More change

26 February 2019

When I’d seen all I could of the Bargate Quarter progress I crossed the road and headed towards some more building work. This has been going on for a lot longer, although things are moving on apace right now. There was a time when I thought I’d be looking down on this project daily and watching things unfold, but a lot has changed since then.

In 2013 I was working on the top floor of an office block overlooking the old East Street Shopping Centre. The views, especially the sunsets, were spectacular. The shopping centre, built in the 1970’s, was the first in the city but it was never completely successful because it was too far removed from the centre of town. In 2012 the last retail unit closed but the building remained open as a car park and for the public to walk through from St Mary’s.

In the summer of 2013, the doors were closed for good and, shortly afterwards, we watched from our office window as the demolition work began. Often I’d take a photo from the window of our little kitchen while I was making coffee. It felt like watching history in progress. Soon we learned that a supermarket was going to be built on the site and a new walkway joining St Mary’s to East Street. We watched the old shopping centre disappear with interest and anticipated watching the new building go up and then popping into the supermarket at lunchtime to buy our groceries.

2013 from my office window
2013 from my office window
2013 from my office window

None of these things were meant to be though. Not long after the work began we learned our office was closing. We were all being made redundant. Watching the building slowly disappear became a metaphor for our jobs. Then the supermarket owners pulled out and, for a long time, work stopped.

No longer working in the city centre meant I lost touch with what was happening at the bottom end of East Street, although I occasionally walked past and looked through the site gates. Driving past recently I noticed some new apartments have been built and Commando told me about a pedestrian walkway that has now opened. Today I thought I’d take a closer look.

Since I last came this way the row of shops opposite Debenhams has also been demolished. Often in my lunch hour I’d walk past them and occasionally go into the little bric-à-brac store, Scoops, to look around. This row of shops was where an IRA bomb exploded in the late 1970’s. In those days there were bomb scares all the time but this was the only actual bomb I remember exploding. Luckily, no one was hurt although the carpet shop where the bomb was planted and the surrounding area, including Debenhams, was damaged by the blast.

The IRA Bomb aftermath
The IRA Bomb aftermath

The bomber was caught some years later and jailed for seventeen years. Now the shops have gone. They weren’t especially attractive or busy. In fact, the whole area always felt a little down at heel. Soon there will be new commercial units, car parking and apartments. From the plans they look much nicer that anything there before and the whole thing will complement the Bargate Quarter.

The proposed new apartments

A little further on a few shops still remain. These are older buildings with character. Hopefully they won’t be torn down but time will tell.

What I really wanted to see was the new walkway and buildings. The first thing I came to was the tall office block where I was offered a job before I accepted the one at Silver Helm. For a while I thought it was going to be pulled down like the shopping centre and pub beneath it but it’s now had a revamp and is looking very swish.

Just past the office block are the first of the new flats. As they are student accommodation I imagine the moaners hate them and are complaining bitterly but I quite like them. They’re made of light coloured brick and have the look of old fashioned warehouses to me.

The walkway is wide and paved in light coloured stone. It feels a safe and pleasant place. Between the buildings there are little areas of greenery. This is something else I like and will like even better if some seating appears at some point. My only frustration was that I couldn’t see through the hoardings and find out what was going on on the rest of the site.

Out on the street opposite the end of St Mary’s Street I discovered that the underpass that was closed when the demolition began has been reopened. Before I went through it I walked around to the other sid of the remaining building site onto Lime Street to try to satisfy my curiosity. What I discovered was a lot of nothing. Just some containers, probably being used as builders offices and a few cars parked up.

When the underpass was blocked off it was a bit of a blow. It was a nice easy place to cross the road without having to wait for traffic lights to change, important when you’re in a rush to get to work. The murals all along the sides of the sloping entrance ramp always made me smile too. They were representations of the local people in all their diversity. When it was all boarded up I often wondered if they were still there. Today I discovered they still were, albeit faded and, in some places peeling. Maybe the artist will come back and repaint them now?

