To the river

15 August 2017

We’d found the hidden pond with relative ease. Now it was time to turn for home.
“Shall we carry on to Riverside Park or turn back and walk along Cutbush Lane to Mansbridge,” I asked CJ. “The Park would be the quickest way home but Mansbridge is prettier.”
“Mansbridge,” CJ said with a cheeky grin that told me he was thinking of a coffee stop in the Swan Garden Centre rather than distance or pretty walks. Continue reading To the river

Lost walks part two

Almost three years ago malicious code was working it’s evil on my old blog, sending thousands of spam emails from my email address. Perhaps if I’d been more tech savvy I’d have questioned the handful of strange non delivery notices in my inbox for emails I hadn’t sent. As it was I put them down to someone spamming me and deleted them unopened. The storm clouds were gathering but the storm was yet to break as I planned a little morning walk to make the most of the blue skies in the real world. This is the last walk I took before the tempest washed away two years of my work. The last lost walk. For three years the photos have sat on my computer waiting for me to put words to them. Now I have.

7 October 2014

For the second day running I woke to blue skies and sunshine. These two things are not to be wasted in early October. Every bright day could be the last of the year. Over breakfast I scanned Google Maps, trying to come up with a plan for a walk to make the most of it. Back in March I stumbled upon a trail behind Riverside Park called River Walk. Today I thought I’d try to walk it in reverse, starting in Cutbush Lane and heading for the river. As plans go it was fairly vague but it was the best I had.

The beginning of the walk was the route I used to take to the White Swan pub, back when Commando and I were just two friends in a large group who drank there. It’s odd how my feet have a memory of these long forgotten walks and follow the course without me telling them to. My head was filled with memories of those days, calling in for Ali along the way and walking together, the half forgotten faces of all those old friends still in their teens, like ghosts waiting at the pub for me.

It’s a wonder I didn’t carry on along Cutbush Lane all the way to the pub, where my feet wanted to take me. Of course none of them would be there and, even if they were, I wouldn’t recognise them a lifetime later. Somehow, half way along the bottom of the lane, I came to my senses and stopped by the playing field. On the other side was the beginning of the River Walk. Feeling confident I strode across the damp and empty field.

The strange thing about walking a trail backwards is that nothing looks the same.  When I reached the far side of the field I couldn’t see any sign of the trail, just trees and rough grass. There was a fair bit of disappointed walking up and down and a few thoughts of giving up and walking down Gaters Hill to the river instead. Luckily there was no one on the field to see me.

In desperation I clambered across the wet grass towards the trees where I knew there was a trail hidden somewhere. If I didn’t find it in five minutes, I’d give up. My reward, after a yard or two, was a flattened track through the long grass. A little further this turned into a narrow trail through the bracken into the trees.

After the bright sunshine it seemed dark at first and I had to slow right down and watch my footing. Before long I came to the broken fence. If I went through I knew I’d be trespassing but, despite the man I met last time telling me there was another, longer way around, I couldn’t see anything trail like, just a steep drop. With a quick look around and a pounding heart, I walked through the gap in the fence and onto the Gregg School land. There was no guarantee the corresponding piece of fence on the other side hadn’t been mended. If it had, I’d have to turn back. A trespasser I may be but I’m not a vandal.

It was with some relief I passed through the second piece of broken fence and back onto a real trail. Now I could relax and look around me properly. There were fallen pine branches everywhere and one random maple leaf, a beautiful mixture of green and gold, amongst the pine needles. Many of the pine branches were large and quite a few were bearing huge cones. These I remembered from my last walk.

The next landmark was the giant tree stump near the fence. The top of the huge pine was snapped by the gales and someone had sawn it down, probably to stop it fallling on anyone or to protect the nearby houses. When I’d first seen it from the other side I’d thought I might not be able to get past. The cut edge of the trunk was almost as tall as me so there was no chance of climbing over. There was a gap big enough to walk through though and a chance to marvel at the beauty of the wood.

