What is your favourite place? I think mine must be the little chalk stream in Hampshire that runs through the village where I grew up. It is my river 🙂 It’s one of my favourite places in the world and a couple of weeks ago I shared it with my boys.
It’s a funny name, looking at it objectively – Me-on, named after the ancient Briton tribe the Meonware apparently. It was where I spent many a summer afternoon after school with my best friend from my village. As soon as we got home from a long hot bus journey, we would rush inside, grab our swimming things and head for a swim in the deep mill pond at the bottom of the mill race. It‘s the only part of the river deep enough to swim and it’s actually on private land but the owner used to put up a notice saying “In this hot weather, any local children can swim in the river”. These days it just says “Private: please keep to the footpath”. I feel a bit sad that the village kids these days can’t do that any more.
After our first cool down, my friend and I used to head downstream to a secret bit of river between two bridges, only accessible from either end and out of sight almost straight away. I remember sunshine, yellow flags and the occasional kingfisher. It was too shallow to swim so we invented “river gliding”, making your body as flat as possible and pushing yourself downstream, which we’d do until we reached the public bridge south of the church.
It is to this stretch by the bridge that I took my boys – it was too cold even for river gliding but we had fun in a rubber dinghy and pretending to be explorers as we set foot on the new island that has established around what was once just a fallen log in the middle of the channel. I’d anticipated heading there every day for picnics by the river during our five days in Hampshire but this was the second week in August, if you remember it, and it rained a lot. But as you can see from these photos one morning we had just enough sunshine.
We had a little moonshine too… Somewhat tipsy after (the same as it happens) school friend’s fantastic wedding in the village, I dragged Dom down to the river just before midnight. The moon was so bright and it looked beautiful down there, I even managed a shaky photo.
The river links my present to my past. Combined with the warm haze of a few drinks and the moonlight, it was a special moment to share at the end of the wedding day of the friend who’d paddled there with me years ago. It is my river and it always will be.