Jackie drove us to Christchurch this morning in time for lunch at Boathouse, a rather good restaurant overlooking the River Avon quay. It was a beautiful day and the drive through the forest was gorgeous. I had a delicious fish pie whilst Jackie ate a pizza fire, which apparently lived up to its name. She then went off to the High Street whilst I sallied forth in search of the river path in the direction of the sea.
According to my lady I needed to turn left along the quay for the sea, or right to travel inland. I chose the sinister route and very soon found myself in the middle of a static caravan site which proved to be a dead end. One of the residents told me I needed to go back along the towpath and cross the bridges. Simple enough. Except I hadn’t come along the towpath in the first place, and wasn’t sure where the bridges were. I found myself walking the Convent Walk along what must be a towpath. Glancing up at the Priory church, I saw the glowing colours of the stained glass window of the Lady Chapel benefitting from the westerly sun that streamed in from the side. I came to one bridge and crossed to the other side of the road. My first attempt at continuing led me to what seemed to be conference centre. I passed a deep window in which I large group of young women were feasting. I caused them great hilarity, realised my error, and backtracked.
Another woman told me that to regain the river bank I needed to walk up to and along the High Street, and cross a dual carriage way where I would find the next bridge. This was one of those moments on my travels when I berate myself for not having brought a map. Nevertheless the element of uncertainty I gain this way is all part of the fun. Since I was in need of relief there was the bonus of the public lavatories in the main shopping centre. The wall of my cubicle bore the graffiti legend DEFEND ATLANTIS.
At the end of the High Street I used an underpass across a dual carriageway. It bore a helpful sign indicating Avon Valley Path. I followed it. And found myself in Waitrose Car Park. There a young man struggling to lead a string of supermarket trolleys to their stable was blown across my path. He wondered if I had come in search of a trolley. When I told him what I was searching for he confirmed that I should walk up to the motorway where I would find my path. Now, I should have guessed that the river which had burst its banks at Ringwood would have done the same here. If my path existed it was under several feet of the water which stretched as far as I could see. Seagulls swam around the bases of telegraph poles, electricity pylons and trees. What had been fields were now their landing strips. It was then that I began to wonder whether the Avon had its own submerged Atlantis. When I reached Stoney Lane railway bridge I decided it was time to turn back.
As it began to rain I entered The Priory Church. This splendid building, begun in the 11th Century, is both sturdy and elegant. There is a splendid marble Pieta carving as a monument to the poet Shelley, and much more of interest which will repay a further visit. It was in examining the stained glass from the inside that I was able to identify the windows I had photographed earlier. The building is more like a grand cathedral than a local parish church.
When I emerged into the light it was to a clear bright low sun and sparkling rain. I walked into the shower’s needle sharp shafts as I turned right along the quay. The arc which soon appeared in the sky provided evidence that conditions were perfect for a rainbow. I sped along the strand seeking a standpoint from which I would be able to photograph the whole semicircle of the most complete rainbow I have ever seen. I may have had better luck on the other side of the river. As I returned to the Priory car park where I was to meet Jackie, I witnessed a squabble of seagulls at the water’s edge screeching, flapping their wings, and stretching wide their beaks at each other. The origin of their collective noun became very clear.
Incidentally, ‘The Rainbow’ is the title of the D.H.Lawrence novel I have most enjoyed.
We had a light salad, followed by apple crumble leftovers enhanced with tinned madarin oranges, for our evening meal. Our wine was a most potable Breganze reserve Pinot Grigio 2011, ticket number 510 in last Saturday’s Merton Mind Christmas Fayre tombola.