Sunday, September 14, 2008

Test Way #1: Best laid plans

Talk about the best laid plans. The kids were going to nan and grandad's for the weekend and we were going to spend Saturday afternoon walking the 10 miles from our house in Hounsdown, Totton, via Eling Tide Mill all the way to Romsey.

Why?

I've always liked the idea of doing one of those cross-country long-distance walking routes. Not all at once, perhaps... But this seemed like a good opportunity to knock off the first ten miles of the Test Way, a 44-mile route from Eling (near Southampton) to Inkpen Becon, almost as far north as the M4.

A few years ago, we visited Hadrian's Wall and I was completely awe-inspired and fascinated by its history. On the same holiday, we spent an afternoon in Carlisle, which is more or less where the wall starts. In the tourist information office I picked up a leaflet about a coast to coast walk along the original path of the wall, which I thought would be great expedition to do with my wife or a friend. Alas, given that I live at the opposite end of the country, it's not as accessible as I'd like it to be.

Plus there's the fact that I'm not actually a massive walker. Sometimes I fancy it... sometimes I don't.

Anyway, I found a book at home which must have been my dad's before he moved up to Worcestershire. Called "The Test Way" it describes the entire route and, in thumbing through it, I realised I knew many of the places on the early part of the route.

There was Romsey, where I was born and went to school; Mottisfont, where we regularly visit Mottisfont Abbey, a fantastic National Trust properly with expansive lawns (where you're allowed to picnic) and a rose garden that the kids love running around in; there's Stockbridge, a small town which I've been to several times (but not often) and where a couple of years ago I met with my cousins for a Christmas meal. The pub where we gathered was right on the river with the Test Way path running right alongside. Go any further north than Stockbridge and, admittedly, my knowledge wanes considerably. But I liked the idea of using this route to discover not only my local area at closer quarters, but the world immediately beyond it.

We travel virtually everywhere by car these days so these ancient footpaths are used more for leisure than necessity. Consequently we happen upon them less readily.

Anyway, our best laid plans didn't quite turn out as we'd hoped, with a rather underwhelming visit to A&E being the start of our downfall...

(Picture shows River Test at Lee, near Romsey. Taken on 27 October - See #4)

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