Short and sweet

2 May 2019

May began with a short, sweet Wedding Anniversary walk around the Old Cemetery where the rhododendrons had painted the paths pink. The early evening light gave everything a slightly surreal feel and the fallen petals felt like a red carpet welcome.

The celebrations continued today with a short, sweet birthday walk. The brilliant blue sky was echoed by the ceanothus in the Millennium Garden where I met my walking companion, Rachel.

After our last adventure, getting lost in Westwood and walking much further than we’d planned, I had a much more straightforward walk in mind. A gentle stroll along the butterfly walk towards the shore seemed like the perfect way to spend the morning. Of course, nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems.

We set off along Portsmouth Road chatting away, putting the world to rights. When we reached the bottom of Wright’s Hill though, we found the gate locked. This put me in mind of a walk with CJ in the opposite direction a while back. That time we were trapped on the wrong side of the gate at the end of our walk. Luckily there’d been a gap in the fence so I managed to escape without any climbing. Today there was no gap.

We stood looking at the gate for a while, trying to decide what to do. Like last time, there were no signs to explain why the path was closed. We could climb the hill and take the high path through the park or we could risk climbing over the fence. After a bit of dithering we looked at each other, then at the fence, trying to decide if we could make it over without breaking either the fence or ourselves. Then, giggling like naughty schoolgirls, we climbed over.

The path was firm and dry. There were no fallen trees that we could see so it seemed very odd for the gate to be locked. We both knew we might find our way blocked further along but we kept on walking, enjoying the moment.

The path runs along the bottom of the valley. A stream runs beside it, mostly hidden by the trees. Its origins are somewhere in Bursledon but, as far as I know, it doesn’t have a name. In 1762, Walter Taylor built a wood working mill beside the stream here. Millers Pond, across the road, was built as a reservoir.

Walter and his father, confusingly also called Walter, had developed a revolutionary new method of mass producing wooden rigging blocks for the navy. When Walter senior died his son took out a patent on the machinery and built the sawmill at Mayfield. By 1781 the business had grown and Walter moved to Woodmill in Swaythling where the water supply was better and there was more room to power his steam engines and equipment. The mill at Mayfield was turned into a private house but, in World War II it suffered bomb damage and was abandoned. Today there’s nothing to show it was ever there.

1898 map showing the mill and Mayfield house

Of course, Rachel and I weren’t thinking about Walter or the mill. We were just enjoying the dappled sunlight and the fresh green leaves on the trees and maybe worrying a little about finding the reason for the locked gate. We passed the fallen tree CJ and I had found on our last ‘locked gate’ walk. It was now beside the path rather than across it and rotting away quite nicely. Then we crossed the steam to the part of the trail where mud is often a problem. This was, I suspected, going to be our undoing. Neither of us were wearing boots and I didn’t much fancy a swim if we slipped. Just after the bridge though, there is a side trail leading up into the Archery Grounds. This would be our get out clause, should we need it.

As it happened there was no mud. Not a bit. The powers that be have been busy laying down a new path of tightly packed gravel and dirt with wooden battens to keep it in place. CJ and I saw the work in progress last spring but whether the new path had survived a wet winter with water trickling down from the high ground remained to be seen. We needn’t have worried. Today Rachel and I discovered the whole of the trail had been completed and had survived the winter.

Not having to watch our feet meant we could appreciate our surroundings better, although chatting meant I didn’t take many pictures. There was one, taken in the general direction of the stream trying to capture the skunk cabbage we smelled rather than saw.

There was another of the fairy door. We almost missed it because the Ivy has become so lush and large it’s almost covered it over. The fairies that live in the tree are going to have trouble getting in and out if it gets much bigger.

We almost made it to the end of the trail on Archery Road before we found anything that could explain the locked gate. Right by the turning where the trail heads upwards some men were working laying down more gravel. They were happy to let us pass though and we made it back to the road without incident.

Our short but sweet stroll ended with a nice cup of coffee in Woolston, sitting outside what was once The Vosper Thorneycroft factory. It may not have been the longest walk in the world but, with good company and an air of adventure because of the locked gate, it was a very enjoyable birthday walk.

