by Katie Isham.
Once again, our old friend summer has one foot out the door. No doubt expedited by the lack of rain, the trees are shedding their leaves like confetti. Time to get out and enjoy the last warm days of summer.
On the outskirts of Eastleigh, is a park, Fleming Park. And on the edge of that park is a pavilion. And who isn’t interested in a pavilion? The mere word conjures images of sunny afternoons, cream teas and loafing joy. Take the route up the avenues Chestnut and Passfield to stumble out of the bird estate onto the Pavilion on the Park.
From here it’s possible to walk any number of routes around Fleming Park Parkland. The park was once a golf course and is now the site of the Eastleigh Park Run. We’ll pitch our activity somewhere between the two and embark on a walk round the paths.
One possible route is the signposted dragonfly trail. Start from the pavilion and follow the posts with the insects on (markings only as it might be difficult to get the real guys to sit still, although a few may cross the path as they did that afternoon), as the route cuts through grassland, trees and copious hunches of blackberry bushes ready to ripen into autumn. Weave through these landscapes including crossing bridges over brooks.
At one point, the path passes by a subway. Possibly the longest subway in Southampton. You’ll hear the cause of it before you see it as it dips underneath the M3. Take heart in knowing a woodland retreat, where dragonflies divebomb walkers, quietly goes about its business beneath the roar of modern infrastructure.
As the path leads back out of the woods and onto what presumably used to be a fairway, another beacon of industry is seen in the distance. A giant pylon pokes out from behind the trees, merging our two worlds. But it’s very much outnumbered by trees. What great trees are on offer here: big blooming oaks; shimmering birches singing in the wind; some have even given up holding onto summer and are already glowing in their golden hues.
Loop round the big field flanked by trees on both sides and a wonderful wild grass area in the centre. On the return leg, the trees line the banks of Monk’s Brook. If the days are still hot, you’ll be glad of the shade and any canine companions will be glad of the stream.
Cross the bridge here to enter Fleming Park; the more manicured side of the site adjacent to the leisure centre and leading down to the water park. More distractions and tangents to take if time and interest allow.
But the more favourable route is swinging a right to return to the pavilion. Time for the highlight of any walk: the café pitstop. The Blackbird café is a delightful place to sit in the heart of a park and watch the action. Enjoy a well-earned homemade cake and even treat the special dog in your life to an ice cream.
Once refuelled you might have energy to go round again. How about on wheels this time? The gravel and grass paths offer perfect cycling routes as well as some off-roading for the more adventurous. Bring your own bike or hire some wheels.
Behind the café is the hangar for Cycles4all. This project offers bikes, trikes and other wheeled contraptions to allow everyone to enjoy the local area with the wind in their hair. Roll up and hire a bike fit for anyone. So why not try the circuit on wheels as well as by foot? I have my eyes on a chopper for my next venture here. The real dragonflies might be slowing down as the autumn approaches, but the dragonfly trail is perfect for spreading your wings and flying through the suburban landscape.
Cost: Free for the walk but a cost if you want to take the adventure on wheels. A merited cost for refreshments in the café.
Accessibility: The paths and trails are all accessible on wheels, even the grassier routes where mowers have paved (?) the way. Head towards Eastleigh by bike, car or bus as the nearest train station is a good half an hour walk.
Facilities: Car park at the pavilion is free. The pavilion is a source of all types of facilities: toilets, café, meeting rooms, community centre and cycle hire.
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