After the muddiness of our trek-through Cranbury Park, we looked for somewhere with better paths for our next walk. We visited Riverside Park in Bitterne Park, parking near the White Swan at Mansbridge (better known to locals as the Mucky Duck) and walking to Bitterne Triangle and back.
It’s a smidgeon over 3 miles in total, so ideal for a Sunday afternoon stroll. The paths are flat and tarmaced, so suitable for wheelchairs, baby buggies, etc. But don’t let “flat and tarmaced” make you think that the path is little more than an urban walkway. The park is extensive and, apart from a crossing at Woodmill, the path is a good distance from any roads. There are also some lovely views of the Itchen.
In fact, you walk along two different sections of the Itchen. Between Mansbridge and Woodmill the path follows the southernmost section of the Itchen Navigation, with an inland waterway landscape. Below Woodmill, the river is a tidal estuary, flowing to Southampton Water.
The upper part of the river seems to me to be an ideal place to see a kingfisher, but I have always been frustrated in my search. Until now. A small crowd on a corner of the path suggested that there was something worth seeing, so we stopped to look. Darting about the branches on the other side of the river was my elusive kingfisher.
I’ve seen a kingfisher only a handful of times in my life, and usually it’s been no more than a flash of turquoise as it flies past. To see one so clearly was without a doubt my highlight of the walk. The kingfisher seemed happy with its location – or maybe it enjoyed performing to the crowd – as it was still flitting about when we walked back 45 minutes later.
Rare wildlife is not limited to kingfishers. Close to Cobden Bridge is a resident flock of black swans – apparently one of the few flocks outside captivity in the UK.
I can’t let this section on wildlife end without sharing this photo which shows that even the ducks seem to have learned the importance of social distancing.
I lived in Bitterne Park when I was a student in the 1980s. In those days, the Triangle accommodated a complete range of shops. These included a bakery, a butcher, a fishmonger, a greengrocer, a chemist, and at least two banks.
Today, only the bakery remains; alas neither my waistline nor my palate can eat the wonderful cream cakes in quite the same quantity as I could in the 1980s. The other shops have been replaced with some browse-enticing bric-a-brac shops and boutique cafes.
Incidentally, if you prefer cycling to walking, the pathway through Riverside Park is also a cycle path. And should your cycle need some temporary repairs, you can find a pump and tools on the Triangle.
Note that this walk was taken before Tier-4 Covid-19 restrictions were imposed. Travelling here for exercise may contravene the current ‘stay local’ guidelines.