn’t there at all.

Feeling sad that the poor swans have to live beside so much discarded human rubbish, I started off along the boardwalk. This, at least, was relatively litter free. Surprisingly, it was also empty of people. Usually there are cyclists and walkers going back and forth taking advantage of the short cut and the serene views across the river. It was quite nice to have the place all to myself for once.

About half way along my pleasure was interrupted by another sorry sight. A section of the boardwalk railing has been broken. This was obviously the work of vandals, as it must have taken quite some effort to break the railings and the missing poles were nowhere in sight. Why someone would do such a thing is beyond me but it made me sad to see it.

A little further on I found something to return the smile to my face. A large grasshopper was sitting on the railing looking for all the world as if he was sunbathing. He was even kind enough to let me take a few photos.

By now I was approaching the end of the boardwalk. Ahead the Millenium Flats were perfectly reflected in the still water and a small boat was heading downstream towards me. Idly, I wondered where it was going. Then I spotted a flash of bright orange in the trees beside the railway line. It was too big to be a plastic carrier bag caught in the branches. Curious, I walked on.

When I got close enough to see clearly I was none the wiser. The orange object looked like a sleeping bag made of plastic. It had a zip at the front and was hanging by two strings that looked as if they were toggles for a hood. As the breeze caught it, it danced. Whether this was just more litter, blown in from somewhere and caught in the trees or had been purposely placed there I couldn’t tell. Perhaps someone is sleeping rough nearby and using the tree as a wardrobe, or maybe it’s acting as a scarecrow or a warning of some kind? Puzzled I walked on.

At the end of the boardwalk I was pleased to see the sculptures and bench undamaged and litter free. I was also pleased to reach a patch of shade. So far almost all my walk had been in hot sunshine and my head, which had started out feeling filled with cotton wool, was now aching. In fact it was becoming clear my lurgie was certainly not paranoia. The bench provided a convenient resting place but I hadn’t brought any water or snacks with me and, despite the rest, my head didn’t feel any better for the shade.

If anything I felt worse for stopping and it’s took a great deal of effort to peel myself off the bench and carry on up the slope to Horseshoe Bridge. The climb took all the strength my legs had left and I was glad to reach the top. By now I’d walked two miles, more or less, not far on an ordinary day, but my legs felt more like they’d walked twenty two. How I was going to walk the two miles home was beyond me.

One foot slowly in front of the other took me off the bridge towards the Millenium Flats, past the scrubby area that was unaccountably cleared a few years back. At the time I thought the shrubs and trees would soon grow back but they haven’t. Today I noticed a small white gate I’m sure was never there before. Where it came from and why is a mystery as there is no path here, at least not one that leads anywhere. It all seemed very strange but, by now, my brain was feeling too addled to really think about it.

So I took my usual route thinking to go through the blue gate and walk down the steps past the moorings as I had so many times before. When I got to the gate though, there was a large and rather emphatic yellow sign. ‘Due to the antisocial behaviour in the past few months this private walkway is no longer open for public access.’ Sure enough, there was a lock on the gate and no way through. This was more than a little disappointing. The path runs at the bottom of a steep, grassy slope with an impenetrable fence at the top. It provides no access to the flats but does make a lovely walkway along the riverbank. At least it did. The owners of the flats, secure behind their high fences and locked gates, have made sure no one else can enjoy it any more.

Feeling rather cross and more than a little uncharitable towards the people living in the flats, I walked the long way round to the slipway. The extra steps didn’t make me feel any better but at least I’d almost reached my goal. My friend lives in one of the sweet little houses on the riverbank. She has enviable views and even a little jetty to sit on to watch the sun setting. She is a nurse with a generous spirit and more than deserves her riverside views.

Today, as I’d expected, she was at work so there was no chance to rest or sit and chat. The parcel, a little hat I’d made for her, fit easily through her letterbox. My mission was completed but I still had a couple of miles to walk to get home. They were not easy miles. My head and my legs protested all the way. Twice I had to stop and sit down. Once on a bench and once on some steps. The lurgie I’d been trying to ignore was getting worse with every step and, by the time I reached the main road again I was barely able to stay on my feet. With the world swimming in front of my eyes I managed to cross the road and walk the last steps to my own front door. It seems, no matter how hard you try, you can’t out run the germs or the changes.

