Ten miles, cygnets and coffee

7 July 2019

The route for our ten mile Clarendon Marathon training walk was an obvious one, at least to me. The midpoint between my house and Kim’s is Woodmill so we arranged to meet there at eight o’clock this morning. Eight might seem a little early on a Sunday morning for most people but, given the heatwave we’ve been experiencing, starting early, before it got too hot, seemed the sensible thing to do. Besides, Rob and Commando had gone out at silly o’clock for a run so we were both awake anyway.

As I headed down towards the river it was certainly much cooler. Whether this was because it was still so early, or because the heatwave was over, I couldn’t tell. Just in case I’d worn my light mac anyway. Although I’d left in plenty of time I marched along, not wanting to be late. Just before I got to the reed beds though, I stopped in my tracks. The mute swans and their fluffy grey cygnets were there on the mud of the low tide. The cygnets were sound asleep, watched over by their parents. It was such a beautiful sight I forgot all about time and the miles ahead.

Smiling to myself I carried on towards Woodmill. As I rounded the last bend Kim was there, walking towards me. Together now, we carried on towards Mansbridge, talking about the sleeping cygnets. Last time we came this way we’d taken the road route through Mansbridge to Wide Lane because there’d been lots of rain and we were worried the trail through Monks Brook would be muddy. Now, after a few days of heat and sun, we decided to risk the trail.

Walking with someone else made the trail seem far shorter than it does when I’m alone. We zipped through, finding barely a trace of mud. Kim was enchanted by the mushroom chainsaw sculpture made from a fallen tree but we were chatting so much I didn’t take any pictures at all. In fact the next time I took my phone out of my pocket was by the airport roundabout. The grass verge was a mass of poppies and I couldn’t resist them.

We marched up Wide Lane, past the entrance to Lakeside where we’d turned off last week, looking forward to a toilet and coffee stop in the Swan Centre. The thought of a takeaway coffee from the Swan Centre has kept me going on many a long walk in the past. When we got there though, the doors were closed. We hadn’t factored in the fact it was Sunday and our very early start meant it hadn’t opened yet. This was quite a blow.

For a moment or two we stood looking at each other wondering what to do. We both wanted coffee but, more importantly, we both needed the loo before we headed back towards Southampton. We walked up towards MacDonalds, not really relishing the idea of their coffee but thinking we might use their toilets. Then I remembered there was a Costa up one of the side streets.

For the uninitiated, Eastleigh is a maze of grid like streets that can all tend to look much the same if you’re not paying attention. We turned up what I thought was the street with a Costa about half way along. It wasn’t there though and we reached the end feeling more than a little disappointed. We were now right by the Railwayman statue on the edge of Eastleigh Park. Nothing was open and there was no one about. It felt like a ghost town.

Fairly aimlessly we turned right, in the general direction of the main road and the train station. Just as I remembered there was a Costa in the airport that was bound to be open, Kim spotted a little coffee shop on the corner of the next street. It was called Cooffe #1 and it was open. Gratefully we went inside, ordered takeaway coffee and made use of the facilities.

As we walked back towards the still closed Swan Centre sipping our delicious coffee, I spotted Costa to our right. Suddenly I realised what had happened. When we left the Swan Centre we were further up the road than we’d thought because we’d walked along to MacDonalds. Instead of walking up Market Street, which was where the Costa was, we’d walked up the next street along, High Street.

The little detour had added about half a mile to our walk but at least we’d got our coffee and found a toilet. The whole thing reminded me of the last long walk of my very first Moonwalk training. The plans had been to walk the whole twenty six miles, just to prove to myself I could do it. Walking back along Twyford Road towards Eastleigh all I could think about was the toilets in the Swan Centre, when I got there though they were closed for refurbishment or some such thing. Feeling rather desperate I’d walked up and down the streets looking for somewhere else to go. Eventually I’d ended up in MacDonalds but I’d added another mile to my already stupidly long walk in the process. At that stage the five miles home seemed an impossible task but, somehow, I made it.

