The Million Steps Challenge Squeezing in the steps

5 July 2019

Now the Million Steps challenge has officially started so every day I’m walking a long loop to the shops rather than going straight up the hill. There are a few variations to choose from, each adding both distance and time to my walks. Some days though, time is at a premium. This was the case on Wednesday. Commando was taking advantage of the hot, dry weather by painting the decking and I was supposed to be helping. To save time, I did a dash straight up the hill and back again, stopping only to snap a couple of pretty flowers along the way. The steps I lost from not taking a long loop were more than made up by all the steps I got painting decking though.

There was also a fair bit of walking in the evening during the Hamwic Harriers training session on the Common. It felt like quite a landmark for the club too. The brand new flag had arrived and, after a bit of faffing about putting it up, it was unveiled.

The hot, muggy weather continued all week. It made walking something of a chore but, determined to get the steps in, I kept on going anyway. There was a hot, sticky return to the preschool on Thursday to take some extra photos. On the way over the train bridge I paused and looked down at the station, remembering all the times Pappy had sat me on the wall when I was small. Back then we’d try to guess if the next train would be steam or diesel.

It didn’t take long to get the photos I needed and, on the way back, I stopped again and looked over the bridge. This time a train came past.of course, these days they are almost all electric. Sadly, this is not nearly as exciting as steam.

In the afternoon I added to my steps with a walk up to the village with Commando. He needed to get an issue with the smart key for our car checked out and I needed the extra steps. Our walk took us past the church in the village so I stopped for a quick photo.

There were two walks today too. The first was a variation on the long loop to the village. This time I went up the hill through Hum Hole. This was mostly to keep out of the burning sun as long as possible but it did add to my steps total.

The afternoon walk was a little more interesting. Commando had an appointment at the Running School so I went along to walk while he was being tortured. There were two things I was hoping to find. The first was that pavement down to the church would have been finished by now. There was no sign of any progress at all though. The second was that the church door would be open. Sadly, it wasn’t.

This left me at a bit of a loss. Walking past all the building work again felt as if it would be too depressing so, on a whim, I decided to head for Lakeside instead. When I came through with Kim on our marathon training walk we hadn’t had time to stop and walk around the lakes and I had an idea there might be some cygnets to be found.

At least this time I knew I could get down to the end of the lane and across the road by the Monks Brook ford without too much trouble. It still seems very odd to be walking on the old road without any traffic though, especially as the old road signs are still there.

The fields on the other side of the ford were bursting with wildflowers and buzzing with bees. It was too hot to hang around for long taking photos though so I hurried on towards the shade of the trees around the lakes.

Looking at the beautiful lakes today it’s hard to imagine they were once gravel pits. As Eastleigh is a railway town, presumably the gravel extracted was used for the railway. The fact that the powers that be chose to turn the area into a lovely, semi wild country park covering sixty acres, tells me the council back then was far more environmentally aware than they are today.

As I only had an hour I knew I wouldn’t be able to explore the park very thoroughly. If there were cygnets to be seen, I had an idea they’d be in the lake with the little island nearest the new visitor centre. This always seems to be the wildest lake to me. It isn’t used by the fishermen, the kayakers or the model boat enthusiasts and it is usually teeming with birds.

Today though I walked around the edge nearest the visitor centre without seeing a single bird. There were no birds to be seen as I rounded the bend and crossed the lovely little wooden bridge either. For a while I stood, peering at the island, wondering where they were all hiding?

On the far side of the bridge I turned right and slowly began to walk around the fisherman’s lake. There were quite a few fishermen sitting on the banks but no birds at all. It seemed very strange but I kept on walking, expecting to come upon a whole mass of birds at any moment.

When I reached the giant chair I turned right again and took the path that runs between the fisherman’s lake and the boating lake. Several years ago I saw nesting swans here but today there were no swans, nesting or otherwise. As I walked my head was going from one side to the other, peering through the trees looking for wildlife. There was none, not even a greylag. I was beginning to understand what the sailors who discovered the abandoned Mary Celeste must have felt. Maybe all the Lakeside waterbirds were in the trees on the island laughing at me?

With more time I might have walked around the boating lake but I had to get back to meet Commando. It may not have been the most successful walk but, as I made my way back up the new footpath on Stoneham Lane, I consoled myself that I was, at least, getting some steps in.

With two days left until the end of the first week of my challenge I am well on track to hit my target. As there is a ten mile walk planned with Kim on Sunday, I’m fairly sure I will not fall short.

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Two challenges

21 June 2019

A little while ago I saw a Facebook post about a challenge to walk one million steps between July and September this year. Thirteen weeks walking around 11,000 steps a day seemed doable and the money raised would go to Diabetes UK. As my wonderful Mother in Law, April, suffered with type II Diabetes, it was a charity close to my heart so, on a whim, I signed up.

