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.

Big changes afoot at Royal Victoria Country Park

image

6 September 2016

The weather had a decidedly autumnal feel as CJ and I set out on our walk this morning. My weather app said it wouldn’t rain but, as we looked across Chessel Bay from the bottom of the steep steps, the sky said different and I’d left my fancy camera at home just in case. Our aim was Victoria Country Park where I’d read work was going on to restore the chapel. CJ had read an Echo report that the D-Day memorial had been vandalised. The former sounded interesting, the latter disturbing. We wanted to see both for ourselves even if we did get wet. Continue reading Big changes afoot at Royal Victoria Country Park

A disappointing walk in the parks

 image

17 August 2016

We’d purposely saved our zebra hunting in the parks for a sunny day and today had more than enough sun. In fact there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. There were six zebras to find, or there should have been. We already knew Skittles, near the bandstand in Palmerston Park, was likely to be absent. He was stolen on the same night as Ticket to Ride, ripped from his plinth. Unlike the poor First Bus zebra he was found, damaged and dumped in some bushes in Hoglands Park. Why anyone should want to damage these lovely beasts and spoil everyone’s fun is beyond me. Continue reading A disappointing walk in the parks

Thieves, Vandals and a definitive answer

image

11 August 2016

The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe who are believed to have migrated from Southern Scandinavia during the second century BC. They moved around Europe establishing kingdoms and were, reputedly, barbarians who sacked and looted as they went. They gave their name to vandalism, or senseless destruction, particularly defacing artwork. Sadly, there are modern day vandals roaming around the city of Southampton. Some of them are also thieves. Not only have several of our lovely zebras been damaged, one has actually been stolen. This added a sense of urgency to our zebra hunting and today, while Commando went for his X-ray, we went to visit as many as we could while they were still there.  Continue reading Thieves, Vandals and a definitive answer

Short walks, swans, cygnets and zebras

image

2 August 2016

Having an injured Commando at home has been cramping my style, at least walk wise. There have been no long walks since the zebra hunt last week, just lots of short ones. This is mostly because Commando can’t be trusted to do what he’s told and rest if I’m not actually there forcing him to. The man is just not built for resting! Continue reading Short walks, swans, cygnets and zebras

Waterside zebras, WestQuay zebras and free coffee!

image

26 July 2016

With some difficulty we found our way out of Ocean Village and back to Canute Road.  Soon the familiar sight of South Western House was in front of us, along with our next zebra. Henman, sponsored by Barratt Homes, stood opposite the imposing building at the entrance to Queens Park. It took us quite a while to get across the road to have a proper look at him. Continue reading Waterside zebras, WestQuay zebras and free coffee!

withymead bridge at last – first published 28 December 2013

image

My last walk of 2013 and I’d reached the final stretch of the Itchen Navigation before the new bridge at Withymead. There were bank breaches and I wasn’t sure whether to continue or not. I did dither for a moment or two trying to decide whether to go on or take the road route to Eastleigh. It didn’t seem all that sensible to go off down a muddy trail at almost half past two with a good three and a half miles of mostly unknown territory ahead and the prospect of darkness in the next hour or two. Then again, I’m not known for being sensible at the best of times and I really did want to see the new bridge… Continue reading withymead bridge at last – first published 28 December 2013

The Walk The Walls zebras

image

19 July 2016

Our first zebra hunt was going well, despite the heat and we’d found almost all the zebras within the old town walls. The app on my phone told me there was another at the bottom of Blue Anchor Lane on Western Esplanade. When we walked through the arch though we were shocked to find an empty plinth criss crossed with red and white tape. Snappy, the Deplan zebra had been vandalised. Continue reading The Walk The Walls zebras

The butterfly trail

image

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

a saturday stroll to look for rhinos – first published 10 August 2013

image182

The Saturday walk on 10 August 2013 was mostly about rhinos. It was sunny and warm so it seemed a good idea to search for the rhinos at the top end of town, the ones too far from the office for a lunch time walk. This had the advantage of taking me through all the city parks along with a few other interesting places that could stand a more thorough visit later. Continue reading a saturday stroll to look for rhinos – first published 10 August 2013