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A hint of spring and things to make me smile

15 February 2018

It was the most beautiful day, bright, crisp and cold with a definite promise of spring in the air. As I was in town anyway I thought I’d take a wander through the parks to see if there were any signs that this long, cold winter was drawing to a close. My tour began with a stroll through the enchanted park. With the beautiful golden light and the trees reflected in the puddles there certainly seemed to be a touch of magic in the air. Continue reading A hint of spring and things to make me smile

Two bridges lite

4 January 2018

The first proper walk of 2018, if you don’t count lots of dashing about shopping or wandering around the Old Cemetery in the mud, was a version of Commando’s two bridge challenge. Frankly, at under four miles, it wasn’t much of a challenge but it was the first ‘just for the sake of walking’ walk of the year and there were swans, mud and some climbing that probably wouldn’t have seemed half as bad if I’d had breakfast before I went out.   Continue reading Two bridges lite

A birthday walk, graffiti, a legend some lunch

28 November 2017

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

Changes afoot

26 October 2017

Once upon a time the Boardwalk and the river path were part of my daily walk to work. Often I’d look through the wire fence into the old television studio site and wonder when someone would build something there, what it would be and how it would impact on the path. Now the new houses and apartments are finally being built. As I go back and forth across the bridge I often look over and remark on the progress but I still wonder what will become of the path. As it’s a public footpath the builders shouldn’t, in theory, encroach upon it but you never can tell. Continue reading Changes afoot

You thought it was all over

A few days ago I shared the last of the posts published on my hacked blog. It was written when I had no idea what was about to happen. It wasn’t quite the last ever post though. There was one more post waiting in the wings to be published that never saw the light of day. It was filled with all the little triumphs and disasters that would seem so unimportant later, when it seemed all was lost. While it may not be the most exiting of posts, in the interests of being thorough, I’m sharing it now, almost three years late.  Continue reading You thought it was all over

Sunday strolling Southampton streets – first published 17 August 2014

It was a normal Sunday morning in mid August 2014. Commando was out for a training run of seven and a half miles and I decided to go for a walk. The only plan was to visit the big new Sainsbury’s for a few things they don’t stock in the one in the village. Other than that I thought I’d just have a wander and see where I ended up. Yes, I know I’m always banging on about planning walks, blah, blah, blah and I very rarely actually do it but sometimes just wandering aimlessly is actually fun. Continue reading Sunday strolling Southampton streets – first published 17 August 2014

Orphan Cygnets – first published 1 August 2014

Sleep had not come easily and, despite being tired during the day, I’d been waking early in the morning. Tuesday 1 August 2014 was no exception. We had an appointment with the undertakers in the afternoon and Commando suggested, rather strongly, that I go out for a walk beforehand.
“It’ll cheer you up,” he said. Continue reading Orphan Cygnets – first published 1 August 2014

Northam bound with aching feet and blisters – first published 8 May 2014

May 2014 and the end of my epic walk was almost in sight. As I stepped onto the final stretch of the Navigation my feet were protesting. There were more than eight miles to go if I was really going to walk the whole thing right to Northam and I could feel the tell tale burning of emerging blisters. This was when I realised I didn’t even have any blister plasters in my bag. They probably wouldn’t have stuck anyway seeing as my feet, socks and boots were wet. It reminded me of some of those long Moonwalk training walks except my legs didn’t ache too. Small mercies and all that. Continue reading Northam bound with aching feet and blisters – first published 8 May 2014

Chance encounters – first published 24 April 2014

Almost every job I’ve ever had has involved a walk to work and, from time to time, I find myself on old work routes. They invariably conjure memories of the jobs that were once at the end of them and, occasionally, the characters I met along the way. In April 2014 I had a new route to work and was beginning to meet new characters, some of them stranger than others. Continue reading Chance encounters – first published 24 April 2014