A few days later a Twitter post from my lovely friend Kim said she’d signed up to walk the Clarendon Marathon in early October. It wasn’t really a surprise, she’d been talking about it for a while and had even asked me about my two Moonwalk marathons. What was a surprise though, was the reply from Commando saying he’d signed me up to do it with her! Luckily both things worked together rather well but it meant I really was going to have to up my game and get some miles in.

Commando, possibly feeling a little guilty, bought me a brand new Garmin so I could track my miles and steps better. Armed with this and a training plan, the walking began in earnest this week. It started on Monday when I added a bit of extra distance to my normal daily walk up the hill to the shops by taking a longer route. On Tuesday I walked to the big supermarket in Portswood to get my daily milk and newspaper rather than just up the hill. This more than doubled the mileage but there was a bit of an issue.

Not long after I left home the rain began to fall. This wouldn’t normally have been a problem as I was wearing a light mac, but I was also wearing leather sandals. By the time I was half way across Cobden Bridge my feet were soaked and I could feel the burn of a blister starting on my left foot. As a start to a walking marathon training programme it wasn’t great.

A packet of blister plasters was swiftly added to my shopping list. I sat on the steps just inside the door of the supermarket to put one on. Then I went back out into the rain and walked home again with my four pint carton of milk and my newspaper.

On Wednesday I added miles to my normal up the hill shopping walk by going through the local woodland called Hum Hole. All the rain we’ve had meant it was extra green but the normally slippery path has been resurfaced since I last walked this way. Rather than being slightly slimy and slippery in the wet it is now grippy and beautifully spongy underfoot. Commando thinks they may have used recycled tyres, which seems like a brilliant plan on many fronts.

At the very top of the steep climb I paused to get my breath and looked up into the dripping trees. When I saw a woodpecker I could hardly believe my eyes. Often I’ve heard them pecking away in the woods but this was the first time I’d ever actually seen one. Of course, by the time I’d raised my phone to take a photo it had flown away so all I got was leaves and a moody looking sky. On the way home I spotted a new commemorative bench at the top of the hill. It’s really rather beautiful with its red poppies and it must be very new because I’ve not noticed it before.

Thursday saw me back on my Monday big loop up the Hill. There were different gardens to look at and one, filled with poppies caught my eye so I stopped to take a picture. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at it properly that I noticed the tortoise hiding amongst the flowers!

To add a little more distance I stopped off at the Village church and visited Pappy’s grave. Walking back through the precinct the clouds ahead looked threatening so I upped my speed on the way home. Luckily it’s all down hill. Unluckily, I didn’t beat the rain and got quite wet.

Kim and I had come to the marathon training game a little late to fit in a full training schedule but, luckily, we both walk, or in Kim’s case, run, a fair few miles every day anyway. The plan was to walk alone as much as possible but to have one long walk together each week. As Kim works shifts, it wouldn’t be the same day each week but today was our first.

The plan was to start from my house and walk to Southampton Common by way of Eastleigh, a distance of around eight miles. Commando and Rob would meet us in the Bellemoor for lunch and a Hamwic Harriers brainstorming meeting. It was a beautifully sunny morning, far warmer than it has been of late, and it looked as if we might even get there without getting wet.

Walking across Riverside Park towards Woodmill, I hoped I’d see the mute swan cygnets again. Today they were on the far bank though, just grey specks in the distance. There were a couple of black swans a little closer and they, and the good weather tempered my disappointment a little.

This walk reminded me of all the long walks I did to train for the two Moonwalks. Both times I’d taken a route along the river, adding a little more distance each week until I finally ended up walking to Winchester then turning around and walking back. The memory of all those lonely miles reminded me of the enormity of the task ahead. A few doubts began to creep in. Now I’m much older and probably not as fit. Will I really be able to do it all again?

Of course this time I wouldn’t be doing it alone. As I didn’t want Kim to start having doubts too, I painted a confident smile in my face, put an extra spring in my step and pretended I wasn’t worried. We walked together along the riverbank towards Mansbridge chatting away as if this was just any old walk. We laughed at the haughty looking greylag geese and reminisced about the day of the kayaks.

About half way to the bridge we came upon a family of mute swans with four beautiful grey cygnets. Seeing them certainly made up for my earlier disappointment. As we walked on I told Kim about the orphaned cygnets at this exact spot a few years back. We both wondered if either of the parents was one of those same cygnets? It was such a lovely idea we hoped we were right.

In no time at all we’d reached Mansbridge. From here I’d normally take the trail along Monks Brook towards Eastleigh but, with so much recent rain, this didn’t seem like a good idea. It’s muddy along there at the best of times and neither of us fancied a swim in the brook. Instead we walked along Mansbridge Road, just as I used to do when I was Moonwalk training. In fact, I probably haven’t taken the road route since then so it added to the deja vu feeling I’d been having on and off since Cobden Bridge.

Before I knew it we were passing the airport, stopping briefly for a picture of all the poppies on the verge by the Spitfire sculpture. The miles really seemed to be going far quicker with a little company and some chat.

