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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Walk 110 Christchurch to Bournemouth (Hants)

 Walk  110 Christchurch to Bournemouth (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 195
Distance: 10 miles or 16km approx.
Difficulty: quite easy
Terrain: paths/ pavement/beach
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail links with Bournemouth and Christchurch. Good bus links

Start by crossing the River Stour at Christchurch and join the Stour Valley Way to Hengistbury Head. The crossing by the River Stour is near to Wick Ferry which is an alternative method of getting to Hengistbury Head. Looking back over the Stour there is an attractive view to Christchurch. In Saxon times the town was known as Twynham which means the town between the waters. Look out for Place Mill, this was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The building has medieval stonework and Tudor and 18th century brickwork. It was used both for fulling (cleaning and thickening cloth) and corn grinding until 1908.

The soft sands and wooden frame buildings provide an attractive foreground to the coast further east. Hengistbury Head is part of a massive nature reserve. Birds with different bill lengths take full advantage of the different crustaceans and worms. The head has been occupied many times since the Stone Age. In the Bronze Age it was used as a cemetery - evidenced by many archaeological finds. It is reckoned that 2000 years ago this was Britain’s most important port. Between 1840 and 1880 the area was mined for iron ore which was taken to Wales for smelting.

Follow the path or continue along the sands to Warren Hill. Hunter gatherers of the Stone Age camped here 12,500 years ago; many flint tools have been excavated. The sea was many miles distant then.

Continue the walk along the marked paths or along the beach – the latter is harder work because of the sand and the groynes. Join the marked cycle path to continue to the outskirts of Bournemouth. This is the start of the 7 miles of sandy beaches that make up Bournemouth sea front. The town has been the fastest growing British resort in recent times.

Along this stretch is Boscombe Pier and Boscombe Chine. Boscombe developed as a seaside resort when the first pier opened in 1889. Many of the Victorians came to the area believing that the sweet scented air from the many pine trees would cure their TB. I understand that John Lennon bought his mother a house near here, she thought it was the most beautiful view she had ever seen.

Boscombe pier closed in World War 2 and remained derelict until it was modernised in ‘fifties’ style and reopened in 1962. It was deemed unsafe in 2005 and was refurbished and reopened in 2008 with the old theatre building at the end being replaced with a platform for fishermen. Much of the cliff side walk is fronted by modern apartment developments.

Look out for Boscombe Chine (a chine is a valley). Earlier in the 19th century the area was wild and desolate and a haven for smuggling. Later in the century this part was developed into a pleasure ground for the public. Near here was Boscombe Spa which allegedly had foul tasting water purporting to have health improving properties.

The land train which goes along the promenade to Bournemouth. Some jolly pictures from local primary school children mark the finishing point.

Continue along to Bournemouth Pier. This was built in 1880 and includes a theatre. It was designed by the same man who designed the now defunct West Pier in Brighton. You can either walk back into the town or use the nearby electrically operated cliff lift (one of 3 in the Bournemouth area) which was built in 1908 and has been in continuous use ever since.

On the walk back the International Centre, often used by our main political parties for conferences, is prominent.

Snaps show: Warren Hill; Hengistbury Head; Bournemouth Pier; The terminus of the Bournemouth land train; a view across the Stour to Christchurch.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Walk 109 Barton on Sea to Christchurch, Hants

 Walk  109 Barton on Sea to Christchurch (Dorset)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 195
Distance: 10 miles or 16km approx.
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail links with New Milton from surrounding areas (a mile or so inland from Barton on Sea). The X1 bus goes hour from Barton to Purewell (a part of Christchurch) and the X2 also hourly leaves from New Milton to Purewell.

Start the walk on the cliff top at Barton on Sea. The walk from here to Highcliffe is partly on the cliff top but some navigating around roads and open spaces near to the coast is required. I know it is possible having done it, however erosion may have got worse! The views along the cliff tops give good views of the coast around to Hengistbury Head.

After just over a mile the border between Hampshire and Dorset is crossed where Walkford Brook comes into the sea at Chewton Bunny.  A bunny is a local word meaning valley. The area is a special conservation area because of the 5 acres or so of ancient woodland.

A further mile along is Highcliffe Castle, positioned a short way back from the cliff top. This was built in 1831 by Lord Rothesay and has been described as “the most important example of the romantic and picturesque styles of architecture”. After falling in to disrepair the local council and English Heritage financed its restoration as a visitor attraction. It was reopened in 1999 and can also be booked for weddings and other functions.

Continue the walk towards Mudeford. It was possible to walk on the beach or on a low level promenade for part of this section. There is a feature here called Steamer Point which is marked locally but not on my OS map. The area got its name from a paddle steamer which got wedged into a cliff opening in 1829. Thirty years later Steamer Cottage was built on the cliff edge above and in line with the steamer. Unfortunately, this part of the cliff was removed in 1964.

Continue the walk around to Mudeford Quay. This is a very popular spot with a large car park, busy pub and many anglers. Opposite, across the entrance to Christchurch Harbour is Hengistbury Head.

Leaving Mudeford Quay, walk along the edge of Christchurch Harbour to Stanpit Marshes. The paths are clear across the nature reserve/golf course and enable you to walk to Christchurch Priory. In the past this area was used as a rubbish dump and by the military in both world wars. In connection with this, look out for the first prototype Bailey Bridge which is still here. (These were temporary bridges able to be quickly constructed and used in World War 2). Another interesting landmark is Tutton’s Well near the road and car park. The water from here was known for its medicinal properties and sold as The Christchurch Elixir. The well was capped in 1941.

Continue the walk around to the ruins of an old Norman Castle overlooking the River Stour. The stone keep replaced the original timber tower at the end of the twelfth century. The castle was mainly demolished in 1651 after the civil war between the king and parliament. Look out for the ducking stool a little further up the river in Ducking Stool Lane.

Christchurch Priory is a bit further around next to the River Avon. In 1043 Edward the Confessor founded a monastery here and it was rebuilt in 1095 giving the town the name of Christchurch. The monastery later became a priory reflecting its importance and that of the town.  

Snaps show: Tutton's Well on Stanpit Marshes; beach near Highcliffe; Place Mill (at start of next walk); Christchurch Priory.