Suburban Safari: Bridges and Changes

Suburban Safari: Bridges and Changes

by Katie Isham.

It’s that time of year when every passing day brings a new hue to the landscape. The colours and the position of the leaves change with every blustery wind or cold snap. It’s that time of year to go and witness the passing of the days.

Park at the Riverside car park off Woodmill Lane or stop at Swaythling train station. Continue along Wessex Lane from either direction until you reach St. Mary’s church. Take a detour around the church’s hallowed grounds. Parts of the church date to medieval times. I don’t know about you, but that bends my mind. Take a walk through history and life in the graveyard and consider the changes that have developed around these stones. The surrounding trees are going through their own changes right now and the colours are a sight to behold.

Take the footpath out of the grounds towards the brook. It feels like you’re walking into the woods, but there’s a half-hidden path underneath the carpet of leaves. Roll down the slope, passing through the tunnel of trees to where a small bridge delivers you safely across the water. Monk’s Brook flows down to join one of the Itchen tributaries. We’ll leave the river for now, but we’ll reunite soon.

Follow the path straight ahead: a woodland trek through tropical trees growing up from the waterway. There are lesser paths you could take to explore further and venture right, into Octavia Park. Or follow the single file track out of the trees and alongside the walled suburban gardens. Mind out as you may have to share the path with local dog walkers. Remember to say hi to the furry friends.

The route passes a children’s play area for a locomotive diversion (child-size) or to switch to the park. Continue on the path until you almost reach Mansbridge Road – you’ll hear it, even if you can’t see if for the foliage. Swing a right before having to ascend to the main road and follow the footpath into Riverside Park.

Straight ahead you’ll see the hulking form of our actual Mansbridge enjoying retirement from all the traffic. Put it into action again by using it to once more cross the River Itchen. Take time to pause on its arch to gaze in both directions to watch the people fishing under the tunnel and for a truly wonderful view of the changing colours of the trees of Riverside. A slight detour upstream can take you for a swift lemonade (other beverages and roast potatoes available) in The White Swan.

Turn right after the bridge and follow the walk along the river back towards Woodmill. There’s a line of trees here that are my favourite in the city. Three beacons of flaming red alongside the green palette of the park are enough to make your heart sing. Be sure to visit in the next few weeks to appreciate the full splendour of nature’s paintbrush.

But there’s even more to see as you travel along with the flow of the water. Navigate the ducks and the swans looking to you for treats; spot the black flashes of moorhen in the reeds; always nod to the dogs out for their constitutional; take in the full beauty of life alongside the river. Pass by the river and marvel at the passing of the seasons in our city that makes up a small corner of our precious world.

Cost: Free for the walk. Free parking at Woodmill car park. Cost for any refreshment diversions.

Accessibility: Mostly pavements. Some paths of mostly compacted shingle that get narrow down the back of the park. A lot of leaves underfoot. And more to come shortly.

Facilities: Parking at Woodmill. Swaythling train station is nearby on Wessex Lane. Two playgrounds on the route as well as a church. The White Swan is a short meander up the river from Mansbridge. There’s usually an ice cream van at Woodmill and a new café to try.

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