We finally departed from my old Moonwalk route at Lakeside. Rather than carrying on up the road to Eastleigh we headed across the park towards North Stoneham. There was a quick stop for a toilet break in the fancy new building and a brief sit down on a bench for a snack. Snacks are an important part of long walks. Not only do they give you energy, but they also give you something to look forward to to break up the miles. Today I’d brought some of the chocolate salty ball running snacks I make for Commando. They’re basically dates, peanut butter, coconut oil, cocoa powder and oats with a few extras thrown in. Kim loves them so she was delighted I’d brought them.

We stopped for barely five minutes and then we were off again. The next part of the route had been worrying me a little all morning. In the past I’ve often walked across Lakeside, taken the bridge across the Monks Brook ford and crossed the road to Stoneham Lane. Now though the whole road layout has changed and I wasn’t sure if we could still get through. If we could it might not be as easy as it had been.

In the end my worrying was all for nothing. There is a new pedestrian crossing, albeit temporary, just the other side of the bridge. It took us to the beginning of Stoneham Lane, at least what used to be the beginning before the new part of the road was built. This part of the lane was always the most difficult to walk because it bends sharply and there aren’t even any verges to jump on if a car comes. Now though, there are no cars so it has basically become a very wide footpath. Today it was lined by big orange barriers and cones. What purpose they served we never did work out.

Once we’d passed St Nicolas Church it was fairly easy going. There’d been no more progress on the pavement since I last came this way but almost all of the lane did have a pavement and, in no time at all we’d reached Burgess Road and the Common felt very nearby. Of course it is all uphill but, with someone to talk to it didn’t seem too bad.

By the time we got to the Common there were a few worrying looking clouds on the horizon but we didn’t have far to go by this time so we just kept walking. We made it to the Bellemoor before the rain fell and discovered we’d also beaten Commando and Rob. Not bad going at all for our first marathon training walk.

Annoyingly I accidentally stopped my Garmin atLakeside so the walk is in two parts
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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

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…

Not taking the easy way home – first published 18 April 2014

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My 2014 stint as the Easter Bunny has been less than successful but there was at least wall to wall sun and blue skies, a perfect walking day and it was a pleasure to put the miles in. Once I’d semi-successfully carried out my Easter Bunny duties I set off back towards Lakeside. Continue reading Not taking the easy way home – first published 18 April 2014

The Lakeside steam railway – first published 18 April 2014

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Playing the Easter Bunny on Good Friday 2014 I’d made it to the airport and taken a photo of trains waiting at Southampton Parkway Station whilst worrying about the chocolate, probably melting, in my rucksack. Next I was on my way to see yet more trains. These were just up the road at Lakeside Steam Railway. To be honest I’d chosen that route more to see the lakes than the trains and because there is a footpath through the other side close to Philo and Sirona’s house I wanted to try but still… Continue reading The Lakeside steam railway – first published 18 April 2014

Lakeside, a progress report

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17 November 2016

With the Gosport Half Marathon at the weekend and a four day running event in Cyprus hot on its heels, plus bucketsfulls of rain, this  week was mostly spent running about making preparations. There was little time for interesting walks but, as the sun was shining today, I thought I’d better make the most of it and check out the progress on the new visitor centre at Lakeside.  Continue reading Lakeside, a progress report

Homeward bound, stupidity tragedy and fate – first published 19 February 2014

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Fate played a part in my choice of walk on 19 February 2014. As I was making my way back from Lakside a terrible accident was happening on a nearby route I’d thought about walking that morning. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. Even so, on my walk home I witnessed a stupid act that could easily have become a tragic accident. It all left me thinking about the fragility of life and how easily we can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Continue reading Homeward bound, stupidity tragedy and fate – first published 19 February 2014

A one handed clock, cygnets and a few trains

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21 July 2016

Monks Brook Meadows is connected to Monks Brook Playing Fields via a tunnel under Stoneham Way. It was an oasis of shade on our hot walk. We were slightly reluctant to leave it. The playing field is bordered by more trees and meadow but we walked through without stopping this time. There are only so many pictures of flowers even I am willing to take. The next part of our journey was not one I was looking forward to.  Continue reading A one handed clock, cygnets and a few trains

Driving in my car

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22 September 2015

Once the working week was over it was time to think about driving again. Usually it’s walks I plan during my free time but, at the moment, driving has to take centre stage to give me some much needed practice of being out there on my own. There was a shopping trip with a very brave CJ and a successful bay park at the top of the hill on Sunday morning when Commando was out running. In the afternoon Commando sat in the passenger seat and talked me through multi-storey car parks at the Swan Centre in Eastleigh. Apart from a slight disaster when I stopped too far from the ticket machine and had to reverse and move closer it too was successful. As I’d never driven to Eastleigh on any of my lessons and only knew the route from my walks, it felt like an achievement. Continue reading Driving in my car