by Katie Isham.
If you’ve followed these Suburban Safaris for any distance, you’ll know I have a fondness for the friendless. Of course I love a picture postcard view and a garden in splendid bloom. But I often find the real jewel in the ugly. Or what may be considered “ugly”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Totton is not an ugly town, it’s just there are certain aspects of it that wouldn’t get picked for the Countryfile calendar. But then you’re not seeing the point of a good wander, and you’re not open to the beauty to be found.
This short loop takes in some picturesque views, but also enjoys some of the more industrial panoramas of the city. If you’re lucky, you might even find a burnt-out car to enhance your landscape!
Eling is part of the town of Totton just holding hands with Southampton to the west. Most famous for the tide mill where Bartley Water joins the River Test, we’ll head off the tourist trail to take in some alternative sights.
Leave Eling car park, cross the road and head down a residential lane. Sneak previews at the river through the gardens and hedges before you reach the park proper. Wander past the playground and skirt the pebbled beach as the two bodies of water merge. Here you’ll stand in the shadows of great containers on the opposite bank whilst smaller sailboats and other vessels bob enthusiastically along the creek.
The path through the park leads you past the trees and into great grassland. Whilst there is much open space on the ground, the sky is filled with towering electrical pylons shooting out streams of cables overhead. Even casting a glance at the city across the water, the sky is pierced by more metal as the cranes from Southampton docks groan and grumble at their endless chores.
Follow the shore through the park, scramble along the beach even. Stop at any of the benches for a breather, but avoid the aforementioned major motoring littering that adds a certain apocalyptic charm to this riverside panorama. Swing a right as the path finishes and swerve around the legs of the electrical giants. Follow the route squidged between the wildflower meadow and the imposing tree line until you reach a hidden path through the foliage.
Stoop under the branches to climb the trail through the gate into the churchyard. This is the back entrance to the holy grounds of St. Mary’s Church, apparently the tenth oldest in England. The church is open for some peace if you need it, but you’ll also find harmony of art, education and life in the grounds. Pause to read the signs to inform passers-by of the wildflowers and life that can be found all around the graveyard.
The church sits high on the hill overlooking Eling Quay. You can do a loop within a loop around the building or follow the path out of another gate onto the road. The beautiful houses and gardens opposite the church are contenders for an English village postcard picture. Trundle down the hill back toward the water.
Once at the car park, you can continue through the cemetery to join the boardwalk for a longer meander along the river (maybe another time for me) or take a short walk across the causeway for that all important cup of tea in the café. Time to reflect on the beauty that you expected and the intriguing jewels of a wander through the landscape that may have caught you unawares.
Cost: Free for the walk. Free parking. Depending on your route, you may need to pay the toll for driving across the causeway.
Accessibility: The walk is a mix of pavements, gravel paths, field and at one point, a steep, off-road path to the churchyard. Eling can be reached from the A35 from Southampton or off the Marchwood bypass. Totton train station is a fifteen-minute addition to the walk.
Facilities: Toilets in the car park. A playground for any little wanderers. A church for any peaceful pitstops. Eling Tide Mill Experience is just across the way for history and education, and that all important cup of tea.
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