Emerging on the far side of the underpass felt like a walk back in time for me. I could almost imagine I was going to pop into the cafe in Central Hall and grab a coffee before going around the corner and back to my office to arrange ship visits, entertainers and turnaround days. Sadly, those days are gone now though so I kept walking, past St Mary’s Church retracing the steps of so many walks home.

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The Running School part five and a bit of a dilemma

21 August 2018

Today was my penultimate Running School session and it was yet another very hot, humid day. Luckily, as it was a later appointment, Commando was picking me up so I’d only have to walk one way. Due to Paul being on holiday it had been two weeks since my last session but I’d been practicing like mad trying to keep my fitness up. So far, it seemed to be working. The pain in my leg has been much diminished and walking feels much less of a chore and more of a pleasure. This didn’t mean I was looking forward to a work out with Paul though. Continue reading The Running School part five and a bit of a dilemma

The beast from the east

1 March 2018

Just when it felt like spring was yawning, stretching and preparing to throw off the winter covers, the weatherman said a big snow storm was blowing in from Russia. I frantically searched the house for my yaktrax and thought about where I could go walking in it. Ok, maybe I have issues, but we don’t get snow very often here on the south coast. My inner cyclic said it would probably come to nothing. The Met Office are fond of making snow mountains out of a few flakes.  Continue reading The beast from the east

Underground, overground, making the best of things

8 November 2017

CJ and I left the Bargate Centre with mixed feelings. The new plans look exciting but the ghosts of old memories make the demolition of the building feel a little sad. We walked down East Street in silence, each remembering those far off days. Soon we’d come to another place of memories, the East Street Centre.  Continue reading Underground, overground, making the best of things

The two bridge challenge revisited – first published 3 August 2014

Another hot, muggy Sunday in early August 2014 and with the weather still sweltering, I decided on a short walk, sticking to the river as much as possible. It was time to revisit Commando’s two bridge challenge, otherwise known as my old walk to and from work. Continue reading The two bridge challenge revisited – first published 3 August 2014

St Mary’s church Southampton, survival against the odds

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28 January 2016

There was a time when I passed St Mary’s Church in Southampton every day at least once but I’d never seen it with the doors open before so I’d never been inside. Today I had a couple of appointments in town and the plan was to have a wander along St Mary’s Street and take photos for a post about this interesting area of the city in between. When I saw the open door though, I couldn’t pass up the chance to have a look inside the mother church of Southampton. Continue reading St Mary’s church Southampton, survival against the odds

Holyrood Estate, more than meets the eye

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13 January 2016

Standing in front of the last mural on Orchard Lane, feeling slightly disappointed that my quest had been so easily completed, I debated whether to walk up into town for a coffee or just go home and have one there. It was still quite chilly so I decided on the latter and, rather than retrace my steps, I thought I’d walk over Northam Bridge. When I turned towards Threefield Lane though I spotted something on the side of the block across Orchard Lane. It looked suspiciously like another mural. Continue reading Holyrood Estate, more than meets the eye

low tide, lifts and St Mary’s Church – first published 29 May 2013

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The last week of May 2013 was the first five day week I’d worked for a long time. Even at Mad House I’d only worked four days, albeit ten hour ones, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with two day weekends. Still, there was always lunch time for a bit of extra walking and for this one I decided to take a wander around St Mary’s Church, the mother church of the city. Our football team take their name, Saints, from it being originally formed by church members. Continue reading low tide, lifts and St Mary’s Church – first published 29 May 2013

Twyford, revisiting an old friend

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3 March 2015

Safely across the road at the Hockley Traffic lights I set off along the road towards Twyford. It’s not the nicest of roads with cars whizzing past and nothing much to see at first, just half a mile of potholed pavement, traffic and fields hidden behind scrubby trees. I could have been on the Navigation trail if I’d just turned to the west but there was method in my madness. Back in the days of Moonwalk training walks, when my one foray onto the Navigation at Mansbridge had ended after half a mile of mud and fear before I’d even got started, this had been the route I’d taken when I came to the long miles. The ten mile mark was Twford, known as one of the most beautiful villages in Hampshire and, by trial and error, I’d found a little oasis of peace and calm amid the screaming muscles and blistered feet. Continue reading Twyford, revisiting an old friend