Of course, our walk today was only ten miles, give or take. Both Kim and I have walked longer distances in the past so adding a little extra wasn’t really an issue. We retraced our steps back towards Mansbridge, sipping and talking the miles away. It was almost a surprise to find ourselves back at the little stone bridge over the Itchen again so soon.

The swan family were on the river near the bend and we paused for a little whale to watch them. The babies seem to have grown in the short time since our last walk this way. It won’t be long before they’re as big as their parents.

Kim and I parted company at Woodmill. Being suddenly alone, the last couple of miles really seemed to drag. It was a relief when Cobden Bridge finally came into view, along with some black swans. The steep climb out of the park was not such a welcome sight. As I trudged up the hill to my house I wondered how on Earth I’d managed to get through all those long lonely training walks of the past?

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures. If you’re worried about privacy or data protection, please see my privacy policy here.

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
Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures. If you’re worried about privacy or data protection, please see my privacy policy here.

We thought it was all over…

13 June 2018

We were approaching the final segment of the Itchen Navigation and had around six miles left to walk. Despite the trail being more overgrown than I’ve ever seen it, bank breaches where they have never been before and a far warmer day than the weather forecast had led us to believe, we had made fairly good time. We’d set off from Winchester Station at around ten o’clock and it was now ten to two. Ok, so four hours to walk around seven miles is positively tortoise like but, taking into account stops and the terrain, I thought we’d done pretty well.  Continue reading We thought it was all over…

The last RR10

23 August 2017

The final RR10 of the season was organised by Eastleigh running club. The original plan had been to hold it at Marwell, just like last year, but there was an issue with the venue and it ended up being postponed. In the end tonight’s race was held at a completely new venue, the University Sports Ground on Wide Lane. This is a place I’ve walked past many, many times, on my way to Winchester, Eastleigh, or just Lakeside which is actually the next set of fields along the road. Because it’s not open to the public though, I’ve never been inside. Continue reading The last RR10

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

img_4495

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

Easter Bunny delivery – first published 18 April 2014

img_4452

Good Friday 2014 and, for my walk, I was in the guise of the Easter Bunny  delivering said treats to my granddaughters. It began with a little trip up the Big Hill. For one, there was meat to be bought at the butchers, but also I to buy the Easter treats before I could deliver them. From there it was back down the the river. Continue reading Easter Bunny delivery – first published 18 April 2014

What a difference a week makes – first published 14 April 2014

img_4391

The Sunday after the Manchester Marathon and it was time to get off my bum and get walking. With one eye on the hundred miles a month I’d pledged to walk in 2014 I knew it had to be a reasonable length walk too, not just a half arsed stroll along Riverside to the Swan and back. Setting myself such a challenge certainly motivated me to get some miles under my belt. There’d been some thinking on the subject and a half baked plan to get a bus to Totton and have a look at the Ealing Tide Mill but, when I got up on Sunday morning, it was a beautiful sunny day and I decided I’d check out the Navigation instead. It seemed fitting to be swapping the Manchester canals of the previous Sunday for Mansbridge and the Navigation. Continue reading What a difference a week makes – first published 14 April 2014

A March march – first published 2 March 2014

img_3293

When I planned the first walk of March 2014 I’d hoped there would be sun, or at least no rain for once. When I checked the forecast that morning it didn’t look like I was going to get home dry though. The route was around thirteen miles, give or take and it looked as if they were going to be mostly wet ones Continue reading A March march – first published 2 March 2014

Planes and boats and trains – first published 19 February 2014

img_2921

February 2014 and the first day with no rain for what seemed like forever found me trying to walk to Lakeside. There were a few worries that it might be flooded when I got there. I made it as far as the airport without rain or flood stopping me, although there were a few damp patches where the river and the stream didn’t seem to know their place. Despite the grey skies there was a definite feel of spring in the air. Continue reading Planes and boats and trains – first published 19 February 2014