Mill stream footpath, Abingdon
It’s been drizzling with rain pretty much all day, which makes 15 minutes of green a bit tricky. But, no excuses. At lunchtime, I donned my waterproof coat and headed out into Abingdon, through the Abbey Gardens and up the footpath that borders the old mill stream to Abingdon lock. Note: you can make this a longer circular walk by crossing the river Thames at Abingdon lock and heading back to the town along the main river bank … but not today!
As you can see, there wasn’t a lot of ‘traffic’ along the footpath. It was wonderfully peaceful: a couple of dog walkers (with very muddy dogs!), one runner, a fisherman (can you spot him under his green brolly in the photo below?), plus the usual entourage of mallards – if you stop for more than 5 seconds at the side of the stream the ducks come a-paddling and a-quacking on the assumption that you are toting vast quantities of stale bread.
A peaceful spot (for fishing): Abingdon mill stream
This brisk 20-minute walk ticked all sorts of green-therapy boxes: lungfuls of fresh air, entertaining grey squirrels in the canopy overhanging the stream (who needs Cirque du Soleil?!), an enjoyable and impromptu workout, and another chance to soak up that amazing autumnal colour palette. Make sure you get your fix, while there are are still some leaves on the trees. Judging by the amount of leaf litter around, our autumnal days are numbered.
So, we’re up and running on twitter, and – as my first tweet announces – my 15 minutes of green today was a stroll through Abingdon Abbey Gardens.
First, through the formal garden area of flower beds and herbaceous borders (polyanthus and pansies being the current planting scheme), then into a parkland area bordered by mature trees, including a magnificent European copper beech (Fagus sylvatica), resplendent in its autumn glory and a giant redwood that more than lived up to its name.
I carried on along the leaf-littered path, past the ornamental lake, where water voles are reputed to thrive. There were no water voles today (I’ll be sure to let you know if I ever see one!), but a rustling in the leaves above me revealed a grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) tucking into something tasty. I finally came to the Mill Stream that borders Abbey Meadows, where mallards, moorhens and mute swans were making the most of a half-term bread-feeding frenzy. By 4.30pm I was losing the light, signalling that it was time to return to my desk – refreshed, of course, by my 15+ minutes of green.
Abingdon Abbey Gardens
Cygnet on the Mill Stream, Abingdon
I can’t remember the last time I rode my mountain bike off road, so my husband was both surprised and delighted when, last weekend, in the spirit of setting up this website, I agreed to a 19-km (12-mile) ‘get-back-in-the-saddle’ pedal through Hampshire countryside.
Starting from New Alresford (one end of the Watercress steam railway line – the other end being in Alton), he assured me it was a grade 2 (easy/moderate) ride that would ease me back into mountain biking
Described in Nick Cotton’s Hampshire & The Isle of Wight Cycle Tours book as “an easy exploration of the wide tracks that criss-cross this part of Hampshire,” what he didn’t share was the caveat that followed: “… after a few days of heavy rain, it will take you twice as long, with big puddles, lots of mud and potentially slippery smooth chalk.” Hey, guess what? We’d just had “a few days of heavy rain”!
Fortunately – for my husband – we completed the ride without major incident. Yes, there was mud (but where’s the fun in mountain biking without a little mud?), and yes, there were several deceptive puddles that turned out to be a lot deeper than they looked(!) And, yes, I did fall off into a clump of nettles after unsuccessfully navigating my way around one particular gate post – painful in shorts! But, oh what a wonderful way to explore this charming downland landscape.
A berry happy biker
For 3 hours we cycled along a gently undulating route (so for every uphill grind there was a downhill whizz) of shady bridleways overhung with berry-laden trees and quiet green lanes scattered with crunchy beech mast. We stopped frequently for me to catch up, check the map and enjoy the views. Breaks in the hedgerows revealed sweeping vistas of arable farmland, interrupted by compact islands of uncut corn. Every so often we plunged in and out of small pockets of broadleaf woodland where beech and oak trees were still just about holding onto their summer greenery.
I highly recommend this 15+ minutes of green. Full details of the route can be found in the Cycle Tours book (link above). So, if you’ve got a mountain bike, and you’re in the area, give it a go. Hampshire County Council also produce leaflets that outline a number of off-road routes here.