Early-burly pre-footie foot race

The Easter holiday weekend gives a chance for a couple of walks – with Saturday earmarked for cricket and other arrangements for Sunday, it is to be Friday and Monday. Of course, this was complicated by the big Pompey v Plymouth clash this afternoon, live on Sky – or, in my case, an internet feed. So I was quite motivated to make an early start, and was out of the house by 8:30am. Quite a feat given that I am often not on my way to work by that time on a normal work day.

The parameters of the day were to find some interesting new routes and be back home by around 2pm. My mind wandered to the afternoon’s football on a number of occasions while walking, but I enjoyed turning up towards Bursledon station and finding some side roads and footpaths with which I wasn’t that familiar. For a time it was like a bizarre speeded-up version of Rich House, Poor House, with some very well-to-do properties and a roughish feeling estate disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. Signposts for ‘Public Footpaths’ were everywhere and eventually they ground me down and I took one, then another and then another. I was never worried that I was lost, even though I was quite disorientated. At the end of the day I was bound to come across somewhere I knew.

Plenty of steep slopes, both up and down, in that spell of the walk and once I negotiated my way into more familiar territory, I was on the way as planned to the Netley – Hamble – Weston Shore area where I hadn’t been for some months. The sea was so calm on a clear morning that wasn’t as warm as perhaps anticipated, but it was very comfortable walking weather. After carrying on to the shore path to Woolston, I took the Itchen Bridge with ease and broke for coffee.

With a bit of time to spare, I took a long cut, as opposed to a short cut, through St Marys, and felt a bit uneasy in a rough looking estate. I have lived in both Portsmouth and Southampton and the cities are quite different. Both have good and bad about them and certainly – and like any other cities – there are rough areas where I wouldn’t want to go walking at night. Of course, as I hustled through to the main road, the old joke that goes along the lines of seeing the best part of Southampton – the road out of the city – came into my mind, though it is worth pointing out that it is also the road in to it. I have some really good friends from Southampton and I love the friendly banter with their footie fans, of whom I know many, both at work and our cricket club in particular. Although I can’t say that I ever want them to win, I don’t absolutely hate the football club as much as some other Pompey fans.

Talking of football, it was now a matter of getting home for about 2pm but it was ok to take Athelstan Road, which has an incline that gets steeper nearer the top, always tough on the legs and lungs, and then a more direct route home. I wandered to the cricket ground, which looked absolutely fantastic for our first pre-season friendly tomorrow. A quick shower at home and then a tense but still enjoyable match to watch, and a big step towards ultimate promotion, despite it only being a draw (we can at least claim that we won the clash on away goals, drawing 2-2 away and now 1-1 at home).

Despite the earlier than comfortable start time, the walk distance was a very good 17.5 miles. I have to be happy with that. Hope to top that on Monday – and celebrate Pompey’s promotion. We’re on our way back.

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