This morning I set off not really feeling like walking but determined to do at least 22 miles. When I got to Riverside Park I was amazed to see 31 swans (yes I did count them) swimming down the river together towards the bridge. I’m not sure what that was all about or where they all came from but it was quite a stunning sight. The rest of the river was empty of swans so I wonder of they were having some kind of swan party.
The rest of the river was very quiet. Just a few ducks and no people about at all. The Swan centre at Eastleigh was closed when I got there but MacDonalds was open so I popped in to use the loo and grabbed a spare bottle of water then sat in the park and ate a fibre bar. I decided at the outset that I would use Mr Bumble’s technique and stop for a short rest every five miles and this was my first stop.
Refreshed I started off towards Twyford Road. There was still nothing much in the way of people around or cars so crossing the various roads was easier than usual. On down Allbrook Hill and across the river Itchen again on Highbridge Road and I was on Twyford Down where there is no path. This is the part of the journey that usually slows me down because I walk in the road but have to keep getting onto the verge when a car comes. There weren’t many cars today so I managed to keep my speed up a bit, although I only averaged about 3.5 miles an hour for most of the walk because I had decided not to push myself to my usual 4 to 4.5 miles an hour and give myself a better chance of walking further.
When I got to Main Road and was walking towards Twyford Village I was back on footpaths which was a relief. Unfortunately I was beginning to feel like I needed the loo again and there didn’t appear to be anywhere I could go. Just as I was coming up to Twyford School I saw a cutway. I’d seen it before but never walked that way. It went up a steep slope and appeared to go behind a high wall that ends at around the ten mile mark on my journey. I though there might be somewhere up there that would be private enough for me to ‘go’ as it’s all trees and bushes and not overlooked. To my relief I found a quiet spot and did the deed. About ten seconds afterwards a group of women walked towards me!!! Goodness me that was a close call. The path led me across some fields and then towards a church and down another lane which took me back onto Searles Hill close to Twyford House. I was now at the ten mile mark and looking around for somewhere to stop for my next break. I wished I’d stopped in the fields as it would have been nicer than on the road side.
By now I was well past the ten miles and into territory I’d never walked before. Just as I was giving up hope of finding a bench or somewhere else to sit I noticed a funny little bus shelter. It was like a little hut but with an open doorway flanked by two glassless windows. Inside was a bench and there was a little glazed window in one wall that faced the direction the bus would come from so that people waiting would be able to sit inside until they saw their bus approach. It was really quite cosy. I sat down and ate my fibre bar, poured my new bottle of water into my walking bottle and enjoyed the rest. I also took of my left shoe and applied a blister plaster as I had the beginnings of a blister on the side of my heel.
For the next part of my walk I was away from houses again and in the countryside with nothing but hedgerows and fields beside me. I did pass Hinkley Golf Club just before I went under the motorway bridge and came to Hockley lane. From my map checking I knew I had to take the footpath from Hockley Viaduct along Five Bridges Road. As I was still feeling fairly fresh I decided I’d walk to the end of the footpath then turn back which would be about 23 or 24 miles.
Five Bridges Road was lovely. There was a country gate and it opened out onto fields on either side. Maybe I’d have a picnic there with the dark fruit and nut chocolate I’d bought for the halfway point. Then I came to the river again. It really was beautiful crossing it, no swans (I think they were all at the party back at Riverside Park) but it looked calm, clear and very inviting.
At the end of Five Bridges Road I came to St Cross Road where I saw a sign saying 2 miles to Winchester. By now I was at just over 11 miles. This was when I made a snap decision to carry on towards Winchester and try to do the whole marathon distance. I’ve been having dreams about the Moonwalk and not being able to finish so I figured if I could walk it today perhaps I would stop being worried about it.
On I went past lots of pretty little houses with doors opening right onto the street. As I went further the houses began to get a bit grander with big front gardens, and a few high walls. It was very leafy looking and clean. Before long it became more commercial and the houses were back to opening onto the street with more and more shops. When I passed The Green Man pub and was opposite a church with a pretty spire, I looked at my GPS watch and I had walked 13.1 miles, exactly half the marathon and I was in Winchester.
It was time to turn and start the long walk back. Every bus stop I passed along St Cross Road looked very inviting. When I got to Five Bridges Road, I crossed the river and found a grassy place to sit. This was at about 15 miles so it was about time for a rest stop. Those four squares of chocolate were heavenly. While I savoured it I texted Commando to tell him where I was, put another blister plaster on my toe and then set off again. I also made a quick detour into a wooded area for a loo stop.
The walk back to Eastleigh was tough. Eventually I made the six or so miles and stopped off at MacDonalds again. This time I got myself a Big Mac and a chocolate milkshake, plus another bottle of water and stopped to enjoy the food. This was lunch and given the miles I’d walked I think its excusable. All the way from Winchester I’d been looking forward to that milkshake and it lived up to expectation.
When I was about half way between Eastleigh and Mansbridge I bumped into two of the guys from work. They were on their way to the cinema in Eastleigh. Geocache lives in Mansbridge and when I told him how far I’d walked he laughed and said they had been moaning about the three miles from Mansbridge. The walk along the riverside was difficult. There were a lot of people about to dodge by then. It seemed like every man and his dog, quite literally, was out walking and my feet were really beginning to protest but there was not a lot of choice about it. Cobden Bridge was a welcome sight but it was a struggle getting up the steep slope to the road.
It’s hard to explain how happy I was to get to my front door. I’d actually walked 27.06 miles. I think the people dodging and walking on the opposite side of the road on the bit with no pavements was responsible for the extra distance. It took me 7 hours and 47 minutes. No more dreaming about not finishing the Moonwalk for me I think.