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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