Suburban Safari: Focus on the Crocus 

Suburban Safari: Focus on the Crocus 

words and pictures by Katie Isham.

Word on the street is spring is here. Some might say it’s fool’s spring, but let’s embrace it anyway. The treasure we’re hunting for today is never bothered by winter regardless: these tiny, mighty flowers laugh in the face of hail and welcome the canvas of snow to highlight their striking colours emerging from the frozen ground. Let’s find some crocuses! 

Crocuses are popping up all over the city of Southampton. This is crocus season and they should be savoured before they disappear. The weather and the seasons don’t bother them but these wee wonders don’t fare too well under a heavy boot or an exuberant paw. The window to spot them in their splendour is almost as small as their petals. 

So, to the locations. Another rumour abound is that of new life on The Common. The Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery spent days planting hundreds of bulbs last winter so they should be unfurling from their slumber about now. 

Another patch can be found surrounding the church on Peartree Green near Woolston. The church lays claim to being the oldest Anglican church in the world, but at present, it’s festooned by some of earth’s newest sprouting flowers. 

And yet more of these tiny gems can be found amongst the grandeur and cultivation at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. There should be a carpet of crocuses after the rotary club gifted 250,000 bulbs to represent the project for eradication of polio. 

But if you’re interested in a little walk to take in some little joys with little cost, the best place is a long route through Riverside Park. 

Start at the edge of Riverside as Woodmill Lane enters the park after the hill. The road carves through the park leading toward the mill crossing. On the left, the tennis court and skate park offer active activities, but laid out in front of them is a swathe of crocuses on the verge. The footpath runs alongside the scattering of vivid spikes. 

Continue towards the river and greet the plucky plants as they enjoy their moment in the sun. Clumps of daffodils are readying themselves, their green stalks sway in the late winter winds, but it’s not quite their moment yet: now is the time to focus on the crocus. 

As the path ends and narrows into the river crossing, the Woodmill Kitchen materialises. A delightful café with an outdoor area giving views of river with mouth-wateringly delicious treats. Pause for a cake or cross the road to the other side of the park. 

Here the path follows the river. Keep it company and head upstream. Watch for ducks and other creatures of the waterway. On the right, before the field, a path beckons walkers alongside the hedgerow. Divert and follow the route beside the now sadly abandoned pitch and putt course. 

At the end of the passageway, bear right to swing back onto Woodmill Lane. Next to the old kiosk, more displays of our endearing winter flowers are thriving by the roadside. These tiny petals stand strong in the elements, doing their annual thing. En masse they look like an army of nature. Poker straight and piercing the graduated greens of a dull winter with their bright cheer as soldiers of spring. Like candles alight in the church of life. Watch as they hold their pose, bold and bright, before they are cut down by the trample of time. 

The appearance of the humble crocus may seem innocuous at first and even a little (excuse the pun) inevitable, but it’s worth pausing to appreciate their beauty and resilience. If possible, get down to ground level to inspect the features of these jewels along the carriageway. The detail in their parts is often missed in passing. 

The science says that they grow better after a particularly cold winter. As always, lessons can be learnt from nature: maybe it’s time to awaken from the winter woes and hold your head up to the spring sunshine. Maybe it’s time we all did: crocuses show us that there is strength and wonder in numbers. 


Cost: Free for the wander. Free parking. Cost almost certain as you are tempted into Woodmill Kitchen en route.  

Accessibility: Paths are paved with an option to veer off onto fields either side of the paths. Woodmill Lane stretches between Bitterne Park and Townhill Park on the east side of the city, not far from Thomas Lewis Way or Cobden Avenue. Local buses will drop you near. Swaythling train station is less than a mile’s walk.  

Facilities: Car parks at either end of Woodmill Lane. Wedged into Woodmill itself is the activity centre and the café for both ends of the leisure / exertion scale. A skatepark and tennis court overlook the grand green space of Riverside Park.