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Big changes on the butterfly walk

19 April 2018

After weeks and weeks of rain and cold, the surprisingly balmy evening running through Victoria Country Park seemed like it might have been a turning point, at least weather wise. This morning the sky was a beautiful shade of blue and cloudless. Spring seemed to have finally sprung and it felt like time for a walk at last.  Continue reading Big changes on the butterfly walk

The lost estates of Weston, Mayfield

17 January 2018

All my life I’ve lived near the sea. The lapping of the waves and the sound of fog horns is something I can’t imagine being without. Having said that, Southampton is hardly a seaside town. The little bit of seashore we have, less than a mile of shingle bordered by tall flats and a large council estate, could not be called a resort by any stretch of the imagination. Even so, it’s nice to walk along the shore and, today, the sea was calling me, despite the high winds I knew would make walking difficult. Continue reading The lost estates of Weston, Mayfield

The butterfly walk – first published 22 July 2016

With Mediterranean temperatures and high humidity in July 2014 I knew I’d have to come up with a good walking plan if I was going to get some miles in. Goodness knows I needed to as the hundred miles a month was looking more than a little short with just over a week to go. For once there was some forward planning. Ok so this only constituted a water bottle in the freezer (with the lid off otherwise they burst when the water expands) but still, it was a step in the right direction. Continue reading The butterfly walk – first published 22 July 2016

The butterfly trail

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20 April 2016

This morning I thought I’d get out early, well earlyish, and try to get some miles under my belt. Ever since my adventure in Tickleford Gully with CJ I’d been thinking about walking a circular route to the shore through the gully and back via the trails in Mayfield Park, or perhaps the other way around. Since we’d had a couple of days with no rain I thought today would be a good day to try it. If I was lucky there wouldn’t be too much mud. Continue reading The butterfly trail

The joy of six

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29 March 2016

The hiatus in the building work continued into Tuesday because a delivery of cement didn’t arrive. This was bad news for the progress of my potting shed come summer house but good news for walking. Given the last few rainy walks it seemed prudent not to go too far afield but, as usual, I had a plan up my sleeve. There was supposed to be another boundary stone in Tickleford Gully, about two and a half miles from home. Of course CJ wanted to come along. He may have caught the boundary stone bug. Continue reading The joy of six

2015 new places and new things in old places

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30 December 2015

If summer 2015 had a lesson for me it seemed to be that I should take a closer look at the places I thought I knew well. There certainly turned out to be a few surprises in store when  I did. I also learned that the best way to find something was to stop looking for it when my frustratingly unsuccessful cygnet hunt came to an unexpected end.
Continue reading 2015 new places and new things in old places

an addition to the woodland route – first published 7 July 2013

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At the beginning of July 2013 I was on a mission to explore a route that would take me from the shore to Millers Pond without road walking. At least that was the theory. For once I’d planned it all with precision on WalkJogRun so I knew exactly where I was going. When I say exactly, I mean, more or less because there were woods involved and they’re quite difficult to plot as you can’t see the paths on the satellite map. Still, how lost could I get? Continue reading an addition to the woodland route – first published 7 July 2013

Butterfly walk and spitfires on the common

Mayfield Park
Mayfield Park

28 July 2015

The butterflies have been conspicuous in their absence this year for some reason. Although I’ve seen the odd one fluttering over the garden or when I’ve been out walking, there haven’t been nearly as many as usual. The bees have been buzzing around all the flowers in my garden since spring, but I’ve missed the colour of delicate wings drifting from plant to plant. On Tuesday, I thought I’d go and seek them out in their own habitat, the Butterfly Walk. Continue reading Butterfly walk and spitfires on the common

An exciting discovery in Mayfield Park

Millers Pond
Millers Pond

15 June 2015

As Sunday ended up bright enough for me to catch a little sun on my arms and chest I naievly expected more of the same on Monday. With this in mind I’d planned a nice walk along the shore towards Hamble. Looking out of the window when I got up threw those plans into disarray. If anything it looked like rain, all thick grey cloud, black around the edges. Obviously I would have to think again. Continue reading An exciting discovery in Mayfield Park