The Tiger – John Vaillant

What a magnificent read The Tiger by John Vaillant is.

A long, detailed examination of everything to do with tigers in their natural habitat. But more than that it’s an investigation of tiger killings, the communities affected, life in the Soviet Union and animal conservation.

There’s so much in this book. I’ll probably read it again in future years. A great read.

Ripley, Surrey

There aren’t many lakes around here, but I saw one on the map near Ripley. You can walk all the way round but I just went half-way round before diverting to a path through fields and on to the River Wey Navigation. A short walk to the Seven Stars pub for a glass of wine and a bacon & Brie sandwich. An interesting sandwich – not sure if the salad (lettuce, rocket, cucumber, apple, pepper, tomato, celery) was sufficiently healthy to overcome the unhealthiness of the bacon & Brie!

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The 10:12 from Clapham Junction

Many times I’ve travelled on the 10:12 from Clapham Junction towards Southampton.

In the last year of my mum’s life, when I had become fed up with the drive, I would catch this train to visit her in her care home. I’ve also used it to carry on beyond Southampton to Brockenhurst and eventually Lymington, one of my very favourite places. From Lymington you can walk or catch the little ferry to Hurst Castle, you can walk around the coastal path, and you can catch the larger ferry to the Isle of Wight. I love ferries, large and small.

Over the past 12 months I’ve also caught the 10:12 in order to reach the starting points of the four sections of the Itchen Way walk – Southampton, Eastleigh, Winchester (twice).

On most of these train trips, I’ve bought a coffee and KitKat from the on-board trolley service (I’m a creature of habit), and on most of these times I’ve been served by the same East-European lady with the lovely smile. And though I remember her, she probably doesn’t remember me.

On Tuesday I set off to start the last leg of the Itchen Way walk. I was standing on the Clapham Junction platform, waiting for the 10:12, when an express, non-stopping train shot past, but with its hooter blaring. The next thing I know is that station staff are active, moving waiting passengers away from the platforms. Someone had jumped under the express train. Chaos followed as trains were suspended in order to deal with the emergency. I abandoned any thoughts of doing my walk. Two days later I tried again, this time without incident.

I guess that forever, when standing waiting for the 10:12, I’ll spare a thought as the express train shoots through, for the person who had had enough.

The Itchen Way walk – stage 4

The fourth and final stage of the 4-stage walk along the Itchen Way was around 8 miles and took a little under 4 hours. Starting at Itchen Stoke, where the third stage finished, it ended at the tiny village of Cheriton. On a generally warm and sunny day the best bit of the walk was at the very start, where the river was present and the sun was out. After that there was not much of the river to be seen until the trickle at the very source of the river.

This is a part of Hampshire I’m unfamiliar with. It is absolutely beautiful, with lots of thatched cottages and tiny villages. The 67 bus from Winchester, towards Petersfield via Alresford, is a real joy if you can get to the front seat on the top deck!

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Notes from a week away

Traveller hint #1: Before travelling, as well as checking if the trains are running / on time, it’s also worth checking that the underground line you intend using is running. We didn’t and it wasn’t.

Traveller hint #2: Don’t assume that because the bus company confirms that the last bus is running on your date of travel and that it goes as far as your destination, that this will be the case. It wasn’t – the late service has been discontinued. Sadly the company (Tanat Valley – www.tanat.co.uk) have not updated their on-line timetable, so others may also find a £26 taxi will be required.

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