How many lives do you have? One? Two (the one at work, the one at home for example)? Three (work, home, involvement in amateur dramatics or the church, say)?
I have had multiple lives in Chandler’s Ford but will focus on two: before becoming a dog owner and since then and before becoming a writer and since. Chandler’s Ford has influenced both.
I’ve lived in the area since 1988 and in my current home since 1993 but it has been since becoming a dog-owning family in 2005 I’ve really made friends here.
I know more people now than I did in the entire time I was in Chandler’s Ford without said pet. That wasn’t because I’m unfriendly (honest!) but dog walkers do just chat to one another in the way a lot of non-dog owners don’t.
Becoming a writer
Becoming a writer has also enabled me to make more friends, both locally and whenever I attend writing festivals such as the annual one at the University of Winchester in the summer and I enjoy visiting the Cathedral too. The tribute to Jane Austen is nicely done (Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books).
What I Like about Chandler’s Ford
Chandler’s Ford is lovely in that we have, amongst other things, Hiltingbury Recreation Ground, the park at Fryern and Hocombe Mead for exercising dogs. It is a relatively green place in which to live. Not only that but it doesn’t take long, especially by car, to get out into open countryside from here.
Both of my dogs have loved living here. My first dog was Gracie, a lovely Bearded Collie cross, who, was one of the most laidback and placid dogs I have ever known.
A friend of mine, impressed with just how relaxed Gracie was, once asked if she was on the doggie equivalent of cannabis! Her own dog, a highly excitable black Lab, was, according to her, on the doggie equivalent of speed!
We adopted Gracie from the RSPCA’s Stubbington Ark. Gracie loved going to Hiltingbury Rec, as does her successor, Mabel, who we adopted from the re-homing older dogs charity known as the Oldies Club. Mabel also loves the Hook Road woods and lots of lovely walkies around the area as a whole.
Mabel – border collie, our calendar girl
Our current dog, Mabel, a border collie, is the party animal in that she will socialise with other dogs in the park in exactly the way Gracie would not.
Mabel loves to play round up. Bruce Springsteen may have been Born to Run but Mabel was Born to Herd and she is very good at it as a fair number of spaniels and terriers from the park would testify if they could speak.
Mabel cottoned on long ago that most spaniels and terriers don’t mind a game of chase but occasionally gets ideas above her station and tries rounding up one of the local whippets. This is always good for a laugh for the whippet owner and myself (and probably the whippet as well!).
Mabel has also been a “calendar girl” in that she was Miss September in the Oldies Club charity calendar for 2014.
We first moved into the area in 1988 into South Millers Dale from West End Park, Southampton. It was at the time of high interest rates and my husband and I were both working full time. I was a secretary for a firm of land agents in Winchester so there was no time for a dog and it is true what they say about not missing what you’ve never had.
It was only when we adopted Gracie in 2005 (with me now at home as a full time mum) and settled down to a nice life with a very lovable dog we realised it was the dog that completed our family. Mind it was just as well we did not have a dog in South Millers Dale as that property had stairs and both of our collies have had hip dysplasia in varying degrees and neither would have appreciated the nightly climb upstairs.
We have our late mother-in-law to thank for our current property in that she saw a For Sale board up and told us about it, insisting we may as well try for the place as “the sale may have fallen through”. To our great surprise, on ringing up, we found the sale had literally just fallen through (the agents hadn’t had time to take the Sold sign down), we viewed the property quickly, made an offer that was accepted and all within the space of a couple of days.
The previous resident of this bungalow had no family so left the proceeds to Marie Curie. We are in fact only the third owners of our home (built in 1955) and it was with our purchasing the property that it was put on to the Land Registry system for the first time. We were given, once the sale was through, the pre-registration documents for the property and were fascinated to discover Hiltingbury Recreation Ground had once been a huge sand pit!
Not that either of our dogs would’ve minded that. While loathing water with a passion (neither were keen on drinking it either, Mabel especially prefers a weak tea, watered down!), they did like the sand whenever we were on holiday so would have had a field day in a giant sand pit. I dread to think just how much digging they would’ve done.
Gracie was a champion digger on the quiet and her favourite trick on hot days was to dig out a space under our winter flowering jasmine so she could keep cool. All you would see were a pair of doggy eyes staring out at you from a great big shrub! We sadly lost Gracie to cancer in 2012 and decided it was appropriate to bury her ashes under that same jasmine. We think she would have appreciated that.
And in some of my grown-up fairy tales (short stories and novels) I have used Hiltingbury Lakes as a landmark albeit under a different name. Whenever I picture a body of water to flesh out a physical description of the fictional world I’m inventing, it is always the Lakes that I have in the back of my mind as a starting point.
There are some great walks around here, whether you’re a dog owner or not. Hocombe Meads spring to mind and walking up to and around the Lakes is lovely, whatever the season. I also like the wide variety of bird life in the area and regularly see sparrowhawks circling above me as I walk Mabel around the Recreation Ground.
Birdsong sounds on a spring morning in English countryside
How do I see my multiple lives developing further? I hope to make progress with my fiction and in trying to get work out there will have to engage with others. Mabel and I will continue walking around the area and no doubt will continue to talk with other dog owners and dog-friendly people.
It is rather ironic that it is my husband who is the local boy while I effectively married into Chandler’s Ford, but whenever he is out with the dog, Mabel is recognised for herself and he is recognised for being Mabel’s owner/Allison’s husband. You quickly get to know the regulars who are out and about here.
What I don’t like about Chandler’s Ford
Bugbears? People who park on pavements but don’t leave enough room for pedestrians to get by and the fact there isn’t enough time given on the Hursley Road/Hiltingbury Road traffic lights for said pedestrians to get over the road. (Mabel and I usually get to the half way point before the beeper stops and we’re not slow).
I also dislike litter louts, especially in the Recreation Ground, but must say the grounds people from the Council do a great job here. I wish traffic queues were less as there are certain times of days when you can really “feel” the fumes in the air (I’m asthmatic so may be a bit over-sensitive here) but the amount of traffic that comes through Chandler’s Ford has increased tremendously over the years. I’m not sure that does anything for the area.
But to finish on a positive note, I love the fact that Chandler’s Ford has lots of trees. Clearing the leaves up every autumn (and not into the road, another bugbear) makes a good aerobic workout!
We have the benefit of a suburb combined with a green environment. My knowledge of trees and their types isn’t great (I can just about recognise the old oaks in our garden. I’ve seen pictures of them taken about a century ago and they were mature then) but we are lucky to have them.
One side benefit is they can help cut road noise which we discovered when we had to take out some of our smaller trees at the front and there was a short period when there was nothing to take their place. We noticed a significant increase in road noise which was “hushed” almost immediately we put some new small fir trees in at the front.
Am I glad to have moved into Chandler’s Ford? That is a definite yes from my family, myself and our dogs.
Chandler’s Ford has done many things for me but I’ll finish by putting the question to you. What has Chandler’s Ford done for you?
Note: Don’t miss Allison’s next post on Friday 6th March 2015.
Visit Allison Symes’ website: Fairytales with Bite
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.