The Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group continues to grow. Last Wednesday was a beautiful, warm Piedmont morning, but the prospect of some heat later in the day did not dissuade thirty seven walkers and three K-9 best friends from showing up at the Exedra for the group’s weekly walk.
The group hadn’t recently taken walks to the southwest side of Piedmont below Wildwood School; and they enjoy walking hidden paths. An article in a past issue of Gail Lombardi’s Piedmont Historical Society magazine covered the different paths in and around Piedmont. One path that doesn’t get much attention is the Portsmouth Walk at the Oakland/Piedmont border. It’s one of only five pathways in or around Piedmont that has a name, and the only path that still has a street sign with its name on it. The other four named walks are the Shady Walk or Path between Mountain and Sierra Avenues, Ransom Way between the Piedmont Park and Hazel Lane, Spring Path from Abbot Way and Maxwelton Road to Moraga Avenue, and the group’s often walked Hall Fenway path between Wildwood and Crocker Avenues.
Portsmouth Walk is actually a path just over the Oakland boarder that connects Oakland’s Lakeshore Avenue with Annerley Road that shortly thereafter becomes a Piedmont street too. According to Gail Lombardi’s article, this path served as an extension of Piedmont’s Portsmouth Road to Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland; and provided a more direct walk to the Number 18 Key System streetcar line that ran up Lakeshore to Walvista and Carlston Avenues in Oakland. It was designed as part of the Lakewood Park Tract in 1916, and ran a U-shaped route from Leimert Bridge, down Park Boulevard to downtown Oakland, and then up Grand Avenue to Lakeshore and Walvista.
The group decided to make Portsmouth Walk their destination for the morning. A walk to it also provided the opportunity to visit some streets that the group had not walk recently. The long parade of walkers start off going up Highland Avenue and then down Wildwood Avenue, instead of going through Piedmont Park or down Requa Road. They had not walked this part of Wildwood Avenue this year, so they would now be able to color it in on their map of walked streets. They enjoyed the views of Oakland through the trees as they walked down Wildwood. The group went past Wildwood School, and came to the five way stop at the intersection of Wildwood, Winsor Avenue, Wallace Road, and Warfield Avenue. They chose the west side of Winsor to walk down and were surprised by the storybook architecture of the homes and the variety of trees in the yards. There were century old palm and redwood trees, and others, that are beautiful.
At some unmarked spot on the street the walkers entered into Oakland and then came to Lakeshore Avenue. It was up Lakeshore that the walkers expected to find the sign for Portsmouth Walk. It was there, but some talking walkers went right by the somewhat hidden path. They were called back by the more observant members of the group. However, going a little beyond the sign did have a benefit. There was a mural painted on the garage door of the next house with a picture of a young boy. Lois Price told the group that she had once gone by the house and talked to a man there who told her that he was that boy. His mother was an artist who had painted him long ago for the world, or at least everyone traveling on Lakeshore Avenue, to see. The group then reassembled in front of the Portsmouth Walk sign for a group photo.
The group walked up the path and were surprised to find that a large, attractive cactus garden lines the way. At the top of the walk on Annerley Road Lois Price told the group she lives not far away on Oakmont Avenue and would like to show them the iron work gate in front of her home. The walkers followed Lois to it. There she told the group that the woven iron work vines and leaves were the work of a Piedmont resident and artist, Daryl Rush. He created it for Lois based on a teenage picture of her in a summer setting years ago.
The temperature was starting warm up and it was time for the walkers to start their way back. They continued on Oakmont to Prospect Avenue, which took them back to Wildwood Avenue, and then feed them into the not at all hidden path through Piedmont Park. This walk in the park has some elevation associated with it, but it is shaded, cooler, and enjoyable. It ends at the Community Hall, where young children are almost always present around the group’s planned noon walk ending time. It had been about a three mile walk on a beautiful, late summer Piedmont morning with new and familiar sites, and new and familiar Wednesday walking friends.