Today the end of the tree was no longer freshly sawn and a ring of white, possibly sap, encircled it. From the top edge large drips running down made it look as if someone had painted it. Perhaps they had, although, I’m not sure why? It reminded me a little of the pine we had cut down in our front garden. It had grown far bigger than I’d expected and its branches hanging over the pavement were causing an obstruction. The sap turned the stump white, just like this. As if the tree was bleeding.

There is something very sad about such a magestic old tree meeting its end this way. For a long time I stood looking at it thinking about the tiny seed it grew from and all the years it had stood before the gales and a chainsaw finished it off.

Feeling slightly melancholy now, I carried on along the trail. When I came this way before there were fallen trees everywhere, although none quite as large or impressive as that first pine. When I set out I’d hoped to see some interesting fungi amongst all the sawn logs and fallen branches. Although the log piles were still there along with a few of the fallen trees, there were none. Perhaps they needed more time to rot or maybe it was just too early in the season?

The trail was shorter than I remembered and soon I was nearing the end. The land here slopes steeply downwards into the trees on the edge of Riverside Park. The dip is boggy at the best of times but today it was filled with stagnant water covered with a thick film of bright green algae. This soupy swamp seemed such an unnatural colour and had such an eerie feel about it I stopped and took several photos. If a green and ghoulish swamp monster had suddenly risen from the depths I’d hardly have been surprised.

Now I’d reached the end of the trail and was back on the street. Last time I came this way the verge was filled with daffodils. Now it was all drifts of fallen leaves. As I crunched my way along more leaves tumbled from the trees and fluttered down around me although the canonpy above seemed disappointingly green when I’d been hoping for gold.

On the corner I stopped to admire the little drinking fountain. It was donated to the city by Sir Samuel Montagu and was originally near Woodmill as far as I can tell. It was moved to this out of the way spot in 1961 because it was in the way of traffic. It is generally unnoticed and forgotten as most people either drive past or are walking on the other side of the road where there are proper pavements. Sadly, the only people who seem to pay it any attention are the vandals. In 1964 the cupola and crown on the top of the copper roof were badly damaged. It was eventually restored in 1992 but has since been vanadalised again.

Because of the lack of pavements I crossed Woodmill Lane at this point and, as I headed towards the mill I wondered exactly why vandals do what they do? It all seems so senseless, destroying lovely things just for the sake of it. The trees along the edge of the park were beginning to show their autumn colours, unlike most I’d seen so far on my walk. The ground was littered with fallen leaves in various hues and I bent to take a photograph.

On I went towards the mill, wondering why autumn seemed so late in arriving this year and why some trees had realised the season had changed while others still thought it was summer? The mill was my turning point. The last part of my walk would be along the river through Riverside Park towards home. For once I didn’t take a picture of the mill, at least not from close up. Maybe I felt I had already taken more than enough or perhaps I got distracted by something?

The next photograph I took appears to be of hops. From the time stamp on the photo and it’s place between the trees on Woodmill Lane and the willows just past Woodmill, it must have been taken close to the mill, although I don’t remember taking it at all. It is certainly an odd place to see hops growing. Perhaps this explains the lack of pictures of the mill itself?

Now all I had to do was cross the park and walk the mile through the streets to home. For the first part of the walk the river was hidden behind the trees but, once I turned the corner by the reedbeds I had the clear water beside me reflecting the blue sky and fluffy clouds. The trees on the far bank had a hint of autumn about them, but not as much as I’d expected.

A single black swan was swimming amongst the mute swans near the jetty. There were a couple of cygnets too, almost full grown. As I stood, wondering where the other black swan was a woman came and stood beside me. She fished around in her bag and pulled out a bag of bread which she began to throw to the birds.
“I’ve never seen a black swan before,” she remarked. “Is it a mutation or a different breed?”
“Its a different breed,” I told her, “the black swans are originally from Australia. They were brought here as ornamental birds for rich people’s ponds but some escaped. There are three on the river here. I keep wondering if they will breed. I’d love to see a black swan cygnet.”

My walk was almost over but I lingered by the river, chatting to the woman and watching the gulls grab as much bread as they could before it made it to the water. When the bread ran out the woman bade farewell and I turned to walk the last mile home. Little did I know what was waiting for me there or that it would be almost three years before I wrote about this walk.

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures.

