Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Perfect January Day

Monday 20th January, it is supposed to be the most depressing Monday of the year when the weather is cold and severe, credit card bills from Christmas over spending need paying and it still seems such a long grind until the warmer months and longer days.

This morning though, I am feeling really uplifted, I am in yet another new place, a place I've been keen to visit for some time now, a place I keep seeing sign posted from the M3 every time we take Rose to and from university. I've promised myself I will keep finding new places to explore, to enjoy and learn about and that I will get out and see all there is to see of life, nature and history in all its shapes and forms. 

There is birdsong in the air - there are two robins calling to each other perched high up in the trees - melodious warbling, wistful winter sound, powerful and passionate for the promise of spring. The new year sun is casting bright light across the green, everything looks illuminated in this unusual winter weather. It feels like springtime already, yet it is only January. It is a sharp contrast to the constant cold and snow of last January and a sharp contrast to the constant wind, rain and gales of the last few months. 

There are signs all around us of the recent weather, the river is full to bursting, flowing fast and furiously, spilling itself over the footpath still. The water level is receding just a touch today, because we have no rain. The footpath has just reopened after being flooded, but the river is still taunting us, reminding us it is still there, menacing still in its speed, ripples ricocheting across the river walls and creating itself more currents, adding to its gush and haste. You can feel its rapid velocity, yet the water flowing on this chalk bed is still crystal clear and clean. There are supposed to be kingfishers nesting along here, but I wonder how they could even begin to fish for their food with the river's speed. The air smells fresh and crisp, there is a revitalising sensation to it. I want to take deep breaths and breathe it all into my new lungs and feel renewed yet again. 

Across the bridge and higher up the river we come upon the City Mills, now owned by the National Trust. The mill was rebuilt on a medieval mill site in 1743 and the Trust has restored it back to a working mill, with an operating water wheel, enabling flour production again. The building is stunning and so old and huge inside, it feels colder inside than out, there is a distinct chill in the air inside and I'm glad I wrapped up warm. The water wheel turns alongside the gushing mill race, which cascades underneath the mill and spills out downstream in a torrent. Again, there are more indications of the wet and stormy weather, part of the viewing area is cordened off due to flooding and the imminent risk of more floods to come. We have a bit of light hearted fun with some American tourists, taking their pictures for them against the back drop of the water wheel and the spilling water.

Out in the mill's gardens the river splits to either side and you feel like you are on a little island, thrust between the coursing, spouting river. The sun glistens through the willow trees, swathing their branches and sparsley remaining leaves. They look as though they are bowing over towards the water, swaying and shimmering shades of ochre yellows in the sunlight. 

Next we wander up through the busy, vibrant, main high street, there is a wealth and mismatch of interesting architecure. Modern shopping - juxtaposed amongst ancient and interesting looking buildings, some dating back centuries. There is a cosmopolitan and lively ambience with buskers adding to the sense of vitality and joviality. There are many usual high street shops, old shops, quirky shops, independent shops. Add to that the bakers shops, the tea shops, restaurants and coffee shops, with their pavement cafes and varied aromas. It is only January and people are sitting outside enjoying the early sunshine and soaking up the atmosphere.

We wander on and come upon the cathedral in all its grandeur, towering majestically amongst its grounds and walls, but somehow managing to hide quietly behind the high street, tucked away from the river by other surrounding historic buildings. It looks as though it is just waiting secretly to be discovered and wanting to be explored. We go for an explore inside and it is magnificent with its huge stained glass window above the entrance, the bright sun of the day, streaming through and lighting it up both ethereally and naturally. There are bright yellow pageants adorning the main aisle, adding to the sense of light, warmth and welcome. The cathedral dates back to 1079 and is enriched with many features of architecture from the 11th to 16th centuries. I discover that Jane Austen, one of my favourite authors is buried here too.

Our little wander continues back to the river, passing many more buildings of significance and interest: Cheyney Court, a mid fifteenth century building; Jane Austen's House; Wolvesey Castle and Palace, dating back to 1110 and the College, with origins from 1387. All these beautiful buildings are against a backdrop of blue sky and light and seem to stand out at their best in the day's sunshine. 

I spot some beautiful snowdrops by the river bank, they are the first I have seen this year, a welcome sight and it brings thoughts of spring back into my mind again: especially as we are back by the River Itchen again, back to where we started and back to the singing robins, still chorusing away while it's daylight.

Winter time in Winchester. What a worthwhile wander around and special day out in the warm, January sunshine. We have not been disappointed, it was well worth the wait! 

We have walked a circuit of at least three miles, stopping for coffee and lunch and now it's time for another rest before home, we visit another cafe for tea. I've enjoyed today wandering about aimlessly, just mooching like any other person. I like it here. When I first started getting out and about after my transplant, I felt like I wanted to shout out to everyone, 'I've just had a heart and double lung transplant!' In those early days it all felt so strange and surreal. Today, I've got more used to things; more settled. I like it here, that no-one knows anything about my transplant; I like it that I've been able to walk around; I like it that I've walked so far and much further than I ever could for many years; I like it to feel ordinary again; ordinary is where I want to be, nothing else, just back to me again! 

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