by Katie Isham.
Meet you at the bridge?
Fellow eastsiders will be all too familiar with the hassle of crossing the mighty River Itchen to get into Southampton city centre. And as a teenager, it was a trek comparable to crossing the Sahara. But cross it we did, every Saturday to migrate to the teenage preening ground of “town”.
As shops reopen and “town” bursts with life and optimism for the future, it seemed like a good time to recapture the routine journeys taken by the Southampton youth of the past. What better way to spend a sunny Saturday than to retrace the well-trodden path that was once the most important journey of the week?
Do you remember the days when your only worry was if your mate would be on time to meet you outside HMV? Or if your bench was free in the precinct? Or if a certain someone would hold your hand as you walked home across the bridge?
It would all start by meeting at the busy bus junction at Woolston. We could jump on one of the many buses heading west, but that would mean less money for chips at McDonalds later, so we’d invariably stomp it over the water.
Nowadays, with the apathy of youth long gone, I embraced the Itchen Bridge walk – in fact it’s probably my highlight these days. Who doesn’t love a bridge? As you leave Woolston and scale the beast, look out across the river on both sides and towards the city. Stunning views up and down the river of the industry and leisure spread along our shores. Stop at the top of the arch to take in the beauty and space of Southampton.
The descent is always easier so before long you’ll reach the city. I chose to take the most direct route to Western Esplanade, across Central Bridge and along Bernard Street. Enjoy the beauty and history of Holyrood Church and then the imposing sight of St Michael’s up the hill.
In younger days, I would’ve been satisfied sharing a milkshake in the park, but now I’m a more seasoned café connoisseur. This time I still opted for a sweet shake but took my patronage to the delightful Robin’s Nest. Partly it was to sit and sup in the shadow of the church spire, as well as partaking in my favourite pastime of people watching.
No time for loitering though: I’ll leave that to the teenagers. Time to continue on foot to where the waves used to lap the city walls. Skip down Blue Anchor Lane but be sure to sneak a peek behind you for a gloriously framed view of the church.
Once you hit The Arcades, see where the moment takes you. Turn left to follow the history trail down to the sea or take a right to bring you into the gleaming, shining present of West Quay. Or you could always do both? Take the day off from the weight of adulthood and spend some time drifting about town like we did when we were younger.
Wander back and forth like all that matters is picking up the best vinyl (Vinilo is probably your best bet these days) or getting your mate’s opinion on a new pair of jeans (RIP Topshop). Why let the youths have all the fun? Southampton city centre is made for mooching. Walk, watch, sit, slurp, regress, reminisce. Just make sure you leave some energy for the epic return journey back across the bridge. We’re not as young as we used to be.
Cost: Free for the walk down memory lane. Snacks and shopping trips optional and of varying costs.
Accessibility: Paved routes from Woolston into the city. Many pedestrianised areas around the city for easy walking or loitering.
Facilities: All the facilities you need in town, especially as restrictions lift.