The lost walks, part one

As I finally cleared away the debris of my old blog I came across two walks from that last October weekend. Walks taken when I was blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. There were no words, I never got as far as writing about them, just photographs and hazy memories. My hand was paused over the delete button but, the more I looked at those photographs, the more I remembered of those lost walks. It seemed a terrible shame for them to stay lost so I am going to do my best to recreate them now. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of what follows, it was almost three years ago after all and sometimes I struggle to remember what happened last week. Still, with a little poetic licence, here goes. This is the first of the lost walks… Continue reading The lost walks, part one

A little camping adventure

21 July 2017

Way back before Vancouver, achilles tendon problems or RA, Commando entered a twenty four hour endurance race. For months Rob had been filling his head with talk of the Thunder Run and how much fun it was. Frankly, running a hundred kilometres or more in twenty four hours sounded anything but fun to me but, at the time, Commando was marathon training again and an endurance race sounded like an interesting challenge to him. He’d been talking about ultra marathon and endurance races for a while anyway so he didn’t need much persuasion.  Continue reading A little camping adventure

The last post – first published 1 October 2014

Little did I know this post about my walk on 1 October 2014 would be the last I ever wrote on my old blog. My original plan for the day had been a bus ride followed by an exploration of Hamble Marina and a nice walk along Southampton Water. The weather forecast was good, I’d checked out all the bus routes and times, job done. Unfortunately, when I got up it was raining, that horrible steady drizzle that soaks through everything. Unbeknownst to me the weather was the least of my worries. Within twenty four hours my blog would be hacked and everything I’d written would be lost, at least for a while. It has taken me almost three years to salvage what I could and this is the very last post. Continue reading The last post – first published 1 October 2014

German germs and black swan cygnets – first published 24 September 2014

Holidays always seem too short and our German adventure in September 2014 was no exception. When I left work the Wednesday before we went to Cologne the prospect of thirteen whole days off seemed like a long time. As with all holidays it flew by though. When we got back home, in the early hours of Tuesday morning I had great plans about what I was going to do over the following week. What I didn’t count on were the German germs I picked up courtesy of Easyjet’s recycled air. Continue reading German germs and black swan cygnets – first published 24 September 2014

A proper walk at last

6 July 2017

Since we got back from Vancouver there has been zero real walking. Ok, so there was the Itchen navigation with the Spitfires and there have been ups and downs of the Big Hill to the shops, along with some outings in the car, parkruns and races. What there hasn’t been is proper walking, me, my camera, a plan and CJ along for the ride. Today we finally put that right with a meander along the river.  Continue reading A proper walk at last

More parkrun tourism and a Bigfoot sighting at Moors Valley

1 July 2017

This Saturday the Pretty Muddy Race For Life 5k was taking place on The Common so, once again, parkrun was cancelled.  This time we decided to go to Moors Valley Country Park to check out the parkrun there. When the boys were young we used to take them there to enjoy all the colourful sculptures and climbing frames built from trees felled by the great storm of October 1987. When he first began running, Commando ran a 5k race there too. All in all I was pretty sure I’d find plenty to amuse me while he ran today.  Continue reading More parkrun tourism and a Bigfoot sighting at Moors Valley

Vintage cars, fire alarms and streets of gold – first published 13 September 2014

In mid September 2014 we were due to fly to Cologne. Commando was running   another marathon and I was looking forward to exploring a city I hadn’t visited since I was twenty. With just a week to go I hadn’t even begun to pack and time was running out.  In an epic piece of bad planning, our trip came after a shorter weekend than normal because of a change to my shift. Of course this meant a rather fraught but interesting week.  Continue reading Vintage cars, fire alarms and streets of gold – first published 13 September 2014

Bread for the cygnets – first published 12 August 2013

After I’d left Panda at The Triangle there was a temptation to go straight home again because the weather looked decidedly changeable. It seemed a shame to waste the nice granary bread in my bag though, especially as this was the first time I’d ever remembered to bring it, so I set off towards Riverside Park. As I walked down the slope to the park I could see I was in for a windy walk, the trees were all leaning away from the water and dark clouds were gathering. Continue reading Bread for the cygnets – first published 12 August 2013